The Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life has issued a new “General Decree” – approved in forma specifica by Pope Francis and thus having the force of law – imposing term limits on the leadership of the lay associations under its control, and ensuring the members of such organizations are adequately represented in governing bodies.
The Decree is aimed at “overcoming ‘temptations and insufficiencies’ encountered in how government is exercised within the associations of the faithful,” according to an Explanatory Note published along simultaneously by the Dicastery. “In the context of its role of supervision,” the Note says, “the Dicastery… has identified several reasonable criteria concerning two necessary aspects of good government: regulating the terms of office in governing bodies at the international level, and the representativeness of these bodies.”
The Decree provides for a maximum of two five-year terms for offices in the central governing body at the international level, with a maximum of ten consecutive years on the board regardless of the position. Re-election is only possible after a vacancy of one term. However, the moderator of the board can exercise his or her functions independently of the time spent in other positions. A possible exception is offered for founders, on account of the “key role” they often play in those organization: the Decree allows the Dicastery to dispense founders from the term limits only if the Dicastery “considers this opportune for the development and stability of the association or entity,” and only if it corresponds to the will of the governing body.
Regarding adequate representation, the Decree provides that “All pleno iure members are to have active voice, direct or indirect, in the constitution of the bodies that elect the central governing body at the international level.”
The Decree applies to the more than 120 international lay organizations under the direct supervision of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, as well as other entities subject to its oversight, including the Neocathecumenal Way, the World Organisation of the Cursillo Movement, and the recently established Catholic Charismatic Renewal International Service (CHARIS).
The Explanatory Note says that the Dicastery produced the decree “after an attentive study of [the] Magisterium and of the law of the Church” and after consultation with other curial bodies, but makes no mention of consultation with the organizations affected or their members.