29 July 2016

CCC Pars 914-915, 920-921: Clarifying Terminology in the Catechism's section on the Consecrated State of Life (1of 2)

[[Dear Sister, I thought your piece on Mr Toad's Wild Ride was both sadly humorous and a bit more sharply critical than you usually are in your writing. I wondered at first if it was too much. And then I read the post you were referring to; I decided you were pretty restrained when I read the following:

[[I also want to emphasize that contrary to but one online blogger creating terminology and labels that simply are not at all mentioned in any Church documentation nor authorized by the Vatican or any archbishop, bishop, or other Catholic Church official, there are no such designations as "lay hermit" or "dedicated hermit" in the Catholic Church.  As you can read from the Church documents yourselves, all Catholic hermits are consecrated Catholic hermits whether or not privately or publicly professed (the latter under CL603, a fairly recently added proviso to the eremitic vocational tradition).]] (Emphasis added)

What the author seems to be saying is that any Catholic can become a consecrated Catholic hermit merely by making private vows. She DOES seem to be saying canon 603 is merely an option for solitary consecrated hermits that Bishops may or may not use --- whatever they prefer. So here are my questions: if any of this is true what prevents a completely mad person who is out of touch with reality, simply can't get along with others, and has crazy ideas of God and religion from making these private vows and then calling themselves a Catholic Hermit? What prevents them from pretending to represent the Catholic Church's understanding of eremitical life? Do pastors check out people introducing themselves as "consecrated Catholic Hermits?? And where does their supposed "consecration" come from? It doesn't seem to be from God or the Church. Does the Catechism really support [corrected typo] this the way Ms McClure says it does? You haven't explained how Ms McClure goes wrong there yet have you?]]

Response, part 1

My apologies for the sharpness of my criticism in the prior piece. It is simply that sometimes honing an argument shows great wisdom and perspicacity; other times it is an exercise in incorrigibility. My sense is that Ms McClure's hardening position falls into the second category and that is frustrating when she is pretending to tell folks how to "become a Catholic Hermit" and may seriously mislead vulnerable people. In any case your points are good ones and yes, Ms McClure is clearly arguing that any person who makes vows of the evangelical counsels, whether privately (an act of dedication which does not rise to the level of profession) or publicly (an act of personal dedication which, as an ecclesial act as well, rises to the level of profession)  become consecrated Catholic Hermits. She said so explicitly in the passage cited in my last post. She herself claims not to be a lay person any longer but instead a consecrated person in the consecrated state of life. But in doing so she seems to have omitted the Church's role in mediating such a change just as she seems to have missed the meaning of the following paragraphs (##914-915) which she herself also cited. If you don't mind, I will focus on terminology and translation in this post and answer your other questions in a second piece.

[[914 "The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness."453 

915 Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.

Basic Vocabulary:

Your question re the CCC (and any cogent response to Ms Mc Clure's position)  depends on the meaning of these paragraphs so let me explain that it is important to understand some of the vocabulary here in the way the Church does. Remember that these paragraphs were written for bishops and other teachers of the faith with a background in the Church's theology of consecrated life, her canon law, etc. They presuppose knowledge of these and were not really written primarily for the person in the pew; thus, they can and almost invariably will be misunderstood if everyday meanings are attached where specialized theological or ecclesiastical meanings obtain or where they are otherwise read out of context.

In par 914 the text uses the terms "state of life" and  "profession." In par 915 we are reminded that while every disciple of Christ is called to live some expression of the evangelical counsels, only some are called to the profession of these within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church. In each paragraph both terms have a specialized meaning in the Church. Profession, for instance, does not mean any act of making vows but instead a very specific dedication of self ordinarily (but not always!) involving the making of vows and, because it is part of an ecclesial rite and action, initiating one into a new state of life recognized by the Church

In other words, it is a profession to which one is canonically (publicly) admitted via the rite of profession (and consecration) by the Church herself whether through the leadership of a religious institute (order, congregation, community) or, in the case of solitary hermits, through the permission and reception of the diocesan Bishop. It therefore involves mutual discernment, a supervised formation, the formal request that one be admitted to this profession, the granting of that request by a legitimate superior, and the admission to a recognized state of life characterized by public rights and obligations assumed through the making of public vows (or other sacred bonds in some cases of c 603 hermits) in the hands of the legitimate superior and (in the case of perpetual vows) the public consecration of the person by God and mediated by the Church. Recognition by the Church means more than noting something exists; it means giving that thing, whether state and/or person (or juridical person, etc.) standing in ecclesial (canon) law.

It should also be noticed that "state of life" in this  context does not refer primarily to being a hermit, but rather to the consecrated state and that entrance into this state does not occur with the making of private vows. EVER! (Secondarily it means the eremitical state defined by relevant canons, specifically c 603 for solitary consecrated hermits.) As I have written here MANY times that is because one has been called to and is embracing public rights and obligations which do not obtain with private vows. These canonical rights and obligations as well as the relationships which are part of them and their nurturance, and of course the fact that through profession and consecration God has set the person apart as a sacred person through the mediation of the Church, together constitute the "stable state of life" referred to here. Everything about initiation into this state is a public act of the Church --- an ecclesial act. The individual of course makes her own dedication  but she does so as part of a broader ecclesial act because the Church herself has admitted her to this, called her forth in the name of the local Church, summoned the faithful to witness it, and otherwise celebrated it in the name of God! 

Moreover, the entrance into this state of life occasioned by profession and consecration is not the end of the Church's mediation of this call or of the person's response. Because there are legal or canonical rights and obligations with which everyone directly involved is concerned, the call is mediated by the Church again and again and again every single day as the person embraces all the parts of her vocation and does so (hopefully) ever more deeply and extensively. It is mediated by legitimate superiors (Bishop and delegate) acting in the name of the Church who supervise the vocation, but also by the Church more generally as she summons the hermit to live her Rule and vows in the name of the Church within the context of the faith community and its public liturgical and social life.

Drawing Conclusions Contrary to Ms McClure's:

Thus, Ms McClure's  partly tautological statement: [[ As you can read from the Church documents yourselves, all Catholic hermits are consecrated Catholic hermits whether or not privately or publicly professed (the latter under CL603, a fairly recently added proviso to the eremitic vocational tradition)]] could not be more mistaken. While it is obviously the case that every Catholic Hermit is a consecrated Catholic hermit, only those admitted to public profession and consecration are "Catholic Hermits" because only these have been initiated into this new state and commissioned to live this life in the name of the Church. (cf the picture in the right hand column of the commissioning prayer that was used during the granting of my cowl, for instance. This is part of the Church's own rite of (religious) profession.)  That is the purpose of all the hoopla and conditions mentioned in the previous paragraph. The Church does NOT do this lightly nor for everyone and she certainly does not allow individuals to do it themselves with completely private acts which do not bind canonically (publicly) or for which the individual may not even be suited much less called by God or God's Church. Admission to a state of life is ALWAYS a public and ecclesial act whether it is occasioned by Sacrament (baptism, marriage, and ordination), profession and consecration (Communal religious life or solitary eremitical life), or consecration (consecrated virgins living in the world).

The Catechism paragraphs on Eremitical Life (##920-921):

Paragraphs 920-921 are part of the section of the CCC entitled Consecrated Life (pars 914-933). As noted above, the section begins with a reference to baptismal consecration and establishes the consecrated STATE of life as building upon this. Similarly it establishes all persons as being called to some expression of the evangelical counsels and then moves to those in the consecrated state of life as representing a special instance of living these counsels.  Contrary to what I believed 10 years ago, This means that thereafter this section is ONLY speaking about (canonically) consecrated states of life and pars 920-921 refer ONLY to canonically consecrated hermits  --- that is, those who are initiated by the church into the public state of consecrated eremitical life. It is not speaking of lay hermits (hermits in the lay state) who make private acts of dedication, whether using vows or some other form of sacred bond. (Because the term consecration is so widely misused today it is necessary to say "publicly" or "canonically" consecrated. A private act is an act of dedication for only God can consecrate. (Vatican II maintained this usage assiduously.)

But what then about the strange phrase [["Without always professing the evangelical counsels publicly]]  First the key Latin phrase in the original is this: [[quin publice tria consilia evangelica semper profiteantur]] Which translates, [[but always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly]] This corresponds to the Church's theology of consecrated life; any profession will be a public and ecclesial act. Then where does the notion of "without always" come from in the English translation? By this I mean what is optional for the hermit if the profession itself is ALWAYS to be made publicly. There is only one thing it could be. Canon 603 allows for diocesan hermits to use "other sacred bonds" than vows" if they choose. It is the only form of consecrated life besides consecrated virgins living in the world (who do not make vows) that does. Thus, the clumsily formulated English phrase does not mean, "Without always making vows publicly" but rather, " Without always using vows to make their public profession."

Ms McClure has italicized parts of the paragraph (#920) to ensure one reads it as providing the option of private vows rather than public ones. However, the overall context (consecrated states of life) will not allow this. Neither will the original Latin text nor the Church's theology of consecrated life per se. The only option, the only "without always"  c 603 allows is that of vows or other sacred bonds; even so the profession of either will ALWAYS BE PUBLIC entailing public rights and obligations, public ecclesial relationships (legitimate superiors), and even public expectations on the part of the faithful generally.