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Consecrated Virginity Question


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To any CV interested in knowing what the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome said about this in yr 2003 :

 

My Question: According to the Roman Pontifical the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity is used for women living in the world and those in monasteries.Does 'living in the world' mean only that it is 'not in a monastery' or should it be lived strictly 'in the world' like in secular institutes ?

 

The charism of cons.virgins is to be an eschatological image of the Heavenly Bride and the life to come, when the Church will at last live her love for Christ the Bridegroom.The charism of Secular Inst. is to transfigure the world from within, acting like a leaven within the cultural, economic and political life. Hence it would be improper for a member of a Secular Inst. to wear clothing which would identify them as a consecrated person. However,Cons.virgins are called to be an image of the Chruch's love for Christ.Would it be proper if the local circumstances demand, to wear clothing which would identify one as a consecrated person or be addressed as 'Sister'  even though one does not live in a religious community ?

 

The following was the response with the Official reference number. 

 

 Prot n.SpR 862-4/2003

 

The life of virginity lived in the world gives public witness in everyday life , in some self-supporting work and in her service to the Church. It is not quite the same as the style of a secular institute because the virgin's consecration is public ,yet it is secular in the sense that she is not a religious.

 

The use of the veil, provided for in the Rite is decided on in the local circumstances with the Diocesan Bishop.The same would be true regarding any other identifying clothing and/or the use of the title Sister.

 

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For those interested  in getting clarifications regarding Consecrated life, if you visit their site on vatican.va , you can write to   them with your queries by email. It is accepted if you also give your postal address.  You receive a response  between 1 to 6 months as I can state from my own experience , if they know you, even by email.

 

Hope this helps. They seem to avoid putting any kind of uniform code at universal level  and leave it to the local churches.

 

Please excuse me for posting the above once again. I did try to move this discussion/debate to the debate table

 

   http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/topic/126367-consecrated-virginity-canon-604-1-and-2/

 

It seems to be continuing here and on Sr Laurel's blog.

 

Some points I am considering for reflection , with openness to whatever the Holy Spirit is saying regarding this vocation :

 

1.The Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome HAS replied to these questions . The reply needs to be read in context of the questions I had asked.

 

[If anyone wishes to see a scan of the official signed letter, please send me a message so that I can send you the link hopefully this weekend or  when I have time to deal with the technicalities of scanning and storing it in my dropbox account.]

 

2. CV is a vocation of the Universal Church ,lived in the Diocesan realities. Episcopal conferences have limited authority in the matter. Accordingly, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops  cannot  decide  how CV is to be lived in  particular dioceses around the world. The Congregation for the Inst. of Consecrated life  assists the Holy Father in the administration of the church and an official letter from this office  is authoritative in the amount of flexibility it leaves for CVs  and Diocesan Bishops to decide on questions being debated.

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Can. 455 §1 The Episcopal Conference can make general decrees only in cases where the universal law has so prescribed, or by special mandate of the Apostolic See, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Conference itself.

 

§2 For the decrees mentioned in §1 validly to be enacted at a plenary meeting, they must receive two thirds of the votes of those who belong to the Conference with a deliberative vote. These decrees do not oblige until they have been reviewed by the Apostolic See and lawfully promulgated.

 

§3 The manner of promulgation and the time they come into force are determined by the Episcopal Conference.

 

§4 In cases where neither the universal law nor a special mandate of the Apostolic See gives the Episcopal Conference the power mentioned in §1, the competence of each diocesan Bishop remains intact. In such cases, neither the Conference nor its president can act in the name of all the Bishops unless each and every Bishop has given his consent.

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I'm aware that the statutes of the USACV may be approved by the Congregation for Inst of Cons Life in Rome. But maybe  these cannot become obligatory to non-member individual  CVs even in the US. Maybe the USACV can  shed some light on this.

 

 

3. I personally do not see the discussion on  'Proto-religious' or  'Quasi-religious'  as relevant to my local situation at this moment.[ persecution for the faith which needs to be lived in discretion]. But  I think an Inter-generational perspective to CV is necessary. http://ocvnewevangelisation.blogspot.in/2011/12/consecrated-virginity-from-inter.html

 

From what I have read on Sponsa Christi's blog , I think the ideas are getting refined /developing with time and should be respected. Let the youngsters decide where they wish to take the vocation otherwise I personally doubt CV as a specific vocation will survive at all. Perhaps young CVs need to protect themselves in a dangerous world , in a way older CVs do not need to be concerned.  Maybe as they grow older and deepen in the vocation, they will be able to transcend the need  of solid point of reference , framework for living etc.

 

4. I am a person who loves the world that God loves. Religious life is not my cup of tea. Yet my gut feeling tells me  that a focus on secularity  of CV  can lead to divided attention to the specific call /charism of CV . Sr Laurel's ideas on  Sacred Secularity are excellent but may be ideal for  members of Secular Inst and the Laity. I do not wish to enter into an inter-blog debate on this  but am willing to have a  healthy debate at the Debate table on PM.

 

The context in America and Europe is VERY different  from Asia and Africa . In Asia  which is a cradle for many religions, Sacredness of Secularity  comes by default . So if one deliberately stresses  that  CVs should focus on this,  it does not help. It is the air we breathe naturally.  In Asia the challenge is  how the vocation of CV  can serve Evangelisation , while maintaining its distinct Christian Identity amidst so many cultures, religions and poverty.  The debates on CV  in America  may not really be relevant  on other continents perhaps.

 

It wasn't my desire to post this here. Still wish the debate goes to the debate table.

 

5. Also wish to refer to Norms common to all Inst. of Consecrated Life [ Canon 573-606 ]  http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0017/_P1X.HTM

 

This does mean  that the evangelical counsels  are implicit in the Proposito [Resolution] of the CV to FOLLOW CHRIST  which is part of the Rite of Consecration to a life of Virginity.

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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

I can understand why others might find the tone of some of our discussions to resemble a debate; however, it seems to me that moving, or re-categorizing, this discussion could be misleading to readers.

 

It concerns me that women reading this forum for further information regarding the CV vocation could come to the erroneous conclusion that the nature of the CV vocation is under “debate.” I think I, and several others here, have clearly demonstrated that the essential nature of this vocation is not, in the Church’s eyes, “up for debate.”

 

It would, I think, be very misleading to present the discussion as “here are several varying and equal views regarding this vocation” when some of the views presented here are opposed to what, for example, the USCCB, has portrayed this vocation to be.

 

That said, I will certainly defer to the moderators of this forum.
 

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Cecilia --- the reason some of us are urging the move to the debate table is the tone of the discussion.  It has gotten out of hand in the past, and I don't know if I'm in the minority but I'd rather see it in debate table.

 

It's not that there are varying views per se ... but what I call the "nitpicking" that can happen.  That isn't exactly the right word to use, but it is the back and forth as if to say "I'm right -- here's the proof" followed by "no, I'm right -- here's the proof."

 

It may not be intended as a debate ... but it is debate like to go back and forth, on and on.

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Cecilia --- the reason some of us are urging the move to the debate table is the tone of the discussion.  It has gotten out of hand in the past, and I don't know if I'm in the minority but I'd rather see it in debate table.

 

It's not that there are varying views per se ... but what I call the "nitpicking" that can happen.  That isn't exactly the right word to use, but it is the back and forth as if to say "I'm right -- here's the proof" followed by "no, I'm right -- here's the proof."

 

It may not be intended as a debate ... but it is debate like to go back and forth, on and on.

 

I would personally urge readers to abstain from reading a "tone" into a post even if the import of that post is the clarification of matters or the presentation of theological reasoning which contrasts with that of someone else. However, let's be clear about what has been called nitpicking. Meanings are important and so are nuances. To clarify these often has tremendous significance in the life of the Church. Nitpicking means to pick at meaningless and tiny differences. I don't think anyone pointing out the basis of the Church's approbation of this as a wholly secular and wholly consecrated vocation can even remotely be considered to be engaged in nitpicking.

 

The vocation is a secular one AND it is a form of consecrated life. These two elements, in the eyes of the Church, are not in conflict with one another. They quailify each other (thus we get a sacred or eschatological secularity) but they do not mitigate one another.  It is not the case that if something is MORE secular then it is necessarily LESS consecrated or vice versa. Vatican II esteemed secular vocations in a fresh and significant way. It spoke passionately about the universal call to holiness and the vocation not merely of lay persons, but of anyone called to live out their vocations in the secular world. It was out of this context and under the express instructions of Vatican II that the Rite of Consecration was revised so it was not merely for cloistered nuns, but for women "given to the Spirit and the world in the things of the Spirit and the things of the World."

 

Some would like to see this vocation as "secular in the weak sense" (meaning only that it is not lived in a monastery). That IS a different view of the vocation than the Church herself holds. However the USCCB, the USACV, Documents from CICLSAL or from Sister Sharon Holland (as chief in that office under the mandatory Cardinal and Bishop), and the Rite of Consecration itself are all clear that the vocation is a secular one in a much stronger or thoroughgoing sense. The use of veils is limited to the Rite of Consecration and Mass or liturgy on the anniversary of that consecration. Habits are not worn, vows are not made, titles and post-nomial initials are not used. The relationship with one's Bishop is one of a warm paternal nature; he is not the CV's legitimate superior and she is not bound to him by a vow or promise of obedience. The CV's relationship to her diocese is significant, but she is not bound here by the same kind of residential stability as the hermit professed under canon 603. CV's work wherever they can in whatever expertise they exercise. In free time they may volunteer to work for the Church or other charities. Their lives are lives of prayer and service and they are encouraged to pray the LOH --- though it must be made clear that this is the official prayer of the entire Church, not simply of priests and religious, and that ALL lay persons and their parishes are encouraged to pray at least MP and EP from the LOH, just as are those in the consecrated state of life.

 

The actual revision of the Rite was meant to recover the secular expression of the vocation which was not only more original than the cloistered expression but which but which, until the early 12th century, co-existed with the cloistered expression. Meanwhile, the cloistered expression is seen to have turned the nature of the vocation on its head and eventually caused its secular expression to have been obscured, then lost altogether. All of this along with the Church's emphasis on New Evangelization and refreshed emphasis on missiology in and to the secular (and thus to Catholics and non-Catholics alike), a Christology which sees Jesus' active life as completely secular even as he is wholly consecrated to God (Jesus was not cloistered, not a monk nor hermit, etc), an examination of the discussions during the steps leading to the promulgation of this as a secular vocation, theological reflection on the distinction between religious life and consecrated virginity under canon 604 for women living in the world, a fresh appreciation of Paul's eschatology, and the lived experience of the hugest number of women thus consecrated argue the secularity of this vocation. It is a secularity which is truly consecrated, authentically eschatological (proleptic of the Kingdom) but it is an unmitigated secularity nonetheless.

 

I will add one other piece of evidence which clearly says the Church sees the vocation in this way, namely, she does not require women living secular lives to leave any of this (work, relationships, activities including political activities, hobbies, normal dress, etc) BEFORE (or after) she consecrates them. She allows secular women living secular lives to discern this vocation and to be consecrated. This would be completely irresponsible if thereafter the Church believed these women were to adopt quasi-religious vocations with distinctive garb, vows, legitimate superiors, etc. It is also contrary to the way the Church operates with ANY other vocation to the consecrated state. Imagine what would happen if a women discerned long and carefully the way God was calling her to serve the Church and world in her secularity, and after consecration required she embrace a quasi-religious life instead! The Church has been very clear in her praxis, liturgy, and theology, that this vocation is radically secular even as it is radically consecrated. This is precisely the witness the Church and world needs today when secularism (not the same as secularity) is running rampant and requires a genuine alternative.

 

Those who would prefer to live a quasi-religious life or to make that of CV's living in the world into a quasi-religious vocation really will cause this vocation to continue to make sense to no one --- and thus, to effectively change nothing, especially the way the secular is truly viewed. (It is meant to be the place where God's Kingdom comes to be in perfection so that "God is all in all.") Religious will continue to regard these women as "wannabes"  or at least continue wondering what the vocation is really all about, and those living secular lives will continue asking, "Why didn't you go the whole way and become a nun?" --- and rightly so. Meanwhile those living secular lives will continue to believe they have second class or entry level vocations and "heaven" will be defined in terms of "pie in the sky by and by" rather than the eternal life that is meant to interpenetrate this world and, in fact, perfect it in the sovereignty of God. I write all this because I believe the vocation is a tremendous gift of God to our Church and world, but it is only such a gift if it is wholly a secular one as well as wholly a consecrated one. I also write it because I believe it is irresponsible to disregard all of this and suggest that the Church has NOT decided the nature of this vocation's secularity. Thirty years of consecrating secular women to live secular lives based on all of the above suggests otherwise.

 

all my best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

Edited by SRLAUREL
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Here's an example of what I would classify as nitpicking. I've now re-read my post from this morning. Other than a few misspellings, I see 2 things I would change, were I able to do so.

 

I refer to "Bishop Burke" when he was in fact an Archbishop, and I refer to Cardinal Burke having authored something when at the time he authored it he was an archbishop.

 

If another reader were to comment upon those 2 small errors, and call my knowledge on the topic into question based on those minor errors, THAT would be nitpicking.

 

I see nothing in the discussions thus far that fall into the criteria of nitpicking.

 

Ideas matter. How ideas are expressed in vocabulary matters. (There is a reason why the Church adopted and moderated the ancient philosophies--as in, philosophy proper, the discipline of--that held the truth can be known by the mind and that truth can be expressed in language.)

 

Another random thought I'll put out there is that I don't think it helps anyone to split this discussion into "what the younger ones want." First, "what the younger ones" may or may not want wouldn't matter a hoot if it were contrary to the nature of the vocation as outlined by the Church.

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[Sorry, continued...one ought not to bop back and forth between typing and cooking...]

 

Second, it comes across as divisive to frame the discussion along the lines of assuming the "younger ones" are not satisfied with the so-called "mediocrity" of how the vocation has in fact been lived for the past 4 decades. It comes across as, "All, well, you know, there are older women who were happy to have a sort-of-vocation but now younger, zealous ones have come along and they are serious about being radically holy so let's let them call the shots."  That might not be what's intended, but that's how it comes across.

 

 

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[Sorry, continued...one ought not to bop back and forth between typing and cooking...]

 

Second, it comes across as divisive to frame the discussion along the lines of assuming the "younger ones" are not satisfied with the so-called "mediocrity" of how the vocation has in fact been lived for the past 4 decades. It comes across as, "All, well, you know, there are older women who were happy to have a sort-of-vocation but now younger, zealous ones have come along and they are serious about being radically holy so let's let them call the shots."  That might not be what's intended, but that's how it comes across.

 

 

Dear Cecelia,

 

I think you are correct that we ought not divide this up between "younger" and "older" vocations. It would never pass any evidentiary test. The Church's reception of the revised Rite of Consecration has developed away from any idea of secularity in the weak sense. Early on the only model for consecrated life she had was religious life so it makes sense that some consecrations allowed habits, titles, etc. In the 30 years of its development, however, this has changed. Vatican II was very clear that there is a universal call to holiness and that each call, secular, religious, eremitical, is a call to an exhaustive holiness. My own vocation (which I love and try to live wholeheartedly) is no more radically holy than any other call despite the differences in the way I live the evangelical counsels or relate to the saeculum. Radical secularity, especially radical sacred, consecrated, or eschatological secularity is hardly a form of mediocrity unless one fails to embrace and live it wholeheartedly. Thus, a quasi religious life which runs counter to the way the Church speaks of this vocation and is neither radically secular, nor radically religious could be considered to be a mediocre expression of the life called for by canon 604 consecration. But this has nothing necessarily to do with the age of the CV's involved.

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

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Please excuse me for posting the above once again. I did try to move this discussion/debate to the debate table

 

   http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/topic/126367-consecrated-virginity-canon-604-1-and-2/

 

It seems to be continuing here and on Sr Laurel's blog.

 

Some points I am considering for reflection , with openness to whatever the Holy Spirit is saying regarding this vocation :

 

1.The Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome HAS replied to these questions . The reply needs to be read in context of the questions I had asked.

 

[If anyone wishes to see a scan of the official signed letter, please send me a message so that I can send you the link hopefully this weekend or  when I have time to deal with the technicalities of scanning and storing it in my dropbox account.]

 

2. CV is a vocation of the Universal Church ,lived in the Diocesan realities. Episcopal conferences have limited authority in the matter. Accordingly, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops  cannot  decide  how CV is to be lived in  particular dioceses around the world. The Congregation for the Inst. of Consecrated life  assists the Holy Father in the administration of the church and an official letter from this office  is authoritative in the amount of flexibility it leaves for CVs  and Diocesan Bishops to decide on questions being debated.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Can. 455 §1 The Episcopal Conference can make general decrees only in cases where the universal law has so prescribed, or by special mandate of the Apostolic See, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Conference itself.

 

§2 For the decrees mentioned in §1 validly to be enacted at a plenary meeting, they must receive two thirds of the votes of those who belong to the Conference with a deliberative vote. These decrees do not oblige until they have been reviewed by the Apostolic See and lawfully promulgated.

 

§3 The manner of promulgation and the time they come into force are determined by the Episcopal Conference.

 

§4 In cases where neither the universal law nor a special mandate of the Apostolic See gives the Episcopal Conference the power mentioned in §1, the competence of each diocesan Bishop remains intact. In such cases, neither the Conference nor its president can act in the name of all the Bishops unless each and every Bishop has given his consent.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm aware that the statutes of the USACV may be approved by the Congregation for Inst of Cons Life in Rome. But maybe  these cannot become obligatory to non-member individual  CVs even in the US. Maybe the USACV can  shed some light on this.

 

 

3. I personally do not see the discussion on  'Proto-religious' or  'Quasi-religious'  as relevant to my local situation at this moment.[ persecution for the faith which needs to be lived in discretion]. But  I think an Inter-generational perspective to CV is necessary. http://ocvnewevangelisation.blogspot.in/2011/12/consecrated-virginity-from-inter.html

 

From what I have read on Sponsa Christi's blog , I think the ideas are getting refined /developing with time and should be respected. Let the youngsters decide where they wish to take the vocation otherwise I personally doubt CV as a specific vocation will survive at all. Perhaps young CVs need to protect themselves in a dangerous world , in a way older CVs do not need to be concerned.  Maybe as they grow older and deepen in the vocation, they will be able to transcend the need  of solid point of reference , framework for living etc.

 

4. I am a person who loves the world that God loves. Religious life is not my cup of tea. Yet my gut feeling tells me  that a focus on secularity  of CV  can lead to divided attention to the specific call /charism of CV . Sr Laurel's ideas on  Sacred Secularity are excellent but may be ideal for  members of Secular Inst and the Laity. I do not wish to enter into an inter-blog debate on this  but am willing to have a  healthy debate at the Debate table on PM.

 

The context in America and Europe is VERY different  from Asia and Africa . In Asia  which is a cradle for many religions, Sacredness of Secularity  comes by default . So if one deliberately stresses  that  CVs should focus on this,  it does not help. It is the air we breathe naturally.  In Asia the challenge is  how the vocation of CV  can serve Evangelisation , while maintaining its distinct Christian Identity amidst so many cultures, religions and poverty.  The debates on CV  in America  may not really be relevant  on other continents perhaps.

 

It wasn't my desire to post this here. Still wish the debate goes to the debate table.

 

5. Also wish to refer to Norms common to all Inst. of Consecrated Life [ Canon 573-606 ]  http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0017/_P1X.HTM

 

This does mean  that the evangelical counsels  are implicit in the Proposito [Resolution] of the CV to FOLLOW CHRIST  which is part of the Rite of Consecration to a life of Virginity.

 

 

The evangelical counsels are recognized to be something ALL baptized are called to. What CV's (and others) are not called to is RELIGIOUS poverty, or RELIGIOUS obedience. Meanwhile I would suggest sacred secularity is a rare reality and certainly NOT something people breathe naturally nor is it something that comes by default. Profane, even irreligious secularity is far more common or prevalent. It is the source of secularism which the Church regularly identifies as a bane of the modern world.

 

The arguments on the secularity of the vocation works very well for cultures with many religions, poverty, etc. In fact it is a perfect vehicle for implementation of the New Evangelization. Perhaps you don't live in a diverse region of the US but most of us here recognize the increasing character of American life is described in this way.

 

By the way, Sister Sharon Holland is clear that in writing the statutes for an association allowed by c 604, the model to be used is that of secular institutes. Her reasons seem cogent to me, especially regarding the cautions that statutes should in no way cause the nature of the vocation to shift or cause it to appear as a new form of consecrated or religious life.

 

Finally, just because someone is younger, they are still constrained by what the Church herself teaches, encourages, and practices about a vocation. Young or old they are committed to and constrained by a vocation with a particular nature. To suggest that certain women who wish to embrace a weak secularity (or a quasi-religious state) are "deepening the vocation" is a lot like my arguing that introducing communal life to canon 603 is a deepening of the vocation because community is essential to human life and needs to be modeled for the world. Solitude itself and especially the silence of solitude are rare in our world and as critical to human well-being. Thus, the silence of solitude is a charism my vocation brings to the world, while sacred secularity (with the graces of spousal, maternal love) is the charism CV's living in the world bring a world which needs these VERY badly.

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notes from stillsong.blogspot.com

Edited by SRLAUREL
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I keep promising myself that I’ll leave this thread alone, but with the recent turn in the discussion, I just wanted to clarify that I would NEVER knowingly argue a position that was manifestly against Church teachings.

 

My thoughts on consecrated virginity might be unpopular, and I know many people disagree with me. But, I’ve spoken with many knowledgeable people on many occasions, and I know for a fact that my ideas are (at the very least) not unorthodox or contrary to the teaching of the magisterium.

 

In trying to live the way I do, and in writing about my ideas on consecrated virginity, I am sincerely following my conscience. And even if I don’t agree with them, I respect CVs with different ideas insofar as they are also following their consciences in these matters.

 

Barring some sort of extraordinary intervention (like a revision to the Code of Canon Law or some kind of motu proprio), for the question of the nature and extent of consecrated virgins’ secularity to be definitely settled, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) in Rome would have to publish a document outlining the nature of, and legislating guidelines for, the vocation of consecrated virginity lived in the world. Then, if such an authoritative document were be written by the CICLSAL, it would then need to be submitted for careful review (and possibly also revision) by both the Secretariat of State as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before it could be promulgated and take effect.

 

The document that Sr. Laurel refers to is an article by Sr. Sharon Holland. Naturally, this article should be taken into consideration as an expert opinion, but it doesn’t have the authority of an official statement from the CICLSAL. Rather, technically speaking, it was a personal endeavor undertaken at Sr. Holland’s own initiative.

 

Until we do get an official document from the CICLSAL, it is perfectly legitimate for the faithful to have different ideas of what it means for consecrated virgins to be “secular.” Granted, a diocesan bishop can set practical guidelines for the way of life of the CVs of his own diocese (although this isn’t the same thing as officially clarifying a disputed point in the theology of the vocation). And of course it’s good to take expert opinions into account.

 

But, it’s certainly permissible to disagree with experts if you’ve studied the question carefully and come to different conclusions—especially since not all expert theologians and canon lawyers actually would agree on this point.

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I keep promising myself that I’ll leave this thread alone, but with the recent turn in the discussion, I just wanted to clarify that I would NEVER knowingly argue a position that was manifestly against Church teachings.

 

My thoughts on consecrated virginity might be unpopular, and I know many people disagree with me. But, I’ve spoken with many knowledgeable people on many occasions, and I know for a fact that my ideas are (at the very least) not unorthodox or contrary to the teaching of the magisterium.

 

In trying to live the way I do, and in writing about my ideas on consecrated virginity, I am sincerely following my conscience. And even if I don’t agree with them, I respect CVs with different ideas insofar as they are also following their consciences in these matters.

 

Barring some sort of extraordinary intervention (like a revision to the Code of Canon Law or some kind of motu proprio), for the question of the nature and extent of consecrated virgins’ secularity to be definitely settled, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) in Rome would have to publish a document outlining the nature of, and legislating guidelines for, the vocation of consecrated virginity lived in the world. Then, if such an authoritative document were be written by the CICLSAL, it would then need to be submitted for careful review (and possibly also revision) by both the Secretariat of State as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before it could be promulgated and take effect.

 

The document that Sr. Laurel refers to is an article by Sr. Sharon Holland. Naturally, this article should be taken into consideration as an expert opinion, but it doesn’t have the authority of an official statement from the CICLSAL. Rather, technically speaking, it was a personal endeavor undertaken at Sr. Holland’s own initiative.

 

Until we do get an official document from the CICLSAL, it is perfectly legitimate for the faithful to have different ideas of what it means for consecrated virgins to be “secular.” Granted, a diocesan bishop can set practical guidelines for the way of life of the CVs of his own diocese (although this isn’t the same thing as officially clarifying a disputed point in the theology of the vocation). And of course it’s good to take expert opinions into account.

 

But, it’s certainly permissible to disagree with experts if you’ve studied the question carefully and come to different conclusions—especially since not all expert theologians and canon lawyers actually would agree on this point.

 

Dear Sponsa,

     I don't think anyone has suggested you are not acting in good conscience. I would be very surprised to hear of someone doing that. Meanwhile, I would point out that there are various ways the Church teaches authoritatively and a revision of canon law or a moto proprio is not a common way of doing so. One cannot simply dismiss the overwhelming evidence of what the Church believes with regard to the secularity of this vocation from so many directions (historical, theological, liturgical, pastoral, canonical, formation praxis, conciliar context etc) and chalk all these up to expert opinions which may be disagreed with impunity and without seriously admitting one might just be thinking counter to the mind of the Church in this matter. As for Sister Sharon Holland's article, she wrote this while a sort of "bureau chief" of CICLSAL. The only persons higher than she in CICLSAL when she wrote this were a Cardinal and a Bishop because these positions HAD to be be filled by priests of similar grades. So, I would be very wary of suggesting this is "just another" document with no greater authority than any other, or one which can be dismissed as a private project written by Sister Holland on her own initiative and equal to weight to what any other knowledgeable person might write. I don't think you have provided any evidence of this but (right or wrong) have merely assumed it.

 

     Speaking of evidence,  I would personally like to hear you actually respond to some of the arguments given here by presenting an alternate version of them with various forms of evidence (historical, exegetical, sociological, liturgical, etc) and theological reasoning instead of simply dismissing them because they don't have the kind of authority you personally will recognize. What I have heard you argue thus far both here and on your blog tends to be various versions of "there is no absolute proof so every opinion is of equal worth and I am entirely free to believe what ever I will." Surely you know that this is not the case in the Church. You can disagree with individual experts, of course, but it would be very difficult to suggest the Church more generally has been mistakenly consecrating secular women for the past 30 years without requiring they separate themselves from their secularity in significant ways some time BEFORE their consecration. You can disagree with an individual statement here or there, but it is difficult to actually see how you can legitimately oppose the strong secularity of this vocation which is rooted in 1) the Church's revision of the Rite and 2) her reprise of the lost secular expression of the vocation which stood side by side the cloistered expression until 1139, unless you simply deny the historical facts. Arguing that this is essentially a proto-religious vocation when there was a secular expression which pre and ante-dated the origin and early development of the cloistered expression makes little sense. Did the secular expression simply continue on as a spurious form of the vocation for almost 12 Centuries? Even with regard to Sister Sharon's article, "Consecrated Virgins for Today's Church", Consecrated Life, vol 24, no 2 (Chicago Institute on Consecrated Life), I haven't seen you actually contend with WHAT she says. Instead you claim you MAY disagree with her, but provide no evidence as to WHY you do so which evidences either a similar historical and theological acumen or  the careful reflection she shows in this article.

 

       Please understand the strong (sacred) secularity of this vocation is NOT an open question. The Church demonstrates this every day she consecrates secular women without requiring (and while in fact prohibiting them from adopting) the things which set religious apart from the secular. Also, as I am sure you know, official liturgy has the force of law and is considered authoritative (Lex orandi, lex credendi). You would need to overthrow the historical facts, and demonstrate the past 30 year development of this vocation has been misguided and that 30 years of consecrations are apparently destructive and perhaps invalid as well in order to demonstrate this. We cannot deny the Church HAS made a fundamental choice in reprising this secular expression of the vocation in the light of Vatican II and its theology; it is a choice for a paradoxical but strong secularity which complements the cloistered religious expression. You (et al) can say she is wrong in doing so; you can argue she must not go any further down this path than she already has and clarify why you say that (in fact it would be very interesting to hear you actually discuss this), but you really cannot cogently argue it is an open question without ignoring reality.

 

I wish you all the best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

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"I just wanted to clarify that I would NEVER knowingly argue a position that was manifestly against Church teachings."

 

Sponsa Christi, I think the problem is that you don't recognize the layers & nuances in the life of the Church. Sure, if you only want to use 2 categories: 1) items infallibly taught by the Magisterium, and 2) everything else, then you can argue until the cows come home that everything which doesn't fall in category #1 is up for debate.

That simply isn't true.

 

What I would like to hear is an explanation from you (a demonstration, if you will, clearly presented out and thought through) of why you think your opinion on X matter is equal to Archbishop Burke's elucidation.

 

I gave a very specific example a few pages ago.

 

In his role of Episcopal moderator of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins (a post which he was assigned to by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) he wrote a short document titled "What is the Consecration of a Virgin?"

In that document he specifies, "The consecrated virgin living in the world embodies a definitive vocation in itself. She is not a quasi-Religious, nor is she in the process of becoming a Religious institute or congregation. Nevertheless, she is a consecrated person, with her bishop as her guide. By virtue of the Consecration, she is responsible to pray for her diocese and clergy. At no time is the diocese responsible for her financial support.

 

The consecrated virgin living in the worlds, as expressed in Canon 604, is irrevocably 'consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan bishop consecrates [her] according to the approved liturgical rite.' The consecrated virgin attends Mass daily (if possible), prays the Divine Office, and spends much time in private prayer. She can choose the Church-approved spirituality she prefers to follow.

 

Supporting herself by earning her own living, the consecrated virgin is not obliged to take on any particular work or apostolate. Usually, consecrated virgins in the United States volunteer their time to their local parish, diocese, or Church-sponsored association. Some volunteer their time also in civic responsibilities."

 

As you've mentioned in a number of places, this elucidation of Archbishop Burke regarding the parameters and expectations of consecrated virgins in the United States differs greatly from your opinion on the matter. You think consecrated virgins should work directly for the Church and not in secular jobs.

 

I am interested in your view of the nature of Archbishop Burke's authority on this matter. (In fact, it seems you think he has no authority of any kind on this matter, and is simply giving his own well-formed opinion.)

 

What I would like is to hear your explanation of how you have come to the conclusion (assuming you have reached this conclusion, as seems evident by what you've written) that he has no kind of authority in his position as Episcopal moderator and why you think his elucidations on the matter are simply opinions.

 

For those who aren't familiar with him, I'd also like to point out that Archbishop Burke is no longer the Episcopal moderator of the USACV. He stepped down from that role when the Holy Father appointed him Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Apart from the Pope himself, the buck stops with the Signatura on many issues. A loose illustration would be that Cardinal Burke now holds a position comparable (in some aspects) to the position held by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Let me add that I by no means think "if the clergy say X, I must be wrong" regarding general matters. But I'll stop there, because I do think the burden of proof (if you will) is on you to demonstrate that Archbishop Burke's elucidation of the matter in his role as Episcopal moderator is equal to your opinion.

 

I know that you have a lot of opinions on this vocation, but instead of simply repeating that all opinions are valid, and experts disagree, and some of those experts agree with you, I would appreciate it if you would take the time to explain what you believe the nature of Archbishop Burke's role was and why his clarification essentially holds no water.

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As for Sister Sharon Holland's article, she wrote this while a sort of "bureau chief" of CICLSAL. The only persons higher than she in CICLSAL when she wrote this were a Cardinal and a Bishop because these positions HAD to be be filled by priests of similar grades. So, I would be very wary of suggesting this is "just another" document with no greater authority than any other, or one which can be dismissed as a private project written by Sister Holland on her own initiative and equal to weight to what any other knowledgeable person might write. I don't think you have provided any evidence of this but (right or wrong) have merely assumed it.

 

Speaking of evidence, I would personally like to hear you actually respond to some of the arguments given here by presenting an alternate version of them with various forms of evidence (historical, exegetical, sociological, liturgical, etc) and theological reasoning instead of simply dismissing them because they don't have the kind of authority you personally will recognize.

 

I do have positive reasons for believing what I do; for me, this isn’t a matter of just believing whatever I want simply because I can. I haven’t shared my positive reasons here in great detail only because there seems to be a general consensus that this thread shouldn’t continue any longer than it has to.

 

(One thought I had—since moving this to the debate table doesn’t seem to be working, maybe Sr. Laurel could open the comment box on her blog, at least temporarily, to continue the discussion there? I might also try to write a post on my blog which could host a similar discussion.)

 

If I’ve focused on clarifying what is and isn’t authoritative with regards to consecrated virginity, it’s only because I’m concerned many woman (not just people here) are making major life decisions based on explanations that they would seem to believe are authoritative, but which actually are not. If an aspiring consecrated virgin chooses to embrace the USACV’s and Card. Burke’s understanding of consecrated virginity, that’s fine—but she should know that there are other legitimate opinions out there.

 

Even though Sr. Sharon Holland did occupy a high-ranking position at the CICLSAL, her article was not formally written on behalf of that Congregation. Therefore, it does remain simply her expert opinion—but to put this in perspective, let’s remember even the Pope’s “Jesus of Nazareth” books are only representative of the Pope’s personal opinions as a theologian, since he specifically did not write them as an expression of papal authority. Just because you can (or do) disagree with someone doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t (or don’t) take them seriously.

 

One “positive” argument I will share is that there actually is plenty of evidence from the writings of the Church Fathers that early CV’s did live a distinctively “consecrated” way of life. One excellent example of this is St. Jerome’s letter 22 to St. Eustochium, advising her on how to live now that she has officially become a consecrated virgin. Another is St. Ambrose’s work, De Virginibus, written to his sister St. Marcellina, who was also consecrated to a life of virginity

 

And the same time, I have not come across any concrete evidence that the early CVs lead a secular lifestyle in the way that we generally understand that word today—i.e., as in most similar to the way of life of modern-day secular institute members. Even the article by Sr. Sharon Holland (which, for those interested, you can read online here: http://consecratedvirgins.org/usacv/sites/default/files/documents/VocRes/holland.pdf ) doesn’t seem to mention this explicitly.

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What I would like is to hear your explanation of how you have come to the conclusion (assuming you have reached this conclusion, as seems evident by what you've written) that he has no kind of authority in his position as Episcopal moderator and why you think his elucidations on the matter are simply opinions.

 

 

Authority within the Church, while it can be wide-ranging, is generally also fairly limited (the only exception to this being the Holy Father himself, whose authority is universal). That is, even bishops and cardinals can act with true authority only within the specific sphere of their particular mission.

 

Cardinal Burke is the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, which is indeed a very high-ranking office within the Church. However, the Apostolic Signatura does not deal directly with doctrinal issues, and it doesn’t have competence over issues pertaining to consecrated life. The Congregation in Rome that does deal with consecrated life, including consecrated virginity, is the CICLSAL, of which Cardinal Burke has never been a member. Therefore, while Cardinal Burke’s canonical acumen certainly makes him someone worth listening to, he doesn’t actually have the power to make authoritative interpretations on the nature of consecrated virginity. (And even if he was the Prefect of the CICLSAL, I still don’t think he would be able to give authoritative interpretations unilaterally.)

 

In terms of his former role as episcopal moderator of the USACV…

 

The U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins does do a lot of good work (especially in providing moral support and encouragement for individual consecrated virgins), but they are not an association which actually has any canonical authority whatsoever—officially, they are simply a group of individuals who come together on their own personal initiative for mutual support. Even though the USACV is made up of women who love the Church and are committed to obeying the magisterium, the USACV doesn’t canonically represent the Church in any way.

 

So, they can develop their own understanding of the vocation, and they can make their own resources material available for bishops to accept and use within his own diocese if the individual bishop so chooses. But ultimately, their understanding of the nature of consecrated virginity is simply their opinion, and their advice to consecrated virgins, candidates, and discerners are on the level of strong suggestions.

 

Because of this, the legal authority (with respect to consecrated virgins) of the USACV’s “episcopal moderator” is limited to establishing practical guidelines for the CVs of his own diocese if he happens to be a diocesan bishop, and also whatever role the USACV internal rules grant him in the governance of their non-authoritative organization. While the role of episcopal moderator may give a bishop a great practical pastoral understanding of consecrated virginity, it doesn’t give him any special jurisdiction over consecrated virgins, either nationally within the U.S.A. or universally within the Church.

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Sponsa Christi, you’ve missed the point entirely regarding Cardinal Burke’s current position within the Church. It has nothing (in the context of my post) to do with who does what in the Curia.

 

The point in highlighting Cardinal Burke’s current high position within the Church was to get you to explain how it is that you maintain your own opinion on this vocation can habitually, and in all manner & on all matters, be held equal to his. That’s not to say you might not have valid points and valid opinions. It is to say that I am in no way convinced that in weighing these matters I should not give far more credence to his discernment & expertise (based on who he is and what he does) than I do to yours. That’s the issue at hand. You’ve repeatedly dismissed his input as “one more opinion” seemingly equal to your own pretty much across the boards.  

 

I find it curious that you begin your discussion of Cardinal Burke’s former role as the Episcopal moderator of the USACV in terms of what authority the USACV doesn’t have. The USACV, as a voluntary association, and the Episcopal moderator to that association, appointed by the local conference of Catholic bishops, are not one and the same.

 

I find it likewise curious that you then launch into a discussion of what authority (narrowly understood, juridically) he does not have and from there conclude that any input he may have is therefore non-authoritative across the boards.

 

Is the only authority you recognize what you call canonical?

 

Do you think there is such a thing as pastoral authority? Do you think that as a representative of the USCCB--which is CERTAINLY a gathering of authoritative figures-- he has, as their appointed “man on the ground” regarding this vocation, any input to give on this vocation other than his own personal opinion?

 

I do realize that you are trying to answer my questions, but from my perspective, you haven’t. Or else, your answer is that he has no authority of any kind on the matter and his opinion is in fact only an opinion and equal to your own.

 

I tried to get you to explain what kind of authority you think he did have as Episcopal moderator. As far as I can tell, you selected one kind of authority, one that excludes him, and applied that unilaterally as the only legitimate type of authority there is.

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