Pope Blessed Innocent XI – Sollicitudo pastoralis – Fostering and Preserving the Orders of Men Religious, 20 November 1679

[Blessed Pope Innocent XI]
The pastoral solicitude of office, by which We preside over the governing of the catholic Church spread throughout the whole globe by divine disposition, urges and impels Us to attend to fostering and preserving the Orders of men religious instituted by this holy See with wise piety for the glory of the Omnipotent God and the salvation of souls, and refulgent in the Church of God on account of their great merits in their holy and primeval regulations, and in keeping them safe and fortifying them from those things hurtful, which could extinguish and relax the spirit and rigor of the original conscientiousness, and in providing for their blessed advancement in the way of the mandates of the Lord, as much as is conceded Us from on high.

And also since (as We understand them) in the many general chapters of the Order of Friars Minor of Saint Francis by the name of the Observance, and recently in that of Vallisoletanus, which was celebrated in the year 1670, it has been declared and protested by the unanimous consent of all the friars who were heard, that until now from none of the precepts of the rule of the Friars Minor (whether they are called “the Friars Minor of the body of the Observance”, or “the Observants”, or “the Reformed”, or “the Discalced”, or “the Recollects,” have they been dispensed, nor has the body of the Observance itself ever introduced or admitted any dispensation in the rule, but rather have they willed according to their strength, favored as they are by Divine aid, to observe it purely according to the declarations of the Supreme Pontiffs, admitted and received by the Friars Observants or of the Observance in their collection of general statutes, for those of the Cismontane in 1663, and for those of the Utramontane in 1621, and by the Reformed, Discalced and the Recollects in their respective particular constitutions:

We, for greater firmness of protestation, and so that in the aforementioned Order the condition and rule of the Friars Minor be observed, and that the pretext for transgressing it be taken away from individual friars, approving and confirming in order the very same protestation and declaration of these things expressed above, by Our own decision and from certain knowledge and Our mature deliberation, and from the plenitude of apostolic power, for the sake of retaining the present things We declare that all and each friar of the body of the Observance of the said Order to be bound in conscience to observe the rule of the Friars Minor of Saint Francis and the precepts set forth and enumerated by Nicholas III of blessed memory and Clement V, Our predecessors as Roman Pontiffs according to the norm of the respective aforesaid constitutions, and significantly, besides the precepts which do not so frequently occur to be bound even to the recitation of the Divine Office, to the precept in the rule on fasting, unless necessity excuses them, to going about without footwear, this is without anything that might cover the foot, of whatever material it might be, unless true necessity confirmed by a prelate be present, to not go horseback riding, unless infirmity or necessity proven by the judgement of the superiors excuses them, to cheapness in clothing according to the aforesaid respective constitutions, to not using more pieces of clothing than those which are prescribed by the rule, namely one tunic with a capuche and another without a capuche, a cord and breeches; for any kind of whatever clothing beyond the aforesaid (excepting the mantle which is licit from the beginning of religious life), such as undergarments or shirts; sweat bands, little tunics, and the like, are against the rule, unless true necessity excusing from the precept and approved by the prelate be present; lastly to be bound to the capital precept of the religion of the Friars Minor concerning not receiving money through themselves or through an interposed person, for the Friars Minor of the body of the Observance can have the use of other necessary things, but not the dominion [thereof], of money, however, neither the dominion nor the use; and hence the handling of whatever coins, or money, which is not purely natural, or which is in any manner civil [currency], is entirely prohibited to the Friars Minor Observants or of the Observance; and besides each and every dispensation, concession and custom, if it is ascertained to be against the aforesaid things among the body of the Observance of the aforesaid Order, alike in change, knowledge, deliberation and fullness of power, for the sake of retaining these present things, We revoke, nullify, void, and annul, and both in their force and effect We thoroughly and entirely revoke, and We determine and declare them to be revoked, nullified, voided, and nothings, both in their force and effect thoroughly and entirely empty and to be so forever. Equally, however, declaring those things which are not prohibited by the aforesaid things in the said Order [concerning] the apostolic syndics, since their use is not a dispensation from the rule, but a means provided by Our predecessors the Roman Pontiffs for the purer observance thereof, or syndics of the same kind chosen according to the constitution prescribed by Nicholas III and Clement V the aforementioned predecessors, or according to the disposition of the constitutions restored by Martin IV and Martin V and Paul IV equally Our predecessors, just as their use among each family, congregation, reform, or province of the aforesaid respective Order had been received.

Likewise so that in entering religion one wills to undertake each obligation, he be fully informed, we establish that no one is to be received to the regular habit in the same Order, unless he be fully informed beforehand concerning the aforesaid precepts of the rule which oblige in conscience, and that with this previous notification he wills to undergo probation; nor is anyone to be admitted to regular profession, unless he be examined beforehand concerning his understanding of the rule and its precepts according to the aforesaid things, and then a protestation be made by him before the whole community, to [the effect] that he is obliged by profession to the observance of the rule with all its precepts just now enumerated and expressed, and this protestation be received, and he make profession under it.

So that the example of the prelates or superiors truly be a more efficacious means of observing the aforesaid things, We therefore likewise establish that no one be able to be chosen a prelate or superior in the aforesaid Order, who does not follow the common life of observance, that is, he who frequently rides horseback, or has a sickness, by which he is excused from the obligation of going about on foot, who uses undergarments or shirts or linens upon himself or on his bed, who goes about with shoes, who does not observe the fasts of the Church or of the rule, who has been seen at anytime handling money, unless he has mended his ways for at least three years now, who notably is defective in attending the community choir, refectory, and other places, as is prescribed in his constitutions. I judge that the election of such a one, who in all the aforementioned things does not follow the common life, must be nullified by the prelate or general superior, after having learnt the information in the external forum, for the sake of his conscience, without the harshness of a sentence, but with the counsel and assent of three friars, who are or have been provincials or at least provincial definitors; nevertheless upon the consciences of these same, lest either one who observes the common life be expelled, or one who does not observe it be confirmed, We place the responsibility.

Lastly, so that every occasion of trespassing the precept of not handling coins or money be born away, We enjoin each and every prelate or superior of the said Order in virtue of holy obedience, and under the penalty of the deprivation of their office, to permit no religious of the same Order to have the administration of lands, of returns, or of whatever other things, moveable or immovable, to whomsoever the dominion belong, and significantly that to none of the religious of this kind of Order be permitted the administration of the temporal goods of any monastery of women religious under whatever pretext or name, namely, as administrators, syndics, agents, tenants, superintendents, steward, or any other imaginable.

Concluding this present letter and whatever things which must be contained in it, even for [the sake of] that which the superiors and friars of the aforesaid Order, and whatever others exist, of whatever status, grade, order, preeminence or dignity, or others worthy of specific and individual mention and reference, who having or in any manner alleging to have an interest in the aforementioned things, do not consent to them, or to those things which have been spoken of, cited and heard, and to the matter [at hand], on account of which this present letter has been issued, as if they have not been sufficiently adduced, verified, and justified, or for whatever other reason, even however verified, legitimate and privileged a case, appearance, pretext or point, even those contained in the body of law, even the irregular, the most irregular and entirely injurious, not at any time vitiated by subreption or obreption or nullity, or by Our intention or the consent of those who have interest, or for whatever other purpose, even however great and substantial and unconsidered and unthinkable, and on account of lacking individual reference to thus be noted, impugned, infringed, retracted, modified, refuted, called into controversy, or reduced to the terms of law or of the statutes or constitutions of the said Order, or to be understood or accomplished contrary to those things by the opening of the mouth, by complete restitution, or whatever other remedy of law, of fact or of favor, or having accomplished, whether anything in a judicial procedure or outside thereof has even been conceded or decreed by a [legal] motion, equal in knowledge or plenitude of power, or even if in any manner one be able to command it himself; but so that this present letter remain and be forever firm, valid, and efficacious, and to procure and obtain its own plenary and integral effects, and by this, to which it pertains and will pertain in whatever time, in all things and through all things to be observed and fulfilled inviolably and resolutely, and in such a manner that it is not be judged even otherwise in the aforementioned things, and thus by whatever judges, ordinary or delegated, even by the auditors of the causes of the apostolic palace, or by the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, even by legates a latere and by nuncios of the Apostolic See, or by whatever others who exercise or will exercise whatever preeminence and power, when it has been brought before them and for the sake of whosoever by whatever other faculty and authority in judging and interceding, it be judged and defined to pertain to themselves, and happen to be tried as void and vain (if such is contrary to this letter) by whomsoever, of whatever authority, knowingly or unknowingly.

Not withstanding the aforesaid things, and, as much as is needful, Our rule and that of the apostolic chancery concerning not removing a law that has already been granted, and concerning other apostolic laws, and those set forth in universal, and provincial and synodal councils, general or special, in constitutions or ordination, and besides those of the said Order, and of its congregations, reforms, provinces and convents and of whatever other [division], or by others of whatever kind, even having been sworn, by apostolic confirmation, or of whatever other firmness of strength, in statutes, usages, compositions and customs, even immemorial, also by privileges, indults and apostolic letters to the same Order, and its superiors, friars, and persons whatsoever, under whatever tenor and form of words, and even with whatever derogations of this to be derogated, or by other more efficacious, most efficacious and unusual passages, and by those things which would void them, and by other decrees in general or in special, even by a [legal] motion, equal in knowledge and plenitude of power, and others in consistory and in any way conceded contrary to the aforementioned things and of however many confirmed, approved, and renewed vicissitudes; to which each and every, even if for the sufficient derogation of those things and their tenor, special, specific, expressed and individual, and word for word, not even by general indeed important passages, the mention or whatever other expression used or some other exquisite form that would approach this, their tenor being of this kind, having respectively the form, case and occasions to the present letter expressed, most exactly observed and specified fully and sufficiently, those other things which would perdure in their strength, to effect the aforesaid things, with this change alone, We especially and expressly derogate and will to be derogated and in all other contrary things of whatever kind.

We also will that when there has been a transferal of the present letter, or its copy, even printed, subscribed to by the hand of any notary public, and sealed with the seal of a person established in ecclesiastical dignity, it be held with exactly the same trust in whatever place as much in court as outside of it, which it should hold by this very same present document even if they should be exhibited or shown [in public].

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter’s, under the ring of the Fisherman, on the 20th day of November, 1679, the fourth year of Our Pontificate.