The document have been published by the General Council on the March 15, 2007 with the title Conduct Code; the General Assembly 2008 have seen the ponctual provincial situations.
by Alessandro Guarda
Description of the phenomenon
121 - §1. The modern sciences of the human personality insist on the importance of the way we relate with, and the use we make of, the various material realities that surround us. Our attitudes and behavior here hold up a mirror to the persons we really are, and tell us how truly free and poor we are in the most authentic sense handed down to us by our missionary history – ready, that is, to hand ourselves over until death to the Lord with nothing but ourselves, able to live with only the basic essentials as a prophetic sign of our preferential option for the poor.
§12. We may also readily understand, however, how possible abuses in financial matters may take various forms. Presented here, by way of simplification, are three main ways in which the improper use of money or property may occur: first, in our dealings with third parties; second, regarding the money and property of the Institute; and third, through infidelity to our vow of poverty.
Our dealings with third parties
122 - §1. Improper use of money involving third parties can occur through activities that may have legal consequences as well as through the abuse of the trust of the donor.
§2. Activities that may have legal consequences include:
1. the illegal exchange of foreign currency, that is the exchange of such currency in ways not permitted by the legislation of the country where we work. Any involvement on our part in corrupt practices is absolutely to be excluded. The general criterion here is that we should make use of the agencies put in place by the Episcopal Conference, and that we should seek the good of the mission, considering this as being part of the greater good of the country which offers us hospitality.
2. investment in banks located in fiscal “paradises”;
3. the avoidance of taxes or other levies, for some short-term administrative benefit, while placing at risk the good name and future patrimony of the Institute;
4. the foundation of organizations and associations, without having proper care for the related legal consequences and our own ability to fulfill the commitments we thus enter into;
5. the exploitation of workers and other employees, paying unjust wages and/or avoiding the payment of the obligatory guarantees (insurance etc).
§3. The trust of donors is abused when sums of money received from them expressly and formally for a particular purpose are improperly employed in some other way. This happens in the case of:
1. projects for which complete financing is obtained from two or more different organizations at the same time;
2. campaigns carried out for a specific purpose, the funds from which are then used in some other way (RL 31.6);
3. the abuse of the legal name of the Institute for private operations, or on behalf of other organizations, or for operations not permitted by the law.
Regarding the Institute
123 – The money of the Institute is used illicitly in the following cases:
1. when it is taken without authorization for personal use or for the benefit of one’s family;
2. when it is used in a manner involving unauthorized risks;
3. when unauthorized investments are made, especially at high risk;
4. unauthorized loans;
5. unauthorized extraordinary expenditure;
6. unauthorized sale of the Institute’s property;
7. personal bank accounts;
8. failure to distinguish between funds belonging to the Institute and those belonging to the local Church or other bodies;
9. unnecessary expense in building or others matters, constituting real injustice done against the poor.
124 - §1. A religious who incurs excessive and/or unauthorized expenses on his own behalf or on that of the community, or who purchases goods or services (travel, cars, computers, cell-phones etc) in an irregular fashion, contradicts his commitment to live according to the vow and spirit of poverty. The seriousness of this behavior does not lie so much in the monetary value of the property acquired but in the fact that it has a doubly negative effect on the life of the local and wider community:
1. his behavior tends to undermine the common journey towards the ideal of perfect freedom in Christ, and at times instead gives rise to truly excessive demands;
2. there is also the risk of a diffuse acceptance of a style of life which is in fact a counter-witness, since it reflects the situation of the minority in the world who have even more than they need, over against the vast majority who are deprived of the basic essentials.
§2. Also to be situated in this context are any deposits with banks that regularly finance the arms trade or similar immoral activities.
The duties of the Institute
125 - §1. The first duty of the Institute and of each of its members in financial matters is the commitment to live in a consistent and transparent manner the vow of poverty that all have professed, giving the witness of an evangelical and prophetic use of money and property for the building up of the Kingdom and hence of a more just and fraternal society. This personal and collective witness calls for practical action to share property with the local Church and with the needy, taking account of the individual places and situations (CIC 640).
§2. In appointing provincial and local treasurers, the provincial superior must seek persons who not only have some ability for this kind of service, but also if possible are suitably trained to carry out these responsibilities, encouraging them to update themselves periodically through courses that may be available in the country where they are serving. It is further important that they live out their religious life with solid convictions and practice.
§3. Out of a sense of consistency with the demands of religious life and to encourage responsibility in the use of the Institute’s money, which is given in the main by the poor in order to help the poor, the Institute asks each missionary to give periodical account to the local superior of his income and expenditure.
§4. The provincial treasurer, aware of the civil and canonical penalties connected to financial misdemeanors, is attentive to the financial operations of each community and carefully examines their accounts and reports at least once a year, reporting to the provincial superior in the case of abuses that require his intervention.
§5. The superiors at the various levels must follow and cause to be followed the canon according to which “clerics or religious who practice trade or business against the prescriptions of the canons are to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the offense” (CIC 1392).
The Institute’s rights
126 – The Institute’s rights in matters of finance reflect its duties. The Institute can and must require:
1. consistent behavior from the individual religious, and severity on the part of the superior in opposing acts or situations which contravene the vow of poverty (for example, unauthorized personal bank accounts), and which are just as much the violation of a serious obligation, a scandal and a counter-witness as are violations of the vows of chastity and obedience;
2. regular and clear administrative reports submitted to the competent authority by those responsible for finance at the various levels (personal, community, provincial and general);
3. shouldering of personal responsibility by any confrere who has acted in violation of the vow of poverty or without the authorization of his superiors. “If a missionary contracts debts, liabilities and obligations without permission, he is responsible” (RL 169.4; CIC 639), though proper account must be taken of the rights acquired by third parties in good faith for credit created by obligations entered into by a member of the Comboni community in the name of the same.
Norms of conduct to prevent illicit financial operations
127 - §1. In matters of finance, the first tool to help control and prevent abuses is the practice of collegiality through the various councils and commissions which both treasurers and superiors are obliged to consult. For the individual confrere, the normal place for an evaluation of his practice in this area is the community council.
§2. Regarding current accounts, real estate and contracts, both prudence and correct procedure are necessary:
1. current accounts (post office and bank): two signatures should be required, although care must be taken for such a procedure to be workable in fact, with both signatories being really available in loco.
2. real estate: this should always be in the name of the Institute, of the province, or of a legally recognized body representing them, so that any alienation of such property is safeguarded by the relevant civil legislation.
3. contracts: given that these can take many different forms, provision should be made so that those with greater financial implications be considered by the competent council (see RV 196.6, DGE 4.17 and DP).
§3. The superior should maintain an open, cordial and sincere dialogue with the treasurer. While he entrusts to him the execution of all the financial decisions take by the council, at the same time he asks him for all the information necessary to have an accurate picture of the financial situation of the community entrusted to him (local, provincial, the Institute).
§4. Proper financial administration is often made more difficult by the complex civil legislation that regulates it. Besides keep themselves reasonably updated in this regard, the treasurers – while bearing in mind the dispositions of the RL, the provincial directory and the handbook of the local treasurer – will engage the services of competent and trusted professionals (accountants, lawyers, solicitors…) in matters where the local civil legislation is especially complicated.
Norms of conduct to prevent financial abuses
128 - §1. Financial abuses by a religious are normally dealt with at the local level, through a private, fraternal but firm intervention on the part of the superior. If this is not effective and the abuse continues, an effort should be made to resolve the matter in the community council and, as a last resort, through recourse to the provincial superior.
§2. Any religious who becomes aware of serious administrative abuses committed by the treasurer or some other confrere is obliged to inform both the local and provincial superiors.
§3. When several members of a community are certain that the superior is abusing his office, especially if this is causing serious harm to the community or the province, they are obliged to inform the superior authority.
Violations calling for administrative provisions
129 – Violations that require administrative provisions from the competent authority are:
1. the foundation of organizations and associations without having proper care for the related legal consequences and our own ability to fulfill the commitments thus entered into (see no. 122.2.4 above). Transferring the confrere concerned by administrative act of the provincial superior can help him understand that none of us is permanent in any one place, and that the works of the mission are an activity of the community, especially those which create obligations towards the Christian community.
2. the exploitation of workers and other employees by paying unjust wages and/or avoiding the payment of the obligatory guarantees (insurance etc), (see no. 122.2.5). The local treasurer will be invited to attend to the exact fulfillment of his duty regarding the proper management of the personnel and, if he should fail to do this as directed by the competent authority, he is to be removed from his post.
3. projects for which complete financing is obtained from two or more different organizations at the same time, and campaigns carried out for a specific purpose, the funds from which are then used in some other way (see no. 122.3.1-2 above). The obligation promptly to inform the organization or persons who have contributed to the financing of the project or to the campaign, and to seek their authorization to use the funds for a different purpose, falls at the same time on the confrere concerned and on the provincial superior and provincial treasurer. If abuses of the kind described here should occur they will lead the provincial superior to exercise greater prudence in authorizing any further projects presented by confreres who have not respected the spirit and the letter of the RL. When the abuse concerns large sums of money, or is repeated, it may be helpful to intervene by freezing the funds concerned in the provincial treasury until the matter is resolved.
4. Unauthorized loans (see no. 123.4 above). The provincial superior is to invite the confrere concerned to seek the return of the money he has lent without authorization. Should this not be possible, he will transfer the confrere, following the appropriate administrative procedures.
5. failure to distinguish between funds belonging to the Institute and those belonging to the local Church or other bodies (see no. 123.8 above). The first way to ensure proper financial administration is to ensure that the treasurers are properly trained for the task. Nevertheless, should a treasurer not follow the correct procedures in this matter, it will be the responsibility of the provincial superior to remind him of his duty. If the treasurer persists in the abuse, he can be relieved of the post entrusted to him (religious community and local Church) so as to avoid future confusion. He should in any case be reminded that the growth of the local Church has to pass through the narrow door of financial independence.
6. unnecessary expense in building or others matters, constituting a real injustice committed against the poor (see no 123.9 above). Often expenses of this kind have more to do with the glory of the missionary than the good of the Church. Once it has been ascertained that certain expenses are not part of the plans of the local Church (diocese), or have not been approved by the local community, and thus have been improperly incurred, the provincial superior will seek clarification from the confrere concerned and will ask him, if possible, to sell the goods in question and pass the corresponding amount to the patrimony of the province for charitable purposes. When the money was spent on real estate that cannot now be sold, the provincial superior will consider the possibility of transferring the confrere to another community.
Violations liable to penal prosecution
130 - §1. Violations concerning matters not covered in no. 129 above are all liable to penal prosecution. In evaluating such cases, attention must in the first place be paid to how serious the abuse in fact is.
§2. To be considered especially serious, and hence calling for an adequate penalty, are the following illicit acts: when money is taken without authorization for personal use or for the benefit of one’s family (no. 123.1 above), the unauthorized sale of the Institute’s property (no. 123.6 above), and personal bank accounts (no. 123.7 above). For these abuses, and for others involving large amounts of money, the provincial superior will determine the procedure to be followed, in accord with the norms previously defined in this code of conduct.
131 - §1. In cases where, to safeguard the Institute and correct the abuse committed, an administrative provision is deemed necessary, this will be decided by an act of the provincial superior, who, regarding the more serious situations, will take care to hear the opinion of his council. The confrere concerned may always have recourse against such a decision in the forms laid down by CIC 1732-1739.
§2. In those cases where the violation is liable to penal prosecution, the competent superior, having come to know of the abuse either directly or by way of information received, will carry out the appropriate checks, calling on the cooperation of the provincial treasurer or other competent experts so as to be able to initiate the necessary procedure on the basis of sufficient knowledge of the situation.
1. Normally the procedure to be followed will be that of a decree without a trial (CIC 1720), reserving a canonical trial proper for truly grave abuses or in any case for cases of stubbornly abusive behavior by the confrere.
2. When the penalty of an admonition is imposed on a confrere, this will be recorded in his personal file to be kept in the archive of the provincial superior as defined by CIC 1339 §2.
3. The penalty of penance (CIC 1340) can be imposed as a means of calling the guilty person to amend his ways. Obviously, the material nature of such a penance will be decided bearing in mind the abuse committed and how, when possible, it might be put right.
4. The other penalties foreseen by CIC 1336 (except for that mentioned in can. 1336 §1.5: dismissal from the clerical state) can be imposed if this is considered necessary to effect the conversion of the guilty person.
Dismissal from the Institute
132 – In the case where a confrere, having been already found guilty (by a penal and definitive sentence) of abuse of the legal name of the Institute (no. 122.3.3 above), improper use of money (no. 123.1 above) or having a personal bank account (no. 123.7 above), goes on to repeat the same behavior, the competent superior can initiate the procedure described in CIC 696 §2, namely dismissal from the Institute using the procedures described in canon 695 §2. The disposition named here in this code of conduct constitutes a norm of the Institute’s particular law as foreseen by CIC 696 §1.
Attribution of competence to the norms of the provincial directory
133 – With the exception of the questions enumerated in no. 130.2 above, the provincial directory (see no. 9 above) can legitimately specify in greater detail – taking account of the specific conditions of the place where the missionary works – the categories of abuse under examination here.
THE IRRESPONSIBLE USE OF MEANS OF TRANSPORT
134 – The irresponsible use of means of transport is certainly a case of abuse of the Institute’s property, inasmuch as it implies the expense involved in damage caused to the Institute’s vehicles, as well as to those of others, who may have to be compensated by the community. It is clear, however, that this abuse places at risk values which are much more important than money, such as the safety and life of the driver and of others. It thus takes on a moral gravity that is often unjustly neglected. The appropriate use and the safety of vehicles depend especially on three factors: the behavior and physical or other condition of the driver; the community’s sense of responsibility; and the condition of the vehicle.
135 - §1. To drive and use vehicles in a responsible manner is above all a duty of conscience, in respect for one’s own and others’ lives. Any irresponsible behavior in this regard, with serious possible consequences on the lives of different people and on the Institute’s finances, constitutes a counter-witness. The fact that many of the rules of the highway code are “merely legalities” offers no justification for undisciplined and negligent behavior.
1. Safety and speed limits must always be respected, thus helping to avoid unnecessary risks for oneself and others.
2. The safety of the vehicle must always be ensured through regular service and legal insurance cover.
3. A confrere arriving in a province for the first time has the responsibility of learning and observing the highway rules and regulations in force in that country, and of driving only with a valid and recognized license. If the law requires it, he must do a driving test.
§2. There is also a moral obligation to take proper account of the subjective condition of the driver:
1. conditions of excessive stress and/or fatigue after many hours of travel;
2. drunk driving or serious incapacity because of medication or other chemical substances;
3. particular health conditions and/or advanced age, which can reduce the person’s capacity and speed of reaction.
Responsibility of the community and superior
136 - §1. The community should find ways of creating a sense of responsibility about these matter in its members, who should:
1. be in sufficiently good physical and mental condition to allow them to drive without creating any serious risk for themselves or others;
2. be careful about maintaining vehicles in good and safe condition, remembering that they are the property of the community and not of individual confreres;
3. personally shoulder, at least in some measure, the consequences of any frequent infractions of which they are culpably responsible.
§2. It is the right and duty of the superior to watch out for and correct abuses in this area. In serious cases, if the good of the confrere himself and/or the safety of others requires it, he can also intervene with a temporary or permanent driving ban.