27 October 2018

On c 603 Vocations and Bankruptcy

[[Dear Sister, if a person is discerning a vocation as a diocesan hermit but has had a bankruptcy, how does this affect their petition to be admitted to public profession and consecration?]]

Brand new question for me! Thanks. I would say that unless there is a reason for the diocese to doubt one's ability to support oneself adequately and prudently as a hermit, I can’t see any reason a bankruptcy would affect the discernment of such a vocation. If, however, this (bankruptcy) bears on the candidate's ability to vow and live religious poverty, to deal with (and avoid) significant debt, to prioritize and moderate one's spending (some expenses are necessary for the diocesan hermit when they might not be for the lay hermit), and other similar issues like assuring adequate medical insurance, housing, formation, etc, then one's diocese might well be concerned by it.

The candidate will know the reasons for the bankruptcy and the diocese, I think, has a right to know what these were or are. Similarly both the diocese and the candidate will need to discern the candidate's capacity for living religious poverty and supporting herself as a diocesan hermit. Insofar as the bankruptcy is a matter of the past alone it should not matter. To the extent it reveals things about the candidate and her relationship with money, or her ongoing needs, impulses, habits, priorities, etc, it will bear on the mutual discernment she and the diocese undertake.

I should note that as I understand it, bankruptcy wipes out significant debt, but also ruins one's credit-worthiness for some time. This takes care of the problem of significant debt --- hermit candidates cannot be admitted to public profession with significant debt; however, it may also cause the diocese some legitimate concern that the hermit will be able to manage finances, house themselves, take care of medical expenses (especially unexpected expenses) and the like. If the bankruptcy is recent a diocese may decide prudentially to prolong the period of discernment for several years until the candidate has established a good track record with finances and so forth. Hermits sign a waiver of liability on the occasion of their perpetual profession which makes it very clear that their dioceses are not responsible in any way for financial support. Still, and partly for this very reason, dioceses must be certain a hermit can and will live religious poverty (which is not the same as simply being materially poor) and that she be able to support herself accordingly without significant debt and/or default. This is only just since these are things the hermit will be called upon to witness to in her life as a consecrated religious.

I hope this is helpful! Be assured of my prayers. Please remember me in your own.