views updated


(CR; Official Catholic Directory #1300); the Congregation of Regular Clerics (Congregatio Clericorum Regularium ) was founded at Rome in 1524 by St. caje tan and his companions, Gian Pietro Caraffa (later Pope paul iv), Bonifacio de' Colli (d. 1558), and Paolo Ghisleri (14991557). Caraffa, first superior of the group, had been bishop of Chieti (Theate, in Latin), hence the name Theatines. All these men had been previously members of the Oratory of Divine Love, an association of clerics and laymen who sought to promote the reform of Catholic life in the early 16th century.

Cajetan and his associates decided to lead the way in the reform of clerical life by forming a religious order dedicated to high standards of asceticism and apostolic work under the vows of chastity, obedience, and absolute poverty. They rejected all benefices and devoted themselves to the service of the faithful, especially the poor and the sick. Approved by Clement VII on June 24, 1524, the first Theatines made their solemn profession at St. Peter's tomb in September of the same year. The congregation was placed under the immediate jurisdiction and special protection of the Holy See. In addition to the works of the ministry, the Theatines concerned themselves also with liturgical reform and contributed to the revisions of the liturgical books later promulgated by Pius V.

After Cajetan's death in 1547 the congregation spread rapidly throughout Italy, so that in the 17th century there were over 50 monasteries located in the major cities. From there it spread to Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, and Portugal. Beginning in 1626 the Theatines labored for over 70 years on the foreign missions in the Russian territories of Georgia, Mingrelia, Guria, and Imeretia. They went also to India where they evangelized many regions near Goa and opened a seminary for the native clergy. Meanwhile, in Rome, the Theatines collaborated in the founding of the Urban College, under the auspices of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Urban VIII asked them to staff and direct the college in 1641.

Amid the political upheavals of 19th-century Europe, and the suppression of religious communities, the congregation suffered great losses. Through the interest of Pius X, it was restored in Italy, Spain, U.S., Latin America, and Africa. Having been invited by Bp. Nicholas Matz of Denver, CO, the Theatines arrived in Durango, CO, on March 9, 1906, to take charge of that western parish and missions. From here their activities expanded to include additional parishes, schools, and social work.

The basic rule of Theatine life is taken from the common law of the Church and the example of the Apostolic Church. The constitutions were approved by Clement VIII on July 28, 1604. The generalate is in Rome; the U.S. provincialate is in Denver, CO.

Bibliography: p. h. hallett, Catholic Reformer: A Life of St. Cajetan of Thiene (Westminster, MD 1959). p. paschini, S. Gaetano Thiene, Gian Pietro Carafa e le origini dei Chierici Regolari Teatini (Rome 1926).

[a. sagrera/eds.]