Ad Pastoralis Dignitatis Fastigium
“to the summit of pastoral dignity”
The original text in Latin is in LDSC (Lettere e Decreti della Sacra Congregazione [Propaganda Fide, Rome]) 1820, Vol 301, F. 592-7. The original Latin Brief was lost at some stage, probably mislaid by Father P. Kenney S.J. (Kirby Correspondence No. 340 Irish College, Rome, 6 March 1845). The earliest extant English translation is in the papers of Dr Bray, 1820 / 1, Cashel Diocesan Archives.
Source: Normoyle _Roman Correspondence_ page 94.
For the perpetual memorial of the thing.
Raised to the summit of the pastoral dignity, not through our own merits, but by the ineffable abundance of the Divine Wisdom and Clemency; we willingly confirm, as being requested thereto, by our Apostolic protection, those things which are known to be prudently constituted and ordained for the greater spiritual advancement of Societies, piously and holily founded, which are continually labouring to produce, with the assistance and blessing of the Almighty, abundant fruits of piety and charity; and for the good of persons enrolled in the same, or who may be enrolled in them hereafter, that they continue steadfastly therein and persevere with constancy.
And whereas, according as it has been related to us, by our beloved son, Charles Mary Pedecini, secretary to the Propaganda Fide, a pious Society of laymen, in the kingdom of Ireland, considering the many great evils to which the poor children of that Nation are exposed, in consequence of their ignorance; and being very desirous to provide for the education and instruction of those amongst them, whose poverty prevents them from going to Schools where payments are exacted; and whence it happens, that being entirely ignorant, they know not the rudiments of the Catholic faith —have come forward, and applied themselves to the instruction of said children: and, for this purpose, undertook, a few years ago, to erect a Congregation under the title of “Religious Brothers” nearly resembling that which has been instituted in the kingdom of France, having for its title “The Brothers of the Christian Schools,” and approved by our predecessor of happy memory, Benedict the Thirteenth, in the year seventeen hundred and twenty four, by his constitution, which begins with the words “In Apostolicae dignitatis solio.”
Now, these pious laymen have proposed to themselves the following end, viz.: The Gratuitous Instruction of poor children, in the rudiments of the Christian Faith, and whatever else as also those branches of Literature may be adapted to their state and condition; and for the better establishing this salutary Institute, they have framed certain Rules and Constitutions, to be observed by them, which are but a little different from those of “The Brothers of the Christian Schools” ; and have humbly laid them before the Congregation of our venerable Brethren, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, who are charged with the affairs of the propagation of the Faith; in order that if found good, and adapted to the end of their Institute, they might be confirmed by the strength of our Apostolical authority and approbation.
These Rules or Constitutions are as follows, viz.:—
1—That these Religious Brothers, being instituted under the protection of the Holy Child Jesus, and the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mother, shall make it their principal care to teach children, particularly the poor, the things necessary for a virtuous and Christian life; and that the main end and spirit of their Institute, must be an anxious solicitude to educate youth according to the maxims of the Christian law.
2.—That they obey the Superior-General, for the time being, by them elected; and establish themselves in those dioceses into which they are admitted, with the consent of the Bishops, and under their authority.
3.—That the Superior-General shall be elected by the scrutiny and secret suffrage of the Directors of all the houses, assembled together for the purpose. And that the person thus elected shall continue to govern for ten years only, unless again re-elected and confirmed, in which case he can continue in office for other ten years; and that, in the same assembly of Directors, and in like manner of suffrage, they shall elect two Assistants, who are to form the Council of the Superior-General, and assist him in the administration of the Institute.
4.—The Assistants shall live in the same house with the Superior- General; they shall be present at his deliberations, and aid him, when necessary, in answering such letters as he may receive.
5.—The Brothers shall teach the children gratis; never accepting of anything as a reward or retribution, either from them or their parents.
6.—None of the Brothers shall aspire to the Priesthood, or to any ecclesiastical orders.
7.—The Brothers can be admitted into this Institute, in the sixteenth or seventeenth year of their age, but they cannot be permitted to make their simple perpetual vows, until they have completed their one-and-twentieth year.
8.—The vows of the Brethren shall be those of Chastity, Poverty, Obedience, firm Perseverance in the Institute, and the Gratuitous Instruction of the poor.
9.—The Superior-General can be deposed by a General Chapter of the Brothers, for the following causes, viz.: heresy, manslaughter, impurity, mental imbecility, infirmity of old age, squandering the goods of the Institute, or any other enormous crime, which the assembled General Chapter shall judge deserving of such chastisement, and in such extraordinary occasions, this General Chapter shall be convoked by the Assistants.
10.—The Brothers-Directors of the particular houses shall govern but for three years only, unless that, for just reasons, it shall appear better to the Superior-General and his Assistants, to increase or lessen the time; and the Superior-General is to give the necessary faculties to the said Directors, concerning the vow of Poverty, or administration of the temporal goods of their houses; but with the exception, however, that it be never allowed these Directors, nor to the visitors who are to be deputed from time to time, to alienate lands, or any property, moveable or immoveable, without first consulting the Superior-General, for the time being, and his Assistants.
11.—Visitors shall be appointed by the Superior-General, for three years, and shall make their visitation once in each year: they shall require of the Director of each house an account of the receipts and expenditure, and at the termination of each visitation, will report to the Superior-General what they see necessary to be corrected in each house.
12.—General Chapters will be convened every ten years; to which shall come the Director of each house, and the Visitors for the time being; unless that it may sometimes appear more convenient that an extraordinary congregation be called before that time. To this effect, if it be thought too inconvenient to call an extraordinary general congregation, for the removal of one or both of the Assistants—in such case, the Superior-General will inform the Director of each house, by letter, of his intention of so doing, showing the reasons for which one or both of them are to be removed; which being done, if the majority of the Directors, with the Superior-General and his Assistant who may remain in office, shall have declared it as their opinion, in writing, that the good of the Institute requires the removal of such person or persons; then it will be in the power of the Superior-General to remove him or them; and, in case of a removal, he is to let the Brothers know that they are to proceed to a new election, in place of the person or persons so removed; which election will be carried on by the like suffrages, to be transmitted in writing to the Superior-General, on a determined day. These documents shall be delivered into the hands of two Brothers Directors, called for that purpose, who will be bound to inform the Superior-General in what person or persons’ favour the suffrages have been given. The Superior-General will then declare such person or persons duly elected.
13.—The Brothers shall not only teach the children reading, writing, orthography, arithmetic, but also the Christian and Evangelical precepts. They shall give Catechetical instructions, or read for them a pious book, for half an hour, each day of school; but on Sundays and holydays of obligation, they shall prolong the Catechism or Lecture, to the space of an hour, in some church or convenient place, where a congregation can be assembled.
14.—Lastly, the Brothers cannot visit Nuns, without the express leave of the local Bishop; and they must observe the conditions imposed by him, in writing.
These being diligently examined by the aforesaid congregation, and having consulted our venerable Brother, the Archbishop of Dublin, and the other Bishops of Ireland, who highly extolled this Society, and asserted that most ample fruits were reaped from it, the aforesaid Congregation of Cardinals humbly begged of us to deign to approve this Institute, and the foregoing Rules:
We, therefore, wishing to satisfy the desires of said Congregation, and of the Bishops of Ireland, and to further whatever should conduce to the good of the faithful, and absolving, and considering as absolved, only as to the obtaining the effects of these presents from all excommunications, suspensions, interdict, and other Ecclesiastical sentences, censures and punishments, incurred by the fact, or inflicted by a judge, for whatsoever reason, if they should lie under any; those persons, in whose favour we write, and consenting to the aforesaid petitions, by the advice of our said Brethren, we approve and confirm, with our express Apostolical Authority, this Institute, and the foregoing Rules or Constitutions, and all therein contained, and we thereunto add the authority of our Aposolical support; and we also supply every defect, either in fact or law, decreeing that these presents are and shall be firm, valid and efficacious, and fully favourable to them; and that they are to be observed by all those whom they regard, or whom they will, in any wise, in future regard; and depriving any judges whatsoever, ordinary or delegate, even the Auditors of the Sacred Palace, and Nuncios of the See Apostolic, of judging or interpreting otherwise.
And we declare invalid and void, every thing that shall be attempted, regarding these, by any person whoever, and with what- ever authority, knowingly or ignorantly, notwithstanding any Apostolical orders or constitutions whatever.
It is, also, our wish, that as much credit shall be given to the copies or transcripts of these presents, signed by the hand of some Public Notary, and sealed by the seal of some person constituted in Ecclesiastical dignity, both in and out of Court, as would be given to these presents themselves, if they were produced or shewn.
Given at Rome, from St Mary Major’s, under the Fisherman’s ring, this fifth day of September, Eighteen Hundred and Twenty, in the twenty-first year of our Pontificate.