03 August 2019

Follow-up on Why Canon 603?

beth1.jpg[[ Dear Sister, thank you for answering my question on Canon 603. I had read the following passage which seems to disagree with some of what you wrote: "What was it that made people, possibly hermits themselves, in the early 1980's, entreat a Church law to designate and recognize a category? That was an interesting decade following upon two previous interesting decades. Laws are made to stop abuses or to introduce something that people want." Could you clarify whether it was to curb abuses or to beg for something hermits wanted that caused the Church to create canon 603? Also, did this entreaty happen in the 1980's or at another time?]]

 Thank you for continuing the discussion. I'm not sure where you locate the disagreement. However, to be clear, I don't know if the hermits under Bishop de Roo's protection asked him to intervene at Vatican II, but it would make sense if their discussions with him --- especially in light of the anguish they had had to go through in order to leave their monasteries and establish themselves as hermits apart from  monastic life --- had included the possibility of a genuine appreciation of the eremitical life by the universal Church. Even so, the intervention at Vatican II occurred in the mid- sixties, not in the 1980's and was informed primarily by Bishop de Roo's appreciation of the eremitical life as he came to know it through a dozen or so hermits living in a laura in British Columbia. Neither can just anyone in the Church simply ask in an effective way for the Church hierarchy to create a law/canon.

Again, Bp de Roo's intervention listed at least a half dozen reasons for recognizing the eremitical life as a gift of God to the Church with significant prophetic and evangelical elements. He did not, so far as I can find, speak of abuses of eremitical life, nor would he have asked for recognition for a vocation for such a reason. It is far more effective to allow a lifestyle to remain unrecognized and thus too, relatively unknown if one wants to deal with abuses. Further, the solitary eremitical life had largely died out in the Western Church; again, abuses were not an issue until after canon 603 was promulgated and at that point they became an issue mainly for dioceses and candidates who did not really understand the distinction between a lone individual and a hermit. From the failure to draw this significant distinction come instances of inauthentic "hermits" and premature or unwise professions which  do not last or edify. Such unwise and premature professions also lead to a fundamental distrust of the canon and the tendency of dioceses to refuse to profess even really strong candidates. (There is a refusal to truly discern vocations on a case-by-case basis; discernment is never entered into and the canon is dismissed as speaking of "stopgap" or "fallback" vocations rather than being recognized as creating the norm for authentic solitary eremitical life.)