In modern times, the form of "exhortation" was apparently first used by Pope Pius XII on Dec. 8, 1939 (Aspersis commitis anxietatibus ) on the occasion of the beginning of hostilities in World War II. It was an address to priests involved in the armed forces. Since then, the Roman pontiffs have used this form regularly to exhort various categories of persons to seek for greater perfection. For instance, the exhortation Menti Nostrae of 1950 on the holiness of priests (AAS, 42 , 657–702) was one of the first texts to make this form of document commonly known. As the name implies, exhortations are not legislative. Although not juridically binding, they are a significant expression of the magisterium of the Church, and are morally persuasive and quite influential because they are frequently the product of consensus. In the exhortation Redemptoris custos on the person and mission of St. Joseph (Aug. 15, 1989), Pope John Paul II speaks of this document as a means of fulfilling a "pastoral duty." More recently, a distinct form, the postsynodal apostolic exhortation, has been used to issue the papal document presenting the results of an ordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops; for instance, Vita consecrata (March 25, 1996) follows upon the synod on consecrated life. An exhortation can also be the base for further study and for special norms putting its teaching into effect. Thus, for instance, in Vita consecrata, no. 59, the pope calls for careful consideration of the norms regulating papal cloister; this led to the publication of the instruction Verbi sponsa (13 May 1999) which revised such norms and stated that the document was a direct consequence of the provisions of Vita consecrata.
See Also: pronouncements, papal and curial.
Bibliography: j. huels, "A Theory of Juridical Documents Based on Canons 29–34," Studia canonica 32 (1998) 337–370. f. g. morrisey, Papal and Curial Pronouncements: Their Canonical Significance in Light of the Code of Canon Law (Ottawa 1995), 13.
[f. g. morrisey]