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The People of God » Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life » Institutes of Consecrated Life » Religious Institutes » The governance of institutes » Superiors and councils
Canon 617. Superiors are to fulfil their office and exercise their authority in accordance with the norms of the universal law and of their own law.
Canon 618. The authority which Superiors receive from God through the ministry of the
Church is to be exercised by them in a spirit of service. In fulfilling their office they are to be docile to the will of God, and are to govern those subject to them as children of God. By their reverence for the human person, they are to promote voluntary obedience. They are to listen willingly to their subjects and foster their cooperation for the good of the institute and the Church, without prejudice however to their authority to decide and to command what is to be done.
Canon 619. Superiors are to devote themselves to their office with diligence. Together with the members entrusted to them, they are to strive to build in Christ a fraternal community, in which God is sought and loved above all. They are therefore frequently to nourish their members with the food of God’s word and lead them to the celebration of the liturgy. They are to be an example to the members in cultivating virtue and in observing the laws and traditions proper to the institute.
They are to give the members opportune assistance in their personal needs. They are to be solicitous in caring for and visiting the sick; they are to chide the restless, console the fainthearted and be patient with all.
Canon 620. Major Superiors are those who govern an entire institute, or a province or a part equivalent to a province, or an autonomous house; the vicars of the above are also major Superiors. To these are added the Abbot Primate and the Superior of a
monastic congregation, though these do not have all the authority which the universal law gives to major Superiors.
Canon 621. A province is a union of several houses which, under one superior, constitutes an immediate part of the same institute, and is canonically established by lawful authority.
Canon 622. The supreme Moderator has authority over all provinces, houses and members of the institute, to be exercised in accordance with the institute’s own law.
Other Superiors have authority within the limits of their office.
Canon 623. To be validly appointed or elected to the office of Superior, members must have been perpetually or definitively professed for an appropriate period of time, to be determined by their own law or, for major Superiors, by the constitutions.
Canon 624. §1 Superiors are to be constituted for a certain and appropriate period of time, according to the nature and needs of the institute unless the constitutions establish otherwise for the supreme Moderator and for Superiors of an autonomous house.

§2 An institute’s own law is to make suitable provisions so that Superiors constituted for a defined time do not continue in offices of governance for too long a period of time without an interval.

§3 During their period in office, however, Superiors may be removed or transferred to another office, for reasons prescribed in the institute’s own law.
Canon 625. The supreme Moderator of the institute is to be designated by canonical election, in accordance with the constitutions.

§2 The Bishop of the principal house of the institute presides at the election of the
Superior of the autonomous monastery mentioned in can. 615, and at the election of the supreme Moderator of an institute of diocesan right.

§3 Other Superiors are to be constituted in accordance with the constitutions, but in such a way that if they are elected, they require the confirmation of the competent major Superior; if they are appointed by the Superior, the appointment is to be preceded by suitable consultation.
Canon 626. Superiors in conferring offices, and members in electing to office, are to observe the norms of the universal law and the institute’s own law, avoiding any abuse or preference of persons. They are to have nothing but God and the good of the institute before their eyes, and appoint or elect those whom, in the Lord, they know to be worthy and fitting. In elections, besides, they are to avoid directly or indirectly lobbying for votes, either for themselves or for others.
Canon 627. §1 Superiors are to have their own council, in accordance with the constitutions, and they must make use of it in the exercise of their office.

§2 Apart from the cases prescribed in the universal law, an institute’s own law is to determine the cases in which the validity of an act depends upon consent or advice being sought in accordance with can. 127.
Canon 628. §1 Superiors who are designated for this office by the institute’s own law are at stated times to visit the houses and the members entrusted to them, in accordance with the norms of the same law.

§2 The diocesan Bishop has the right and the duty to visit the following, even in respect of religious discipline:

1° the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615;

NB Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life and Societies of Apostolic Life,
Instruction Cor Orans, 1 April 2018:

111. In exemption of can. 628, §2, 1° CJC, the Federation President, within the established time, accompanies the Regular Visitator in the canonical visit to the federated monasteries as a Co-Visitator.
[Exemption approved by the Holy Father in a specific form.]

2° the individual houses of an institute of diocesan right situated in his territory.

§3 The members are to act with confidence towards the visitator, to whom when lawfully questioning they are bound to reply truthfully and with charity. It is not lawful for anyone in any way to divert the members from this obligation or otherwise to hinder the scope of the visitation.
Canon 629. Superiors are to reside each in his or her own house, and they are not to leave it except in accordance with the institute’s own law.
Canon 630. §1 While safeguarding the discipline of the institute, Superiors are to acknowledge the freedom due to the members concerning the sacrament of penance and the direction of conscience.

§2 Superiors are to take care, in accordance with the institute’s own law, that the members have suitable confessors available, to whom they may confess frequently.

§3 In monasteries of cloistered nuns, in houses of formation, and in large lay communities, there are to be ordinary confessors, approved by the local Ordinary after consultation with the community. There is however, no obligation to approach these confessors.

§4 Superiors are not to hear the confessions of their subjects unless the members spontaneously request them to do so.

§5 The members are to approach their superiors with trust and be able to open their minds freely and spontaneously to them. Superiors, however, are forbidden in any way to induce the members to make a manifestation of conscience to themselves.

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