18 March 2015
Let me first say (repeat) that today there are two routes to profession as a consecrated (canonical) Hermit. The first is as part of a congregation or community (an institute) of hermits like the Camaldolese or Carthusians. In such a case these religious, monks, and nuns live their consecrated lives under both Canon Law (universal law) and the congregation's own law (proper law) --- their Rule, Constitutions, and Statutes. In such cases while Canon Law already applies juridically to their lives in many ways, canon 603 does not. Sometimes institutes of consecrated life will allow an individual to live as a hermit. If they do, this will be because the institute's proper law (the law which is proper to this congregation itself only) allows this but the person is not professed as a hermit. The second route to canonical profession and consecration is as a solitary hermit under Canon 603. Other canons which are part of the Church's universal law of religious life will also apply to this individual but Canon 603 is the defining canon which provides for the hermit's legitimate superior and defines the hermit's proper law as a Rule or Plan of Life she herself writes.
Canon 603 is not an experiment although it is a relatively new canon governing a new (since 1983) and rare form of consecrated life, namely the solitary eremitical life lived outside or without membership in a community or institute of consecrated life. Despite the fact that those of us living it or those administering it are still finding our way with it together, it is not going to become the norm for consecrated Catholic hermits more generally. Those belonging to communities (institutes of consecrated life) already are bound to legitimate superiors and have proper as well as canon law to which they are bound through their vows. If someone in one of these groups wants to become a solitary hermit, they will need to pursue Canon 603 itself along with exclaustration and/or an indult of departure. Neither is it, then, a "proviso" one might or might not use and still be a solitary consecrated hermit. Canon 603 is already the norm for solitary Catholic hermits. Solitary eremitical life is the new form of consecrated life that Canon 603 establishes in universal law. It is the very purpose of the Canon, nothing more or less, and nothing other. For further information, please see posts on Canon 603 -- history.
Meanwhile, privately vowed or dedicated individuals wishing to become solitary consecrated hermits (solitary canonical hermits) can see their chancery personnel for assistance in entering or petitioning to enter a mutual process of discernment and pursuing this under Canon 603. Chancery personnel may well explain to these individuals that they are lay persons and not considered consecrated hermits or professed religious; they will also explain the scope and purpose of canon 603 to be clear about what the person is petitioning to begin a discernment process in regard to. However, there is a chance that if a person shows up on the chancery doorstep insisting they are a consecrated hermit already, despite not being canonically professed, they will not be seen as a good candidate for discernment --- at least not at that point in time.