Firm and Final Agreement between Cardinal Damasceno and Heralds of the Gospel’s Partner Schools

Prof. Felipe Nery and his wife thank the Cardinal for his decision to uphold the boarding schools and lament the fake news surrounding the educational projects of the Heralds.  

Newsroom (3/11/2021 3:03 PM Gaudium Press) My wife and I are parents of three children who study and board in São Paulo at two schools run by the Heralds of the Gospel, in the same educational project. In recent months, we and thousands of other parents have experienced moments of apprehension.

Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, in his capacity as Pontifical Commissioner to the Heralds, has made recent declarations at a Conciliation Hearing in Bogotá, whose agreement has the force of a firm and final sentence. To some extent, this has restored to us the peace of mind necessary and fundamental for us to continue supporting our children on this educational path.

Since August 10, 2021, a turbulent and anguishing period has begun for the parents of minors whose Christian and human education we entrust to the Heralds of the Gospel, and who, for this purpose, stay in the houses of this Catholic institution. The Heralds ecclesial communion is manifest in the hundreds of dioceses and thousands of parishes throughout the world where it carries out its work of evangelization. Cardinal Damasceno had made known, through Decree no. 29/2021, the decision of Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, that “all minors admitted in any capacity to the Private Association of the Faithful Heralds of the Gospel should return to live with their families and be entrusted to their respective parents.”

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This decision was justified by alleged denunciations that in the majority of cases, children are excluded from family life, contact with parents is not sufficiently guaranteed, and the discipline practiced in the community of the Heralds of the Gospel is excessively rigid.  To prevent possible abuses of conscience and plagiarism against minors, Cardinal Braz de Aviz decided that minors will not be able to lodge in the houses of the Heralds.

Such justifications generated perplexity, since we, parents and/or legal guardians, do not agree that “abuses of conscience” or “excessively rigid discipline” were being practiced in the Heralds’ environments. We frequent the Herald’s schools and the Heralds’ houses assiduously, and we are witnesses that such abuses never existed; moreover, our children would not hide these problems from us, if they existed.

All the parents of the minors who stay in the Heralds’ houses delivered to Cardinal Damasceno a petition in three languages in which they register their non-conformity with the decision made by Cardinal Braz de Aviz and the Pontifical Commissioner, who declared that he was unaware of the accusations and the accusers and that he was only complying with the decision of Cardinal Braz de Aviz.

The gravity of the issues raised led legal representatives of the Fundación Colegio Alcázar Campestre and Corporación Colegio Pilares del Castillo (Colombian schools that operate in partnership with the Heralds in Colombia) to request an audience with Archbishop Cardinal Damasceno and the representative of the Heralds of the Gospel at the Arbitration and Conciliation Center of the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce in order to reach a satisfactory agreement.

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During the encounter, which took place on September 29th, Archbishop Cardinal Damasceno revealed that he had been informed by the Apostolic Nunciature in Bogotá that it had received no denouncements, evidence, indications, communications, proofs, investigations, or judicial decisions that allow one to suppose the existence of “excessively rigid discipline” affecting the “indispensable relationship with the families,” “possible psychological abuses,” the danger of “plagiarism,” or, in general, any conduct that might cast doubt on the work carried out by the Heralds of the Gospel and the schools.

Archbishop Cardinal Damasceno also clarified that the fact that the schools possess the legal authorizations granted by the competent authorities allows them to develop in a stable and continuous way their legally authorized educational work and accommodation, for which DECREE no. 29/2021 does not apply nor does it impede the development of the aforementioned educational project.

Numerous opinions of legal experts from various nations agree that ecclesiastical authority is not competent to make decisions in matters pertaining to civil legislation and, in particular, to those concerning the natural right that parents have to choose the form and manner of their children’s education.

Moreover, these opinions are in harmony with judicial sentences handed down on this same subject in Ecuador and Brazil, which determine the fulfillment of contracts signed between parents and the schools and the Heralds of the Gospel Association itself.

Only one question remains: if the decision and the decree are not applicable in Colombia, are they applicable in the other countries? And if they are to be applied, why should they be? Are there two weights and two measures, one for Colombia and another for the other countries?

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We want to thank Archbishop Cardinal Damasceno for his brave and coherent attitude in Colombia and for having cleared up the confusion that fake news from unknown sources created in the offices of H.E. Card. Braz de Aviz…

By Felipe Nery Martins, teacher and educator and Renata Gusson Agelune Martins, pharmacist and biochemist.

Compiled by Camille Mittemeier

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