25 May 2012

Follow up Questions: CMSWR and LCWR

[[Hi Sister Laurel, you wrote about the CMSWR and said.[[. . . they are not pushing the envelope in any way and are more typical of the form of religious life the Vatican approved in 1900 with Conditae a Christo and made canonical in 1917. It is a form of religious life which is definitely less prophetically oriented and more supportive of the institutional status quo. They are involved in corporate apostolates, but generally not on the margins of society with ministries to the disenfranchised where Sisters of the LCWR are often found. This allows them to live community in the sense most of us recognize as common in the early to mid 1900's but in the main not to live where the poorest of the poor actually reside and require help.]] Are you saying that such congregations are not prophetic? Are you saying that only LCWR communities ARE prophetic? Can you clarify this for me because I could not agree if you were drawing such a black and white distinction?]]

Thanks for your questions. I received several of emails on this matter. Yours was the only one that asked me to clarify what I actually said, or, in fact, actually quoted or characterized what I said accurately. For that reason, if you don't mind, I will use your questions to answer all of these. Note well that I used the phrase "less prophetically oriented". I did not say, "not prophetic", "less prophetic", nor did I say they were unfruitful or unimportant for the proclamation of the Gospel. I tried pretty hard NOT to draw things in black and white or either/or terms, and I stayed away from "conservative/ liberal" or "traditionalist/progressive" kinds of distinctions (dichotomies) and labels. That was ONE of the reasons I used only CMSWR and LCWR as designations. (The other was that the questioner used those in his/her question.)

There is no doubt that I find the LCWR group more diverse than the CMSWR, but that is, as I noted in the post you quoted, because the CMSWR itself only recognizes ONE expression of non strictly-cloistered religious life as valid while LCWR does not. Thus, LCWR has Sisters who wear habits and those who do not; they have Sisters in corporate apostolates, and those who are not, Sisters living community in corporate settings, and those who live community in other ways. The CMSWR does not. I do think the LCWR is more helpful in reflecting the nature of ministerial religious life in the US than the CMSWR, because they are more diverse and have adopted a less narrow view of religious life and view of the nature of the church which is more in line with the image emphasized by Vatican II. On the other hand, I noted very explicitly that BOTH leadership conferences are necessary for a complete picture of religious life. I did not say x is right, y is wrong, for instance. (More about this below, however.)

Now, for your specific questions. What do I mean when I say that one leadership conference is more prophetically oriented than another? I mean, as has always been the case with prophets, that they work to proclaim the Gospel or will of God in season and out, whether it is opportune or not, and whether it conflicts with the religious institutions and state which hold power at the time or not. I mean that they stand on the margins, not only with regard to those they minister to, but in terms of the institution precisely because they seek to proclaim a Gospel which threatens those in power and gets real disciples crucified by the religious and political status quo. They proclaim a Gospel which is principally concerned with the Kingdom of God, and therefore, less so with partial and proleptic expressions of that Kingdom or with simple preservation of the status quo. Wherever the Kingdom of God is truly proclaimed, as Mary's Magnificat recounts, religious and political systems are overturned along with the security, power, and insularity they necessarily foster and protect.

I mean too that such groups work for portions of the Gospel that have been forgotten or even forsaken. For instance, one comment I have heard recently decries women religious working for the good of the earth. But in fact, our own stewardship of the earth is part of the most original commission to humanity; it is, simply put, the will of God. In the New Testament, as Paul makes very clear, the message celebrated is that regarding a new Creation, a new heaven and a new earth --- not, pie in the sky by and by, but the re-making of God's creation so that heaven and earth completely interpenetrate one another and God is "All in all." Commitment to follow a God who becomes enfleshed will necessarily mean treating all that he has assumed as holy --- and that does mean the dust of the earth as well as the stuff of heaven. Literally and figuratively it is ALL star stuff.

It will mean recovering ministries and a way of doing ministry which reach(es) the marginalized --- those truly on the margins both politically and ecclesially. This in turn will mean less emphasis on large corporate apostolates and smaller targeted ministries with fewer Sisters -- and those living right with those they serve. To some extent it requires "becoming all things to all people" as Paul himself claimed was necessary to truly follow Christ, and at the same time it will mean, "having no place to lay one's head" in the sense of insulated religious preserves marked by enclosure and some sort of "convent mystique." (Habits might fit here as well.) In other words, it means searching for, finding and proclaiming God right in the midst of the situation in which the person finds him/herself and in the terms the person really NEED to hear because this is CENTRAL to a Gospel which says God came to ALL and made ALL holy in that coming.

These are SOME of the things I mean by being prophetic, and a prophetic orientation means adopting and sacrificing for the sake of this prophetic activity and identity BECAUSE it is what one discerns God is calling one to. Those who do not adopt such a perspective may simply not be called to it. They may (like Jonah) even believe it is wrong-headed and so go the other way. And in this they may be right or wrong. They may still find themselves acting as prophets in other ways, but for them it is not a full-time or overarching perspective to which other things and ways of living are subordinated. So, yes, I am saying that in general, CMSWR institutes are not prophetically oriented, nor can they be given the nature of the ecclesiology and theology of the vows they have adopted. (Other ecclesiologies and/or theologies allow for the prophetic better and sometimes even require it.) But then, there were relatively few Prophets in the OT, and relatively few exercising a formal prophetic role in the NT and subsequent Church history. There are other vocations after all.

I hope this helps. Again, thanks for the questions.

24 May 2012

Do you Love Me Peter? On being made human in Dialogue with God

Tomorrow's gospel is the pericope where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. It is the first time we hear much about or from Peter since his triple denial of Christ --- his fear-driven affirmations that he did not even know the man and is certainly not a disciple of his. After each question and reply by Peter, Jesus commissions Peter to "feed my lambs, feed my sheep." I have written about this at least three times before.

About two years ago I used this text to reflect on the place of conscience in our lives and a love which transcends law. At another point I spoke about the importance of Jesus' questions and of my own difficulty with Jesus' question to Peter. Then, last year at the end of school I asked the students to imagine what it feels like to have done something for which one feels there is no forgiveness possible and then to hear how an infinitely loving God deals with that. The solution is not, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have termed it, "cheap grace" --- a forgiveness without cost or consequences. Neither is it a worthless "luv" which some in the Church mistakenly disparage because they hear (they say) too many homilies about the God of Love and mercy and not enough about the God of "justice". Instead, what Jesus reveals in this lection is a merciful love which overcomes all fear and division and summons us to incredible responsibility and freedom. The center of this reading, in other words, is a love which does justice and sets all things right.

But, especially at this time in the church's life, tomorrow's gospel also takes me to the WAY Jesus loves Peter. He addresses him directly; he asks him questions and allows him to discover an answer which stands in complete contrast to and tension with his earlier denials and the surge of emotions and complex of thoughts that prompted them. As with Peter, Jesus' very presence is a question or series of questions which have the power to call us deeper, beyond our own personal limitations and conflicts, to the core of our being. What Jesus does with Peter is engage him at the level of heart --- a level deeper than fear, deeper than ego, beyond defensiveness, and insecurity. Jesus' presence enables dialogue at this profound level, dialogue with one's true self, with God, and with one's entire community; it is an engagement which brings healing and reveals that the capacity for dialogue is the deepest reflection of our humanity.

It is this deep place in us which is the level for authentically human decision making. When we perceive and act at the level of heart we see and act beyond the level of black and white thinking, beyond either/or judgmentalism. Here we know paradox and hold tensions together in faith and love. Here we act in authentic freedom. Jesus' dialogue with Peter points to all of this and to something more. It reminds us that loving God is not a matter of "feeling" some emotion --- though indeed it may well involve this. Instead it is something we are empowered in dialogue with the Word and Spirit of God to do which transcends even feelings; it is a response realized in deciding to serve, to give, to nourish others in spite of the things happening to us at other levels of our being.

When we reflect on this text involving a paradigmatic dialogue between Peter and Jesus we have a key to understanding the nature of all true ministry, and certainly to life and ministry in the Church. Not least we have a significant model of papacy. Of course it is a model of service, but it is one of service only to the extent it is one of true dialogue, first with God, then with oneself, and finally with all others. It is always and everywhere a matter of being engaged at the level of heart, and so, as already noted, beyond ego, fear, defensiveness, black and white thinking, judgmentalism or closed-mindedness to a place where one is comfortable with paradox. As John Paul II wrote in
Ut Unum Sint, "Dialog has not only been undertaken; it is an outright necessity, one of the Church's priorities, " or again, "It is necessary to pass from antagonism and conflict to a situation where each party recognizes the other as a partner. . .any display of mutual opposition must disappear." (UUS, secs 31 and 29)

But what is true for Peter is, again, true for each of us. We must be engaged at the level of heart and act in response to the dialogue that occurs there. Because of the place of the Word of God in this process, lectio divina, the reflective reading of Scripture, must be a part of our regular praxis. So too with prayer, especially quiet prayer whose focus is listening deeply and being comfortable with that often-paradoxical truth that comes to us in silence. Our humanity is meant to be a reflection of this profound dialogue. At every moment we are meant to be a hearing of Jesus' question and the commission to serve which it implies. At every moment then we are to be the response which transcends ego, fear, division, judgmentalism, and so forth. Engagement with the Word of God enables such engagement, engagement from that place of unity with God and others Jesus' questions to Peter allowed him to find and live from. My prayer today is that each of us may commit to be open to this kind of engagement. It makes of us the dialogical reality, the full realization of that New Creation which is truly "not of this world" but instead is of the Kingdom of God.

19 May 2012

Questions on my relationship to the CDF/LCWR situation

[[Hi Sister Laurel,
are you affected by the CDF's ruling on the LCWR or do you belong to the CMSWR? Since you wear a habit I would guess the CMSWR. Do you agree the Church should discipline nuns if they are disobedient to the Church or adopt heresy? Why isn't the CMSWR in trouble? Doesn't this prove the Vatican is not just targetting women?]]

Hi yourself and thanks for the questions. As a diocesan hermit I belong to neither the CMSWR nor the LCWR. These are both leadership conferences for congregations of "active," apostolic, or ministerial religious women. As a contemplative and as someone who does not belong to a congregation I am not eligible to belong. Remember that these groups give the leadership of member congregations a way to meet so that the congregations more generally may share concerns, resources for problem solving, etc, and strengthen solidarity with one another.

Let me point out that members of the LCWR may or may not wear habits --- though most do not. That is a matter not for the LCWR to determine but for the member congregations. Further what congregations determine is written into their own proper law (which is approved by Rome, by the way) and, when a choice is allowed in that law (as it often is) individual members of the congregations do as they feel called to do. In any case, the LCWR is composed of congregations who wear habits generally and those who do not; they also therefore include congregations some of whose members wear habits while some or most do not. CMSWR is different in their stance. They require any congregation which requests membership to wear habits as a matter of course despite what their proper law may determine is appropriate because of ministries, witness to the universal call to holiness, etc.

However, your first question was whether I am affected by the CDF's ruling regarding the LCWR, and though I am not directly affected, I would suggest to you that everyone in the Church is at least indirectly affected. I have friends who are associated with the LCWR, but more, I am a Catholic who appreciates the evolution of religious life represented by the members of the LCWR, and respect the congregations and their members who have struggled hard and long to implement the changes demanded by Vatican II and by Popes preceding VII. I appreciate that women religious have been at the forefront of the implementation (or "reception") of Vatican II and I also perceive that any attempt to halt this reception or "reform the reform" is going to have to focus at some point on women religious belonging to congregations like those of LCWR. Beyond this I recognize that these women are part of a uniquely American phenomenon and that to some extent religious life in the US --- which has always been a frontier reality --- has looked and functioned differently than religious life in Europe up until @1900 or 1917 when canonical standing often meant changes in the way the life was lived; in many ways Vatican II signaled a return to or reclaiming of that more original phenomenon.

As for disobedience or heresy, I have seen no specifications or charges against the LCWR which rise to these levels. We ought to be careful suggesting such things when we have no facts and nothing specific. Heresy has a specific meaning which is beyond simple disagreement or dissent (which some Bishops note may be a responsible and necessary act). Recently an Archbishop wrote explaining areas of concern the CDF has with LCWR, and he noted that the LCWR had written directly to the CDF to disagree with 1) the discipline of celibate only priests, and 2) the pastoral approach to homosexuals being taken by the CDF. He decried such an act as contrary to the collaborative relationship which should exist with such an organization and the hierarchical church.

But note carefully, neither of these issues is doctrinal. Married priests have existed throughout the history of the church and exceptions are currently made for Episcopal priests who are coming into the Roman Catholic Church but who are married --- especially if they are sufficiently conservative. Mandatory celibacy is, as the Archbishop himself noted, a disciplinary matter, and therefore susceptible of change at any time. The second matter was not doctrinal either but pastoral. Both may be freely discussed and approaches disagreed with. Doing so, especially internally as the LCWR did, is hardly contrary to a collaborative relationship --- at least as I understand that word. On the other hand forbidding the honest exchange of opinions on non doctrinal issues and associated accusations certainly seems to me to be a betrayal of a collaborative relationship. I hope that Archbishop Sartain understands the term collaborative differently than his brother Archbishop.

Why isn't the CMSWR in trouble? Well, perhaps because they are not pushing the envelope in any way and are more typical of the form of religious life the Vatican approved in 1900 with Conditae a Christo and made canonical in 1917. It is a form of religious life which is definitely less prophetically oriented and more supportive of the institutional status quo. They are involved in corporate apostolates, but generally not on the margins of society with ministries to the disenfranchised where Sisters of the LCWR are often found. This allows them to live community in the sense most of us recognize as common in the early to mid 1900's but in the main not to live where the poorest of the poor actually reside and require help. It seems clear to me that the two groups are motivated by different visions of religious life and even different ecclesiologies. There should be room for both groups and both expressions of religious life and church as well for all are vowed women, all followers of Christ in consecrated life. In fact, they need each other for a complete vision of religious life. My hope is the CDF action against the LCWR does not exacerbate the division between the two groups but encourages genuine dialogue and cooperation between them.

I hope this is helpful.

17 May 2012

Further Questions on Increased Institutionalization

Sister Laurel, is the following portrait reflective of something happening today with regard to your vocation?

 [[[Poster] has noted from internet blogs, articles and updates, that there is a growing trend among some hermits, mostly the canonical approved variety, that some through much wordage and repetition, based upon assumed authority, or even stated expertise, have begun to make regulations by setting precedence. What can evolve are rules, laws, set ways of how this or that must be done, called Precedent Law. Noticed a few Dioceses have bought into it, adopted the regulations and are imposing them. Perhaps without even knowing from whence they came. . . .

These more highly developed, highly educated clubs and club makers even create certain ways the others are initiated. They develop ceremonies, and certain clothing to be worn, or at least to have a pin to wear, and a handshake and lots of people at the ceremony. And then certain parts of the ceremony, and words said, certain words, and pledges, and then they are identified by certain letters after their names, as belonging to this or that club, and then they are to have certain body positions at certain times, and then publication of who is in the club or sorority. Everyone can know who is this or that, and some members and some clubs are very important indeed, more important than other clubs or other members of other clubs. Or in the hermit vocation? Is that what CL603 has in mind for hermits? Where did all this hoopla come from? Who is making up these rules? Is it one person, or a handful? By what authority and right?]]

Hi there. I have responded to a portion of this passage in the past, so I would recommend you look for those posts listed under "increased institutionalization" of the eremitical vocation.

However to summarize what I have said there: Diocesan eremitical life is both in continuity with and distinct from the lay eremitical life of the desert Fathers and Mothers. Because it is a form of consecrated life, and thus, a canonical or public one, it does indeed have requirements which must be met, and guidelines for admitting to profession which help ensure the one being admitted will live the life well and with perseverance. The Rite of Profession used by most dioceses is that for cenobitical religious --- though with some slight adaptations for the solitary nature of the life. Still, this Rite is canonical or normative and it includes provisions for clothing, the giving of a ring or other symbols of profession (including cowl, crucifix, Office books, etc), prescribed prayers (including the prayer of solemn consecration in the case of perpetual profession), etc. There is nothing excessive about any of this. nor anything individualistic or experimental. It is the way the Church does canonical (public) professions, the way she receives public vows and consecrates an individual to God in a particular form and state of life. The idea that some small group of hermits is making such stuff up is silly.

At the same time the canonical solitary eremitical vocation is relatively new and everyone is finding their way here. There is certainly dialogue going on regarding what is necessary to live the life well. Similarly there is concern among some diocesan hermits that the vocation itself is endangered by some professions. Despite being a flexible and highly individual vocation, Canon 603 also has normative elements which MUST be lived to be true to the life. The most important of these is "the silence of solitude" which is far more than some solitude and some silence. This is truly the defining characteristic or charism, and therefore the gift quality of the life which hermits live for the world. Thus, this element, which is part of the desert or hesychastic tradition and may not be understood automatically by Bishops or apostolic and ministerial religious, is also one which is easily transformed (and distorted) into merely external silence and solitude or into degrees of these things which are simply a bit more than most people today know in their own lives. It is hermits actually living the silence of solitude which is crafted from a life of prayer who help Bishops and candidates for profession to understand the nature and key position of this element of the canon.

The dialogue going on also sharpens our sensitivity to and rejection of stereotypes. What is the place of mental health in the eremitical life and why? Is this a vocation for the merely selfish and introverted or is it something more? What degrees of engagement with the world around them is the hermit allowed and for what reasons? And then there are simply fundamental questions which must be dealt with in every diocesan hermit's life: What formation, whether initial or ongoing, is required for this life and where does one get this? What age should a person be before becoming a solitary hermit and why? What is the difference between a hermit and a relatively pious person who merely lives alone? How does one make the necessary transition from the latter to the former? What is the role of the diocesan delegate in the hermit's life? What about the role of the diocesan Bishop? How does the diocesan hermit relate to her parish? What role do they have in allowing her to live her life well? How does she live poverty while also being required to support and provide for herself? And so forth.

All of these questions and more have to be worked out on the basis of the desert tradition and lived experience in dialogue with the institutional church. I see the dialogue as a healthy thing. Canon 603 may imply many of these but it does not spell them out. One could say that doing so is part of the vocation of the diocesan hermit today --- even as it is carried out from the solitude of the hermitage.

Finally the author you have cited refers to clubs and in a cynical way to all the trappings of secret clubs adopted by children and perhaps some adults as well --- secret handshakes, body postures, pins, post-nomial initials, positions of status or power, etc. I think most of this is nonsense. It is true that diocesan hermits use initials after their name to indicate their public vocation --- just as religious men and women indicated their standing in a congregation. Part of the reason for this is because it makes clear that consecrated life is no longer open simply to people living in community. Further, there are or have been several different umbrella groups formed to assist people interested in solitary life or diocesan hermits and those aspiring to eremitical life. My sense is they are all fairly inclusive.

I belong to the Network of Diocesan Hermits which is just what it says it is --- a network of those already professed under canon 603 from a number of countries who face issues that religious and lay hermits do not. We allow those aspiring to profession to join an associates group so they can talk with us and one another about the journey they are on. We mentor those whose dioceses request this but we do not replace spiritual directors. We do require verification from the person's diocese that they are either professed as diocesan hermits or accepted to proceed with a more official discernment of a canon 603 vocation with their diocese, but this is about all there is in terms of rules. No one who wishes to join is excluded so long as they are really diocesan hermits or accepted aspirants discerning the life. In any case we are not setting up rules about what canon 603 life must look like, etc nor would any of the members recognize the group in the cynical parody in the passage you cited.

In any case no hermit alone has much ability to shape the praxis of the church in regard to diocesan hermits. Certainly none of us imposes regulations on dioceses or does anything more than participate in an informal dialogue with the Church through the hermit's relationship with her Bishop. The whole idea that dioceses are adopting requirements set up by a few hermits is ludicrous and out of touch with the reality of how the church actually works. At the same time there is no doubt that Bishops listen to the experience of hermits and those who are in contact with them, what works, what is prudent, and the things that are not. We hermits too are concerned with precedents that are destructive of the vocation generally. However, making a point of view known and "imposing it on the church" in some way are very different things. The bottom line in all of this is that the criticism of the person you cited is NOT accurate or reflective of the situation as I know it.

03 May 2012

Misuse of Canon 603 and Oblature with Camaldolese

I received a question as well as followup questions to another post from a second person and I wanted to post them both together. I have written in the past about the misuse or abuse of Canon 603, especially as a loophole for non-canonical communities which do not have the right to canonically (publicly) profess members. These questions relate to this issue. (There is a third question which I will post separately because, while dealing with the misuse of Canon 603, it is a very different and publicized situation.)

[[Dear Sister, I am preparing for oblature with the Camaldolese, but at the same time I am living as a hermit and would like to use Canon 603 as the way I make my vows as an oblate. Can you describe how I would go about doing this?]]

Congratulations on choosing to become a Camaldolese Oblate. I hope you will find this step fulfilling and lifefgiving. However, your question indicates some confusion about the relationship between oblature and Canon 603 vows. These two things are completely separate and distinct. While I have heard of a group of Oblates mistakenly contending Canon 603 was the "usual" way some made vows as hermits (see the second question below), and while I have heard too of some who confuse these for the actual oblature commitment, both of these things are completely untrue. Canon 603 is NOT the way to make a commitment as an oblate. Oblature is. Neither is it the "usual" way oblates establish themselves as hermits. Becoming a canon 603 or diocesan hermit is different than becoming an oblate (which, by the way, itself does not involve vows), even if one wishes to live as a lay hermit while an oblate.

The two different vocations may complement one another, but they must be discerned separately. Further, in my own experience and estimation, as important as Camaldolese oblature is, diocesan eremitical vows are more extensive and intensive a commitment, more fundamental or foundational than this. Oblature is ordinarily a private lay vocation and for that reason most Benedictine communities only allow lay persons to make oblature. If an oblate decides she is also called to become a hermit s/he still needs to determine whether s/he is called to lay eremitism or diocesan eremitism and the consecrated state. This means she and (if she is interested in becoming a diocesan hermit who is publicly vowed and consecrated) the diocese she is part of still needs to submit to a mutual process of discernment whether or not she is a Camaldolese Oblate, to see if indeed she has such a vocation. On the other hand, a diocesan hermit might find Camaldolese oblature served her well for some time, but later, that Carmelite, or Cistercian, or Franciscan spirituality did so instead. While she is publicly vowed under Canon 603 and though she might need to rewrite parts of her Rule as a result, she is perfectly free to change private commitments to a particular spirituality, etc.

In my own life it is true that my eremitism, though diocesan or canonical, is also integrally Camaldolese. I would hope that anyone who makes oblature with the Camaldolese finds that their commitment is similarly integral to the whole of their lives whether they are religious, lay, clerical, or consecrated. Still, Camaldolese oblature itself is something added to a more fundamental vocation or state of life. Per se it does not require vows, nor, as noted, even involve them. Therefore, if you have determined you want to be a diocesan hermit, and you can say you appreciate the unique charism of the diocesan hermit (meaning, among other things, that you are not pursuing profession and consecration under Canon 603 as a way of becoming part of a "Camaldolese" community of some sort), then you need to go to your Bishop (or the Vicars and vocation personel under him) and speak to him (them) about this.

[[Dear Sister, I am part of a community of Camaldolese regular oblates with a two year novitiate. At the end of these two years some make vows under Canon 603. We are a dependent sub-priory with the Monks in Big Sur, CA. (questions followed regarding the length of time necessary for formation as a hermit and about approaching the Bishop but these are not directly pertinent here)]]

I am afraid you are mistaken and operating under several false understandings. Camaldolese Oblates per se may be clerical, lay, religious or consecrated (virgins and hermits), but there is no official community of oblates associated with the Camaldolese Monks of the US that use Canon 603 as a "usual" means to eremitical profession, nor is this the proper use of Canon 603 (more about this below). Neither is there a community of oblates known as a dependent sub-priory of the Hermitage in Big Sur. To be certain of what I already believed to be the case on the basis of my own superficial knowledge of the Camaldolese constitutions, I have spoken with professed Camaldolese who in turn have spoken with the former Prior in Big Sur. Again, there is NO dependent priory (or "sub-priory"), and no community of "regular oblates" associated with Big Sur. There is a reality in the Camaldolese Constitutions called Claustral or regular oblates, but these are persons who live ON THE HERMITAGE grounds, are bound to live by the rule (regula), and are not vowed, at least not ordinarily and not as oblates. (They may be vowed AND become claustral oblates, but being professed is extrinsic or accidental to their oblature.)

In any case, again, what you describe is also, according to the canonists I have spoken with, a misuse of canon 603 which is designed for and governs solitary eremitical vocations. Canon 603 is not appropriate for those who are part of a non-canonical community when it is meant to serve as a stopgap means of getting members of such groups canonical standing. It is important to remember that the vocation of the canon 603 hermit is different than that of a religious hermit --- not in its essentials re eremitical life --- but in the requirements that such hermits are solitary (not religious who are part of a community) and therefore, that they be self-supporting, responsible for their own housing, insurance, medical care, transportation, retreat, library and educational needs, ongoing formation, spiritual direction, etc.

One must discern a vocation to this solitary eremitical form of life, a form of life where the Bishop is one's legitimate superior, where one becomes part of the consecrated state of life, where one is bound by many of the canons related to religious life as well as by canon 603, and where one's affiliation with the Camaldolese is supportive and entirely secondary to one's public profession and identity. I should also note that there is no specified novitiate period with canon 603 --- especially not one of two years because such a process of initial formation is both entirely individual and a function of time in solitude. Most Bishops will NOT profess a diocesan hermit even under temporary vows unless they have lived the life for at least five years. I think this minimum is entirely reasonable and am comfortable with individuals requiring up to 10 years or more to be admitted to perpetual profession under canon 603.

In some forms of affiliation secular or third order members (Carmelite, Franciscan, etc) make vows. In such cases one MAY NOT ALSO make canon 603 profession. One of the commitments must go and the individual must discern which one. The Camaldolese, unlike most Benedictine groups, allow oblature by religious, clergy, and consecrated persons as well as laity, but oblates DO NOT make vows as oblates. This is the reason, for instance, I can be both a diocesan hermit and an oblate. Even Camaldolese claustral oblates do not make vows, though they assuredly commit to live by the rules of the community within enclosure. The bottom line is that what you are describing is neither official Camaldolese praxis nor appropriate to Canon 603. If a diocesan hermit affiliates with a Camaldolese monastery, this does not give other oblates living as lay hermits the right as oblates to go to their Bishop and expect to be admitted to profession under canon 603 --- although they may do so as an individual discerning this specific vocation and eventually, petition on their own.

I have seen this happen once in the past in another country (geographically far from the Camaldolese Hermitage in Big Sur) and the Bishop, who apparently was led to believe he was presiding at the profession of a "Camaldolese Oblate hermit" later repudiated or reduced the vows to some degree by saying they were private and not canon 603. Though this was painful to the hermit professed, it was, I think, the best solution the Bishop could come up with since there had been a public ceremony with publicity, media coverage, etc, and therefore a lot of confusion and misrepresentation all around. (The profession was originally treated as public and used the canonical rite for such vows, but the hermit never specifically petitioned to be professed under canon 603; both she and the Bishop thought he was professing someone as part of a Camaldolese Oblate community. Thus, only later did the Bishop inform the hermit that her vows were considered private. As I understand the situation, he could, of course, have concluded the entire affair was invalid and even involved fraud had he wanted to be hard nosed about it.)

One of the most significant sources of this mess besides geographical distance from the Camaldolese Monks of the US, and the failure to check things out with them directly, was the claim that those (monks and nuns) who are publicly professed as Camaldolese were also called Oblates. Hence when someone said "I am a Camaldolese Oblate" one could easily get the impression that they were publicly professed or preparing for public profession as a monk or nun. The problem here of course is that actual Camaldolese monks and nuns do not call or refer to themselves as Oblates. Another was the assertion that the group to which the hermit belonged was a dependent house of the Camaldolese --- despite the fact that there was no such house (the oblates lived separately from one another) and that the professed Camaldolese had none. (The OSB Camaldolese constitutions allow for the establishment of dependent houses, but they require a certain number of monks or nuns in solemn vows as part of the foundation to do this. It is not something done with oblates.) In the end, however, this Bishop helped ensure that Canon 603 would be rightly used in the future and that if members of the group of oblates wished to make vows those would be private unless they truly discerned vocations as diocesan hermits and were admitted to public profession under canon 603.