The Rule: National Council seeks input on proposed new provisions

Higher Order Authority Intervention Strategy

The National Council is currently considering proposed changes to The Rule Part III which will enable State and Territory Councils and the National Council to address reputational or other damage to the Society caused by the actions of a person in a lower order council, conference or a special work.

Intervention might occur where a member of a Council has made public statements that are likely to damage the Society’s reputation. For example, statements that state  certain companions are unworthy; public statements as a Society member that are contrary to Catholic Social Teaching; a conference that refuses to follow the Rule; or a Council or a Special Work that is putting the Society’s assets at risk through a series of poor financial decisions.

As Vincentians, we must always try to resolve any issue through discussion and consultation to try to reach consensus and understanding of what is best for the Society, its members and companions.  Intervention to compel a course of action or to suspend or remove someone from office should only be undertaken in a serious case and where discussion and conciliation have not worked.

However, there have been a few occasions over the years where State and Territory Councils and even National Council has intervened to protect the Society, its reputation or its assets.

The current provisions in the Rule Part III covering intervention are not as clear as they might be. Reliance has been placed on Article 9 which provides that ‘A decision of a State or Territory Council is binding upon all of the Councils and Conferences within that State or Territory’.  A similar provision in Article 16 refers to National Council.

It is important that in those cases where intervention of a Higher Order Authority is necessary, that we have clear mechanisms that apply to an intervention and that a person affected be given a right of appeal if they feel they have been treated unfairly.  National Council is proposing these changes to the Rule will achieve these two goals.

In summary, an issue that arises within a state or territory will generally be dealt with by the State or Territory Council intervening.  Where an issue between State or Territory Councils cannot be resolved or an issue within a state or territory cannot be resolved internally, these will be referred to National Council for resolution.

A right of appeal will lie from intervention by a State or Territory Council to the National Council.

We will be asking the Council General International to include a provision in the Rule Part II to enable CGI to intervene to address any damage to the Society brought about by the actions or decisions of the National Council of Australia.

A draft of the new provisions can be found in the discussion paper below together with a flow chart illustrating how intervention might operate. We are inviting your comments on the new provisions. 

Written comments to the National Council can be made by Monday 21 September by email to kara.gibbs@svdp.org.au