14 June 2019

On the Importance of Language When Thinking or Speaking About Eremitical Vocations

[[ Hi Sister, it sure seems that language is important. I am still reading in the blog I have written you about earlier and I am seeing that the author uses certain terms very differently than you do. One of the terms I am not sure of, however is "hierarchy". Is it the case that the Church is divided into three classes or groups: laity, consecrated or religious, and hierarchy? One of the points being made is that we don't speak of hierarchy hermits or laity hermits but I am thinking hierarchy is different than this. Also, I know you said this in your last response to me but Joyful Hermit does believe that a hermit making vows of the evangelical counsels ceases to be a lay person --- "precludes them" being a lay person is the way she says it. I thought though that most hermits through history have been lay hermits. You have said she holds this yourself. And lastly -- for now because Joyful says a lot of things I think are just plain wrong -- she says that married people can become hermits but that they give up their marriage rights in doing so; she also said something about "fulfilling their marriage vows" and so now being able to become hermits. That can't be right!! Can it??]]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church does speak of hierarchy, laity and, those in religious life and then says the laity is composed of all those who are not ordained or part of the religious state of life. I am not sure why this choice was made but it is more problematical than helpful for several reasons, not least that it seems to contradict the fact that canon law says very clearly that religious life, while part of the perfection of the Church, is not a third and intermediate state between clergy and laity. The CCC seems to indicate otherwise in the section now being referred to. A second part of the problem is hierarchy of the Church seems to refer to all those who are ordained clergy even though it also says the whole Church is hierarchical. Moreover common usage treats Bishops and Cardinals as hierarchy whereas priests are not commonly thought of as part of the hierarchy per se.

To do this while leaving the laity and priesthood of all believers out of the notion of hierarchy seems to contribute to the problem of clericalism in the Church --- something the Church has been trying to deal with. Finally, the Church may have been trying to deal with the term laity in the vocational sense (see below) and conflated it with laity in the hierarchical sense of the term. They might also have been trying to put religious/consecrated persons back between clergy and laity where older prayers had placed them and the Church had regarded them until; VII. At Vatican II the Church fathers worked out the following schema: 1) the hierarchical Church is divided into two main groups: 1) laity and 2) ordained clergy. The clergy are then divided further (and hierarchically) into deacons, priests, and bishops (which, in spite of common understanding, does make everyone in Orders "hierarchy!). Anyone who is not clergy is laity. This is what the term laity means when used in the "hierarchical sense". Thus, any religious, canonical hermit, (or consecrated virgin), who is not also clergy is laity in this hierarchical sense.

However, as alluded to above, the term laity has a second and vocational sense. When used in this second sense laity refers to all of those people of God who exist in the baptized state without added canonical or Sacramental conditions (so, without canonical profession or Orders which change their lay state). Those who have entered the consecrated state through public profession cease to be lay persons in this vocational sense. Hermits can come from any of the three categories of people: clergy or priests, consecrated persons, or the laity. If one makes private vows as a hermit one does not enter a new state of life. This happens only through public profession (including the "promito" made by CV's and the consecration which follows that) If a cleric makes private vows as a hermit he remains a cleric and does not enter the consecrated state. Again this happens only through public profession. If a professed/consecrated person makes private vows to live as a hermit, they remain in the consecrated state but they are NOT consecrated hermits per se nor are they hermits who live eremitical life in the name of the Church. (They do live religious vocations in the name of the Church but not eremitical life itself.) To be either of these things (a consecrated hermit per se, or one who lives the hermit vocation in the name of the Church) requires public profession and consecration as a hermit under canon 603 (or as a member of an eremitical institute of consecrated life).

 Consecrated hermits can be drawn from any of the three categories of persons, lay, consecrated or, clerical and while it is true we do not call hermits "laity hermits" or "hierarchical hermits" (at least in regard to this absurd usage "Joyful" is correct), the Church certainly does indicate the state of life in which one lives eremitical life per se, namely: lay hermits, consecrated hermits, and priest hermits.  Alternately we can say a person is a lay person and a hermit, a consecrated person and a hermit, or a priest and a hermit. The idea that because one make vows of the evangelical councils one ceases to be a lay person is simply nonsense. Lots of lay persons make these vows and have done all through the centuries, often as private specifications of their baptismal commitments. They don't cease being lay persons unless they are professed (which means publicly making vows (etc) in the hands of a legitimate superior with the authority to accept such a commitment; the making of private vows does not truly acquire the name "profession" since profession includes not just vows, etc, but the initiation into a new state of life), or unless they  receive the Sacrament of Orders.

Hermits and marriage. Such a fraught topic!! One wonders why that still is! Once upon a time the Church allowed married folks to become hermits. But no longer!! The Church today more appropriately esteems  marriage and recognizes that married love (which includes but is much more than having sexual intercourse) is a very high value which cannot be set aside for some supposedly "higher vocation" --- a notion Vatican II also distanced itself from. The idea that someone can "fulfill" their marriage duties (which, given the narrowness of the idea being put forward here, I assume means having sex and bearing children) and then somehow move beyond the witness of married love either because they are no longer of child-bearing age/ability or because they no longer have intercourse is even greater nonsense than the idea mentioned above I also called nonsense! In the Sacrament of marriage two people become "one flesh" until death and the commitment to married love remains even if this means they no longer have sex or produce children!  The faithfulness required by marriage is always of significant witness value to the Church --- and to those who belong to the consecrated state of life in the Church. Married folks do not "outgrow this" in some way. The "witness value to love" of such a "hermit"  makes me think of the Peanuts cartoon re loving mankind but hating people when s/he chooses to leave a marriage in order to embrace eremitical life. They want to love humanity but can't give their whole hearts to God through love of a spouse --- the very purpose of the couple's marriage commitment to one another!!

Thus, giving up one's marriage in this way in order to enter eremitical solitude is no longer acceptable in the Church given our understanding of the nature and value of marriage per se. Similarly, no one today would allow  two people to become hermits together (this is not eremitical solitude nor can one assume both have eremitical vocations), nor to leave a spouse behind in the name of consecrated life. This would be a betrayal of eremitical solitude and the vocation to marriage because at the heart of either situation is a refusal to love in the way one has been called to love for the whole of one's life. Beyond this I should mention that if one has been married and divorced without benefit of a declaration of nullity, the Church considers the bond of marriage to continue to exist and to stand as an impediment to receiving consecration and entering the consecrated state of life. As part of discerning a vocations, a candidate's freedom to contract a public life commitment is established by the Church before admitting her to profession and/or consecration. (When marriage is contracted, for instance, or when one is baptized after marriage, the Church administering the Sacrament sends a note to the person's baptismal church and a note is made in the registry of Sacraments. This follows a person and is called up whenever public profession is anticipated or marriage or ordinations are planned so that one's freedom to undertake such a vocation is established.)

Regarding the notion that most hermits throughout history have been lay hermits, the fact is that yes, unless a person entered an institute of consecrated life at some point and was publicly professed, if they were a hermit they were a lay hermit. This only changed in 1983 with canon 603. Remember that Bp Remi de Roo made an intervention at Vatican II seeking to allow the hermit vocation to be part of consecrated life or, what was once called " a state of perfection". While bishops watched out for hermits eremitical life was not a form of consecrated life until c 603. Only then were solitary hermits professed in universal law and thus too, only then did they become members of the consecrated or religious state). Even so, the majority of hermits today are, and I think they will always be, lay hermits --- hermits in the lay state of life. The canonical mechanism for consecration in a public (and a solitary) eremitical vocation now exists (canonical standing as part of an institute of Consecrated life has been possible since at least  the 11th century), but canon 603 is (rightfully I believe) relatively rarely used by bishops and often its requirements (rights and obligations) are onerous to those who merely desire to "go off and live in solitude" as lay persons. These latter are apt to make private vows of some sort, but they need not do so; instead they can simply determine their baptismal commitments require an eremitical response to God from them now. Since poverty, chastity and obedience proper to one's state in life is required of every Christian, these hermits can work out the shape of these commitments as specifications of their baptismal commitment. And, since they are required of every Christian they can be vowed in every state of life --- privately in lay and some clerical life, publicly in professed and consecrated life. To suggest they cannot be misunderstands the NT Gospel counsels are meant for all even though the form and nature of the commitment will change from state to state.