Concilium Monasticum Iuris Canonici

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Even before the Second Vatican Council concluded its work, the Canon Law Society of America sponsored a Concilium Monasticum Iuris Canonici to give monks around the world an opportunity to have some say in the formulation of the new law proper to them. Monastic canonists of all nations were invited to share in its work and questionnaires were sent to large cross sections of monastic communities.

In 1966 the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law received the Propositum monasticum de Codice iuris canonici recognoscendo prepared by the Concilium. Presuming that the new Code would take the same form as the 1917 Codex iuris canonici, the Propositum formulated 42 canons divided into sections, chapters, and articles. The fundamental question put by the Propositum was the delineation of those who were to be included within the category of monks. Some wanted the monastic state to be identified with the contemplative state. However, the Propositum followed the lead of Vatican Council II which spoke of monks who devote themselves entirely to divine worship in a life that is hidden or those who lawfully take up some apostolate or works of Christian charity; (Perfectae caritatis 9). There was a strong desire to provide adequately for the contemplative life, and for the eremitical vocation. Thus, the second section of the Propositum: De vita monastica in specie, has three chapters: De vita coenobitica, De vita eremetica, De vita unice contemplativa. The first section of the Propositum concerns itself with law for monasteries and federations, and such matters as admission, formation, and transfer. Although nuns had little opportunity to take part in the work of the Concilium its members held strongly that dispositions concerning monks apply equally to nuns. As a result there was no distinct provision in the Propositum for nuns.

The Propositum was one of the first concrete proposals received by the Pontifical Commission. It was taken up at the first meetings of the subcommission concerned with the section on religious life. By its presence it affirmed the right to be heard of those who were being legislated for. By its demands for a provision that fully respected the specific nature of a God-given vocation it called for a complete rethinking of this section of the Codex iuris canonici and an abandoning of the prevalent terminology and categories. The result was that the Schema canonum de institutis vitae consecratae per professionem conciliorum evangelicorum (Canon Law for Religious) was universally applauded. It fulfilled the general norms proposed for the new Code, and reassured monks that monastic life is quite distinct from other forms of religious life. It recognized that monastic life must have a distinct structure and a framework sufficiently flexible to allow its free development under the guidance of the Spirit. The due autonomy of the local community under its Spiritual Father is capital in this regard.

Bibliography: "Propositum Monasticum de Codice Iuris Canonici Recognoscendo," Jurist 26 (1966) 331357; "Monastic Proposal for Canon Law," Review for Religious 26 (1966) 1945. j. beyer, "De institutorum vitae consecratae novo jure," Periodica de re morali canonica liturgica 62 (1974) 145168, 179222; k. d. o'rourke, "The New Law for Religious: Principles, Content, Evaluation," Reviews in Religion and Philosophy 34 (1974) 2349. m. b. pennington, "The Canonical Contemplative Life in the Apostolate of the Church Today," Jurist 24 (1964) 409422; "The Integration of Monastic Law in the Revised Code," Jurist 25 (1965) 345350; "Monastic and Contemplative Life and the Code of Canon Law," Revue de l'Université d'Ottawa 36 (1967) 529550, 757770; "The Structure of the Section Concerning Religious Life in the Revised Code," Jurist 25 (1965) 271290. m. said, Progetto della riforma della legislazione codiciale "De religiosis," un giro d'orizzonte (mss. of a talk given in 1974 to an international conference of major superiors). j. p. beal, j. a. coriden, and t. j. green, New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York 2000).

[m. b. pennington]