01 August 2016

Additional Questions on CCC paragraphs 920-921

[[Dear Sister O'Neal, I was struck by something you said [a while back] about the CCC paragraphs on eremitical life. I had not realized the CCC was written for Bishops and not for the whole Church so that was striking too but what had the most impact was what you said about the paragraphs on eremitical life needing to be "adequately contextualize(d)" to be read properly. You are aware that some believe they are consecrated Catholic Hermits because the CCC put the paragraphs on eremitical life under the heading "consecrated life." Is this one of the places Bishops and Theologians would read things differently than a lay person without any background in consecrated life? What is especially confusing for me is that the CCC also says hermits don't always make vows publicly. Doesn't this mean they can make them privately? I couldn't quote you because I couldn't cut and paste the passage about reading CCC. I hope that's okay.]]

Thanks for your questions. They are similar, even identical to others I answered just recently here:.ccc-pars-914-915 and 920-921 clarifying their limits and meaning . I think you will find an answer to some of them in that post but let me answer for you personally as well. Here is the passage you referred to: [[I am commissioned and directly responsible for understanding and revealing its [canon 603's] meaning with my life. The catechism, on the other hand, was actually written for bishops, theologians, and those teaching the faith. It thus presumes a broader knowledge which can adequately contextualize and inform what the CCC says in summary fashion. It is not meant to be the final word on things --- much less on things eremitical! (In this case, for instance, par 920-921 are to be read in light of the Church's theology of consecrated life --- not the other way around.) ]]

Yes, what you described is exactly one of those places it is critical the CCC is read in terms of broader knowledge, especially the theology of consecrated life, and canon law. To do otherwise is to build a position and, potentially at least, a life on a  foundation of sand. One cannot use the CCC in a kind of proof-texting way. If one reads paragraphs 920-921 as though they mean one enters the consecrated eremitical state with private vows, what does one do with pars 914-915:  "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." 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  by and to God.

c.914 refers to profession which is not defined merely as making vows but as a broader ecclesial act of dedication and reception thereof in which one is initiated into a new state of life. It therefore refers to a PUBLIC act where one in admitted to and accepts rights and obligations commensurate with a new and public state of life. c 915 makes very clear that it is profession within a permanent state of life (perpetual profession in one's new state) recognized by the Church (meaning therefore both the state of life and the act of profession therein) that characterizes the life God consecrates to Himself through the ministry of the Church. All of this is known by every Bishop well-aware of the theology of the consecrated life; it presupposes this awareness and this theology. Even with the confusing phrase, "Without always making profession of the three evangelical counsels publicly, the hermit. . ." knowledgeable readers will know the general theology of consecrated life which is presupposed in this new state of life.

But that does bring us once again to this problematical phrase regarding "without always making profession of the three evangelical counsels publicly". Initially it sounds like it means some may make profession of the counsels privately. But as I argued in the recent post, this cannot be since profession is, by definition, a public act initiating into a new and stable state of life! If one makes private vows they have not made an act of profession; they have made an act of dedication which does not rise to the level of profession  instead --- not least because it has not been made or received in the name of the Church!! That is why, or part of the reason, I pointed out the  sentence must be referring to something else --- namely, that c 603 hermits may use sacred bonds other than vows for their profession

As noted in the earlier post, the original Latin also argues implicitly for this as does the specific context provided by the catechism itself (the heading and focus or content of the section is "Consecrated Life"). I am unclear how the English translation came to be made; it seems to be in direct contradiction to the Latin (please read the earlier post!)  but this cannot be; I have been unable to find a commentary on this passage specifically --- though there are numerous scholars who comment on the inadequacy of the CCC in other sections either in substance or because of translation problems. What I concluded was that the English translation must have been trying to accommodate an element which was different in canon 603 without opposing the original Latin text. I believe this is what explains the clumsiness of the construction. Again, the ONLY element I know of here which could explain that and maintain the original's insistence on public profession is the option to use sacred bonds other than vows. Again, as I noted in the earlier post, profession itself is still and always a public ecclesial act but c 603 hermits may not always use vows to make this profession.