09 March 2015

Followup Questions: The Meaning of "Institutes" and other things

[[Hi Sister, so when c 603 says, "Besides institutes [not the institutes] of consecrated life the Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life," she is specifically recognizing solitary hermits who are publicly professed to be religious? Is this part of the reason c 603 hermits are not allowed to form into communities? Do some people fail to recognize c 603 hermits as religious? Is it usual for communities to call themselves institutes? It is not a terminology I am familiar with and the blog you referred [readers] to seems to understand "institutes" as meaning some kind of statute or law or something. She misquotes the canon with "Besides "the institutes" of consecrated life. . ." and also writes, "CL603 has some additional requirements beyond what all consecrated Catholic hermits must live per the institutes of the Catholic Church," and "all Catholic hermits must profess the three evangelical counsels according to the institutes of the Church in the Catechism of the Catholic Church." [Also] why if we are all consecrated does the phrase "consecrated life" or "consecrated religious" only refer to those with public commitments?]]

Really excellent questions! Yes, when canon 603 speaks in this way it is outlining the specific new canonical reality known more commonly today as the solitary consecrated or diocesan hermit. In this canon the Church is saying, as commentators made clear in the Handbook on Canons 573-746, that for the first time hermits with no ties to a congregation or institute are to be considered religious. These hermits have entered the consecrated state of life through profession (which is defined by the church as the making of public vows) whether they come from the lay or clerical states; they live according to an approved Rule of Life and under the supervision of the Bishop who is their legitimate superior. Other canons will apply to their lives therefore, but c 603 defines the central or "constitutive" elements of the solitary canonical eremitical life.

In other words, canon 603 is not a set of "additional requirements" added to other "institutes" of the Catholic Church (I agree this does sound as if the person you are citing believes "institutes" are like statutes to which the elements of c 603 have been added but the use is unclear; unfortunately the error is made less ambiguous in a later post where she mistakenly writes, "The two previous posts cited the appropriate institutes and laws. . ." so it seems to me this blogger is possibly confusing the term "statutes" with the term "institutes"). In any case c 603 is instead a new canon defining a new though also very ancient form of consecrated life for the first time ever in universal law, namely the solitary diocesan eremitical life which stands side by side with Institutes (communities) of consecrated life. Religious who are publicly professed under other canons (CIC, 573-746) and their institute's proper law are not bound by canon 603 at all. Nor are lay hermits though they may well find it instructive and helpful in structuring their own lives .

You see, persons desiring to enter a semi-erem-itical institute were already able to do that apart from this canon while those desiring to create actual communities (groups with common Rule, common superior, common constitutions, common habit and finances, etc) will find the processes by which they can do so also exist apart from canon 603. As you rightly point out, canon 603 is not meant for the establishment of institutes or communities in this sense; lauras (colonies of already-professed diocesan hermits) can be formed so long as they do not rise to the level of an institute or community. In such lauras the hermits will retain their own Rule, their financial independence, and so forth while accommodating and contributing to the needs of the group as is reasonable. Individuals professed as members of an institute do not retain their vows should the institute dissolve or be suppressed --- though transfer to another institute is possible. Hermits professed under c 603 retain their vows and obligations should a laura dissolve or be suppressed. They cannot transfer these to an institute. Thus, they must retain the elements of c 603 (their own Rule, etc) as individually worked out even when they form a laura. (cf posts under label, canon 603 Lauras vs Communities) By the way, canon 607.2 defines an institute this way: [[ A religious institute is a society in which, in accordance with their own law, the members pronounce public vows and live a fraternal life in common. The vows are either perpetual or temporary; if the latter, they are to be renewed when the time elapses.]] Thus c 603 hermits are solitary hermits who exist as religious beside (as well as and alongside members of) institutes of consecrated life.

It tends, as far as I am aware, to be the case that the term "institute" shows up in official documents like consti-tutions and things. Most of us have never heard anyone ask a religious, "What institute do you belong to?" We are used to hearing and using terms like community, congregation, or order for instance. But institute is a universal term which allows canon law to speak of the conditions which bind every canonically founded group or community in the Church without getting bogged down in their differences. It also has the value of indicating this is a reality founded by human beings with an institutional structure as well as a charismatic nature. I don't know much more about the history of the term than that. In any case, in c 603, the reference, "Besides institutes of consecrated life. . ." does not mean besides other canons or statutes referring to consecrated life. It means besides (along with) congregations or communities (etc) of religious, the Church now recognizes diocesan hermits or anchorites in law.

While every baptized person in the Church is consecrated in baptism, relatively few enter what is called the consecrated state of life. This means that the person takes on additional legal and moral rights and obligations besides those which come with baptism. Today we refer to those consecrated in baptism as laity because in baptism they are consecrated as part of the Laos tou Theou or "People of God". To say one is part of the laity is an incredibly important statement which identifies a commission of tremendous significance. This is not merely an "entrance level" vocation. The "consecrated state of life" or "consecrated life" is a reality one enters first by the combination of self-dedication (profession) and Divine consecration and through these, by taking on additional public (legitimate or canonical) rights and obligations through public profession and/or consecration. This is not a "step up" from baptismal consecration if "step up" means "superior to". Instead it is a public specification of one's baptismal commitment centered on a specific and "second" consecration by God in which one is enabled to respond to the specific grace of this way of living within the People of God or Laos tou Theou.

To speak of lay hermits is to speak of those living the eremitical life by virtue of their baptismal consecration alone either with or without private vows. To speak of a consecrated hermit is to speak of those who have thereafter entered the consecrated state of life through public profession and this new or second consecration (which is solemnly celebrated only with perpetual profession). As I have said a number of times here, the consecrated hermit is also referred to by the terms "Catholic Hermit" because s/he is explicitly commissioned by the Church to live the eremitical life in the name of the Church, or "diocesan hermit" because his/her legitimate superior is the diocesan Bishop. While she of course still belongs to the Laos and is laity in one sense (hierarchically speaking she is not a cleric so she is lay), vocationally speaking she is also a "religious" or "consecrated person" as a lay person with private vows alone would not be.

(By the way, I don't know anyone who currently denies c 603 hermits are religious. As noted above, canonists in the Handbook on Canons 573-746 make it clear that canon 603 extends the use of this designation to those without a connection to an institute. When canon 603 was first promulgated hermits professed accordingly were distinguished from religious hermits, that is from hermits belonging to communities or institutes of consecrated life; one would read canonists who said "canon 603 hermits are not religious", but over time usage has changed and greater clarity has emerged on this issue by virtue of analysis of all the canons which apply to c 603 life and the similarity of this form of vowed life to that of all religious.)

Because those in the consecrated state of life are commissioned to live a specific form of life (eremitical, religious, consecrated virginity) in the name of the Church and because this is associated with specific public rights, obligations, and expectations on the part of the whole People of God (and the world!), the term "consecrated life" tends to be reserved for these forms of life alone (also cf CCC paragraph 944, [[The life consecrated to God is characterized by public profession of the evangelical counsels. . .in a stable state of life recognized by the Church.]].