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Consecrated Virginity Question


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ETA: This is not aimed at anyone- just to lighten the mood.  :saint2:

I ask one question and this happens.

I mean this as respectfully as possible, but the exact nature and extent of consecrated virgins’ secularity is far from a settled question. I’m saying this not because I want to debate (I truly do

3. It is true that right now consecrated virgins don’t have a strict legal obligation to remain in their home dioceses. But I think it might still be possible to suggest that consecrated virgins could still have something akin to, or have some level of, moral obligation.
 

 

Hi Sponsa-Christ, if you get a moment, could you explain what you mean here by a moral obligation? Thanks & hope all is well!
 

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Speaking of rules, this is precisely why only spiritually mature women should be consecrated.  One should look at the relatively few rules given to diocesan priests and ponder on why that is so.  One reason is that these secular priests are supposed to be mature and know how to grow spiritually, physically, mentally, and apostolically OUTSIDE the seminary!  There is no "rule of life". 

 

Agreed!

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Gosh, after all this discussion I think one would be inspired to think not twice, but two hundred times before discerning this vocation. Perhaps this is a good thing! but I certainly admire anyone who would be willing to enter into a vocation that is so unknown even to the Church herself. I, myself find the debate rather disheartening and am rather glad that my discernment has reached a turning point where this topic does not concern me.

 

I understand. At first I found some of the endless analysis overwhelming, too. But then I stepped back intellectually and started looking at the premises of certain arguments. Doing that enabled me to prune away parts of the discussion that I concluded were ill-founded and therefore distracting. (Certainly other parts of the discussion are insightful and helpful.)

 

I've come to the conclusion that this isn't a complicated vocation. That can make it hard to accept, and hard to explain, especially in our present (especially type-A American) culture that wants to put everything in a box on a shelf, neatly labeled. But I've found that among those women discerning this vocation, in those who steadily realize more and more this likely is their vocation, there blooms a calmness, clarity, and a joy. (If you are discerning and haven't reached this point yet, that doesn't mean it's not your vocation! It just means, if it is your vocation, you've still got some struggling, thinking, and praying yet to do.)

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abrideofChrist

I mean this as respectfully as possible, but the exact nature and extent of consecrated virgins’ secularity is far from a settled question. I’m saying this not because I want to debate (I truly don’t—and right now, I’m kind of having mixed feeling about keeping this thread alive at all), but because I think this is one of the most important things for those considering discerning a vocation to consecrated virginity to be aware of.

 

Right now, it is perfectly legitimate to have different points of view on this issue. Of course, it’s good to take the opinions of knowledgeable people (like Sr. Sharon Holland or Card. Burke, or the leadership of the USACV) into account. But ultimately, right now they’re just that—opinions. In their writings, they share their own educated interpretations, but they don’t actually speak with the authority of the Church on this topic. And even when recent Popes have written about consecrated virgins, their actual words are really too general to be taken as a specific answer to this particular question.

 

I think that charitable discussion and study of what it means to be a consecrated virgin is generally a good thing at this point in time. Also, especially for consecrated virgins themselves, I also think it’s often necessary for us to form our own strong convictions as to how this vocation can be most fully lived out.

 

But, in additions to respecting those who disagree with us, I think it’s also very important to have the humility to acknowledge that our own interpretations often can’t be absolutely proven correct or considered as definitely “settled” at this point in time.

 

Sponsa Christi,

 

I haven't been following this thread very carefully and only go on this forum now and then.  But, this response of yours struck me.  While you say that the Church hasn't really defined the extent of secularity permitted to CV's, I am wondering if you have any comment on the fact that vowed members of certain secular institutes are permitted to receive the Consecration.  Surely their secular lifestyles are secular?  They hold non-diocesan/non-parochial jobs, they get salaries, they dress up as lay persons, they often do not live in community and in their own housing, they are responsible for their schedules, etc.  If you look at their statutes, they are often prohibited from having any visible clues of separation from the world (maybe because they are in the world?), and so habits are prohibited (for most).

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abrideofChrist

To follow up on the previous post.  To me, the very fact that consecrated virginity is compatible with secular institute living tells me that the Church has ruled on just how far secular is secular.  Meaning, that if a woman can have her own job, her own house, own schedule, must wear secular clothing, cannot be distinguished from a devout laywoman, can move into other dioceses at will, has a loose "community" she may get in touch with once a month, and that this lifestyle is compatible with vows (see Provida Mater) and compatible with the Consecration of Virgins, then how can we insist on a habit for all CVs, life in one diocese for CVs, and so on?  It is official that secular institute members can receive the consecration.  If the secular institute member can live exteriorly like a devout laywoman (I know this is something you don't favor), and is indeed obliged to by her statutes, and she can also receive the Consecration to a Life of Virginity lived in the world, it seems to me that CVs who are not members of secular institutes can live externally like devout laywomen.

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To me, the very fact that consecrated virginity is compatible with secular institute living tells me that the Church has ruled on just how far secular is secular.

 

But the consecration is also compatible with the observance of papal enclosure and other distinctly not secular ways of living.

With this vocation there seems to be more "can" than "must" or "should" as far as Church ruling goes.  I think there is a divide between viewing that situation as acceptable and those who would like to see it defined in the direction of either "secularity" or "observance."

 

My question to those on both sides of the discussion is: as you present your position are you saying "there oughta be a law" that CVs should live your way?  Or are you saying "there is a law" that CVs should live your way?

 

 

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abrideofChrist

But the consecration is also compatible with the observance of papal enclosure and other distinctly not secular ways of living.

With this vocation there seems to be more "can" than "must" or "should" as far as Church ruling goes.  I think there is a divide between viewing that situation as acceptable and those who would like to see it defined in the direction of either "secularity" or "observance."

 

My question to those on both sides of the discussion is: as you present your position are you saying "there oughta be a law" that CVs should live your way?  Or are you saying "there is a law" that CVs should live your way?

 

Men who have received Holy Orders can live in papal enclosure.  They are known as Trappists, Carthusians, and others.  Men who have received Holy Orders can live as friars.  Men who have received Holy Orders can live as secular (diocesan) priests.  Men who have received Orders can live as businessmen (diocesan permanent deacons).    In all of these cases, what unites the men is that they have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  Therefore, one must conclude that Holy Orders is compatible with a huge variation in how it is lived out.  Certain ordained men have more rules than others.  Thus, men who are religious priests have more rules and more vows.  Men who are diocesan priests have at least two promises (obedience and celibacy) and almost no rules pertaining to life outside of ministry.  Men who are married priests or deacons have rules pertaining to ministry, but almost no rules when it comes to raising their families, obtaining suitable income, etc. 

 

It would be ridiculous for the Carthusian priests to insist that married priests live like they do, and don a habit, refuse secular work, stay silent for most of the year, etc.  Likewise, it would be ridiculous for the diocesan priest to tell the Carthusians that they needed to go out into the world more, and wear a cassock instead of a habit.  Or for the married priest to tell the others to drop habit/cassock/collar and don the business suit or casual clothes needed for their line of work.  Each mode of living has its own boundaries with its expectations.  A retired priest could live alone like a hermit.  But not an active pastor.  A married priest can wear a cassock.  But that would normally be in the context of parish work, not in the home while bouncing a ten month baby that's spitting up.  You do not see long lists of rules and regs for the married priests and deacons, or for the diocesan celibate priests and deacons.  Why?  Because they are expected to be mature men.  They are ordained for ministry, and it is only in that context can the bishop wield the power of obedience.  The bishop cannot dictate what the family eats for breakfast.  But he can give a ministerial assignment and expect it to be fulfilled.  This is in virtue of the promise of obedience.

 

Similarly, women who have received the Consecration to a Life of Virginity can live in a papal enclosure.  They are known as nuns.  Some are Benedictines, Trappists, Carthusians, and (a handful) of Carmelites.  Others "live in the world".  They include those who are members of Secular Institutes and those who are simply individual with no institutional ties.  Those who belong to Institutions already have rules and regs.  Those who do not, have the charism of the Church herself and the rules and regs imposed in the Rite to guide them in their way of life. 

 

The only "new" rules I would favor the Church making would pertain to a handful of practical matters such as a law automatically allowing a CV to house the Blessed Sacrament in her home, and the required notification of the consecration to the place of the virgin's baptism just as with religious vows. 

 

I feel that a lot of people who want or support the notion of the habit to be imposed on canon 604 virgins and for them to work in dioceses and who wish to impose other quasi-religious structures upon them have not actually read the Rite of Consecration itself.  It shows a very flexible lifestyle for those who are giving themselves totally to Christ and serving the Church and the "world". 

 

People who are immature or scrupulous or who want the extra blessings of obedience will be the first to call for more rules, for the bishops to dictate their or bless their every move.  This is not appropriate for CVs any more than the diocesan priest who refuses to take a step that is not specifically said to him by the bishop ("yes, Father, I would like you to lead the chaplet of Divine Mercy  on Sunday afternoons" or "No, Father, you should go to Seattle for vacation and not to Boise.").  The diocesan bishop isn't a religious superior.  He doesn't have the scope of authority to dictate vacation locations to his priests.  He has even less authority to dictate to consecrated virgins because they don't even have a promise of obedience to him.  I personally know such priests and they are messed up because they are paralyzed without being able to run to the bishop for every single thing they do.  Women who have only known the religious lifestyle and who think that to know God's will it is necessary to  have concrete assignments and run to a superior all the time fall into the same trap. 

 

Thus, in answer to your question, I do not advocate more rules for the CV.  A mature Christian woman should be able to happily and easily fill the duties as prescribed in the Rite without need for running to her bishop all the time for obediences. 

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3. It is true that right now consecrated virgins don’t have a strict legal obligation to remain in their home dioceses. But I think it might still be possible to suggest that consecrated virgins could still have something akin to, or have some level of, moral obligation. At the very least, it’s completely legitimate to argue that this kind of stability is what is most fitting and appropriate to the vocation of consecrated virginity.

 

 

I asked a question about this above but I'm going to go ahead and clarify some things below, without waiting for a response, because I unexpectedly have time off this afternoon and can put it to good use!

 

Strictly speaking, moral obligations only arise out of legal obligations. Further, moral obligations are not vague. If something were morally obligatory, we wouldn’t say it was “somehow” or “in some way” morally obligatory. (We might admit various equally legitimate means of fulfilling an obligation; or, we might admit levels of discernment in finding the means to fulfill the obligatory end. We would, of course, also admit levels of moral obligations, some being far more grave than others. But we wouldn’t say something is simultaneously morally obligatory and as-yet undefined or unclarified.)

 

 A CV would need to know whether, and in which circumstances, she is bound to remain in the diocese she was consecrated in. (Any law, to be binding, must be promulgated. That holds regarding 1) divine law; 2) natural law; and, 3) human positive law, the 3 realms out of which moral obligations arise.) A CV wouldn’t be morally obligated to fulfill an expectation that hadn’t been made know to her. (And that doesn’t begin to address the question of whether the expectation itself was legitimate/lawful. That’s only addressing it from the level of what, morally, is expected of the CV.)

 

It’s true that we do say some laws are promulgated (i.e., made known) to the individual directly by God by the very fact that the human person has an intellect and will. Some truths are so deep and central to the human person that, barring impediments such as age (young children) or intellectual disability, etc., they are considered truths that an individual can discern. A person can generally be expected to know certain truths and be morally bound by them. This is the realm of moral obligation that involves the intersection of divine/natural law that is not dependent on positive law to be known.

 

On the other hand, positive law, whether civil or religious (and here I use religious in a broad sense to cover anything non-civic – though I’m of course not including divine positive law) is in another category entirely. It is in another category entirely because it cannot be reasonably expected (and it may be downright impossible!), for example, that Y person could, with her own unaided intellect, conclude that Z is expected of her. Z must be promulgated by the legitimate authority that imposes it as an obligation. Without that promulgation, she is not bound. (This only scratches the surface of the discussion, too!)

 

These questions go to the heart of vocations because they are the bedrock of any well-formed discussion on obedience, freedom, discernment, wisdom, prudence, etc.

 

It’s crucial for anyone who puts himself or herself forward as a public interpreter of vocations (whether one’s own particular vocation or vocations in general) to have a solid grasp of philosophy. Otherwise there is a danger of leading others to impose upon themselves things that the Church herself does not impose. Below are some books I recommend that are excellent introductions to philosophy:

 

Introduction to Philosophy, Daniel J. Sullivan

Man as Man: The Science and the Art of Ethics, Fr. Thomas J. Higgins

50 Questions on the Natural Law, Charles Rice

 

I hope this is helpful!

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Sponsa-Christi

Posted Today, 02:33 PM

Sponsa-Christi, on 29 Dec 2012 - 3:45 PM, said:snapback.png

3. It is true that right now consecrated virgins don’t have a strict legal obligation to remain in their home dioceses. But I think it might still be possible to suggest that consecrated virgins could still have something akin to, or have some level of, moral obligation.
 

 

Hi Sponsa-Christ, if you get a moment, could you explain what you mean here by a moral obligation? Thanks & hope all is well!

 

 

Laurie,

 

My brain is a little tired from studying for exams, so I hope this all makes sense!

 

What I mean here is that, while the Church’s legal texts don’t give us any specific details regarding the exact nature of a consecrated virgin’s connection to her home diocese, my own educated belief is that, under ordinary circumstances, a consecrated virgin should strive to dedicate her life to the service of the Church in the diocese for which she was consecrated.

 

On a practical level, I think this means that a CV shouldn't permanently leave her diocese without a serious reason. (Of course, exceptional circumstances can present themselves, but exceptional circumstances are by definition not the normal state of affairs.)

 

My own opinion is that to do otherwise—while it wouldn't actually be a violation of canon law—would be, at the very least, a failure to live out the vocation of consecrated virginity as fully or radically as the Church would seem to envision it. 

 

I personally have several reasons for concluding that CVs are ordinarily called to this kind of stability. Probably the main one is that, given what the Rite of Consecration and other Church documents say about the relationship of a CV to her bishop, it would naturally seem to follow that this special bond would extend to the local Church of which her bishop is the head. But I think you could draw this conclusion on theological grounds, through a consideration of the structure and dignity of the Church in both her universal and particular expressions, and how consecrated life relates to this.

 

But even more than this, I think that taking your connection to a given local Church seriously and regarding it as an important element of your vocation is a matter of spiritual common-sense. Anyone who renounces marriage for the sake of the Kingdom is going to need some kind of community or spiritual “home,” not only to keep us accountable for living our vocations faithfully, but also to provide a tangible context in which we can truly give of ourselves.

 

That is, it’s easy to say we love Christ and are devoted to His Church when “the Church” remains a universal and thus somewhat abstract concept. However, in order to prove our devotion, we have to be willing to manifest our love through a practical dedication to a concrete, particular local Church—a dedication which would seem to be all but impossible to foster without at least some sense of stability. 

 

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abrideofChrist

Sponsa Christi, your marriage is with Christ and not with the diocese.  You will always have a bishop no matter where you move.  Therefore, you will always have someone with whom to monitor your spiritual journey.

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abrideofChrist

Laurie, you're absolutely spot on.  There are no obligations where none are promulgated.  There are no obligations even if someone thinks that they are implied when such pseudo obligations restrict the rights of the people.   In the case of CVs, the natural law right to relocate is restricted if you follow Sponsa Christi's viewpoint.  However, there is no positive, promulgated law by competent authority (the Pope) that imposes this restriction of movement upon the virgin.  Therefore, there is no corresponding obligation.  Therefore, there is no moral obligation whatsoever to remain in the same diocese if no such agreement has not been made previously with the CV's consecrating bishop.

 

Reminder:  A moral obligation means that one will sin if one does not obey it.  Sponsa Christi does not have the authority to create a sin out of thin air because she thinks it is more appropriate for CVs to stay in their home dioceses.

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Sponsa-Christi

 

Strictly speaking, moral obligations only arise out of legal obligations. Further, moral obligations are not vague. If something were morally obligatory, we wouldn’t say it was “somehow” or “in some way” morally obligatory. (We might admit various equally legitimate means of fulfilling an obligation; or, we might admit levels of discernment in finding the means to fulfill the obligatory end. We would, of course, also admit levels of moral obligations, some being far more grave than others. But we wouldn’t say something is simultaneously morally obligatory and as-yet undefined or unclarified.)

 

 

Also, as kind of a side note, in talking about possible moral obligations, I’m considering the question from the perspective of how to live consecrated virginity in the fullest way possible, as opposed to what fulfills the bare minimum of the legal requirements.

 

From this perspective, I think there can be moral obligations that aren’t as hard-and-fast or clear-cut as, for instance, obeying the Ten Commandments.

 

To use the Christian life in general as an example—there is no formal rule saying that baptized Catholics must pray every day. Technically, we have to go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, and receive Communion once a year. If this is all we do, we are fulfilling our obligations as Catholics. However, you wouldn't present this kind of bare-bones prayer life as “normal” to someone who was seriously thinking of entering the Church. I think in a case like this, you would be right in saying that Catholics have some level of moral obligation to pray every day, since daily prayer is necessary to lead a good Christian life with any kind of fullness.

 

So with consecrated virginity…if we only did just what the law made expressly clear, it’s probable that our lives would be “consecrated” in name only.

 

Since there are presently so very few official rules on how consecrated virgins are to live their lives, I think we need to frame our personal discernment in terms of “what would be the best and fullest expression of my call to be a bride of Christ” as opposed to simply “am I doing everything that the law says I should?”

 

 

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abrideofChrist

Sorry, Sponsa Christi, that just doesn't cut it. It's all very well to want people to go beyond the law, but we can't impose burdens where there are none.  I am especially thinking of this passage from the Gospel when Jesus is speaking of the Scribes and Pharisees laying down innumerable laws:  "They fasten up packs too heavy to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; they themselves will not stir a finger to lift them."  Mat 26: 3.  Sure.  We can all do extra things and grow in the love of God.  But we absolutely cannot tell people that we must do this or must avoid that as a moral obligation when these are not obligatory.  Otherwise people will do it (or not) and think that they must do it otherwise they are sinning.  If all that is more perfect were obligatory, your vocation and mine would be obligatory for Catholics instead of marriage.  Why do you think the Church makes a distinction between counsels and precepts?  A precept is a command that must be obeyed (there's a moral obligation) and a counsel is a request (there's no moral obligation).  Using your argument, we'd be obliged to all enter consecrated life because it is the better way under pain of sin.  This is contrary to what the Church teaches.

 

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Sponsa-Christi

Laurie, you're absolutely spot on.  There are no obligations where none are promulgated.  There are no obligations even if someone thinks that they are implied when such pseudo obligations restrict the rights of the people.   In the case of CVs, the natural law right to relocate is restricted if you follow Sponsa Christi's viewpoint.  However, there is no positive, promulgated law by competent authority (the Pope) that imposes this restriction of movement upon the virgin.  Therefore, there is no corresponding obligation.  Therefore, there is no moral obligation whatsoever to remain in the same diocese if no such agreement has not been made previously with the CV's consecrating bishop.

 

Reminder:  A moral obligation means that one will sin if one does not obey it.  Sponsa Christi does not have the authority to create a sin out of thin air because she thinks it is more appropriate for CVs to stay in their home dioceses.

 

 

Okay…I’m not trying to create sins out of thin air.

 

I’m simple observing that, given the fact that consecrated virginity has an objective nature (even if not everyone agrees on what precisely that nature is), some attitudes, priorities, and actions are likely to be a fuller expression of this vocation than others.

 

We’re all responsible to God for how well we live our vocations, and in conscience, I feel that consecrated virgins are called to be committed to the Church in certain special ways. I’m only sharing the fruits of my own discernment for the consideration of others. But this is not the same thing as condemning other people or assuming authority that I don’t have.

 

Once again, because there are so few laws about consecrated virginity, we really can’t look to the law alone for how we are to live our lives.

 

For example, there is actually no law that says that consecrated virgins can’t get married. (Consecration to a life of virginity is NOT listed as an impediment to the sacrament of matrimony in canon law!) But, this hardly means that those who would say that consecrated virgins should persevere in holy virginity for the rest of their lives are imposing pseudo-obligations on people.

 

 

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