Monday, November 2, 2015

Consecrated Life - Forms other than "Religious"

The 1980's

Following Vatican II, the Code of Canon Law was revised to incorporate and reflect the teaching of Vatican II, and other changes that occurred over time. The New Revised Code of Canon Law was published in 1983. Significantly, to reflect the teaching of Vatican II, it situated the section on those living consecrated life within the broader chapter on the People of God - Part III of Book II. The title of this section is "Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life." The following table simplistically captures the known forms of Consecrated Life at that time as reflected in this section.

“In” the world
“Apart” from the world
Consecrated Virgins
Secular Institutes
Religious Institutes
And Societies of Apostolic Life

Since the 1980's these distinctions are no longer as clear cut. Now there are simply "Institutes of Consecrated Life", for example Verbum Dei, with no designation of religious or secular. And there are also consecrated members of some ecclesial movements. Some Religious Institutes have evolved to appear more like a Secular Institute and some Secular Institutes appear as quasi-Religious. However, in 1983, in the Code as we have it from then, common to all the above forms is:
(a) Consecration to Christ that engages the totality of one's being, i.e. celibacy for the sake of the kingdom;
(b) This expressed by a sacred bond - vow, promise or firm intention;
(c) Such bond is officially recognised by the Church via the Bishop or Institute who receive the sacred bond in the name of the Church;
(d) And this bond establishes a relationship of authority and mutual responsibility between the person professing it and the one (Bishop or Institute) receiving it.
(e) A conscious endeavour to live ever more fully the evangelical counsels.

Such "Consecrated Life" is public or official. Without this public character and authoritative relationship, one's commitment to follow Christ celibately for the sake of the kingdom, may be just as whole hearted and real, but is deemed "private".

Perhaps here also lies an element in the rightful place of Ecclesial Movements in the Code of Canon Law. These movements have developed significantly since the 1980's and many find that the current Revised Code of Canon Law of 1983 does not adequately represent them. However, this is a further discussion beyond my competence, because as I see it, it also pertains in part to the structuring principle within Canon Law - is it charism or consecrated celibacy? Developments since the 1980's suggest a need for some consideration of Ecclesial Movements, and in particular of their consecrated members. 

What the simplistic outline of the 1980's categorisation does highlight is the complexity of discernment as one finds oneself being drawn more and more towards the exclusivity of one's love being consumed wholly by Christ and the service of the Gospel, i.e his kingdom. For there are associated questions of immersion or withdrawal from secular life, of travelling alone or with others in an institutional framework. 

No comments:

Post a Comment