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Consecrated Life (Canon Law)

CONSECRATED LIFE (CANON LAW)

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, some of the Christian faithful are called to a more intimate following of Christ through the profession of the evangelical counsels by vows or other sacred bonds in a stable form of life approved by the Church (Codex iuris canonici, c. 573). They possess a special gift in the Church and contribute to its life and mission in accord with the nature, spirit, and end of their respective institutes. Numerous varieties of institutes of consecrated life in the Church manifest Christ praying on the mountain, announcing the kingdom of God, doing good to people, living among men and women in the world, always doing the will of the Father (c. 577). Institutes of consecrated life may be of pontifical right, that is, erected or approved by the Apostolic See; or they may be of diocesan right, that is, erected by the diocesan bishop in his territory (c. 589). Likewise, the institutes may be clerical or lay in accord with the design of the founder and recognition by Church authority (c. 588 §2, §3). Institutes of consecrated life enjoy a just autonomy of life, especially of governance in order to preserve their own patrimony (c. 586). These institutes are subject to the supreme authority of the Church, and their members are bound to obey the pope as their highest superior by reason of their bond of obedience (c. 590). Religious institutes (c. 607), secular institutes (c. 710), and the eremitical lifestyle (c. 603) are forms of consecrated life. While the order of virgins (c. 604) and societies of apostolic life (c. 731) "resemble" or "approach" (accedunt ) consecrated life, the assumption of the evangelical counsels through vows or other sacred bonds is not a constituent part of their nature. However, some societies of apostolic life do provide for the observance of the evangelical counsels by a bond defined in the constitutions (c. 731 §2).

Religious institutes are societies in which the members in accord with their proper law profess public vows and lead a life of brothers or sisters in common (c. 607 §2). They may be given wholly given over to contemplation (c. 674) or engaged in apostolic action (c. 675).

Secular institutes are institutes of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world assume the observance of the evangelical counsels through sacred bonds in accord with their constitutions (cc. 71012). Members of these institutes exercise apostolic activity and act like leaven in the world in their efforts to imbue all things with the spirit of the gospel (c. 713 §1).

The Church also recognizes the eremitical life in which a man or woman is dedicated to God by publicly professing the three evangelical counsels in the hands of the diocesan bishop which profession is confirmed by vow or other sacred bond. In a way of life under the direction of the same bishop, the hermit devotes himself or herself to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through a stricter withdrawal from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance (c. 603).

Similar to these forms of consecrated life is the order of virgins by which women resolved to follow Christ through lives of virginity are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop in the approved liturgical rite. Their lives are given over to service in the Church, and they can associate together for support and assistance in their sacred resolution and service (c. 604).

Societies of apostolic life resemble institutes of consecrated life inasmuch as their members pursue the apostolic purpose of the society and live a life in common as brothers or sisters, striving for charity through the observance of their constitutions. Among these societies, there are some in which the members assume the evangelical counsels by some bond defined in the constitutions (c.731).

The Church recognizes consecrated life as a gift of the Holy Spirit. While this life does not belong to the Church's hierarchical structure, it is bound inextricably to its life and holiness (c. 574). While the observance of the evangelical counsels may take various forms in the history of the Church, it remains a radical gift of self for love and imitation of Christ, chaste, poor, and obedient. Throughout the centuries, holy men and women have lived the evangelical counsels as ascetics or hermits, monastics, mendicants, contemplatives, and persons engaged in apostolic works in religious or secular institutes. The Church remains open to new forms of consecrated life, the approval of which is reserved to the Apostolic See. Diocesan bishops are encouraged to discern these new gifts and assist their promoters, enabling them to express their inspirations in appropriate statutes (c. 605).

Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO) . Title XII of the CCEO, "Monks and Other Religious as Well As Members of Other Institutes of Consecrated Life," divides institutes of consecrated life in the following fashion: monasteries, religious houses in which the members strive toward evangelical perfection by the observance of the rules and traditions of monastic life (c. 433 §1); orders, societies in which the members make a profession equivalent to monastic profession (c. 504 §1); congregations, societies in which the members make three public vows which are not equivalent to monastic profession (c. 504 §2); societies of common life according to the manner of religious, societies in which the members profess the evangelical counsels by some sacred bond but not religious vows, imitating the manner of life of the religious state (c. 554 §1); secular institutes, institutes in which the members dedicate themselves to God by profession of the evangelical counsels by a sacred bond and exercise apostolic activity as leaven in the world (c. 563 §1, 1°, 2°); other forms of consecrated life such as ascetics who imitate the eremitical lifestyle without belonging to an institute of consecrated life (c. 570); consecrated virgins and widows who live in the world on their own and publicly profess chastity (c. 570). Finally, the CCEO describes societies of apostolic life whose members without religious vows pursue the particular apostolic purpose of the society and live as brothers or sisters in common according to their constitutions (c. 572). As in the CIC, new forms of consecrated life are reserved to the Apostolic See (c. 571). The typicon is the law proper to monasteries (c. 414 §1, 1°); statutes are proper laws for orders, congregations, societies of common life imitating religious, secular institutes, and other forms of consecrated life (cc. 414 §1, 1°; 511 §1; 554 §1; 563 §1, 1°,

3°; 571); constitutions is a term used only for societies of apostolic life without religious vows (c. 572).

[r. mcdermott]

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