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General Chapter of 1221

The second general chapter convened under Dominic’s presidency at Bologna on 30th May 1221. A detailed account of its work is not available to us, but we do know that it created the institution known as a “province” and its chapter as an intermediate form of government and ministry. The Order’s government now embodied its principles of collegiality and subsidiarity.

During the sessions of the chapter Dominic made another innovation in monastic practice, declaring that the Order’s laws do not bind under sin. Some years later, when brothers who had not known him began to doubt this, the general chapter of 1235 put it in writing. Dominic respected the freedom of the brothers as children of God, expecting them to act responsibly under the prompting of the Holy Spirit and not through fear of sin. In these matters the Dominican was a man of his time. The thirteenth century (in Europe) is a period noted for the introduction of representative procedures into state and municipal governments and the proliferation of voluntary and local associations-guilds, charitable organisations, confraternities, and universities. All of them employed elective and representative methods of government.

The general chapters after 1221 completed the Constitutions of the Order so that by the year 1228, the Order possessed a completely developed system of government. It was well integrated and well balanced between monarchical elements of the administration and democratic elements of community control. Collegiality, subsidiarity, and representation were among its prominent features. When functioning properly, the Dominican Constitutions promote the Order’s work, pay due regard to the ideas and desires of the friars, and impart a flexibility that enables the Order to expand its membership, territory, and kinds of work. It adjusts itself to new times and new societies by its own legislative action.