The President of the Private Association of Faithful of Pontifical Law heralds of the Gospel, Felipe Eugenio Lecaros Concha, along with his General Council, welcomed last Thursday, October 17, with respect and ecclesial spirit, the visit of His Eminence D. Raymundo Damasceno Assisand and His Excellency D. José Aparecido Gonçalves de Almeida, bearers of a Decree issued by the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in order to officially notify the beginning of the commissioner of this Heralds Association of the Gospel.
This meeting took place in a climate of deep transparency and sincerity, as foundations of ecclesial communion. On this occasion, the absolute invalidity and complete illegality of such decree in relation to the Heralds of the Gospel were demonstrated due to fundamental errors contained therein, which generate serious canonical illegalities and causes their disability. The President's words are addressed at the time to the Prelates in order to explain the problem:
"We revere you as bishops of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and as such both are the object of our consideration, but we must declare that we do not recognize Your Eminence as "Commissioner" of the Private Association of Herald stalwarts of the Gospel, which I am the legitimately elected President.
First, because the Decree that was read here is addressed to a "Public Association of the Faithful", and the Heralds of the Gospel are a "Private Association of the Faithful". The difference in nature between one and the other is essential, Eminence. It is as if a bailiff presented himself at the residence of "Antônio da Silva" with a notification to "Pedro Rodrigues". Mr. Antonio should not receive such judicial notification, because there was a person error. Similarly, the Heralds of the Gospel cannot receive a decree addressed to another association.
Secondly, because the institution of the Heralds of the Gospel, as a "Private Association of the Faithful", is not "commissariable", as determined by the limits of canon law based on natural law. Commissariat a Private Association would infringe the sacred and inviolable right of the faithful to associate themselves in the Church with their own statutes and their own authorities.
Therefore, if no action is taken by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, the body on which we depend directly, we terminate the case. That's what your Eminence and Your Excellency had said."
The President's speech is based on solid legal arguments presented by canonists consulted by the Heralds Association of the Gospel, whose synthesis is presented below:
1. The decree violates canon 318 that provides for the commission exclusively for societies or public associations. It also violates canons 50 and 51 because it is not sufficiently motivated in serious reasons and the association has not been heard in advance.
2. According to the opinion of renowned canonist Lluis Martinez Sistach, "only for public associations it is expected that the competent ecclesiastical authority, in special circumstances and when they require serious reasons, can appoint a commissioner who on his behalf temporally guide the association. In the case of private associations, since the ecclesiastical authority does not intervene in the appointment of the President, there is no reason for him to intervene in his removal and appointment of a commissioner" (Ius Canonicum, v. 26, n. 51, 1986, p.173).
3. It is also added that in the civil context a Judgment in the Court of Relationship of Coimbra, Portugal, of 17 May 2011, by unanimous vote, decided that "private associations of the faithful are subject to the surveillance of the competent ecclesiastical authorities, but not may the competent ecclesiastical authority, covered by this duty of surveillance, appoint commissioners representing the Association." It should be noted that Portugal has concluded an agreement with the Holy See and that it is still in force.
4. Most significant witness, in this sense, is given by the Congregation of Laity, Family and Life itself concerning the decree of commissariat of the Private Association of Living Word Faithful, emanated by the Archdiocese of Diamantina, and subsequently annulled by the Holy See on 15 March 2016, as follows: "On the tangent to the legitimacy of the measures, the appointment of a commissioner (can. 318, CDC) is indicated in law among the measures provided for only for public associations of the faithful (can. 312-320, CDC) and therefore cannot be applied to a private association of faithful. Therefore, the appointment of a commissioner in this case is not legitimate."
It should be noted that the reasons put forward by President Felipe Lecaros were taken into account by the illustrious visitors. On October 18, 2019, the day after the meeting, His Excellency Reverend, Archbishop José Aparecido, Auxiliary Bishop of Brasilia and PhD in Canon Law, sent a message, which was forwarded to the President General, stating: "As for the situation of the association Heralds, I will prepare a letter[para a Santa Sé] to explain that there is indeed a plausible objection: which refers to the legal nature of the Association and the type of intervention possible by the competent authority. The issue of the private nature of the association, this is the real and relevant objection on the subject."
Now, the content of the decree states that it is dictated "in accordance with the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and life", but makes no mention of any express delegation of this. Moreover, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life is not competent from a legal point of view with regard to the private associations of the faithful, both clerical and secular.
On the other side, the "serious reasons" determining the commission continue to be a difficult unknown to decipher, whether for the authorities or for the members of the Institution, because the reasons listed in the Decree are nothing more than generalities, moreover suspiciously vaporous. This causes great perplexity, because the Heralds Association of the Gospel is aware that it has not incurred any offence, and it has always remained intact in matters of Faith and customs. In this sense, it draws attention that the previous Apostolic Visit, which took place in an environment of the most ingrained ecclesial communion on our part, was concluded without any instance of the Institution being appointed to any instance of the Institution, no "problematic" matter, and even less "serious". However, in a fierce and arbitrary way, we sought to comment. Therefore, and since this attempt came from the Congregation of Religious (an instance in fact unrelated to the scope of our lay institution), with filial and reverent spirit, it would be appropriate to ask its Mayor, Cardinal Braz de Aviz: "If we did badly, tell us clearly in what. Otherwise, why are you looking at all costs to punish us?"
Finally, in the meeting with the Prelates it was about the moral lynching, eivado of anti-religious prejudices, of which the Heraldassociation of the Gospel has been victimized by certain media outlets, viscerally seduced by the attempt at commissioner. Such a campaign has caused irreparable moral damage by which those responsible will have to answer by administrative and legal means at their right time.
We set our gaze on the Clement and Mighty Virgin, certain of their safe assistance in the most difficult circumstances. Let us consecrate once again to her the apostolate of the Heralds Association of the Gospel, which already belongs to Him, so that in all everything to give the greatest glory to God!
São Paulo, October 19, 2019
Memory of St. John of Brébeuf and
Saint Isaac and fellow martyrs, and
São Paulo da Cruz.
Gospel Heraldpress Department