Here is a series of commonly raised questions with their answers. If you have other questions, we invite you to send them to us using contact us.
1. What were the main causes of the crisis?
There were three main causes of the crisis.
Firstly the charism of the community was critisised. The originality of this charism and the criticisms which are made of it can be summarised as follows:
- A broad acceptance of vocations: « too many fragile Sisters » certain say.
- Non-enclosed Contemplative life: « it is not normal; they should stay in their convents ».
- A continuous formation: « too much philosophy, the intelligence is developed but not the heart ».
The Brothers and the Apostolic Sisters question the fact that the Contemplative Sisters recognise Sister Alix as their co-foundress.
The Superior General of the Brothers wishes to constitute the Family of St John as a unique judicial entity (formerly the three branches were autonomous) of which he will be the moderator. The Contemplative Sisters oppose this project as Fr Philippe, the Founder always recommended an autonomous government for each branch. Cardinal Barbarin (the Ordinary of the Congregation is favourable to this, as are a small minority of the Sisters (less than 20) who would like to return to a more “traditional” charism.
2. Can Sister Alix be considered as the co-foundress?
The reference to the foundress appears in the Constitutions of the Contemplative Sisters art.173 §4, these Constitutions were approved by Cardinal Barbarin on 2nd June 2004. They mention Sister Alix Parmentier as co-fondress. This fact is confirmed by him on the 27th September 2009.
3. What are the consequences of the rescript for the 150 Sisters of this Institute?
Overnight and without warning they find themselves without canonical status, sometimes without social security, and without financial resources. They are reduced to the lay state. Not one newspaper will make any mention of this.
4. Why did many Sisters leave for Mexico?
Numerous Sisters had asked to go to Mexico in December 2009 and January 2010, choosing to distance themselves. In fact they had seen the new orientations in the way in which the Community was being led and the fact that there was very little dialogue. They were very hurt by the other members of the Community who not only didn’t support them, but sometimes added to the calumnies.
Reminder of the facts:
The 27th December 2009, Bishop Raùl Vera Lopez, Bishop of Saltillo, Mexico accepted to take under his protection 4 Sisters and any others who so desired it. In January 2010, at their request several Sisters are authorized to leave the Institute and place themselves under the protection of Bishop Raùl Vera Lopez of Saltillo. They are rapidly followed by about 100 Sisters. (See the letter of support from Bishop Raul). The 28th February 2010, Cardinal Rode faced with the threat of the explosion of the Institute, liberates the 4 Sisters and promises an Assembly of the Finally Professed Sisters, while asking in exchange that all the Sisters come back to the Congregation, which they do.(See the 2nd letter from Bishop Raul).
5. Why does the rescript say that the Sisters of St John and St Dominic disobeyed?
The motives of the said disobedience are not given. The Association is canonically constituted. The bishops who received the Sisters in their dioceses had not made mention of either any dysfunction or disobedience on the part of the Sisters. Don Demetrio is even known for his perfect fidelity to Rome (see the witness of Br Theophile).
Reminder of the facts:
In June 2012, about 30 Sisters came to the end of their simple vows (Sisters whom Bishop Brincard had refused for 3 years to allow either to renew their vows or make final profession), with the support of a certain number of Bishops, these Sisters founded an Association, “The Sisters of St John and St Dominic” in Spain, under the direction of Bishop Demetrio, in accordance with Canon law, and with the permission of Rome (see the letter from Don Demetrio and Sr Gabriel to the families). Soon after, they are already 150 Sisters received in a dozen dioceses around the world.
What Canon law says:
Can. 653 §1. A novice can freely leave an institute; moreover, the competent authority of the institute can dismiss a novice.
§2. At the end of the novitiate, if judged suitable, a novice is to be admitted to temporary profession; otherwise the novice is to be dismissed. If there is doubt about the suitability of a novice, the major superior can extend the time of probation according to the norm of proper law, but not beyond six months.
Can. 657 §1. When the period for which profession was made has elapsed, a religious who freely petitions and is judged suitable is to be admitted to renewal of profession or to perpetual profession; otherwise, the religious is to depart.
Can. 595 §1. It is for the bishop of the principal seat to approve the constitutions and confirm changes legitimately introduced into them, without prejudice to those things which the Apostolic See has taken in hand, and also to treat affairs of greater importance affecting the whole institute which exceed the power of internal authority, after he has consulted the other diocesan bishops, however, if the institute has spread to several dioceses.
Can. 579 Diocesan bishops, each in his own territory, can erect institutes of consecrated life by formal decree, provided that the Apostolic See has been consulted.
6. Did Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe wish the Brothers and the Sisters to live autonomously?
In fact three communities with three autonomous governments were constituted in the beginning. It was never a question of the Superior General of the Brothers being the Superior of the Sisters. During the life-time of Fr Philippe, the different Institutes were founded in different dioceses and so were attached to different Ordinaries. That implies then a total autonomy of the three Congregations in the order of government. The heritage of Fr. Philippe declines through diverse modalities without going against the spirit of the family.
7. Is a canonical recourse an act of disobedience?
Can. 1417 §1. By reason of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, any member of the faithful is free to bring or introduce his or her own contentious or penal case to the Holy See for adjudication in any grade of a trial and at any stage of the litigation.
As members of the Faithful, the Sisters can freely exercise their right to bring recourse to the Holy See.
8. Is it legitimate for the parents and friends to defend the Sisters?
Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.
§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.
§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.
This paragraph of Canon law, while being a reminder of the obligation of obedience to the Pastors in their responsibility of teaching and governing, invites the Faithful to look at what is legitimate in what is asked of them; i.e. to obey in a spirit of collaboration, of initiative, to the point of making known their opinion. This obedience does not exclude a liberty of expression and a public expression of opinion, especially when the integrity of faith and morals are not put in question.