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Reasons To Leave A Monastery


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im referring to internal forum

 

Ahh, good point.  A superior (who has to perform certain things in the external forum) should not be an SD/Confessor (internal forum) so as to be sure not to mix the two?   I know this is what seminaries (diocesan or otherwise) try to practice, but I didn't see this explicit in Canon law linked at the bottom of this:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_forum

 

I know when I was in a community as a postulant, we were strongly encouraged NOT to have an outside director (which I thought was odd, and I was not convinced was 'legal' under canon law.)  We were also told we HAD to use one confessor (and we were not allowed to ask for anyone else, which again, I thought was not legal, and frankly odd... the guy was holy, but he was also almost totally deaf!).  We were also specifically that the superiors would be given the graces to direct us... and that others, even holy others, would not have those graces.

(...)

For those of you who are or have been in religious life or seminary, or anything comparable, or if you know others who are/have been, are those two roles generally kept separate, and if not, did you experience problems/benefits from that?
 

 

For the first part, your experience there does sound hokey.  If it was a seminary it would definitely violate Canon Law.  Not sure if it's against the rules for sisters so interestested in what others say.  I knew some folks at an order that thought they too knew when God was handing out "special graces" and, in general, I think it's a dangerous sign of overconfidence to be so confident about where grace is and isn't.  Right?  Or am I wrong here?

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Friar John Paul, this thread is about the experiences of people who have left monastic life.  I don't know whether you have had the experience of leaving a religious community but I don't think it is

Very interesting thread! I was a postulant and will share some experiences I’ve had, in hopes it will be of service. In advance, forgive me please if I am verbose.   I’ve been in three communiti

Dear Sr. Madeleine Marie:   I have read this thread carefully, and maybe I missed it.  If your community was specifically mentioned in this thread please hit the report button and we (mods) will cor

Wellll... I don't know about the internal/external forum, and I'd like someone to clarify it for us as it applies to candidates for religious life and/or seminary.  Are we talking about the external formation of candidates vis a vis the internal formation (i.e., spiritual direction?), or is it something else?  I keep hearing the term bandied about, but even the link you provided, Notre Dame, is about how it applies to marriages.   Anyone know for sure (ideally with a cite?) how it applies to religious life?

 

As far as the experiences that I had (and as have been related to me by many, many others) in the convent/monastery, my gut tells me there is a little bit of a double standard on how males and females are handled in formation.   This is my own opinion, and I'm stating it as such, by the way.   The men often seem to have a lot more freedom in general, often more freedom in clothing worn in free time, in living situations and/or home visits, it just the ability to 'get away' a bit from day-to-day 24/7 religious life experience.   Most women religious in a moderate or traditional community are NOT given that kind of freedom.   And above all, most of them DO NOT have the ability to pick and choose spiritual advisors... and a lot of them are told they MUST use either one of their superiors or a designated person within the order or within a parallel men's community.  And I don't think it is always a good practice... and I do think it probably is in violation of canon law to require it.  But I'd be curious to know if anyone knows for sure.

 

Do I think God gives special graces to superiors... yes I do.  Do I think those mean someone can dictate to another what God wants from them... NOPE.   Absolutely NOPE.

 

Of course, I'm human, and I could be wrong... and my direct pipe line to God has gone dry.   Sad but true.

 

 

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I know when I was in a community as a postulant, we were strongly encouraged NOT to have an outside director (which I thought was odd, and I was not convinced was 'legal' under canon law.)  We were also told we HAD to use one confessor (and we were not allowed to ask for anyone else, which again, I thought was not legal, and frankly odd... the guy was holy, but he was also almost totally deaf!).  We were also specifically that the superiors would be given the graces to direct us... and that others, even holy others, would not have those graces.

It really is not a good practice of keeping spiritual direction inside a community where you are a member as there is too much bias and not enough neutrality.  I've heard of communities doing this but the practice has always been the best where you are allowed to ask for another confessor/spiritual director.  No director/confessor will work for everybody.  I have certain priests who I prefer to go to for Confession because I feel they really help where as others seem to do a "one size fits all" approach and give everyone the same penance.  I like penance to be worth something - the punishment fits the crime, so to speak.  If I had to remain with a director/confessor I felt I was not benefiting from, it would really ruin the experience.  What you described is not against Canon Law, per se, but is very much frowned upon for obvious reasons.

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The appropriate canon to refer to is this one: (concerning the governance of institutes)

 

Can. 630 §1. Superiors are to recognize the due freedom of their members regarding the sacrament of penance and direction of conscience, without prejudice, however, to the discipline of the institute.

§2. According to the norm of proper law, superiors are to be concerned that suitable confessors are available to the members, to whom the members can confess frequently.

§3. In monasteries of nuns, in houses of formation, and in more numerous lay communities, there are to be ordinary confessors approved by the local ordinary after consultation with the community; nevertheless, there is no obligation to approach them.

§4. Superiors are not to hear the confessions of subjects unless the members request it on their own initiative.

§5. Members are to approach superiors with trust, to whom they can freely and on their own initiative open their minds. Superiors, however, are forbidden to induce the members in any way to make a manifestation of conscience to them.

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OK, I appreciate the reference, LittlePaula... and it is wise and good as far as it goes.. but what does it do for a sister who is being told the ONLY person she can go to for confession is the ONE confessor provided for the community?  Because this does occur.  And I don't think it is a good situation!

 

And what about a situation where a sister is told point blank, the superiors will give you all the direction you will need.... or we do not let the sisters have outside spiritual directors?  Or "Father is not interested in the problems of postulants; just make your confession and leave the confessional."  

 

Or that the ONLY confessors available seem to be members of the same religious tradition/family/institute as the sisters.

 

Short of deciding to leave, what kinds of options does a sister in these situations have available to her?  Because... if she argues with the superior, she is going to have a problem.  And if she doesn't, she might as well as reconcile herself to living the situation(s) outlined above.

 

I don't want to sound grumpy, but I have heard of these situations from SEVERAL people who have left religious institutes... and experienced some of it myself.   

 

And I compare and contrast that with what seems to happen to men in seminaries, or in religious institutes, and there are SEVERAL confessors available to them... and/or they are encouraged to have someone outside... or because they simply have more freedom to come and go, they can take advantage of confessors available to the 'general public' in a parish.

 

I'm curious to know if I am the ONLY one who has seen this kind of thing...?

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I have seen it and experienced it!

 

Though it was a ling time ago, I know it can and does still happen today.

 

When I first went to France I was told there was one confessor (who did not speak English). I was rather perturbed but was told it didn't matter and that Father would give me absolution if I just confessed in English. It was a bit weird for a while, but we did have an extraordinary confessor who spoke a bit of English so I went to him until I was fluent in French.

 

Much much later on, when things in the community became contentious, our external confessor suddenly disappeared and there was only one priest to whom we could confess or obtain direction. My objections brought me into direct conflict with our newest Superior and eventually my vow of Obedience was called into question on this point.

Things degenerated pretty quickly for me after this and it was a major influence in my asking for exclaustration.

 

It is essential that there is provision of an extraordinary confessor, and that someone being told their difficulties/fears/concerns are not to be spoken of in the confessional is not healthy.

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AnneLine, I greatly appreciate your posts... I feel like I could have written each of them myself. I have heard all the things you have said from a number of women who entered and left communities too, and this is something I have been trying to understand and get to the bottom of myself for a while. I experienced this too (not in a Carmel to make that clear) I have since been trying to understand how this works in Carmel though... and have heard a variety of experiences. Each seems to handle this differently, some better than others, or from what I have heard.

 

Alas, I am on phatmass at too odd of an hour to think very clearly! so I'll have to come back when I can (can't get online much during the day though...) One book that I think would be worth getting and reading on this, 

 

Ttyl for now! :sleep2:

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I wanted to say how much I appreciate this thread.

 

I know that most of us have good experiences in our discernment and many come to a difficult if needful decision to leave RL for themselves, but it is possible to be misty eyed over thinking about what can possibly not be okay about RL and I think it is healthy that we can both talk openly about this and make others aware.

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internal forum is basically a manifestation of conscience. Whatever is learned by someone in the internal forum (manifestations of conscience) cannot be revealed by them or acted upon in the external forum.

When someone is your superior and is responsible for the decision about whether you will continue, or choosing what classes you will take, or what house you will be sent to, or even what chores you get assigned --- all of it in the external forum... its not appropriate to have that person be the person to whom you divulge your conscience. Because the conscience is a sacred thing and people do not have a right to know it just because they are in a position of authority.

this is what I was told by a spiritual director I had immediately after I came out.


Lilllabettt, thank you for putting this so clearly!

It is so important to have your head screwed on right in those situations. I know that I contributed to a superior being able to blur the lines between spiritual direction and monastery formation by temporarily suspending my critical thinking. I wonder if women entering communities are more susceptible to that, because we're brought up to be more acquiescent and willing to please? When I think how completely vulnerable I was, how I encouraged it in myself because I thought it was virtuous to tell the superior everything she wanted to know, even out of idle curiosity (and therefore sinful to want to withhold information), I thank God from the bottom of my heart that he helped me eventually switch my brain back on!

Half the problem is that you do want to be an open book in that situation - I went in giving 100% and really wanted to be changed and formed into the best nun I could be. I thought if I did as I was told, in all innocence, then it would all work out. God would not allow anything really bad to happen. But he did, and then he took me through it. So I guess he is as good as his word. But I certainly will never give myself as unthinkingly to any person again. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
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As far as the experiences that I had (and as have been related to me by many, many others) in the convent/monastery, my gut tells me there is a little bit of a double standard on how males and females are handled in formation.   This is my own opinion, and I'm stating it as such, by the way.   The men often seem to have a lot more freedom in general,

 

Well, many men in religious life are also in formation for the priesthood, so there is more canon law covering these men and the situation also necessitates more oversight from the Church in general, since if you ordain someone and put him in the community he represents the whole church to the public.  

 

However, I assure you there are massive abuses within men's groups as well.  As always, the Legion of Christ is the easiest example, but I was with a community that also had major problems in this area.  They both have their own seminaries too, so unlike some orders that send that their seminarians to a seminary run by someone else that could have a mix of candidates and priests, they keep everything in-house.  This means that seminarians are possibly *never* outside the view and control of that order and that they might never have access to outside opinions/counsel/direction.

 

In my opinion, when combined with a flawed understanding of the vow of obedience, keeping confession/SD/formation all in-house - in many cases even allowing confession to superiors - creates environment where it is all too easy to manipulate those who are in formation, be it manipulating their discernment and conscience, or manipulating them in a million other ways.   In fact, in some cases it's design this way on purpose to allow manipulation and control.   The LoC are the best example of this, but not the only one.

 

The group I was with probably realized that for them to do what they wanted to do and say what they wanted to say without getting challenged, they would need to keep everything in house.  For example, allowing those in formation to get direction from an educated dominican priest (and to share all the questionable things going on) would have resulted in many of them "discerning out" of these orders - and it may bring investigators from the diocese or Vatican as well.

 

It's important to remember that just because people wear habits (or cassocks), it doesn't make them saints.  We know the larger orders are the work of God, but some of these smaller ones?  In many cases it could be more the will of the men founding them. 

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The appropriate canon to refer to is this one: (concerning the governance of institutes)

 

 

Thanks LP!  Good to have that!  Hadn't seen that before!

 

 

Is anyone in touch with this Therese Ivers woman?  I really want to read her blog, but all the old posts seem to be password protected.  I "sign up" to the blog and log-in it doesn't change anything.  All the "read more" links to see full blog posts just ends up redirecting to the front page.  This happens on multiple browsers, so I'm pretty sure it's on her end. 

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AnneLine, you are right that the rules for men's communities are usually more lenient. Although of course there are many exceptions. I do think in part it is a result of gender disparities in human history that became part of tradition and were never dislodged from the orders that absorbed them. I remember the first time I discovered this, how shocked I was, and how it made it seem like the women were considered to be children who needed to be watched and controlled more carefully. .

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