31 October 2010

Were the Hermit Intercessors Religious?

[[Dearest Sr Laurel, The 56 didn't stay in a motel. They were in a Benedictine Retreat House. Now they were somewhere in Iowa [if i am not mistaken] and they'll be moving to Blair, NE, in a former campus dormitory. I feel that you're (sic) post lacks compassion for these former hermits. You seem to forget that they were in a religious community. You seem to attack even the obedient hermits {okay call them metaphorical hermits] by telling them they were never religious. This alone creates confusion. Some may even think they are deceiving people even from the start. Some may think they are fake brothers and sisters.

Now in your recent post, it seems that you discourage people to donate to the destitute former intercessors although you have clarified this at the end of your post. Yes they are part of the laity now, so they mustn't receive any support now? But they were in a religious community before, took vows of poverty and now they have nothing. Some of them are old now and have no family to return to. So, because they are laity they must be sent to charity homes for the aged? Some of them left their jobs because they entered "Religious life" so, they must be sent back to the world again because they are laity and we must not care for them now from now on? There's a great possibility that they'll be founding another community. Fr. Baxter has said that.

Thank you for the corrections regarding the motel, and the note on the dormitory. I have made the appropriate correction in the original post. I haven't seen where the former HIOL has published anything yet on this latter issue outside their request for money and their comment that it is difficult finding a place large enough for 50 plus people, so thank you for this information. I am sorry my last post seemed to lack compassion. There is no doubt the plea for longterm corporate assistance did not sit well with me. Because of that, and because they are pertinent, I should correct you on a couple of points. First, I do indeed discourage people from contributing to the support of the former HIOL as a group or "community", especially without demanding a good deal more transparency and clarity before doing so not only on the part of the former HIOL group of 56, but of the IOL, Inc. Secondly, and especially important, however, is the simple fact that the HIOL were never religious. I am not the source of confusion here, nor am I attacking anyone in clarifying their canonical status. Certainly there is nothing wrong with being a member of the laity (i.e., lay STATE in the vocational sense). Neither should it be seen to be an attack or somehow demeaning in pointing out that someone was a member of the lay state rather than the consecrated state.

So again, the HIOL were members of a Public Association of the Faithful. They did not have canonical (public) vows, were not members of an institute of consecrated life, and their vows, though made in good faith and a serious personal commitment, could be simply dispensed at any time by their pastor or bishop, and without the canonical process of public vows. It is not simply that they are NOW lay persons; they have been lay persons right along (and not merely in the hierarchical sense of that term which applies to non-clerics, but in the vocational sense which distinguishes between lay, ordained, and consecrated faithful). As I noted earlier, they were allowed the use of habits and titles AS THEY DISCERNED with the Church whether or not they would ever become an institute of consecrated life and be admitted to the consecrated state of life, but that eventuality was NEVER assured.

None of this means people should not contribute to them if they choose but simply that they should be clear the HIOL were not religious. Neither does this necessarily point to deception or pretense (although I personally find continuing references to "vowed members" as opposed to other lay members somewhat and perhaps purposely unclear (or maybe just confused) since ANY lay person may make private vows at any time which have the same gravity as those of any HIOL; further, they may do so do so on their own initiative without mutual discernment, permission from anyone, or anyone actually receiving those vows. The term vowed is ordinarily reserved for those with PUBLIC or canonical vows because they are initiated into the consecrated state by their profession and have their entire lives PUBLICLY defined in these terms, something that private vows do not do. Again what all this means is not that HIOL vows were insignificant (they were quite significant) but instead that the members of the HIOL were not religious, and need to be VERY clear in the future about their identity and category of canonical standing especially when they request assistance. Perhaps it will help if I quote rather extensively here from a canonist who specializes in consecrated life to back up what I am saying.

[[Reasons Why Knowing the Canonical Status of a Community is Important

1. Only members of Diocesan-right or Pontifical-Right Religious Institutes are religious and enjoy the rights of religious and the obligations of religious. Vowed members of such Religious Institutes are in the consecrated state. The Intercessors of the Lamb, contrary to popular opinion, were NEVER a religious institute and its members were not in the consecrated state. “Consecrated” or vowed Members had some of the trappings of religious life: a habit, vows, chapel, statutes, etc., but they were not recognized in the Church as true religious. Why? Because they were in the more risky (to discerners) stage of being a Public Association of the Faithful.

While they had the intention and hope of eventually following some kind of consecrated lifestyle in a form approved by the Church, the Intercessors of the Lamb had the same status as any other Public Association of the Faithful (think Legion of Mary, Worldwide Marriage Encounter, etc.). A good percentage of Public Associations of the Faithful who wish to become a Religious Institute or evolve into a Secular Institute or a Society of Apostolic Life simply fold, fizzle out, are suppressed, or disintegrate for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, it is because there are unhealthy practices within the community, shady financial practices, personality struggles, etc. The bottom line is that even people with vows in a Public Association of the Faithful remain lay (if non-ordained) because they are not in a Religious Institute.]]
Therese Ivers, JCL, Diocese of Sioux Falls.

In fact, I believe that there has been some serious imprudence on the part of the lay board who was meant to govern the HIOL, and possibly on the part of the community's leadership as well. Any person who is discerning a vocation with an Association of the Faithful should realize that the position of the organization is tenuous as best. Even (and perhaps especially) in making private vows of poverty in such an organization there probably should be some sort of provision for members who must leave or who are left high and dry should the organization dissolve or be suppressed. I am not in the least suggesting the former HIOL were disobedient (nor, however, that obedience -- or cooperation with the Archbishop -- should be rewarded financially), but I think we must be clear on the nature of the group and ask some serious questions about the MORAL and possibly legal obligations of IOL, Inc, as well as the imprudence of being wholly unprepared to pick up the financial pieces in case of the group's failure --- especially if asking for assistance from the laity generally distracts from demanding IOL, Inc act responsibly and morally in their regard.

In saying this I am assuming that the HIOL were clear on the private nature of the vows they took, and clear on the risk attached to being part of a still-discerning Association of the Faithful. (If they were not the situation becomes even more serious and irregular.) And while I can understand they would ask for emergency assistance, I have been very surprised that they seriously appear to expect the laity to support them for an indefinite period, provide luxury items like cars, trucks, computers, printers, and the like, or that they have not considered that their current circumstances will seriously effect the way they have been able to live their lives --- just as it would when any Association of the Faithful fails for whatever reason. Thus, it is not that I don't want former HIOL's assisted financially per se --- especially as emergency assistance; what I want is the appropriate people doing that and in the most appropriate way (namely, individually not corporately) given the (now former) canonical status of the group.

Further, in pointing to what I consider a serious example of imprudence on the part of HIOL leadership or perhaps abdication of responsibility by the IOL,Inc (I don't know which is involved or if both are) I will refer to one warning sign put forth by another Canonist, Peter J Vere, JCL, MCL. It is taken from a list of warning signs used in evaluating new groups. Vere writes that discerners et al should be cautious regarding groups evidencing, [[5. [a premature] insistence on placing all goods in common: While the Church has a history of associations and religious orders in which members place all their goods in common, the decision to do so should come after a reasonable period of careful discernment. Placing one’s goods in common is not for everyone, and the consequences of such a decision are lifelong. Additionally, the potential for abuse by those who administer the common goods is great. Therefore, canonists frown upon any insistence by an association that its new or potential members place their goods in common.

Due to the fact that modern times see less stability in common life, with members sometimes opting to leave after a number of years, the most prudent handling of goods in common is to place them in trust until a member dies. That way, if the member leaves, the goods are available to meet his or her needs outside of the community.
]] (Emphasis added)

The link to the rest of this article will be found on Therese Ivers' site, "Do I Have a Vocation?" (More than this this point may be applicable so people should definitely take a look at it!) Ivers is also planning a series on the HIOL/IOL, Inc and people really should stay tuned. Strictly canonical questions can be directed to her as well.

As far as forming another community goes, everyone needs to be clear that this will continue to be a (Lay) Association of the Faithful, and possibly a private association before it becomes a public association in the beginning. It will have no different standing in law than any other Association, and vows made by members will remain private vows unless and until the Archbishop erects the group as an Institute of Consecrated Life and admits members to public vows where they actually assume the RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF CANONICAL VOWS. Remember that there are literally hundreds of such groups extant at this point. Most desire to be ICL's at some point and some are headed by persons who long to be "foundresses". Many have private vows but have not yet received permission to adopt the habit "on loan" against the day they are made ICL's -- nor will they ever.

Most dissolve or are told they cannot continue by their local ordinary because of all kinds of irregularities and eccentricities. Do they have a right to expect the laity of the Church to support them as groups (or even members individually) nonetheless? Do they have the right to expect the laity to support them while they start out? I don't think so. Emergency help (counseling, social workers, financial aid, etc) especially for those who are too elderly to work should be made available, but I do personally think that those who are elderly and/or incapable of working should apply for government assistance (just as those who ARE publicly (canonically) professed sometimes need and are expected to do when they age or become infirm --- for neither dioceses nor laity support these persons). Those who are capable of working should do so of course, just as any other lay person is expected to do --- even if they believe they are called to contemplative lives or even to lives of eremitical solitude --- again, just as those with canonical vows (including diocesan hermits) are required to do --- and absolutely as every other person in the Church with private vows must usually do when in need.

It is possible that the Church will need to rethink the wisdom and prudence of the custom (for it is only custom) of allowing Public Associations of the Faithful who wish to become Institutes of Consecrated Life (etc) to adopt habits and titles prematurely (say, before it is sure that a Bishop WILL erect the group as an ICL, etc), or make vows which give up all property or the right to such, etc, as a result of this situation. Habits and titles are properly associated with the assumption of public rights and responsibilities, and generally too, with initiation into the consecrated state (exceptions, for instance, include novices who are allowed to wear the habit of the institute as they prepare for profession because they do indeed have some rights within the congregation which candidates do not have. They signal this to the rest of the Church along with the fact that they are indeed immediately preparing for public profession by adopting modified religious garb (e.g., white veil, no ring or community emblem associated with final profession). The confusion that is being generated in this case amongst average church members, and in fact, which is being insisted on as truth (as in your own email to me) in order to justify assistance and so forth is significant and a matter for concern I think.