Synodality? Collegiality? Not so much.

16_05_20_rescript_01This morning early I received an SMS: “Parolin announces ‘clarification’ of CIC by which no diocesan institute of religious can be erected validly without Vatican OK.”

“Gosh!”, or words to that effect, “So much for the collegiality and decentralization that libs so crave”, quoth I.

Buried on page 8 of the number of Saturday, 21 May L’Osservatore Romano we read that the Congregation is concerned that there might spring up new institutes which might not have “l’originalita del carisma… originality of (their) charism”.

Does every new institute have to have an “original charism”?  One that no other institute has ever had?  Anyway…

Can. 579  says: “Provided the Apostolic See has been consulted, diocesan Bishops can, by formal decree, establish institutes of consecrated life in their own territories.”

That doesn’t speak to validity.

Looking at the actual wording of the new rescript, as of 1 June 2016, diocesan bishops will have to “consult” with the Congregation in order “validly” to erect a Diocesan Institute of Consecrated Life in his diocese.

NB: The bishops do not need to obtain permission. He needs to consult.

Say Bp. Noble of Black Duck receives some priests from the neighboring Diocese of Libville where Bp. Fatty McButterpants is persecuting traditional Catholics. They set up an Oratory at a sleepy inner-city parish with a fading school, near to the university and a couple hospitals. Bp. Noble “consults” with the Congregation. During the “consultation”, the Prefect, not known to be a friend of things traditional, gives a negative view of the project. Bp. Noble smiles, thanks the Prefect, returns to Black Duck and then sets up the Oratory. He has “consulted”.

I have no idea what the background story is here, but I think that somebody, somewhere, is nervous about the kind of institutes that are springing up, where they are on the ecclesiastical spectrum. I suspect, I don’t know but I suspect, that someone wants slow down a certain type of institute.

Meanwhile, the decision still rests with the diocesan bishop.

Bottom line: This seems to be more of a change of attitude than of law.

UPDATE 21 May:

The esteemed Vaticanista Marco Tossati has a similar view at La Stampa.  HERE

He concludes (my translation):

In brief, this means that bishops, individual bishops are less free; and their authority as successors of the apostles – because that’s what we’re dealing with – is undergoing a severe limitation, in favor of a Roman Congregation, the one that handles religious life.  They have to pass through its consensus to approve new diocesan religious institutes.


Good grief!  Haven’t we heard at every turn about decentralization, synodality, and all that jazz?

The Spirit blows, as we know, where He will; but from now on He will have to make a phone call ahead of time to Card. Joao Braz de Aviz.  And maybe even first get a recommendation from a theologian of Liberation Theology….

Tosatti, as you can see, has a somewhat negative view of this move. Also, it may be that, if I am reading this correctly, he misses the point that bishops – provided that they have backbones – are still free to establish institutes of consecrated life, provided that they “consult”… “consult”, not “obtain permission”.


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  1. Janol says:

    But really, what is new here? See 1983 CCL:
    Can. 579 Provided the Apostolic See has been consulted, diocesan Bishops can, by formal decree, establish institutes of consecrated life in their own territories.

  2. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    “Bottom line: This seems to be more of a change of attitude than of law.”

    And isn’t that what we are being told about Amoris Laetitia? Not to worry?

  3. Thomistica says:

    Why not just leave it up to the internal forum of anyone who wants to form an institute of religious?
    And what’s with all this canon law stuff? Aren’t we all now… antinomians? Canon law is so…20th century. [Irony alert]

  4. majuscule says:

    Your hypothetical example bears some resemblance to an Oratory that I know of.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  5. Rich says:

    St. John Paul II wrote that some charisms “can even be shared by others in such ways as to continue in time a precious and effective heritage, serving as a source of a particular spiritual affinity among persons” (Christifideles Laici 24). In such cases, “originality of charism” would not be a necessary mark of authenticity, the charisms’ very purpose being that of handing on a preexisting heritage.

    In addition, the Second Vatican Council stated that “charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. …judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.” (Lumen Gentium 12)

    So, for those charisms for which “originality of charism” would not be a necessary mark of authenticity, to demand such a requirement would be an arbitrary inhibition to receiving such charisms with thanksgiving, and might potentially lead to extinguishing the Spirit.

  6. Amerikaner says:

    I read somewhere that if a bishop doesn’t ‘consult,’ then the grounding of a community can be dissolved.

    When I first read this, I wondered if it came about because of the FFIs.

  7. Ariseyedead says:

    “Bottom line: This seems to be more of a change of attitude than of law.”

    This statement sums up the entire Franciscan Papacy. And, it seems, the new Franciscan attitude knows no law!

  8. Elizabeth D says:

    I am a little puzzled by what they say about new congregations all needing to have a unique charism and would like to understand that better. But the group that comes immediately to mind that has always puzzled me, much as I love both Carmel and the Traditional Latin Mass, is the “Carmelite Monks of Wyoming” with their claim to be living “the original Carmelite charism”. This is what they consistently frame themselves as–“the new Mount Carmel”–but the idea of a monastic life of priestly choir monks with an elaborate monastery in the Carthusian style, is something strikingly new in the history of the Carmelite tradition, not exactly an imitation of the original lay penitential hermits of the pilgrim rest station on Mount Carmel (who freely chose to become friars when they first became a canonical religious order). This group is presumably never going to be an Order with true solemn vows (like the ancient Orders), at least there does not seem like there would be any path to that, and I am not 100% clear whether they are a religious Congregation as yet. This is not to say they are bad, but it is to say they are puzzling and Rome may also not know what to do with this. I think it is totally reasonable and necessary to require the Carmelite Monks to articulate their unique charism.

    I think it is true that a group that aspires to be a religious congregation and isn’t recognized as such by Rome remains an Association of the Faithful. There are some fine groups that are Associations of the Faithful. A little googling shows that this is the status of the very well known Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word for instance (the EWTN Franciscans). They are not yet an institute of consecrated life in the canonical sense. I think this means they are (canonically) diocesan priests?

    Without commenting on the value of some of the groups that fall into this category, in some cases I myself have questions about new groups starting that draw on the charism of ancient religious orders. The OFMs already existed and Mother Agnelica formed the MFVAs as a group specifically to serve EWTN.

  9. Trisagion says:

    4 words: Franciscans of the Immaculate

  10. JabbaPapa says:

    I read a very interesting article a couple of years ago, which was a fairly deep part theological/part character study of what the terms “Synodality” and “Collegiality” mean to both Pope Francis personally (on the basis of how he implemented them at the Diocesan and Archdiocesan level in Argentina), and to the particular “branch” or “school” of Jesuitism that he belongs to.

    I cannot remember every detail of the article, but in brief, that understanding is directly opposed to the lefty interpretation of those words whereby the Liberals attempted to introduce some sort of “democratic” governance of the Church via the Bishops Conferences, wherein each Bishop is subjected to the decisions of his Conference, because it’s a Collegiality based upon the traditional sovereignty of each Bishop in his Diocese, whereby the heart of the Synodality is viewed as the Diocesan Synod, not the Universal one.

    It’s an understanding that returns to a more direct relationship of each Bishop with the Pontiff and the See of Rome, by consequence making the Bishops Conferences more Collegial in the traditional sense, away from the notion of majority rule which plagued the Conferences and paralysed disagreements with the “rule” of consensus, for decades.

  11. JabbaPapa says:

    I also think that this is a wise precautionary measure against the twin danger of Americanism and Gallicanism against the Catholicity of the Church.

  12. cwillia1 says:

    I am confused. Does this mean a bishop has to consult with Rome before he blesses a group of lay Catholics who want to live the monastic life in community? This is absurd. It sounds like a lot of legalistic nonsense.

  13. Papabile says:

    FOR some groups that consultation will go on forever; for some will take 30 days.

    Sit back and watch.

  14. Elizabeth D says:

    cwillia1, I don’t think it means that, it means that the bishop cannot canonically confer status as a religious congregation until he confers with Rome and Rome is okay with it.

    I think the question of whether lay people can be called “monks” is at least a little little ambiguous. In Saint Benedict’s day I don’t think canon law about this was very thoroughly developed. In western Christianity there are two families of monks, the Benedictines (which incudes also Cistercian, Trappist, Camaldolese etc) and the Carthusians. They have solemn vows–and the Church today does not initiate any new religious families of this category. There are also enclosed monastic nuns of several Orders where the male branch are not monks, the reason for this stemming from strong rules historically requiring all female religious to be enclosed.

    Are groups of lay people living the principles of monastic life (the Rule of St Benedict for instance) and an outward appearance resembling traditional monasticism, monks? I think this is sometimes a soft use of the term, like when religious sisters in simple vows (like, schoolteacher sisters) are called “nuns.” Technically they are not nuns (they are not monastics). Canonically a lay person OR a person in a monastic-style religious congregation that is not a Order is not the same thing as a Benedictine or Carthusian monk. But in that kind of case, for instance in a group that is an association of the faithful following all the procedures to become a religious congregation and act in good faith, and they are sincerely seeking to tend toward evangelical perfection according to monastic wisdom, it might be unreasonable to refuse to let them be known as monks. Women in an association of the faithful trying to become a religious congregation are routinely known as sisters. That is not unreasonable, but if it doesn’t pan out that they can become a religious congregation then I think they should stop that. I sincerely doubt that lay people who independently set themselves up as “monks” without this having any relation to their local bishop should be recognized as monks.

  15. Benedict Joseph says:

    Surely this is all about control. Recall well Pope Bergoglio’s conversation with some religious weeks after his election, his diminishment of pronouncements from Rome to religious. What was it – “Don’t take them too seriously.” Then, the Franciscans of the Immaculate were given a good lesson on what should be taken seriously. They have endured a grievous injustice – even during this Jubilee of Mercy.
    Be well aware, we don’t want institutes emerging that might appeal to the classical forms religious life. Asceticism. It might even provide an impediment to the celebrations for the quincentennial of the protestant revolt.
    It all comes down to control. You can do whatever you want as long as it finds conformity to the notions of the powerful, and always in the spirit of the council.
    Give me strength.

  16. chantgirl says:

    Call me cynical, but might this be an attempt to prop up dying “mainstream” religious orders?

  17. kiwiinamerica says:

    Careful now, y’all. You don’t want to be filling the internet with hate, do you?

    Seriously, this is yet another example of the double standards of the deconstructionists. When it suits their purposes, such as when they’re wanting to weaken Church discipline, it’s all about “collegiality” and “synodality”. Yet when they fear the movement of the Holy Spirit, they clamp down hard. They know, that any new religious institutes will likely be traditional in orientation since the modernists don’t form religious institutes. They run them into the ground, kill vocations and then close them. So there’s no doubt that this is designed to avoid another Franciscans of the Immaculate.

    This is similar to all the blather we’ve heard over the last 50 years about “lay involvement in the life of the Church”. What this means to the liberals is female Eucharistic ministers swarming all over the sanctuary and the parish Justice and Peace Commission organizing anti-war protests. Yet when the laity become militantly pro-Church tradition and really start to make themselves heard by writing their own blogs, for instance, these faithless rogues start whining.

    Suddenly, the “spirit of Vatican II” is nowhere to be found.

  18. I recall an episode of the West Wing, about a State of the Union Address, in which Toby Ziegler declares “The President could send Congress a copy of the New York Times, and he will have fulfilled his constitutional obligation.”

  19. Pingback: SUNDAY AFTERNOON EDITION – Big Pulpit

  20. JKnott says:

    Interesting, especially now when the rubrics for annulments has changed, leaving the decision with the Bishop / diocese only.

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