US Association of Consecrated Virgins condemns confusing new rules from Holy See

This is interesting… in the wake of the Holy See’s confusing document on consecrated virginity.  Ed Peter‘s wrote:

Now, according to the plain terms of ESI, the Blessed Virgin Mary, archetype of virginity consecrated to God, would not be eligible for admission to the order of virgins, but Mary Magdalene, model for women who, Deo gratias, set aside a promiscuous life, would be eligible.

Something, I suggest, is seriously wrong with such norms.

Hence, the consecrated virgins of these USA are pretty irritated.

US Association of Consecrated Virgins condemns ‘shocking’ new rules

The US Association of Consecrated Virgins has said it is “deeply disappointed” at new rules issued by the Vatican that appear to say consecrated virgins need not be virgins.

The group has taken issue with section 88 of the new document, which states: “Thus to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practiced the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to the discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.”

The USACV said it was “shocking to hear from Mother Church that physical virginity may no longer be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity.”

“The entire tradition of the Church has firmly upheld that a woman must have received the gift of virginity – that is, both material and formal (physical and spiritual) – in order to receive the consecration of virgins,” the association added.

They said that the new rules do not change the prerequisites for consecration as stated in the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, which says: “In the case of virgins leading lives in the world it is required that they have never celebrated marriage and that they have not publicly or manifestly lived in a state contrary to chastity.”

The USACV says that this means virginity is a minimum requirement for consecration, and they add that there are “some egregious violations of chastity” that, although they do not violate virginity, do disqualify women from receiving consecration.

The Vatican issued the document, titled Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, last week after requests from bishops throughout the world for clarity on the role of consecrated virgins amid an upsurge in vocations.

A consecrated virgin is a woman who has never married who pledges perpetual virginity and dedicates her life to God. Unlike a nun, she does not live in a community and leads a secular life, providing for her own needs.

Stay tuned!

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  1. jhayes says:

    They said that the new rules do not change the prerequisites for consecration as stated in the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, which says: “In the case of virgins leading lives in the world it is required that they have never celebrated marriage and that they have not publicly or manifestly lived in a state contrary to chastity.”

    I agree that #88 does not change that rule, but it does clarify that previously living “in a state contrary to chastity” is not automatically disqualifying from consecration, but only if it has been public or manifest (i.e. known to others -just as in the case of Canon 915, which requires grave sin to be “manifest”)

  2. mepoindexter says:

    You can’t give what you don’t have unless all you’re doing is consecrating someone’s psychodrama.

  3. Fr. Kelly says:

    According to Church Law, for a matter to be public manifest, all that is needed is for it to be provable in the external forum. This is clearly the case if even one person (other than her confessor) knows of it.
    In the case of an unmarried woman who has had sexual intercourse, at least her partner in this act knows of it. It is clearly provable in the external forum. And so, by definition, it is public or manifest .

  4. Kathleen10 says:

    This would only make sense if the people in charge of making up these rules are intentionally trying to flip the Church upside down. Other than that this makes no sense at all. No matter how many word salads they create, this makes no sense. But, if your goal is to wreck things, it makes perfect sense.
    I love hearing the children sing Fr. Z. Today is my sister’s birthday, if she were still with us. She loved children so much, and she would have cherished hearing those sweet voices singing in such earnest.

  5. jhayes says:

    Fr. Kelly,

    In discussing Canon 915, Dr. Peters makes a distinction between conduct that is widely known and that which is little-known:

    However sinful it might be, conduct that is not already widely known in the community is not manifest as canon law understands that term in this context. In something of a parallel to Canon 1340 § 2 (which prohibits imposing public penances for occult transgressions) and Canon 1330 (which prohibits any penalties in cases where no one has perceived the offense) the public withholding of the Eucharist for little-known sins, even though they might well be grave, is not permitted under canon law.


    In the case of consecrated virgins, the Bishop would need to evaluate the risk of scandal in a particular case.

  6. mburn16 says:

    Out of curiosity, does the Church have an equivalent for women who, for whatever reason, are not virgins, who seek to commit to a life of celibacy?

  7. Elizabeth D says:

    This is a serious situation in my opini0n, the thing is that the reason for the CV vocation as it exists today is partly to defend virginity in a time when fornication, a grave sin and a profound harm to women in particular, has become epidemic, partly by making a sharp distinction between parish women who are virgins and vocationally valued and esteemed publicly as loved by Jesus as spouse, versus other women in the parish that fornicated in the past and have reason for shame and grief over not being a virgin and how they offended Jesus. Today few of us grew up knowing that virginity is valuable (I grew up nominally Catholic and had no idea, I thought only Mary’s virginity had some kind of religious meaning, and another little kid on a playground is the only person who ever told me what virgin meant, no one ever spoke of chastity) but we should all want to save young girls of the future, who often little intuit how men think or what would be the consequences of giving in to their desires, from being harmed and also depriving God of His rights. Repentant women may weep at Jesus’ feet and do penance with confidence in Jesus’ mercy but they frequently do so without being ecclesiastically valued in this life or regarded as specially loved by Jesus–and without the Church paying pastoral attention to their specific vocation and growth as celibate women in parish life, single hearted for Jesus. The sexual revolution chewed them up and spat them out, some man ruined them in a profound way, and I would like to see the Church not only be clear about virginity (which this document failed at) but also become more interested in how Christ re-values women, or how He wills for those women to be witnesses to the reality that He died to redeem us all at the full value of His own life and to make us clean so as to espouse us to Himself forever. The necessary distinction between them and virgins, which should be defended by everyone, is an illustration of mercy on the one hand and prevenient grace on the other as both ways in which we depend on God for our holimess. But both, not one or the other but both, are necessary to begin to be an adequate image of the people of God as the Bride of Christ. I don’t doubt eve the tiniest bit or for a nanosecond that it’s infinitely superior not to have anything to be ashamed of and to be valued for that. You have made the right choice, CVs. It’s absolutely terrible misery and humiliation to not be a virgin! Can we just be honest and forthright that it is bad? Is it even possible for the Church to think through these issues for today, a time of so much sexual insanity and harm to women without being honest about what virginity is and the fact that an unmarried woman not having it is bad, is a harm? I have suffered extreme anxiety and devastation finding out that is important morally, socially, even somehow important to God (and I assure you I have suffered that with faith and with an insistence on faithfulness), and it upsets me very much also that no one tried to teach me when I was young or tell me anything about consecrated vocations when I was a girl (this was also absent completely from my upbringing and I do not recall ever having met a consecrated woman of any kind as a young person). I am profoundly sorry for my sins and I do live a vocation of penance. I do actually think this penitent vocation corresponding to the CV vocation, and every bit as nuptial, is necessary, and the necessity made more obvious by this bad document, for preserving the dichotomy of who is a virgin or who relates to Jesus as a penitent, like Mary Magdalene. I am sorry if I am upsetting anyone. But Jesus is indeed my Spouse, quite indissolubly so, and the more so the more I am rejected for giving my life to Him who was rejected and suffered and gave His life to espouse me to Himself forever, and He is what is important to me and makes life worth living. I’m expecting the usual unkind comments that would be in the vein of seeing my relationship with Jesus as a psychodrama that he has contempt for since I have lost my value as a woman and have nothing to give.

  8. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think that it is important to consider that the former interpretation would exclude women who were victims of sexual assault. It seems to me that the new rule corrects this oversight.

  9. Elizabeth D says:

    The USACV with guidance from Cardinal Burke has for years held an interpretation, which appeared on their website, that the appropriate standard was based on whether the women herself had chosen to engage in certain acts. So there wasn’t a problem at all with including women who may have been assulted, except that the existing official standard was very vague.

  10. originalsolitude says:

    Gerard Plourde, even before the publication of this new document, a genuine rape did not affect the woman’s virginity.

  11. originalsolitude says:

    Here are the three questions asked of the candidate in the consecration rite:

    1. Are you resolved to persevere to the end of your days in the holy state of virginity and in the service of God and his Church?

    2. Are you so resolved to follow Christ in the spirit of the Gospel that your whole life may be a faithful witness to God’s love and a convincing sign of the kingdom of heaven?

    3. Are you resolved to accept solemn consecration as a bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

    How can the ESI (no. 88) say that “to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practised the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way … are not essential prerequisites”?

  12. Cornelius says:

    This is an example of how extreme subjectivism, that modern plague, has overtaken even the Holy See. The new rules divorce the woman from the objective state of her body, and make her will the entire locus of her consecration. I believe Mr. Peters alludes to this.

  13. Imrahil says:

    Dear Elizabeth D,

    It’s absolutely terrible misery and humiliation to not be a virgin!

    I guess you meant “unless as a spouse”.

    Still, I’m not so sure I agree – especially about the “terrible”, if it should mean, as I think it was intended to “compared to other things”.

    I quite agree that the idea of a consecrated virgin who is not a virgin is strange and, yes, also counterproductive to the aim you mention. But young people will have their passions, as Father Brown said; we have had fornication in all time, because Catholic societies mostly never seem to have really pondered the only alternative, which is locking young girls (or boys, but that never was done) up before married off by their parents (though Protestant societies did).

    The problem is not fornication, which is a grave sin, but which in itself and if only the sin, not the vice is considered, and if it happens in juvenile irresponsibility among two people that actually love each other, is actually among the least sins of deed still grave enough to be mortal. Those in charge of their souls always have said: “Confess; do penance; and then marry and enjoy yourselves.”

    The problem is not irresponsible fornication. The problem we specifically have today is something I guess rather different, “responsible fornication”, as it were; the problem is “relationship” (or as it used to be called, “wild marriage”) which by now brings with itself almost all duties of a marriage (other than stability, but then: is marriage still perceived to do so) without the benefit of moral legitimacy of intercourse, and which is an entanglement that really is a big deal to overcome by a good marriage. The impertinence of testing each others sexual power adds to the problem.

    But I digressed a bit.

  14. Elizabeth D says:

    Yes Imrahil thanks for acknowledging that it is a negative state, a misery and humiliation, to be unmarried and not a virgin, St Jerome does go further and believes that even a woman who marries is diminished, though in her case at least she can become the mother of virgins. My experience is that clergy in particular want very much to deny there is any negative state, rather than acknowledge that and deal with it in a Christian way and gives glory to Christ as Savior and elucidates how it is that all women have dignity not only those literally virgins, married and mothers which are the roles usually cited in regard to the positive value of women.

    The things you say somewhat trivializing the seriousness of fornication, I cannot agree with and I think it is regrettable that you would say that. It shakes me sometimes how little people understand the harm. I think it is easier for men to see it as not too harmful but it is always harmful and consequential. You also seem to have the misunderstanding that many devout people have that fornication is simply a misguided attempt to “marry”. That is not true, especially in those cases when a person actually has and later more fully understands their call to a celibate vocation. Then the offense is not against rightly ordered marriage but against virginity. It is absolutely wrong to treat all repentant fornicators as people who might later marry and thus reject any notion of them actually giving themself to God with finality and true self gift.

  15. Imrahil says:

    Dear Elizabeth D,

    yes, I did and do agree to the fact that it is “a negative state” to be unmarried and not a virgin. As for “misery” and “humiliation” and also “harmful and consequential”, I quite agree that this is in a sense (and the latter certainly just as the words stand there) true of any mortal sin we have had the misfortune to commit (though language does not usually use words like “misery” and “humiliation” for it). In so far, this is of course also true of fornication. It is not my opinion, as you read quite rightly, that it is necessarily such in any further degree than that. Fornication is harmful and consequential, yes; but so is the action of a believing Catholic who willfully and without excuse misses the Sunday Mass. And the greater sin and the one by orders of magnitude more harmful consequential than either of those is to appear in Mass the next Sunday and receive Holy Communion.

    You also seem to have the misunderstanding that many devout people have that fornication is simply a misguided attempt to “marry”.

    I did not say this was the case in all cases; I only said that by all we know, such cases can happen as well – and are less problematic than simply giving in to lust, and much less problematic than entangling oneself in a systematic environment which does not merely include breaking the sixth Commandment, but also the profession of rebellion against the sixth Commandment. And the kind of sins that happened in the good old days when we Catholics were sometimes accused by our opponents of sexual laxity were mostly of the former sort – the “window-chambering” of Bavarian villages (where the chambers of the maidservants had to be nailed-up at the beginning of Lent, but the boards were removed after Easter) – while the problems we are facing now are of the latter sort, and thus heavier. The first is a problem too: like drinking one’s wits off (in an isolated case), deliberately missing Sunday Mass, or calling God’s damnation upon oneself by means of an expletive. This is why they are mortal sins at all. But that does not change the difference between these matters for the confessional, and the rather more complicated sins that entangle us in a prison where to get out of is not quite so easy as showing up in the Confessional on Saturday (though to be sure it must start there as well).

    The common criminal is a bad man, but at least he is, as it were, a conditional good man. He says that if only a certain obstacle be removed—say a wealthy uncle—he is then prepared to accept the universe and to praise God. […] But the evil philosopher is not trying to alter things, but to annihilate them. […] The moderns say we must not punish heretics. My only doubt is whether we have a right to punish anybody else. (Gabriel Syme, in: The Man who was called Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton)

  16. Kathleen10 says:

    Elizabeth, sometimes in life you have to go your own way and ignore the critiques of the world. Many times in fact. You do what you feel you want to do and should do, and forget the rest. There are a few ways to look at this, but I feel that if God had intended you to know about the consecrated life as a young girl, you would have known about it. I would try not to let the past upset me to that degree. We can waste a lot of energy worrying about things we can’t change. The past is gone. Let it go. Anytime someone gives God such thought and they devote themselves to Him as you have has great value, for yourself and for us, frankly. I always think the prayers of little old ladies and men keep our world turning, so to devote your life to God has merit you won’t know about in this life but only the next. You’re a serious Christian and I wish I had your zeal.

  17. Elizabeth D says:

    Well I hear you making a point about that today the principle of chastity is lost and that is more serious in the past when people had and accepted the principle and slipped up at living up to it. Yes, I have seen this point made before. But in a sense that seems to be the type of thought behind this mistaken document the post is about, that makes a distinction between some lapses that it implies could be glossed over, versus public patterns of life based on unchastity which it does say must exclude women from being a consecrated virgin.

    Missing Sunday Mass on purpose does not put a person in a permanent negative ontological category, fornication by an unmarried woman does do so (regardless if she was momentarily weak, or if she used to craft philosophical arguments and a lifestyle in favor of it in a very corrupt way, or if she committed offenses one time or many, with one man or many), and no amount of Confession or doing penance can restore her. This category of whether a woman is a virgin or not does not admit of degrees. We are talking in the context of the moral and other significance of female virginity and specifically the context of the consecrated virgin vocation, so I am not talking generically about other sins. In the liturgy and in the book of Revelation it is remembered even after death whether a person is a virgin or defiled themself. This is a sobering thought and a great mystery. We have heard many times that women’s meaning and genius, the vocation of woman you could say, has basically to do with a woman being a virgin, married or a mother. For a celibate woman that repented of fornication the privation of all these positive social identities as a woman is permanent. But as my spiritual director (the best, most patient priest) cried out to me when I was saying this to him one time, it is a category of persons loved by God… these are persons called to holiness, called to the service of God and the Church. God can carve a negative vocation for Mary Magdalene out of what seemed to be negative material.

    Why does God hate the defilement of unmarried virgins? Well I think to Him it is always the image of the demonic assault against His beloved bride, and a type of sacrifice of women to demons, an abominable idolatry. But perhaps first of all God loves each person completely and does not want women or their dignity or integrity to be harmed like that. St Thomas says fornication by a man is more grave when this offense is against a virgin. I suspect that God would agree that acts of fornication against virgins are never “love”. God does want reverence toward women and in regards to the acts by which children are conceived. Fornication before marriage with a different partner OR with the future spouse undermines the first foundation of living marriage in a chaste and holy and successful way–though God is able to transform and truly make people virtuous who weren’t before. And God does choose that some women be especially His own in singleness of heart and He has a right that they be and remain virgins. The ones who fell into fornication, He had every right that they be virgins too. However His good news is that if we are unfaithful (the worst adultery, against Christ the Bridegroom, the One who loves us perfectly), as in the imagery of bride Israel playing the harlot, He does remain faithful to His bride whom He desires to turn back to Him with all her heart–and dies and rises to restore her to Himself (appearing first to Mary Magdalene). He is able to make people perfectly chaste who were not before. This is 100% as Biblical and necessary as the image of the virgin bride of God. The Church, the one bride of Christ is indefectibly holy. There is not a conflict. In the Eucharistic union of the members of Christ’s Body are both the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Mary Magdalene. We might say that in a certain sense the one is incomparably more blessed than the other, but we can also say that both are completely blessed and happy with Him forever.

    I feel that what I have to say about this subject is like when Jesus my Savior and Spouse says in suffering “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?” and is alluding by the first line to this psalm in which David laments and also praises God and expresses confidence in His salvation.

    For he has not spurned or disdained
    the misery of this poor wretch,
    Did not turn away from me,
    but heard me when I cried out.

    I will offer praise in the great assembly;
    my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.

  18. originalsolitude says:


    The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in its letter of April 4, 2007, to then Archbishop Raymond Burke, had this to say about “public manifest”:

    “This Dicastery concurs with the propriety of Your Excellency’s interpretation according to which women who have lost the gift of virginity by knowingly and deliberately engaging in sexual relations should not be received as consecrated virgins, but may be encouraged to make another form of personal consecration. It is reasonable to assume that the wording of n.5a of the Praenotanda of the Ordo Consecrationis Virginum, cited in Your Excellency’s letter, contains the phrase publice seu manifeste in order to avoid a possible inference that anyone should be required to make a manifestation of conscience in the external forum, since such a requirement would clearly violate the Church’s ancient praxis regarding all matters of conscience. Still, it seems clear that if a loss of the gift of virginity is ascertained in the external forum during the course of one’s petition for reception as a consecrated virgin, then such a woman should not be so received. If the same is ascertained in the internal forum, however, then the woman should simply be counselled to withdraw voluntarily – even though there would be no way for such a counsel to be enforced as a precept.”

  19. Elizabeth D says:

    Sorry, I mean “God can carve a positive vocation for Mary Magdalene out of what seemed to be negative material.”

    Kathleen I am talking about this, which I do not at all like talking about, in hopes of being of some service in support of certain truths and the good of souls and even in support of the CV vocation. If it is true as I have wanted it to be, that my own vocation is based on basic truths of the Faith, my ability to witness to those truths and witness to the risen Lord through my vocation does not depend on anyone’s acceptance.

  20. TonyO says:

    A virgin woman consecrating her virginity to God is indeed a beautiful thing, and her virginal state should be praised and held up for esteem. But I have a question: Why women’s virginity? In what way is it that women have something special here that men do not?

    There is, of course, a purely physical description of virginity, and under that definition a woman can lose her virginity through various means that have nothing at all to do with sexual conduct: a surgical operation, or even very strenuous activity, can do it.

    But that sort of “lost virginity” is utterly irrelevant in the moral and spiritual sense, and it is (rightly) set aside by smart and careful delineation of what consecrated virginity requires, which entails that the woman never have given herself in the sexual act. But it is just as possible for men to have this state as it is for women, and it is for men who have never married just as obligatory a moral condition of upright life. And it is, for men just as much for women, just as much a testimony to the eschatalogical future where there will be no marrying, for a man to voluntarily vow to forego the married state and vow to remain permanently virginal as a man, for the sake of the Kingdom. So, why is it, then, more special that a woman remain a virgin and consecrate her virginal state to God, than that a man do so? Why is it that the US Association of Consecrated Virgins is a group of women, and not a group of women and men? Does God not call men to make a gift to Himself of their state of never in their entire lives giving themselves to sexual union? Why not?

    Or, you can put it in the negative: when a woman gives up her virginity outside of marriage (i.e. in fornication), this a grave and shameful evil. Grave, in that it entails the loss of sanctifying grace, the loss of the presence of God in the soul, the loss of heaven (if not repented). Further, it is shameful, in that the woman is (or at least, ought to be, and would be, in a good society) in a shameful state for having chosen to sully herself with sex outside of marriage. And these are just as true of the man as for the woman. His sin is not graver than hers (unless he led her to the sin, but these days it can be just as much the other direction). His shame should be just as much shameful as hers. What he has done himself (and the world) out of by his loss of his sexual purity is just as damaging to himself (and the world) as her act has lost her (and the world). So, how is it that her pure virginal state is some kind of a more special good than his, that hers should be consecrated?

  21. originalsolitude says:


    Women who gave up their virginity outside of marriage and then repented and wish to offer themselves exclusively to the Lord, can always make a private vow of chastity or celibacy, or seek entry into any of the numerous women religious communities or secular institutes, if they wish to make a public commitment.

    The order of virgins is exactly that, a group of women who are virgins, though ESI seems to have put this into question.

  22. originalsolitude says:

    The question of why the order of virgins is reserved for women was addressed to the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1971 (Notitiae, VII, 1971, p. 107-110). My translation:

    “5. Is the rite of consecratio restricted to women, or can it be used also for men …? If it is reserved only for women, what is the reason for this? For historical and cultural reasons, or is this aspect of consecration based on the nature of women?”

    The response:
    “On 5. There is progress in OPR [Ordo Professionis religiosae] as regards men. On them too, if they have embraced the religious life, the Church pronounces on the day of their perpetual profession a solemn prayer of consecration, and thus considers them consecrated men (on this matter the Constitution Lumen gentium, chapter IV, offers a good doctrinal basis).

    However, for laymen, a rite parallel to that of the Consecratio Virginum, which can receive laywomen, has not been developed. Undoubtedly, this is due largely to historical and cultural reasons, and a tradition that goes back almost to the sub-apostolic age.

    We do not know the future. It may be that later the mentality of the faithful will evolve and lead to a consecration for laymen similar to that for virgins. For now the circumstances for it do not seem to arise. Probably the Church thinks so too, both pastors and faithful. We are not aware that a request in this matter has ever been advanced.”

  23. TonyO says:

    Original, thank you very much. The unstated but implied thought seems to be that there is no clear doctrinal reason to preclude men from a state of consecrated virginity, the current lack appears to be purely historical and cultural.

    I will make a prediction: given the horrific effect of the sexual revolution on both men and on women, (in different ways), the Church will discover a reason to publicly acclaim a state of consecrated virginity in men, to help counterbalance and work against the cultural morass of today. There have been cultures in which men were given to sexual license, and those in which women commonly had sexual deviancies, but I don’t think there has ever been a culture so deeply given over to sexual deformities in both men and women at the same time as today. Perhaps God will call forth new tools to combat it.

  24. Elizabeth D says:

    I am sorry to have so much to say on the consecrated virgins’ comment thread. But I have lots of thoughts and can hardly help myself. In its original context of expectations of female virginity for marriage in Jewish-Christian society and the dramatic backdrop of pagan temple prostitution of virgins, which is basically a vile sacrifice of women to false gods (demons), Christian consecrated virginity had much to do with society’s sense at that time of the significance of women’s virginity as among those goods most desirable to men. It belongs to human nature that the dynamics of that have a lot to do with the strength of male sexual appetite, and the relative vulnerability of women. Human nature isn’t going to change, nor people’s anatomy related assumptions about virginity.

    Male virginity has a similar basic goodness and deserves to be valued by women–the chaste celibacy and perfect and perpetual continence of priests certainly needs to be valued by women. I knew one who, ordained as a virgin, sinned with a woman as young priest, with very painful consequences (he repented and is still a priest). How he and everyone would have been better off if he had been more strongly aware of being loved and valued for his sexual integrity especially in the aspect of it being conformity to Christ, and had more strength from that to refuse temptation. But I think women should (without there being some kind of attachment) value their virtuous laymen friends too and isn’t the knowledge that Christian friends quietly respect him about that and expect him to be pure as they also are, likely to support him to live a life of integrity?

    I have been saying this a great deal lately: flat-out, we should treasure all our practicing Catholic friends, male or female who are living in a state of grace (which includes chastity) as companions in Christ whom we hope to pilgrimage to eternity with. They are rare and precious treasure, in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation. We should love the faith and virtue God has given them!!!

  25. stephen c says:

    Elizabeth D – please do not apologize for having so much to say, it is a great pleasure (for me, and undoubtedly for many others) to read what you have to say.

    Sometimes when I was younger I used to have to drive long distances, for work purposes, and I liked to imagine that, in one or more – and I prayed God that it would be many more – out of the ten thousand or so of cars driving on the other lanes of the highway, every hour of driving or so, there were people who, like the best of the saints whose names we know, were “companions in Christ whom we hope to pilgrimage to eternity with”.

    That being said, I also have seen people in whose eyes I saw a mystery I could not understand – I have seen very nasty looking people who were, I later understood, because I often pray for everybody I have ever met, whether I remember them or not (God, have mercy on us all) — who were people whom Mary Magdalene – whose prayers are worth so much more than mine – was clearly praying for too, and who may be, as of today, which is a better day than yesterday for our friends who have repented of their boring useless sins (I have been looking at people for more than half a century, and God forgive me, I have looked at many people without remembering that I should pray for them) – who may be today, decades after I passed them on some sad street in some sad city or town, blessed and redeemed souls who remember, because they are kind, that I walked by them unaware. and that I later repented of the coldness in my heart

  26. jhayes says:

    The second paragraph of number 93 of ESI clarifies the meaning of number 5a of the Ordo

    At the beginning it is necessary to confirm that the aspirant has received the sacraments of Christian initiation and has never married, and to ascertain that she has never lived in public or open violation of chastity, that is, in a stable situation of cohabitation or in similar situations that would have been publicly known*

    *Ordo consecrationis virginum, Prænotanda, 5 a)

    For posting here, I have used an asterisk (*) instead of the [99] used in the original

    The Vatican website indicates that the original language of the document is Italian, in which that paragraph reads

    “Sin dall’inizio è bene verificare che l’aspirante abbia ricevuto i sacramenti dell’iniziazione cristiana e non abbia mai contratto matrimonio, come pure accertare che non abbia vissuto pubblicamente in uno stato contrario alla castità, cioè in una stabile condizione di manifesto concubinato o analoghe situazioni che abbiano avuto pubblica conoscenza*

  27. originalsolitude says:

    This might interest you. Dom Olivier Rousseau said that virginity of man is not the same as virginity of woman; man must conquer his virginity, whereas woman must guard her virginity as one defends the citadel.

  28. originalsolitude says:

    I must clarify my comment above: “The order of virgins is exactly that, a group of women who are virgins”. I meant, of course, virgins consecrated according to the approved liturgical rite of the Catholic Church.

  29. originalsolitude says:

    For Saints Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa, the rationale for the virginal choice is the virgin Lamb Himself. So consecrated virginity is Christ-like before it is Marian. And its source is in the Holy Trinity, for the Father generates his Son virginally from all eternity. Consecrated virginity is a gift of the virgin Bridegroom. “Virginity is inherent in the divine nature,” says Gregory, but God has graciously given it to Mary and to virgin souls. And for Ambrose, it is also Christ who, in his Incarnation, gave virginity to his mother and to the Church.

  30. APX says:


    The reason men can’t become Consecrated Virgins is because the essential charism of the Vocation is that of being a Bride of Christ and an Image of the Church (a Virgin Bride) and spiritual mother to the Church. It’s not a male vocation.

  31. Elizabeth D says:

    All who are in Christ, including Mary Magdalene, participate in the virginity of Christ Who shares all things with His spouse the Church. I have meditated on this many times. Anyone, really, is (precisely because as Christians our identity in a sense is more primarily in Christ’s body than in our own) virgin because they are His bride moreso than being His bride because of being in her poor humanity a virgin. I have already argued so forcefully for making a distinction among women about who is a virgin that no one should misunderstand that I am arguing against the legitimacy of the CV vocation (or my own corresponding vocation which I reiterate is similarly indissoluble and based on Christ’s prior and absolute claim). I don’t find myself consoling, I find it consoling to be in Christ’s body in union with Him my Head. Also it is not my intention that anyone should irritate the CVs by enjoying my thoughts, because they are already unhappy about how they have been treated by Rome.

  32. APX says:

    The US Association of Consecrated Virgins just issued another statement regarding Sec. 88 that clarifies and addresses much of what others have brought up in this discussion:

  33. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Tony,

    You wrote:

    “So, why is it, then, more special that a woman remain a virgin and consecrate her virginal state to God, than that a man do so? Why is it that the US Association of Consecrated Virgins is a group of women, and not a group of women and men? Does God not call men to make a gift to Himself of their state of never in their entire lives giving themselves to sexual union? Why not?”

    I think I will clear up this point, below. There is a difference in virginity between a man and a woman and there is a good reason to celebrate virginity in a woman more than a man, but first, I must talk to my dear Elizabeth.

    Elizabeth, there is an old Coptic legend that after Adam sinned, God left him two consolations in his sin: 1) The Sabbath (a day of rest from his, now, frustrated toils due to Original Sin) and 2) tears. Your comments have come from a gift of tears and although you cannot give yourself to God in virginity, you can and are giving yourself to God in tears. I cannot give you back your virginity, but I can ask God to bless your tears and make them fruitful.

    We often think of the three men crucified on Good Friday, but how often do we fail to realize that there were three women, three Marys, standing there, as well? Men create through means of instruments – they make things, so it was fitting that a man, a carpenter, earned our salvation through the instrument of his craft, wood, be it ever so deadly made. Women, on the other hand, create by means of their bodies – they make people or, rather, they bear people in their wombs, so it was fitting that women be present at the day of our salvation, because, just a it was assigned to the Apostolic men to bear the Faith to the world, it has always been the special privilege of women to bear hope to the world. Every hope for the world’s future has always been borne in the wombs of women, but it has been borne in their hearts, first. If salvation was created on Good Friday, then it was fitting that both man and woman be involved – for a man to fashion it and a woman to bear it to others.

    Virginity means something different for a man and a woman. Virginity for a man is a matter of the intellect, but for a woman it is a matter of the heart. A man loves this or that aspect of something, but a woman loves the total. Virginity for a woman is a matter of her whole self, her being, in a way it could never be for a man. Consecrating virginity in a woman is to consecrate her hope. It sees beyond the present life, where she could, possibly, bear children for the future of man’s continuance, to a future where her virginity will bear the children of man’s eternity.

    Even biologically, the magnitude of difference in virginity between a man and a woman is apparent, because a man can, in theory, if morality did not exist, act to create ten babies in a month, but a woman, only one. Men and women are simply different in the sign of virginity. We consecrate something to set it apart for special service to God and setting apart the virginity of a woman is as much a greater sign and service to God as the rarity of her ability to conceive compared to that of a man’s.

    Women, much more than men, transmit hope. This is why women are the special guardians of culture. Now, Christ appeared, in secret, first to a virgin (his mother) after the Resurrection, to transmit this new hope spiritually, but note that he did not appear to the ordinary housewife, Mary, the wife of Clopas, to transmit the new hope in the world, since her hope was focused on her family. No, he appeared to the public sinner to carry the public message of his Resurrection to the Apostles – Mary Magdeline, who is, rightly, called the Apostle to the Apostles. The Blessed Virgin was married, but a virgin; Mary Magdeline was neither married nor a virgin, but, together, they bore the new hope to mankind, each, in their own way. – the virgin in secret and the sinner in public, just as their states are matters of private and public distinctions. Christ never gives what someone cannot receive, so in giving his message to both women he affirmed that both women were open to grace and free from sin, the Virgin Mary by her sinless perfection and Mary Magdeline, by her repentance and tears.

    So, just as a good confession restores Original Innocence, so does it restore, if not physical virginity, at least spiritual virginity. I have a dear friend who, in a moment of weakness and only once in her life, gave herself to a man outside of marriage and, as far as I know (we haven’t spoken in a long time) never married. I was privileged to be the person she told all of this to and my only question was, “Did you go to confession?” From the time she said, yes, in the conversation, I have never considered her anything except a spiritual virgin. I know her pain and I know that her tears cover her loss of her virginity and that even if she cannot give God her virginity, she can give him her tears. The purpose of tears is to cleanse and they wash away the stain of that one indiscreet moment.

    So, even if your virginity is not to be the physically sweet kind, but the spiritually bittersweet kind, know that God rejoices, nonetheless, because even as the Consecrated Virgin is used to show her fidelity to Christ, the repentant sinner is used to show Christ’s fidelity to her.

    Goodness, Elizabeth, you have done a good service, here, for all women who wish to follow their Divine Spouse. I wish all those women who give themselves to men outside of marriage could be touched by your words. Goodness knows how many tears could be spared.

    The Chicken

  34. jhayes says:

    Chicken wrote Mary Magdeline was neither married nor a virgin

    To uphold her good name::

    The only thing we know from Scripture about Mary Magdalene’s personal life is that, at one time, she was possessed by seven demons (Luke 8:2). In the longer ending to Mark, we are told that Jesus drove out the demons.

    The idea that she was, at one time, a prostitute came from confusing her with other persons mentioned in the New Testament.

    In 1969, the Church recognized the error by dropping the word “Penitant” from the name of her annual memorial which, up until then, had been called the “Commemoration of St Mary Magdalene, Penitant”

  35. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear jhayes,

    Yes, I know about the confusion between Mary Magdeline as prostitute vs. Mary Magdeline as having seven demons. My original draft made that distinction in a slightly different setting, but I thought it was too abstract, so I went with the wrong, but traditionally used idea of prostitute for purposes of illustration. Maybe, I should have stuck with my original approach, which, while being more abstract, would have avoided the historical mis-interpretation of Mary Magdeline as prostitute, for which there is no evidence.

    I could have used three modern women to illustrate the saint, the commoner, and the sinner. The basic ideas are the same. I was trying to work the Cross in and I forced the narrative. I give it a B for style and a C- for accuracy. I am hoping for extra credit.

    The Chicken

  36. jhayes says:

    Dear Chicken

    I’m for giving it extra credit – it was a thoughtful post

    I’ll take a couple of points off of mine. I didn’t notice penitent was misspelled (twice) until after I hit the “Post” button.

  37. Elizabeth D says:

    Without Mary Magdalene, there is simply no woman repentant sexual sinner on the universal Church calendar. I think a great many people don’t realize how women can encounter Christian beliefs about virginity and get the impression that if you’re not a virgin it’s too late for you to be holy or have worth. jhayes, why “defend” Mary Magdalene against the traditional understanding of her as having been forgiven of sins by Jesus who died and rose again? Jesus is scandalous exactly like that, to make “that kind of woman” a holy saint. Is your bias not in danger of being theologically problematic, since Jesus came to save sinners, and the few saints who are known as notable repentant sinners are crucial role models for other sinners who want to follow Jesus, and crucial proof of the triumph of His Cross and Resurrection?

    I hold that is exactly why the first person He wanted to lay eyes on when He rose was Mary Magdalene, the image of His unfaithful bride Israel who wept at the feet of God who liberated her of all idolatry (the seven demons), and turned back to Him with all her heart, forever? At the Cross is both the moment of the remnant of bride Israel being made clean in the sacramental cleansing from the pierced side of the Lord, which exact same mystery is also the birth of the virgin bride Church the new Israel. In Mary Magdalene, precisely because she really had been a sinner and really was regarded by men as a shameful person, He saw His glorious success, she really was cleansed of every sin, and made beautiful with all the virtues. This is what He came to do–save sinners. There is a great misunderstanding at work when people want to “defend” Mary Magdalene from actually being in her person evidence and witness of Our Lord’s victory.

    Yes Chicken, about the tears especially, I give you a virtual gold star with chicken feet. What you say about this is right about something that seems rarely understood. I wish priests, who are human and sometimes enjoy and feel pastoral toward crying sinner women about as much as Simon the Pharisee, would heed. This is probably not entirely easy to understand in practice but is not insignificant to the spiritual journey and pastoral care of women who repent profoundly. Blessed Angela of Foligno (who was an influence on St Teresa of Avila) wrote about the progression of kinds of tears she cried in her journey of repentance from adultery.

  38. jhayes says:

    Elizabeth D, of course you are right that “Jesus is scandalous exactly like that”

    When a woman described as a sinner washed his feet at the house of Simon the Pharisee, Simon scorned her in his mind but Jesus said:

    Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:44)

    In 1969, the Church recognized that there is no indication in the Bible that that woman was Mary Magdalene. However, Jesus’ teaching remains the same.

  39. Fr. Kelly says:

    Elizabeth D, please allow me to express profound thanks for the spiritual insights you have provided for us in these comments.
    With you, I hold that an order of penitents might add to the riches of the life of the Church.
    To be penitent is not something to be ashamed of — it is a response to the call of the Lord and of the original Twelve who were sent out in His Name.

    I wish to thank you as well for your eloquent defense of Mary Magdalene as the Church has handed her down to us in (at least small “t” tradition)
    Chicken and jhayes, pace the “findings ” of the Higher Criticism, there is evidence that Mary Magdalene was a sinful woman in the longstanding tradition of the Church’s liturgy and the teachings of the Fathers.
    Further, this identification of Mary, the sister of Lazarus who sat at the feet of the Lord, Mary Magdalene from whom seven demons were driven out, and Mary the penitent woman in Simon the Pharisees house has at least as much evidence in scripture as does its denial.
    I ask you, upon what evidence do you say that these three are not the same woman?
    In her liturgy and teaching of the Father, the Church has very much identified them for longer than can be traced. (She still does, as can be ascertained by reading the preface for the feast of Mary Magdalene.)
    Scripturally, we see that the encounter with the sinful woman in the home of the Simon the Pharisee leads seamlessly into the account of the the women of Galilee, led by Mary Magdalene out of whom seven demons had been cast following Jesus and providing for his needs. the Chapter break can cause the reader to lose the continuity, even though it is a subsequent construct as are the verse numbers.
    There is a long-standing tradition (small “t”) that identifies Simon the Pharisee with Simon the Leper and Lazarus Jesus’ friend who lives in Bethany outside of Jerusalem with his sisters as befits one who had been a leper. (Lazarus means leper) If this were so, it would explain Mary Magdalene’s presence in the home of Lazarus.

    I am not saying that this is all necessarily so, I am merely saying that it should not be dismissed on the basis of suspect biblical criticism which does not take into account the lived experience of the Church over time (tradition)

  40. JesusFreak84 says:

    I’m just glad to read the comments above that sexual assault doesn’t exclude a women from embracing this vocation. I’m not a victim of such a ghastly crime, thank God, but it seems that, as men and women are less and less expected to restrain ANY sexual appetite, (look at the push now to normalize pedophilia,) more and more girls (and boys,) see their virginity sacrificed on that satanic altar without their consent, (or even their knowledge and understanding, if young enough.) For a woman who’s been through that trauma, being told that an aggressor has closed off this vocation for her…I cannot begin to imagine how distressing that could be.

    Incidentally, anyone thinking of this vocation after the publicity it’s been getting might want to read “The Mystery of Love for the Single.” I started reading it, and it seemed alright, but I dropped it after the author made it clear that his book was strictly for those who had already mentally closed the door on marriage. The only thing that’ll close that door in my mind is my own death, so I’m not the target audience :p

  41. jhayes says:

    Fr. Kelly wrote: I ask you, upon what evidence do you say that these three are not the same woman? In her liturgy and teaching of the Father, the Church has very much identified them for longer than can be traced. (She still does, as can be ascertained by reading the preface for the feast of Mary Magdalene.)

    To be brief, here is the new Preface (issued by Cardinal Sarah in 2016) HERE

  42. APX says:


    While sexual assault would not automatically disqualify a woman as no longer being a virgin, the long term psychological trauma that results from such events very well could disqualify a woman on a more case-by-case level.

  43. Elizabeth D says:

    Thank you Fr Kelly.

    I can imagine different reactions to things I wrote here. Most seemed to understand my intentions to be Good News. I do feel like I want to say my spiritual director, the best priest, deserves zero blame if anyone doesn’t find what I wrote edifying; it isn’t how he would say things.

  44. TonyO says:

    The reason men can’t become Consecrated Virgins is because the essential charism of the Vocation is that of being a Bride of Christ and an Image of the Church (a Virgin Bride) and spiritual mother to the Church. It’s not a male vocation.

    APX, I would note what Chicken points out: virginity is prized by Christians FIRST in its being conformed to Christ himself, who was virginal. Priests, however, because they are in persona Christi, are naturally in the image of Christ and, through being united to His priesthood, also “married to the Church”. Thus priests necessarily have a vocation that bears on the virginal state; even if a few priests were first married, the usual and natural condition of those called to the priesthood is that they be virgins. And in being so, they likewise are an image of Christ who was virginal and likewise spiritual fathers to the Church. So, yes, men can serve in that role of imaging.

    Women religious become a “Bride of Christ”, but the point of the vocation of “consecrated virgins” is to respect women who do not enter the religious life but still vow virginity. Hence, it seems implausible to say that there cannot be, even in principle, men also in similar state, who liken themselves to Christ in that specific sense, but who do not enter the religious life nor become priests.

    Chicken, very beautiful thoughts about the difference between women and men. I particularly love your use of women as the bearers of hope. Thank you for addressing what I was hoping someone, with better information than I, would pull out: women are different from men, and this can be reflected in the way God calls them to serve Him and to serve mankind.

    I would, however, dispute to some extent the notion that

    Virginity for a man is a matter of the intellect, but for a woman it is a matter of the heart. A man loves this or that aspect of something, but a woman loves the total. Virginity for a woman is a matter of her whole self, her being, in a way it could never be for a man.

    I don’t think you quite captured the reality. It is true that it is to some extent easier for men to be all cerebral and intellectual and divorce the matters of intellect from physical reality. But to an extent this regards a symptom of defect in man, not simply a perfection: men who divorce their regard for what is to be loved and what is not to be loved from the physical order are men who risk false and distorted love, who risk setting in motion revolutions and insanities for the sake of an ivory-tower theory. Rather, men who remain well grounded in reality do not seek to divorce their sense of the good from the earthy, muddy realm of real life as it exists. And so an integrated man does, also, love “the whole”, the person. I would thus dispute that what separates virginity in men and women is this idea of cerebral vs. “total” sort of loving. In a good, healthy, wholesome priest who is a virgin and is consecrated to Christ, his virginity is not more intellectual than a woman’s. He must learn to be like Christ, in not rejecting sex as if he were rejecting a take-it-or-leave-it optional extra of human living, but of embracing the good of the eschatalogical life (via anticipation) which has no room for marriage between human persons, but has an even greater union with Persons.

  45. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Tony,

    Ven Fulton Sheen has an excellent chapter on the difference between the love of a man and a woman in his book, Life is Worth Living. Among the quotes I was able to find online are:

    “A man may stand for the justice of God, but a woman stands for His Mercy.”
    ? Fulton J. Sheen, Life Is Worth Living

    “for a woman, love is its own reason. “I love you because I love you.”
    ? Fulton J. Sheen, Life Is Worth Living

    The Chicken

  46. The Masked Chicken says:

    Actually, the second quote is more fully rendered:

    “The difference between the love of a man and the love of a woman is that a man will always give reasons for loving, but a woman gives no reasons for loving.”
    ? Fulton J. Sheen, Life Is Worth Living

    The Chicken

  47. originalsolitude says:

    Therese Ivers, canon lawyer and consecrated virgin, has posted the first two parts of her commentary on ESI. I’m not sure whether you may have to sign up to read it.

  48. originalsolitude says:

    Further to my comment above, there’s no need to log in to access Therese Ivers’ commentary on ESI.

  49. jhayes says:

    In the rite of consecration, the woman puts her hands between those of the bishop and says

    “Father, receive my resolution to follow Christ in a life of perfect chastity which, with God’s help, I here profess before you and God’s holy people.”

    That is a promise as to the woman’s future life. Similarly, a priest being ordained accepts (in most cases) the obligations of celibacy and continence from that time forward.

    We do not automatically exclude candidates from ordination because of past sexual activity. That is left to the prudential judgment of the bishop.

    I think what the new document is clarifying is that we do not automatically exclude candidates from consecration as a virgin because of past sexual activity. [Which is, of course, crazy.] That is also left to the prudential judgment of the bishop (except that a woman who has been married in the past is autimatically excluded).

  50. originalsolitude says:

    The ESI 88 problem seems to be getting out of hand and causing a minor scandal, even in the local secular media.

    The root of the problem seems to be that the document is put together by religious who don’t appreciate what the fuss is about, since virginity is not essential to religious life.

    Consecrated virgins are not religious; they existed well before religious came into being; in fact they gave rise to religious. So applying the religious framework, perspective, mentality and attitude to consecrated virgins doesn’t work. (88 is not the only problem with ESI 88; it’s simply the one that catches people’s attention).

    This problem may not have arisen had the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus placed the Ordo virginum under CDWDS instead of CICLSAL. After all, the foundation of the Ordo virginum is the liturgical rite in the Roman Pontifical; it is this rite that constitutes a woman a consecrated virgin, a “sacred person.”

    It’s a pity that the document was not given to bishops and consecrated virgins around the world for feedback before publication.

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  52. APX says:

    Has Cardinal Burke said anything on the matter? He used to have a very close association with the USACV when he was still an archbishop.

  53. originalsolitude says:

    With hindsight, ESI 88 and 93 on prerequisites could have been predicted about nine years ago.

    In May 2008 an international meeting of the Ordo Virginum was convened in Rome, and the talks and homilies from the event were published in CICLSAL’s journal Sequela Christi 2009/1. In this volume there is an article by Serenella Del Cinque, a CICLSAL official who also belongs to the Ordo Virginum; this official did not address the meeting nor was the article’s contents presented there.

    Extract from article (Serenella Del Cinque, L’Ordine delle vergini, can. 604§1, Sequela Christi 2009/1, pp. 236-237):
    “Il Vescovo deve anche accertare che la candidata non abbia mai vissuto pubblicamente (publice seu manifeste secondo la più incisiva formulazione dell’OCV) in uno stato contrario alla castità, proprio perché ella viene costituita nella comunità ecclesiale quale segno della Chiesa vergine: la norma parla di “stato”, cioè di una situazione stabile e non di singoli atti contrari alla castità, per cui sarebbero rilevanti un matrimonio solo civile, una convivenza more uxorio, uno stile di vita libertino, una relazione adulterina o altre situazioni similari; la norma poi precisa che questo stato deve essere vissuto “pubblicamente”, non escludendo quindi dalla consacrazione le donne che lo abbiano vissuto in modo non manifesto, né la non ammissione di una candidata che abbia vissuto episodi singoli di atti contrari all castità.

    “Appare evidente, dalla precisione della norma, che i compilatori dei Praenotanda al Rito si siano posti il problema della integrità fisica. Non è stato posto l’accento né su una concezione fisico-biologica della verginità, per cui sarebbe vergine solo la donna che conserva l’integrità fisica, né su una concezione morale della verginità, per cui sarebbe vergine la donna che moralmente è integra ma ha perso l’integrità accidentalmente, ad esempio per un intervento chirurgico, o per violenza sessuale. Si è scelto una concezione giuridica della verginità, per cui è considerata vergine la donna che non si è mai trovata in una situazione giuridico-sociale contraria alla castità, conciliando in tal modo due diverse esegenze: permettere, con la grazia di Dio, di iniziare un cammino di santità anche se ci sono stati comportamenti errati nell’ambito morale (senza tuttavia sminuire il valore dell’integrità fisica), ed evitare situazioni di scandalo che potrebbero disorientare la comunità e appannare la testimonianza della verginità.”

    My translation:
    “The Bishop must also ascertain that the candidate has never lived publicly (publice seu manifeste according to the more precise formulation of the OCV) in a state contrary to chastity, precisely because she is constituted in the ecclesial community as a sign of the virgin Church: the norm speaks of “state”, that is, a stable situation and not of single acts contrary to chastity, for which a merely civil marriage, a cohabitation more uxorio, a libertine lifestyle, an adulterous relationship or other similar situations would be relevant; the norm then specifies that this state must be lived “publicly”, thus neither excluding from consecration women who have lived clandestinely, nor a candidate who had lived single episodes of acts contrary to chastity.

    “It is clear, from the norm’s precision, that the drafters of the Praenotanda had posed the problem of physical integrity. Emphasis was not placed either on the concept of physical-biological virginity, by which only the woman who conserved physical integrity would be a virgin, or on the moral concept of virginity, by which the woman who morally is intact but has lost the integrity accidentally, for example, by surgical intervention or sexual violence, would be a virgin. A legal concept of virginity was selected, by which the woman who has never been in a legal-social situation contrary to chastity is considered a virgin, thus reconciling two different situations: to permit, with God’s grace, the start of the path to holiness even though there were erratic moral behaviors (without however belittling the value of physical integrity), and avoiding scandalous situations that could disorientate the community and tarnish the witness of virginity.”

    This volume of Sequela Christi also contains the text of the two English talks given at the meeting, by then Archbishop Raymond Burke and by Judith Stegman.

    From Archbishop Burke’s talk:
    “In some places, at least in North America, there has been a confusion about the second part of the requirement. … The requirement of never living publicly or manifestly in a state contrary to chastity guarantees the integrity of the consecration. In other words, the consecration is for women who has preserved her virginity and offers her virginity to Christ and His Church for consecration. Public or manifest acts are committed with another and, therefore, are clearly known by another, even if by only one individual. An act contrary to chastity in what pertains to the state of virginity is the conscious and deliberate giving of one’s body for sexual union by which the state of virginity is lost. Once the virgin has knowingly and willingly given up her virginity, even by a single act, she no longer has the gift of virginity to offer to Christ and the Church. In the case of rape or involuntary incest, one can rightly say that the woman still has the gift of her virginity to offer for she has not knowingly and willingly given it up.”

    From Judith Stegman’s talk:
    “Wanting clarification of the matter from Rome so that there would not be a continued confusion, Archbishop Raymond Burke, Episcopal Moderator of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins, wrote a letter to Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He wrote to confirm his interpretation of the following passage from the Introduction to the Rite of Consecration for a Woman Living in the World: neque publice seu manifeste in statu castitati contrario vixerunt, translated as ‘has not lived in open or public violation of chastity’.

    “Archbishop Burke’s letter explained, ‘Sometimes the language ‘publicly’ has been interpreted as living in a notorious state of a lack of chastity. I have always understood this to mean simply that the acts are public, namely, committed with another person.’ The Archbishop explained his position on this delicate, and yet important question, saying that in the case of a woman who has engaged in sexual relations with a man and then has thoroughly repented and now desires to consecrate her life to Christ and the Church, he has offered counsel to such women who in fact do not have the gift of virginity to offer to our Lord, that they should make another form of consecration, usually a private vow of chastity. He requested an interpretation of the text in question so that there not be a continued confusion, causing scandal among the faithful and causing hurt to the individuals involved.

    “Archbishop Burke’s letter also explained his understanding in the case of a woman who, as a youngster, was sexually abused by her father or by another man, but without her consent. He said that he has understood that in such cases of rape or incest, in which the loss of physical virginity was not intended by the woman, she could still receive the consecration of virgins living in the world.

    “The response from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated concurrence with Archbishop Burke’s interpretation of the text.”

    The text of CDWDS’ response appears in a footnote:
    “Letter to His Excellency, the Most Reverend Raymond Burke, Archbishop of St. Louis, dated April 4, 2007 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, signed by Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith, Secretary. ‘This Dicastery concurs with the propriety of Your Excellency’s interpretation according to which women who have lost the gift of virginity by knowingly and deliberately engaging in sexual relations should not be received as consecrated virgins, but may be encouraged to make another form of personal consecration. It is reasonable to assume that the wording of n.5a of the Praenotanda of the Ordo Consecrationis Virginum, cited in Your Excellency’s letter, contains the phrase publice seu manifeste in order to avoid a possible inference that anyone should be required to make a manifestation of conscience in the external forum, since such a requirement would clearly violate the Church’s ancient praxis regarding all matters of conscience. Still, it seems clear that if a loss of the gift of virginity is ascertained in the external forum during the course of one’s petition for reception as a consecrated virgin, then such a woman should not be so received. If the same is ascertained in the internal forum, however, then the woman should simply be counselled to withdraw voluntarily – even though there would be no way for such a counsel to be enforced as a precept.’”

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