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  • Religious Superiors Voting with Their Councils: A Critical Analysis of the Ideas of Velasio de Paolis
  • Sean O. Sheridan T.O.R.
Religious Superiors Voting with Their Councils: A Critical Analysis of the Ideas of Velasio de Paolis. Rome: Pontificia Università Urbaniana, 2010.

Canon 627 requires superiors of a religious institute to have a council: "§1. According to the norm of the constitutions, superiors are to have their own council, whose assistance they must use in carrying out their function." The canon further acknowledges that in certain circumstances, the superior is required to obtain the consent or counsel of his or her council before acting validly. Paragraph 2 states: "In addition to the cases prescribed in universal law, proper law is to determine the cases which require consent or counsel [End Page 318] to act validly; such consent or counsel must be obtained according to the norm of can. 127."

In this book, Christopher Hancock considers the issue of the relationship of a religious superior with his or her council. More specifically, Hancock pursues the issue of whether a superior votes with his or her council on matters for which consent is required for the validity of an action. Hancock considers this issue in light of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts' May 14, 1985 authentic interpretation of canon 127. That authentic interpretation indicated that the superior does not vote with the others or break a tie vote when their consent is needed for the superior to act validly. Hancock maintains that although the majority view precludes the superior from voting with his or her council when consent is needed, Cardinal Velasio DePaolis, President Emeritus of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, argues that religious institutes are entitled to regulate the relationship between a superior and his or her council including whether a superior can vote with the council when consent is needed. (8-9).

Hancock's book, presumably the publication for his doctoral dissertation, is divided into two major parts. The first part, entitled "Canonical Foundations," (15-250), presents an exegesis of canons 127 and 627, the two canons from the 1983 code that set forth the requirement for a council and the discussion about consent and counsel. Hancock's exegesis considers the 1983 code and the sources for that legislation. Of particular assistance to canonists, religious superiors and to councilors is Hancock's compilation of the various canons dispersed throughout the code that require a superior to obtain the consent of a college or individual persons before he or she can act validly (113-116). Hancock includes a similar list for situations in which a superior needs the counsel of another person or his or her council before acting validly (126-128).

The second major part of the book focuses on the scholarship of Cardinal DePaolis and consists of four chapters. The first three of these chapters consider the continuous tradition of the Church (253-320), the effect of the Holy See's approval of the proper laws of religious institutes (321-386), and different ways of imagining the superior's council (387-463). In addition to considering the scholarship of DePaolis, each of these chapters surveys the relevant investigations of these issues that other scholars have undertaken. [End Page 319] Hancock's final chapter concludes the analysis of the various components of Cardinal DePaolis' scholarship and offers a critique (465-496).

Ultimately, Hancock sides with the majority opinion and concludes that a superior is not to vote with his or her council when consent is needed. He suggests that "despite DePaolis's well-founded and well-argued points I have not found any justification in law for holding that this praxis [of the superior voting with the council when consent is needed] is permissible. I appreciate this conclusion will be contentious; however, anyone who wants to argue for the legality of the praxis has [to] do so from the law and I fail to see how the law when read according to the norm of can. 17 . . . can mean anything other than what it actually says." (491-492).

Hancock's study of this issue is well researched and...


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pp. 318-320
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