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Book II - Part III

Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life Notes on Religious Life



(Cann. 573 - 606) English Latin

Canon 573 Consecrated Life

  • §1 (Theological) Life consecrated through profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living, in which the faithful follow Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, and are totally dedicated to God, who is supremely loved. By a new and special title they are dedicated to seek the perfection of charity in the service of God's Kingdom, for the honor of God, the building up of the Church and the salvation of the world. They are a splendid sign in the Church, as they foretell the heavenly glory.
  • §2 (Legal) Christ's faithful freely assume this manner of life in institutes of consecrated life which are canonically established by the competent ecclesiastical authority. By vows or by other sacred bonds, in accordance with the laws of their own institutes, they profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. Because of the charity to which these counsels lead, they are linked in a special way to the Church and its mystery.


  • Identity of Religious in the Church.
  • Consecration has many meanings in the community of faith: baptism, confirmation, orders, sacred times and places, and here - sacred people.
  • Stable form of living refers to a life-long commitment, and in recognized stable institutes.
  • Free commitment to evangelical counsels which lead to charity, a deeper commitment to Gospel-living.
  • A way of life within a legal framework.
  • Some don't profess evangelical counsels: obedience, stability, conversatio.
  • Foundational inspiration regarding communtiy, spirituality and mission. People gather to live the way of life.
  • Canonical recognition comes with approval of the constitutions - the legal framework. It is a recognition that this is an authentic way of living the gospel, in the tradition of religious life.
  • Theological elements consecration, following of Christ under the guidance of the spirit, evangelical counsels, perfection of charity, eschatological significance
  • Juridical elements canonical erection of distinct forms, stability of the forms, vocation excludes other life choices, vows or other bonds, observance of proper law
  • Tri-partite vision of consecrated life
    • 1) profession of the evangelical counsels by vow according to approved constitutions
    • 2) the primary project of following Christ more closely and the perfection in love, dedicated to the building of the community,
    • 3) foretelling the fulfillment of the Gospel.

Canon 574 Fostering the Life

  • §1 The state of persons who profess the evangelical counsels in these institutes belongs to the life and holiness of the Church. It is therefore to be fostered and promoted by everyone in the Church. See also Canon 207.2
  • §2 Some of Christ's faithful are specially called by God to this state, so that they may benefit from a special gift in the life of the Church and contribute to its saving mission according to the purpose and spirit of each institute.
  • Belongs to the life and holiness of the church - it is a stable form of life and it is a particular state of life. Marriage and family are excluded.
  • The place of religious in the community of faith is a challange. A state status. “Greater fulfillment”, “greater commitment.”
  • The place of religious has to be re-imagined in a community that understands the “universal call to holiness,” and the “universal call to mission.”

Canon 575 Counsels The evangelical counsels, based on the teaching and example of Christ the Master, are a divine gift which the Church received from the Lord and which by His grace it preserves always.

  • Religious life is framed 'within the church', a part of the community of faith.
  • The whole ecclesial community has a stake in the life as sign of the Gospel-fulfillment and help to bring about Gospel-fulfillment. RI has content of vows established universally while SI, SAL, hermits, virgins and new forms have more freedom in defining the content and living of the counsels

Canon 576 Interpretation of Counsels It is the prerogative of the competent authority in the Church to interpret the evangelical counsels, to legislate for their practice and, by canonical approval, to constitute the stable forms of living which arise from them. The same authority has the responsibility to do what is in its power to ensure that institutes grow and flourish according to the spirit of their founders and to their sound traditions.

  • Source found only in Lumen Gentium - not before, but there is a practice of exerting authority.
  • The experts in the life would be the religious themselves. This has lead to tensions regarding authentic expressions of religious life, as witnessed by many founders and foundresses, and many communities over the years.
  • Disruptive expressions of religious life, e.g. Extreme penances in Cistercian history; Sylites, etc. But it is also used by hierarchs who disagree with internal life of institute. This is raised some problems over the years and is currently being discussed and a new document is being developed (2014). Mutuae relationes 1978.
  • Many institutes existed for a long time before they were approved. This was the time of clarifying the gift, and sometimes waiting for church approval to 'catch-up.'
  • Four functions attributed to hierarchy: interpretation, legislation, confirmation and promotion of the life. These powers are especially active in the erection (579) and suppression (582.584)
  • Founding a community begins with a small gathering in a house, radically living the gospel, following a particular call, in informal dialogue with the bishop. Canon 579.

Canon 577 Ideal In the Church there are many institutes of consecrated life, with gifts that differ according to the graces given them more closely follow Christ praying, or Christ proclaiming the Kingdom of God, or Christ doing good to people, or Christ in dialog with the people of this world, but always Christ doing the will of the Father.

  • From Lumen Gentium. Institutes are seen as manifesting different aspects of the life of Christ, each institute manifesting many aspects of the life of Christ. It is always about the full Christian life. Legally the institutes are different, but it is factual difference in lifestyle, culture, spirituality, mission.

Canon 578 Patrimony The whole patrimony of an institute must be faithfully preserved by all. This patrimony is comprised of the intentions of the founders, of all that the competent ecclesiastical authority has approved concerning the nature, purpose, spirit and character of the institute, and of its sound traditions.

  • Patrimony also called charism: particular experience of community, spirituality and justice.
  • Proper law of religious institutes is the foundation of internal authority.
  • Patrimonium spirituale - this is what makes consecrated life and people what they are.
    • Shaped by the mind and the intention of the founders. Many institutes don't have a clear founder or foundational writings. Norbertines, Alexians, Josephites, etc. Patrimony is carried forward by members. Also the influence of a founding generation who help to clarify the patrimony.
    • There is a difference between the founders and the institute. It takes time to clarify the identity, and it often evolves over time.
  • Church authority have the task of giving things a place in the complex reality of the community of faith. Sometimes gifts have to be moderated. There can be excessive elements in the beginning - throughout the ages. Flashy customs or rituals or habits. Translation of charismatic inspiration into relations to persons - founders may take too much authority to themselves.
  • Sound traditions - time will tell where wisdom lies.
Foundation and Suppression

Canon 579 Establishing Diocesan Congregations The diocesan bishop, in his own territory, can validly erect institutes of consecrated by formal decree with the prior written permission of the Apostolic See. (updated by motu proprio Authenticum charismatis Nov 2020). Previously: Provided the Apostolic See has been consulted, diocesan Bishops can, by formal decree, establish institutes of consecrated life in their own territories.

  • Diocesan bishop can erect an institute with prior written approval. Previously the canon required consultation of the holy see. Then in 2016, a rescript on this canon was issued which says in part: “Therefore, in accordance with the view of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Holy Father Pope Francis at the Audience accorded to the undersigned Secretary of State on 4 April 2016, has set forth that prior consultation with the Holy See is to be understood as necessary ad validitatem before establishing a diocesan institute of consecrated life, otherwise risking nullity of the decree of establishment of this said Institute. The present Rescript will be promulgated by way of publication in L’Osservatore Romano, and will enter into force, on 1 June 2016, and subsequently be published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. –from the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State.”

The entire rescript can be viewed at: 2016 rescript. Permission is also needed to establish a public association of the faithful with a view to becoming a religious institute: 2022 rescriptThe external authority is the diocesan bishop of the houses of the institute. The bishop of the diocese of the principal house has special duties. The essential changes in the life of an institute, and the question of hierarchy and what are internal matters will be spelled out in the following canons.

  • CF MR 57
  • PC 19: In a new institute, look for original inspiration, the profession of evangelical counsels, good of the church and world as well as is this institute necessary and not duplicating other institutes, does it show promise of increase, and does it have the necessary resources. In the past, bishops founded institutes without specific charism, especially at the turn of the 19th century. This still happens.
  • VC 12: “The perennial youth of the Church continues to be evident even today. In recent years, following the Second Vatican Council, new or renewed forms of the consecrated life have arisen. In many cases, these are Institutes similar to those already existing but inspired by new spiritual and apostolic impulses. Their vitality must be judged by the authority of the Church, which has the responsibility of examining them in order to discern the authenticity of the purpose for their foundation and to prevent the proliferation of institutions similar to one another, with the consequent risk of a harmful fragmentation into excessively small groups.”
  • Founding a community begins with a small gathering in a house, radically living the gospel, following a particular call. They are generally in informal dialogue with the bishop. //See I Am Making Something New - on founding an institute
    • When a group begins to have a public presence in the local church they may become: 1) a de facto association, 2) a private association of the Christian faithful, 3) a public association of the Christian faithful. Book II Part I: Assns of the Xn Faithful: De facto assn c. 298-299. draw up statutes. Private Assn. Public Assn.
    • The bishop consults the Apostolic See before erecting a religious congregation.
    • The Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (DICLSAL) is competent. They will generally require some indicia of vitality and stability, new spiritual and apostolic impulses, and authenticity of life and mission. Required for validity: AAS 108 (2016) 696
    • Art. 121 - It is the responsibility of the Dicastery to promote, animate and regulate the practice of the evangelical counsels, in the way it is lived in the approved forms of consecrated life, and also with regard to the life and activity of the Societies of Apostolic Life throughout the Latin Church.
    • Art. 122
      • § 1. It is for the Dicastery to approve the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, to erect them and also to grant the license for the validity of the establishment of an Institute of Consecrated Life or Society of Apostolic Life of diocesan right by the Bishop.
      • § 2. Mergers, unions and suppressions of such Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are also reserved to the Dicastery.
      • § 3. It is the responsibility of the Dicastery to approve and regulate forms of consecrated life that are new to those already recognized by law.
      • § 4. It is the duty of the Dicastery to erect and suppress unions, confederations, federations of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
    • Art. 123 - The Dicastery works to ensure that Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life progress in the following of Christ as proposed by the Gospel, according to their own charism born of the spirit of the founder and sound traditions, faithfully pursue their own purposes and contribute effectively. to the building up of the Church and its mission in the world.
    • Art. 124 -
      • § 1. In accordance with canonical norms, the Dicastery deals with the issues of competence of the Apostolic See regarding the life and activity of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, in particular with regard to:
        • 1. the approval of the Constitutions and their amendments;
        • 2. the ordinary government and the discipline of the members;
        • 3. the incorporation and training of members, including through specific rules and directives;
        • 4. temporal goods and their administration;
        • 5. the apostolate;
        • 6. extraordinary government measures.
      • § 2. The following are also the responsibility of the Dicastery, according to the norm of law:
        • 1. the passage of a member to another approved form of consecrated life;
        • 2. the extension of absence and exclaustration beyond the term granted by the supreme moderators;
        • 3. the indult to leave members with perpetual vows from Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life of pontifical right;
        • 4. the exclaustration imposed;
        • 5. the examination of appeals against the decree of dismissal of the members.
    • Art. 125 - It is the responsibility of the Dicastery to erect the International Conferences of Major Superiors, to approve their Statutes and to ensure that their activity is ordered to its own purposes.
    • Art. 126 -
      • § 1. The eremitical life and the Ordo Virginum are forms of consecrated life and as such are subject to the Dicastery.
      • § 2. It is the responsibility of the Dicastery to establish associations of the Ordo Virginum at the international level.
    • Art. 127 - The competence of the Dicastery also extends to Third Orders and associations of the faithful erected with a view to becoming an Institute of Consecrated Life or a Society of Apostolic Life.
    • The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) was the former name organized by Pastor Bonus 105-111:
      • Art. 105 — The principal function of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life is to promote and supervise in the whole Latin Church the practice of the evangelical counsels as they are lived in approved forms of consecrated life and, at the same time, the work of societies of apostolic life.
      • Art. 106 — § 1. The Congregation erects and approves religious and secular institutes and societies of apostolic life, or passes judgment on the suitability of their erection by the diocesan bishop. It also suppresses such institutes and societies if necessary.
      • § 2. The Congregation is also competent to establish, or, if need be, to rescind, the unions or federations of institutes and societies.
      • Art. 107 — The Congregation for its part takes care that institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life grow and flourish according to the spirit of their founders and healthy traditions, faithfully follow their proper purpose, and truly benefit the salvific mission of the Church.
      • Art. 108 — § 1. It deals with everything which, in accordance with the law, belongs to the Holy See concerning the life and work of the institutes and societies, especially the approval of their constitutions, their manner of government and apostolate, the recruitment and training as well as the rights and obligations of members, a dispensation from vows and the dismissal of members, and the administration of goods.
      • § 2. However, the organization of philosophical and theological studies and other academic subjects comes within the competence of the Congregation of Seminaries and Institutes of Studies.
      • Art. 109 — It is the function of this Congregation to establish conferences of major superiors of men and women religious, to grant approval to their statutes, and to give great attention in order that their activities are directed to achieving their true purpose.
      • Art. 110 — The Congregation has competence also regarding eremitical life, the order of virgins and their associations as well as other forms of consecrated life.
      • Art. 111 — Its competence also embraces the third orders and associations of the faithful which are erected with the intention that, after a period of preparation, they may eventually become institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life.
  • File is sent to Rome with required documents. 1) name and CV of founder and superior. 2) historical / juridical narrative. 3) Constitution and secondary document. 4) Picture of habit. 5) Up-to-date membership statistics. 6) Finances. 7) Extraordinary experiences and miracles. 8) Testimonial letters from bishops on usefulness, stability, discipline, formation, government, temporal administration, liturgical & sacramental dimension, ecclesial sense.
  • Many studies: McDermott, Wiesenbeck, CARA. 120 new communities, 30% no response, Private assn 23%, Public Assn 29%, Religious Inst 15%.
  • CICLSAL likes about 5-10 years in each step. and about 40 people for diocesan and 100 for pontifical. Prefers orderly approach: private assn, public assn, diocesan, pontifical.
  • Some associates and oblates associated to older institutes. Not to be religious, but canonical and associated.
  • This is examined by two persons and forwarded to Prefect. CDF may be consulted. In granting the Nihil obstat is received, the bishop can erect as diocesan bishop. Superior professes vows before the bishop. Then the rest profess vows before the superior. See I am Making Something New

Canon 580 Aggregation The aggregation of one institute of consecrated life to another is reserved to the competent authority of the aggregating institute, always safeguarding the canonical autonomy of the other institute.

  • Aggregation is a relationship between two autonomous institutes - the aggregating institute's competent authority is responsible for making the arrangements.
  • E.g. between Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Benedictines.
  • Sharing resources, spirituality, and mission, while remaining autonomous institutes.
  • Under the authority of the aggregating institute.

Canon 581 Parts It is for the competent authority of the institute to divide the institute into parts, by whatever name these may be called, to establish new parts, or to unite or otherwise modify those in existence, in accordance with the constitutions.

  • Dividing institutes is up to the internal competent authority. Sometimes the SM, sometimes the general chapter.
  • Constitutions are approved and define how this happens.
  • The model is an apostolic religious institute with centralized leadership and provinces. This really doesn't fit monastic life. Benedictines speak of congregations (federations), Norbertines have circuits (circaries), the abbot appoints the circary, but doesn't have authority unless the circuit is cut off from the Abbot General.
  • Uniting parts, suppressing provinces - generally notify the local bishop, but no permission is required.
  • CIC17 reserved this to the Holy See for pontifical institutes.

Canon 582 Restructuring Fusions and unions of institutes of consecrated life are reserved to the Apostolic See alone. To it are likewise reserved confederations or federations.

  • Fusion - small institute gets joined to a larger one - the small institute is suppressed.
  • Union - Two or more of the same size join - all former institutes are suppressed and a new one is erected with new constitutions and new elections of leadership.
  • Holy see ensures justice and the good of all institutes and local churches. There is a lengthy process to ensure all rights and obligations are respected.
  • Federations are collaborative groups of independent congregations. Independent abbeys are completely responsible for everything and they are urged to federate. Confederation is a federation of federations. E.g. the Benedictines have congregations which are federations of independent houses. All these have confederated under an Abbot Primate. Same with Canons Regular of St. Augustine, also non-reformed Cistercians. OCSO is a federation of independent houses. The separate religious families have patrimony, and they have the structures of the same name, but they have different roles and functions within their institutes. What can be done on a lower level, it is best to do it here. But what about competence, e.g. in a small diocese without a vicar for religious.
  • CO requires contemplative monasteries to federate.

Canon 583 Changes Changes in institutes of consecrated life which affect elements previously approved by the Apostolic See, cannot be made without the permission of the same See.

  • Basic principle of law

Canon 584 Suppression Only the Apostolic See can suppress an institute and dispose of its temporal goods.

  • This really applies to the apostolic orders. In abbeys, it isn't the institute that is important but the abbeys themselves and their suppression is a significant occurrence, but internal to the institute.
  • Also, Canon 123: On the extinction of a public juridical person, the arrangements for its patrimonial goods and rights, and for its liabilities, are determined by law and the statutes. If these do not deal with the matter, the arrangements devolve upon the next higher juridical person, always with due regard for the wishes of the founders or benefactors and for acquired rights. On the extinction of a private juridical person, the arrangements for its goods and liabilities are governed by its own statutes.
  • Increasingly important as many institutes in Europe and North America are declining.

Canon 585 Suppression of Parts The competent authority of an institute can suppress parts of the same institute.

  • The complement to canon 581 - division into parts.

Canon 586 Autonomy §1 A true autonomy of life, especially of governance, is recognized for each institute. This autonomy means that each institute has its own discipline in the Church and can preserve whole and entire the patrimony described in can. 578. §2 Local Ordinaries have the responsibility of preserving and safeguarding this autonomy.

  • True autonomy of life within the Church, for internal discipline and preservation of patrimony.
  • The possibility to shape one's own rules is recognized: regimen and disciplina - chiefly internal elements are autonomous.
  • A work of the apostolate entrusted to an institute will be done according to their own spirit / charism. But this particularly affects governance and life in community.
  • External authority is to foster this autonomy.
Proper Law (Ius Proprium)

Canon 587 Constitutions

  • §1 To protect more faithfully the vocation and identity of each institute, the fundamental code or constitutions of the institute are to contain,
  • in addition to those elements which are to be preserved in accordance with can. 578,
  • basic norms about the governance of the institute,
  • the discipline of the members,
  • the admission and formation of members, and
  • the proper object of their sacred bonds.
  • §2 This code is approved by the competent ecclesiastical authority and can be changed only with the consent of the same.
  • §3 In the constitutions, the spiritual and juridical elements are to be aptly harmonized. Norms, however, are not to be multiplied without necessity.
  • §4 Other norms which are established by the competent authority of the institute are to be properly collected in other codes, but these can be conveniently reviewed and adapted according to the needs of time and place.
  • To protect identity = vocation.
  • This is identity in a nutshell - it continues to be lived out and to evolve over time.
  • Fundamental norms are those connected to Charism
    • identity;
    • governance;
    • life together (discipline);
    • incorporation, formation;
    • vows (proper object = way of observing).
  • Way of governing springs from the charism - when law is written well, then you should be able to determine the spirit from that. Council of major superior is important to the way of a lifestyle - how would a Carthusian council differ from an apostolic order.
  • In some communities, individual leadership is more important, in others, group leadership (chapter and council) is more emphasized.
  • Spiritual and juridic elements are to be suitably joined. The two should be linked in such a way as to show the link between norms and spiritual identity.
  • Constitutions are best short and concise. Elementary, core matters. What would make us different if we were changed? 1921, 1910 norms on how to make constitutions - too detailed. External approval makes it harder to change. Essentials are in constitutions; what is implementation is in 'other norms.' You only put things in the constitutions if you know why it is in that code - at that level of legislation.
  • CIC83 left more to individual institutes to determine than CIC17
  • “Member”
    • Sodales is used in the 1983 code, in preference to Religioso/i,a,ae in CIC17.
    • This is in an attempt to use a gender-neutral term. However, it has caused some trouble in the interpretation. In the US, in English, the word “member” has been understood to include associates of religious institutes, volunteers, members of third orders, and various others etc. Generally, when working with institutes, I will use the term Brothers or Sisters in preference, so that it is clearer what is meant.

Canon 588 Clerical nor Lay

  • §1 In itself, consecrated life is neither clerical nor lay.
  • §2 A clerical institute is one which, by reason of the end or purpose intended by the founder, or by reason of lawful tradition, is under the governance of clerics, presupposes the exercise of sacred orders, and is recognized as such by ecclesiastical authority.
  • §3 A lay institute is one which is recognized as such by ecclesiastical authority because, by its nature, character, and purpose, its proper role, defined by its founder or by lawful tradition, does not include the exercise of sacred orders.
  • Some institutes are neither clerical nor lay - The franciscan family has both clerical and lay - it is a way of life, not an apostolate. Everyone can contribute to that way of life, priest or brother.
  • CIC17 was pragmatic - you are clerical if a majority of the institute are clerics. A group may go back and forth, but at least the distinction is clear. Clerical = by tradition, under the direction of clerics, assumes the exercise of sacred orders and recognized as such. It gives more rights against the bishop, even if it is inconsistent with the way of life. The very notion of cleric has evolved - in the 12th century, it was associated with the ability to read and write.
  • Franciscans have a tradition of parity between brothers and priests. They have struggled to have brothers in leadership, even if there are priests in the province or congregation.
  • 2022: 2/11/22 effective 5/18/22, Pope Francis gave CICL the faculty to authorize, at the discretion and in individual cases, to non-members clerics the conferment of the office of major superior in clerical religious institutes of pontifical right and in clerical societies of apostolic life of pontifical right of the Latin Church and dependent on it, in derogation from can. 588 §2 CIC and the proper law of the Institute of consecrated life or of the Society of apostolic life, without prejudice to can. 134 §1. Rescript
  1. A non-cleric member of an Institute of consecrated life or a Society of clerical apostolic life of pontifical right is appointed local superior by the supreme moderator with the consent of his council.
  2. A non-cleric member of an Institute of consecrated life or of a clerical society of apostolic life of pontifical right is appointed major superior, after having obtained a written license from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life at the request of the Supreme Moderator with the consent of the Council.
  3. A non-clerical member of an Institute of consecrated life or of a Society of clerical apostolic life of Pontifical Right elected Supreme Moderator or Major Superior, according to the modalities provided for by proper law, requires confirmation - by written license - of the Congregation for Institutes of consecrated life and Societies of apostolic life.
  4. In the cases provided for in §§2-3, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life reserves the right to evaluate the individual case and the reasons given by the Supreme Moderator or by the General Chapter.

Canon 589 Pontifical Right An institute of consecrated life is of pontifical right if it has been established by the Apostolic See, or formally approved by it. An institute is of diocesan right if it has been established by the diocesan Bishop and has not obtained a decree of approval from the Apostolic See.

  • Generally start as diocesan institute after consulting Rome.
  • All institutes have the autonomy to cultivate their charism / Spiritual patrimony.
  • Diocesan bishop has external authority only; diocesan is a local reality - if it spreads, it may become pontifical.
  • Holy See can found directly, though this is rare, e.g. 1980 reintegration of traditionalists. Also Benedictine monastery in France directly dependent on Holy See.
  • Apostolic institutes of women religious formally approved only in 1900, Leo XIII, Conditae a Christo.

Canon 590 Whole Church §1 Institutes of consecrated life, dedicated in a special way to the service of God and of the whole Church, are in a particular manner subject to its supreme authority. §2 The individuals are bound to obey the Supreme Pontiff as their highest Superior, by their sacred bond of obedience.

  • Like all Catholics. Special vocation gives rise to special attention. §2 more a matter of devotion; but implies pope is internal superior. For the members of these Religious Institutes are, at all times and in all places, subject principally to the Roman Pontiff, as to their highest Superior (Canon 331). from Address to the General Chapters of Religious Orders Paul VI May 23, 1964.

Canon 591 Exemption To provide for institutes and the needs of the apostolate, the Supreme Pontiff, can withdraw institutes of consecrated life from the governance of local Ordinaries and subject them to himself alone, or to some other.

  • Historical notion. Ex-emere bought out, set free. Identity and vocation bring a rightful autonomy - Freedom in the spirit, freedom of the children of God. In practice, these concepts are mixed: exemption and rightful autonomy.
  • First exempt institute was Cluny with daughter houses. Before all religious were under a diocesan bishop as all the faithful. Time of western schism, popes tried to bind people to them by privileges, e.g. exemption of religious, most exempt. But coordination of ministry and finances was a problem for the bishop. They tried to exemption abolish at Trent, but didn't succeed. CIC17: Canon 615* Regulares … ab Ordinarii loci iurisdictione exempti sunt…. In order to let the religious be what they are. This is not a privilege, but essential.
  • Exemption as a privilege in the old sense doesn't exist anymore, this is replaced by rightful autonomy. There is a larger autonomy for pontifical institutes. See Garcia Martin in CpR 60-63 (1979-1982) on exemption.

Canon 592 Communion with Rome §1 To promote communion, each supreme Moderator is to send a brief account of the state and life of the institute to the same Apostolic See, in the manner and at the time it lays down.

  • quinquennial - generally tied to the chapter cycle of an institute, usually 4-6 years.

§2 Moderators of each institute are to promote a knowledge of the documents issued by the Holy See which affect the members entrusted to them, and are to ensure observance.

Canon 593 Pontifical Right In their internal governance and discipline, pontifical institutes are subject directly and exclusively to the authority of the Apostolic See, without prejudice to canon 586.

  • When there is a serious problem - solution starts at the local level, then institute, then holy see. But they can't change the nature of the institute.

Canon 594 Diocesan Right An institute of diocesan right remains under the special care of the diocesan Bishop, without prejudice to canon 586.

Canon 595 Diocesan Bishop

  • §1 Bishop of the principal house approves the constitutions, confirms changes, except for matters of interest manu apposuerit to the Apostolic See. He also deals with major affairs. If the institute had spread to other dioceses, he consults bishops of those dioceses.
    • Consulting many bishops can be cumbersome. Founding house, or center house.
  • §2 He also grants dispensations in particular cases.
    • Wherever the community exists, e.g. dispensing second year of novitiate.

Canon 596 Authority §1 Superiors and Chapters of institutes have that authority over the members which is defined in the universal law and in the constitutions.

  • This is a classical division: Potestas jurisdictionis: executive, administrative, legislative and jurisdiction - in clerical institutes only for the institute.
  • Potestas dominativa - vocation, entrance, admitted when superior admits the authenticity of the vocation, she accepts the institute as the embodiment of her vocation. The authority comes from this - particular identity and vocation of institute and members - in mutuality - all serve in interdependence - the superior embodies and organizes this.
  • Potestas domestica - organizing the house. Community will support if they understand and they shouldn't support if they don't. Use of juridical terms is only analogical - so the terms are only useful to a certain extent. Formation brings people into this reality - also sorts out motivations and the fit of religious life; vocation is a dynamic reality - leadership represents and serves the identity of the institute. Universal law gives more power of jurisdiction - the other two are more spelled out in Cx.
  • §2 In clerical pontifical Superiors have in addition the ecclesiastical power of governance, for both the external and the internal forum.
  • Ordinarii of canon 129.
  • §3 The provisions of canons 131, 133, and 137-144 apply to the authority mentioned in §1.
    • 131 Ordinary power comes from the office and delegated power is given by office-holder
    • 133 Use of delegated power
    • 137-8 Delegation and subdelegation of power
    • 139 Effect of approaching a higher authority
    • 140-1 Delegation to several persons
    • 142-3 cessation or suspension of power
    • 144 Church supplies in cases of error.
Vowed Life

Canon 597 Admission

  • §1 Every catholic
    • with a right intention and
    • the qualities required by universal law
      • and the institute's law,
    • and without impediment,
    • may be admitted to an institute of consecrated life.
  • §2 No one may be admitted without suitable preparation.

Canon 598 Vows and Constitutions

  • §1 Each institute, according to its special character and purposes, to define in constitutions way of living the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.
    • Basics are in the canons, but the specifics will vary from one community to another, both spirituality and practically.
  • §2 All members observe the evangelical counsels faithfully and fully, follow the institute's own law, and so strive for the perfection of their state.
  • In a community we share a certain view of the christian life. On entrance candidates engage the charism. Some come and have their own ideas; there is an integration with the community's way of living the gospel. On entrance you give up some individuality - one doesn't enter to reform, but to live and grow.
  • Perfection is a dynamic way of living the Gospel, in a way particular to the institute. Constitutions particularize this.

Canon 599 Chastity Chastity for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, is a sign of the world to come, and a source of greater fruitfulness in an undivided heart. It involves the obligation of perfect continence observed in celibacy.

  • Here the order is chastity, poverty, obedience - following Vatican 2 which saw celibacy as the core, essential element of religious life. Poverty first in Thomistic thought - your things, body and will are 'sacrificed.' They might be in another order in the constitutions. Praemonstratentians put poverty first, following acts of the apostles, viewed as sharing of goods.
  • Undivided heart: many things other than sex can divide the human heart, e.g. egoism, consumerism.
  • Celibacy - unmarried - and this is an impediment to marriage 1088 (religious - not SAL, hermit, virgin, secular institute) - in the old code only solemn vows were an impediment.
  • Canon 694, civil marriage is grounds for automatic dismissal. Defining the vows here is negative - which is more rigorous and juridical in form.

Canon 600 Poverty The evangelical counsel of poverty in imitation of Christ who for our sake was made poor when he was rich, entails a life which is poor in reality and in spirit, sober and industrious, and a stranger to earthly riches. It also involves dependence and limitation in the use and the disposition of goods, in accordance with each institute's own law.

  • Life in accord with human dignity, but moderate. Sober & hardworking, using goods in a proprietary manner is disallowed.
  • Some enter young - with renunciation of what they don't have. This is different for those who enter older. Old system was dowery - kept in name of member - returned to her if she left. Dependence requires permissions, often managed through budgets.

Canon 601 Obedience Obedience, following Christ, obedient even unto death, obliges submission of one's will to lawful Superiors, acting in the place of God when they command according to the constitutions.

  • Team Leadership - Balance mutual discernment and ultimate decisionmaking. ET 25: VC 43, 92; c. 618. See also CICLSAL, instr Fraternal Life in Community, Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor (FL), February 2, 1994, Origins 23/40 (March 24, 1994) 693, 695-712, esp. 47-53, 58-64.

Canon 602 Communion Members unite into a special family in Christ, in mutual assistance to fulfill their vocation. Communion rooted and based in charity is a sign of universal reconciliation in Christ.

  • Apostolic succession of the living communion of followers of Christ going back to apostolic times.

Canon 603 Hermit Can. 603

  • §1 Besides institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognizes the life of hermits or anchorites, in which Christ’s faithful withdraw further from the world and devote their lives to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through the silence of solitude and through constant prayer and penance.
  • §2 Hermits are recognized by law as dedicated to God in consecrated life if, in the hands of the diocesan Bishop, they publicly profess, by a vow or some other sacred bond, the three evangelical counsels, and then lead their particular form of life under the guidance of the diocesan Bishop
    • Plan of life should include understanding of vows, solitude, relation to bishop, living, social dimension. See I am Making Something New
    • Discernment of candidates and their formation could follow the canons on admission and formation in religious institutes. A good spiritual director and some theological formation are critical.
    • Plan of life should include living of the solitude and prayer charistic of the life, as well as the hermit's plan for work and self-support.

Canon 604 Virgins

  • §1. Similar to these forms of consecrated life is the order of virgins who, expressing the holy resolution of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are mystically betrothed to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.
  • §2. In order to observe their own resolution more faithfully and to perform by mutual assistance service to the Church in harmony with their proper state, virgins can be associated together.
  • Ascendit - associated like apostolic life. See I am Making Something New Ecclesiae sponsae imago, 2018
    • Nuns and women living in the world.
    • 1970 Renewed Rite is based on the ancient rite, though there is evidence in the early church of both men and women living this consecration.
    • Received by nuns or by women living in the world.
    • Criteria
      • Never married or lived in public or open violation of chastity.
      • By their age, prudence, and universally approved character they give assurance of perseverance in a life of chastity dedicated to the service of the Church and of their neighbor.
      • Be admitted to this consecration by the Diocesan Bishop who is Ordinary of the place.
    • Bishop sets conditions under which women living in the world are to undertake a life of perpetual virginity.
    • §3. The diocesan bishop is competent for the recognition and erection of such associations at the diocesan level, within his territory; the conference of bishops is competent at the national level, within its own territory. [Competentias quasdam decernere Feb 11, 2022]

Canon 605 New Forms The approval of new forms is reserved to the Apostolic See. Diocesan Bishops, however, help discern new gifts of consecrated life from the Holy Spirit gives. They assist promoters in articulating and developing the life and statutes. See I am Making Something New

  • Generally families of consecrated persons: lay & cleric, men & women, married & single.

Canon 606 Gender Those things which are established for institutes of consecrated life and their members are equally valid in law for either sex, unless it is otherwise evident from the context of the wording or the nature of the matter.


(Cann. 607 - 709) English Latin

Canon 607 Vows and Community

  • §1. As a consecration of the whole person, religious life manifests in the Church a wonderful marriage brought about by God, a sign of the future age. Thus the religious brings to perfection a total self-giving as a sacrifice offered to God, through which his or her whole existence becomes a continuous worship of God in charity.
  • §2. A religious institute is a society in which members, according to proper law, pronounce public vows, either perpetual or temporary which are to be renewed, however, when the period of time has elapsed, and lead a life of brothers or sisters in common.
  • §3. The public witness to be rendered by religious to Christ and the Church entails a separation from the world proper to the character and purpose of each institute.
  • Proper nature of religious life is described here. Canon 573 said it is stable; it has social, juridical, religious and sacred elements. They also have a certain autonomy. Withdrawal is from the 'ungodly life' not necessarily from the world as the arena of the action of God.


English Latin

Canon 608 Religious House A religious community must live in a legitimately established house under the authority of a superior designated according to the norm of law. Each house is to have at least an oratory in which the Eucharist is to be celebrated and reserved so that it is truly the center of the community.

  • This house is constituted without the formalities of canonical establishment (c609)
  • The house is also a witness to the life of the community.
  • Fewer numbers and lack of house superior are customs against the law.
  • Oratory (cc 1223-1224) / reservation (cc 934-941)

Canon 609 Establishing a House

  • §1 A house is established, with diocesan bishop's prior written consent, by the authority competent according to the constitutions.
  • §2 For the establishment of a monastery of cloistered nuns, the permission of the Apostolic See is also required.
  • Competent superior: Generally a major superior. For monasteries the one house for a dependent house but general chapter for an independent house.
  • In the US, few women's houses are canonically erected. They are constituted (c608), and move according to the needs of the community and the ministry.
  • Houses have juridic personality (c 634 §1), hence require minimum of 3 persons, and have the expectation of perpetuity.
  • Cor orans #29 The monastery of nuns is founded with a capitular decision of the community of an autonomous monastery or with a decision of the Federal Assembly, and the sending of at least five nuns, at least three of them of solemn vows, with the prior written consent of the diocesan Bishop and the authorization of the Holy See.
Sample Document: ERECTION OF A HOUSE
[Authorizing team or council] of [religious institute] at [address] in accord with number ## of the Constitutions of 19##, hereby erects a house of the institute: [the house name and address] in the diocese of [diocese].
This is authorized by vote of [authorizing team or council] on [date].
Written approval of the Diocesan bishop [name] of [diocese] was given on [date].
Signed by:
[name and title of person signing for the authority in the institute] [date]
[name and title of the person signing for the diocesan bishop] [date]

Canon 610 Conditions

  • §1. The erection of houses takes place with consideration for their advantage to the Church and the institute and with suitable safeguards for those things which are required to carry out properly the religious life of the members according to the proper purposes and spirit of the institute.
  • §2. No house is to be erected unless it can be judged prudently that the needs of the members will be provided for suitably.
  • Suitable economic means, also the exigency of the apostolate. E.g. a house in a poor urban neighborhood may require outside support.
  • Monastic communities often need eight people to start an independent monastery. This concerns the institute, but a Diocesan bishop may inquire.

Canon 611 Rights of Houses The consent of the diocesan bishop to erect a religious house of any institute entails the right:

  • 1º to lead a life according to the character and proper purposes of the institute;
  • 2º to exercise the works proper to the institute according to the norm of law and without prejudice to the conditions attached to the consent;
  • 3º for clerical institutes to have a church, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1215, §3 (Religious have to have special permission for a church, in addition to the permission for the house.) and to perform sacred ministries, after the requirements of the law have been observed.
  • Permission is granted with permission to establish a house.
  • There may be restrictions placed, but they should be reasonable.

Canon 612 Other Work For a religious house to be converted to apostolic works different from those for which it was established, the consent of the diocesan bishop is required, but not if it concerns a change which refers only to internal governance and discipline, without prejudice to the laws of the foundation.

  • Included in original permission is permissions for proper works and internal life.
  • Change to something else requires consent. However, often these changes are gradual. Good relationships are helpful.

Canon 613 Autonomous Houses

  • §1. A religious house of canons regular or of monks under the governance and care of its own moderator is autonomous unless the constitutions state otherwise.
  • §2. The moderator of an autonomous house is a major superior by law.
    • These houses and monasteries are have no higher superior than their abbot, prior, etc.
    • Secular Canons are described in Canons 503-510. They are secular clerics living in community, with liturgical functions, often in the cathedral. Historically, they served as a council for the bishop. Now there are other structures within the diocese for this.
    • Canons Regular are clerics living under a rule, generally the Rule of St. Augustine. Canons Regular of St. Augustine confederated at the request of Pius XII in 1959. Canons Regular of the Lateran or St. Saviour, which seems to date back to Pope Alexander II (1063). Order of the Canons Regular of Premontre; Norbertines founded by St. Norbert (1120). Order of the Holy Cross (Canons Regular) (Portugal - 1131) re-founded 1977. Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross (the Crosiers), founded at Clair-lieu, near Huy, in Belgium, in 1211 - got down to 4 people and subsequently grew. They now have a provincial structure. Swiss Congregation of Canons Regular of Saint Maurice of Agaune. Gilbertine Order, a solely English order of canons regular, which became extinct under King Henry VIII. Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception, a congregation of Canons Regular (France - 1871). Canons Regular of St. John Cantius (1998 - Chicago). Canons of the New Jerusalem (2002 - Wisconsin, then West Virginia).

Canon 614 Cloistered Monasteries Monasteries of nuns associated to an institute of men maintain their own way of life and governance according to the constitutions. Mutual rights and obligations are to be defined in such a way that spiritual good can come from the association.

  • Women monastics may be aggregated (580) to an institute of men (Franciscans, Carmelites, Dominicans). The details of the relationship are specified in the constitutions. They may also be part of congregations with real juridical authority of the higher superiors
  • History: In many cases an institute was founded by a movement, e.g. canons regular. Then there came to be double monasteries, under a single superior, male or female. In some cases due to problems, they wanted to separate them, abbot remained superior of nuns with real dependence. Cistercian nuns. Other times, there was more autonomy, but still affiliated to the order. Also with strict enclosure wouldn't let them attend general chapter. But this canon reorganizes and promotes the autonomy. There is a strong 'family' feeling between institute, and they organize life separate. Cistercians feel themselves one order but canons don't provide for this. So they hold chapter same time same place with joint sessions and spearate sessions. Polycarp Zachar describes history of cistercian nuns and organization of general chapters. Praem. nuns were deemed 'incapable' of organizing their general chapter.

Canon 615 Autonomous Monasteries If an autonomous monastery has no major Superior other than its own Moderator, and is not associated with any institute of religious in such a way that the Superior of that institute has over the monastery a real authority determined by the constitutions, it is entrusted, in accordance with the norms of law, to the special vigilance of the diocesan Bishop.

  • They may congregate or federate. One autonomous house may stand on its own. E.g. benedictine women. There may be a an abbot general, or external superior - or there may be other practical arrangement. These are almost of diocesan right, but there is a clear distinction over internal and external - e.g. he might preside over election, but is not to influence the election. He must respect the autonomy. After the election the chair of the chapter asks acceptance - the election is an act of the chapter. The bishop can confirm, give force to what is done by someone else.
  • Vultum Dei and Cor orans have made Federations a requirement.
  • Cor orans adjusted the responsibilities of the diocesan bishop. Historically, some have been too active in the vigilance, some too passive.
    • a) presides over the conventual Chapter that elects the Major Superior.
    • b) carries out the regular visit of the monastery, also with regard to internal discipline, taking into account the provisions of this Instruction;
    • c) examines, as the Local Ordinary, the annual report of the financial administration of the monastery;
    • d) in derogation from can. 638, §4 CJC, gives as Local Ordinary, his written consent for particular administrative acts, if established by its proper law.
    • e) confirms the indult of definitive departure from the monastery, granted to a temporary professed member by the Major Superior with the consent of her Council;
    • f) issues the decree of dismissal of a nun, even of temporary vows.

Canon 616 Suppression of Houses

  • §1 The supreme moderator can suppress a legitimately erected religious house according to the norm of the constitutions, after the diocesan bishop has been consulted. The proper law of the institute is to make provision for the goods of the suppressed house, without prejudice to the intentions of the founders or donors or to legitimately acquired rights.
    • Institute makes the decision, hearing the bishop.
    • Disposal for needs of institute, also the “rights” of donors. (canon 123) The gift of the spirit present in the history of that house should be perpetuated however that might be possible. This is good for the people and for the institute - new life, new outpouring of the spirit and charism.
  • §2 The suppression of the only house of an institute belongs to the Holy See, to which the decision regarding the goods in that case is also reserved.
    • This is related to suppression of an institute (canon 584). Goods go first to members needs and intentions of founders and donors (§1 and canon 123).
  • §3 To suppress the autonomous house mentioned in can. 613 belongs to the general chapter, unless the constitutions state otherwise.
    • E.g. Park Abbey Leuven. Any remaining members “freely” choose to go elsewhere, even though they vowed stability in that house.
  • §4 To suppress an autonomous monastery of nuns belongs to the Apostolic See, with due regard to the prescripts of the constitutions concerning its goods.
    • Respect for the institute's law as an expression of the vocation of the institute. It is a gift to the members and to the people of God.


  • There are two elements of leadership - there is collective leadership and individual leadership and the two should be in balance. These are both subject to law: universal, particular and proper.
  • Often personal problems are better dealt with the personally with an individual leader - collective leadership brings wisdom.
  • Administration of spiritual and temporal goods is not best confided to just one person.
  • The chapter sets out the broad framework and the superior (and/or council) executes.


  • 617-9 - Exercise of power.
  • 620-6 - Major superiors and how elected or appointed.
  • 627-30 - Councils, and obligations of superiors.

Canon 617 Superiors Superiors are to fulfill their function and exercise their power according to the norm of universal and proper law.

  • The superior has the role of organizing life for the good of the institute and its members according to their vocation. It is a pastoral service limited by law. All sisters/brothers should be aware of and support the common good and vocation of all.
  • Universal Law includes the Code, conciliar and papal documents intended for the whole church, et.
  • Proper Law includes constitutions, directories/statutes, chapter acts, and policies, etc.

Canon 618 Authority

  • Superiors are to exercise their power,
    • received from God through the ministry of the Church,
    • in a spirit of service.
  • Therefore,
    • docile to the will of God in fulfilling their function,
    • they are to govern their subjects as sons or daughters of God and,
    • promoting the voluntary obedience of their subjects with reverence for the human person,
    • they are to listen to them willingly and
    • foster their common endeavor for the good of the institute and the Church,
    • but without prejudice to the authority of superiors to decide and prescribe what must be done.
  • Based on Perfectae caritatis 14 on the theology of authority, and #4 on promoting greater participation of the community in leadership.
  • A mature responsible community is motivated and can bring the rest along and the collective will govern itself. Much of leadership consists in cultivating consensus, and at times, the leader must decide personally.
  • Power (postestas) comes from God, authority (auctoritas) is grounded in law.

Canon 619 Pastoral Care

  • Superiors are to devote themselves diligently to their office and together with the members entrusted to them are to strive to build a community of brothers or sisters in Christ, in which God is sought and loved before all things.
  • Therefore,
  • they are to nourish the members regularly with the food of the word of God and
  • are to draw them to the celebration of the sacred liturgy.
  • They are to be an example to them
    • in cultivating virtues and in the observance of the laws and traditions of their own institute;
  • they are to meet the personal needs of the members appropriately,
  • solicitously to care for and visit the sick,
  • to correct the restless,
  • to console the faint of heart, and
  • to be patient toward all.
  • Based on PC 6, exhorting all religious to pastoral care.
  • Like leadership of Christ and leadership in the church, the three munera are present here: teaching, governing, and sanctifying.
  • The superior should embody the charism of the institute. Personal pastoral care is the most important role, and it proceeds from personal relationship. From Augustinian rule - the superior loses a lot of time in this pastoral care.

Canon 620 Major Superiors Those who govern an entire institute, a province of an institute or part equivalent to a province, or an autonomous house, as well as their vicars, are major superiors. Comparable to these are an abbot primate and a superior of a monastic congregation, who nonetheless do not have all the power which universal law grants to major superiors.

  • Much of the code will apply to all “major superiors” as defined here.
  • In clerical institutes of pontifical right, major superiors are also ordinaries with clerical power of governance.

Canon 621 Province A province is a union of several houses which, under one superior, constitutes an immediate part of the same institute, and is canonically established by lawful authority.

  • Canon 581 - competent authority of the institute can divide an institute into parts: provinces, regions, etc.
  • Canon 585 - competent authority of the institute can suppress the parts.
  • An institute may be divided into parts to better steward the whole by affording some governance and autonomy to the parts. It is generally divided by geography, but may also be divided by ministry or language.

Canon 622 Supreme Moderator The supreme moderator holds power over all the provinces, houses, and members of an institute; this power is to be exercised according to proper law. Other superiors possess power within the limits of their function.

  • Supreme moderator is a term carried over from CIC17 as a general term. The common names for this person would be “president” “superior general” “abbot/ess general” “prior/ess general” “minister general” “master general” “mother/father general”

Canon 623 Qualifications In order for members to be appointed or elected validly to the function of superior, a suitable time is required after perpetual or definitive profession, to be determined by proper law, or if it concerns major superiors, by the constitutions.

  • The 1917 Code also had age and legitimacy requriements. The CCEO has age and years of profession requirements.
  • Some institutes forbid a person from becoming major superior for the first time over a certain age. E.g. Over the age of 70, a person cannot serve as prioress unless she has already served in that role earlier in her life.

Canon 624 Terms §1 Superiors are to be constituted for a certain and appropriate period of time according to the nature and need of the institute, unless the constitutions determine otherwise for the supreme moderator and for superiors of an autonomous house.

  • All provincials are for term. Supreme moderators and superiors of houses sui iuris may have indefinite terms (ad nutum). Constitutions may leave length of term to the chapter. Roles of superiors differ, according to the charism of the institute, mission, need for stability, type of relationship: family relationship or task oriented relationship. In a few institutes, term can be for life, indefinite, to a definite age. Freedom is left for the institutes. Generally the length must be set before the election.
  • CIC17 provided for three-year terms, renewable once.

§2 Proper law is to provide suitable norms so that superiors, constituted for a definite time, do not remain too long in offices of governance without interruption.

  • Re-election possibilities are specified in proper law. Can postulate additional terms, but usually just once.

§3. Nevertheless, they can be removed from office during their function or be transferred to another for reasons established in proper law.

  • In case of illness or incapacity, the supreme moderator can submit a resignation to the chapter, or they are if not in session, to the competent ecclesiastical authority (“CEA” Holy See or bishop).

Canon 625 Election The supreme moderator of the institute is to be designated by canonical election, in accordance with the constitutions.

  • Provision must be in the Constitutions but detailed norms can be in other proper law. It can be in general chapter or special chapter of elections. See also canons 164-179.

§2 The bishop of the principal seat presides at the elections of a superior of the autonomous monastery mentioned in can. 615 and of the supreme moderator of an institute of diocesan right.

  • The bishop generally presides by delegate, as a friendly pastoral presence who can also ensure the election follows the norms of universal and proper law.
  • In case of postulation, see canons 180-183. Electors state “I elect or postulate .” There should be a 2/3 majority. The vote is forwarded to the CEA for dispensation of the impediment.
  • See also canon 174 on election by compromise or commitment. The electors can entrust the election to a smaller group of individuals.

§3 Other superiors are to be constituted according to the norm of the constitutions, but in such a way that,

  • if they are elected, they need the confirmation of a competent major superior;
  • if they are appointed by a superior, however, a suitable consultation is to precede.
    • Freedom, informal, consultative vote, any method is possible, but the upcoming appointment should be announced and sisters/brothers given the chance for input. Depending of course on the life of the community. There should be a certain unity among the various leaders.

Canon 626 Integrity in Elections Superiors in the conferral of offices and members in elections

  • are to observe the norms of universal and proper law,
  • are to abstain from any abuse or partiality, and
  • are to appoint or elect those whom they know in the Lord to be truly worthy and suitable,
  • having nothing before their eyes but God and the good of the institute.
  • Moreover, in elections they are to avoid any procurement of votes, either directly or indirectly, whether for themselves or for others.
    • Canon 170 - an election must be free - if not, it is invalid. It is important to balance the need for knowledge about those under consideration, and inappropriate influence.

Canon 627 Council §1 According to the norm of the constitutions, superiors are to have their own council, whose assistance they must use in carrying out their function.

  • Important group, proper law will provide particular decisions which require advice or consent.
  • Constitutions have existence of council and requirment to use council according to canon law.
  • They may also have number and qualifications of councilors. They may have
  • Canon 127 - Counsel must be convoked
    • Consent - must not act without seeking and receiving consent.
    • Advice - must not act without hearing the opinion.
    • A tie vote of councilors does not constitute consent.

§2 In addition to the cases prescribed in universal law, proper law is to determine the cases which require consent or counsel to act validly; such consent or counsel must be obtained according to the norm of can. 127.

  • Some institutes only have the minimum cases requiring consent, others required many more items to receive the consent of the council.
  • The following cannot be delegated by the supreme moderator:
    • Canon 647 - erection, transfer and suppression of a novitiate.
    • Canon 684 - allowing a member to transfer.
    • Canon 686 - granting an indult of exclaustration or requesting the Holy See to impose it.
    • Canon 699 - allowing a temporary professed to leave the institute.
    • Canon 690 - re-admitting someone who has legitimatelly left.
  • Major superior must consult, e.g.
    • Canon 689 - to exclude from subsequent profession
    • Canon 697 - initiating
  • In some cases, it is left to proper law
    • Canon 638.1 - extraordinary transaction
    • Canons 656-8 - admitting to temporary or perpetual profession
  • Canons on colleges, and on advice and consent apply. E.g. 166 requires that all members of the councilors be convoked. If one is overlooked and is absent the vote is valid, however, s/he can object and the competent authority recinds the act.

Canon 628 Visitation §1 The superiors whom the proper law of the institute designates for this function are to visit the houses and members entrusted to them at stated times according to the norms of this same proper law.

  • Useful pastoral visit, often according to schedule, i.e. once between chapters, once in a leadership term. This can be an important way to build a sense of communion in the whole institute or in the whole province, and to grow in mutual understanding. The visit should occur in a faith context.
  • Historically, visitation has a negative connotation among some , the superior coming to check up and find problems. Some view it punitively, and it has been used in that way at times.

§2. It is the right and duty of a diocesan bishop to visit even with respect to religious discipline:

  • 1º the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615; Derogated by CO 111. See CO 81 - constitutes visitation through the federation.
  • 2º individual houses of an institute of diocesan right located in his own territory.
    • It is sensible to delegate a religious to carry this out.

§3. Members are to act with trust toward a visitator, to whose legitimate questioning they are bound to respond according to the truth in charity. Moreover, it is not permitted for anyone in any way to divert members from this obligation or otherwise to impede the scope of the visitation.

  • There should be a schema for the visitation so everyone knows what is to be done, visitator and community.
  • It should be a time of free dialogue, transparency and renewal.

Canon 629 Residence Superiors are to reside in their respective houses, and are not to absent themselves from their house except according to the norm of proper law.

  • See Canon 665. In many communities, a superior will reside in one house and have responsibility for many houses.

Canon 630 Freedom of Conscience §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.

  • This is particularly important in enclosure. There is limited freedom of egress, confessors must come to the community.
  • The 1917 code regulated this matter in much more detail (25 canons).

§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.

  • This can be a problem in the superior being able to act. Also leave the freedom both for the brother, and for the leader to lead. Superior cannot divulge or use the information.
  • There are similar prohibitions for rectors of seminaries and formation directors.

§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.

  • After many caveats, there is a an encouragment of openness on the part of sisters/brothers.
  • Assist those who are struggling, but in freedom.


  • CIC17 had references to chapters, but no canons prescribing their existence or function.

Canon 631 General Chapter §1 The general chapter, which holds supreme authority in the institute according to the norm of the constitutions, is to be composed in such a way that, representing the entire institute_, it becomes a true sign of its unity in charity. It is for the general chapter principally:

  • to protect the patrimony of the institute mentioned in can. 578,
  • promote suitable renewal according to that patrimony,
  • elect the supreme moderator,
  • treat affairs of greater importance, and
  • issue norms which all are bound to obey.

§2. The constitutions are to define the composition and extent of the power of a chapter; proper law is to determine further the order to be observed in the celebration of the chapter, especially in what pertains to elections and the manner of handling affairs.

§3. According to the norms determined in proper law, not only provinces and local communities, but also any member can freely send wishes and suggestions to a general chapter.

  • Chapters are an ancient institution, a manifestation of the belief in the dignity of each person and the presence of the gifts of the Spirit in each individual.
  • The balance of authority between the chapter and the superior varies from one institute to another, but generally the chapter holds the primacy. The superior and council take the mandate of the chapter and implement it throughout their term, and report back to the chapter.
  • The norm is a representative chapter, in which delegates are selected by region, province, ministry, age-cohort, etc, so that they represent the whole institute. Chapter of the whole - is a chapter in which all members may participate. It is increasingly important that these chapters actually represent.
  • Chapters can propose changes to the constitutions - by a 2/3 majority, and the change must be approved by CEA.
  • Chapters are usually organized by a committee established for this purpose. This committee, in collaboration with the superiors (general or provincial) establish the agenda, the manner of proceeding and invite resource persons to assist the chapter delegates. The chapter however retains the freedom to accept or reject these preparations. It is wise to prepare well and ensure that the arrangements will be acceptable to the capitulars. This makes for a more fruitful experience.

Canon 632 Other Gatherings The institute's own law is to determine in greater detail matters concerning other chapters and other similar assemblies of the institute, that is, concerning their nature, authority, composition, procedure and time of celebration.

  • More frequent and local gatherings can help to advance the life and mission of the institute and retain its vitality.

Canon 633 Consultation §1. Organs of participation or consultation are to fulfill faithfully the function entrusted to them according to the norm of universal and proper law and to express in their own way the concern and participation of all the members for the good of the entire institute or community.

§2. In establishing and using these means of participation and consultation, wise discretion is to be observed and their procedures are to conform to the character and purpose of the institute.


Sackett 85 CLSA Proceedings - case studies.

Canon 634 Capacity to Own

§1. As juridic persons by the law itself, institutes, provinces, and houses are capable of acquiring, possessing, administering, and alienating temporal goods unless this capacity is excluded or restricted in the constitutions.

  • Many local religious houses in the US are not formally erected and most canonists hold that they do not possess juridic personality.
  • Institutes in the US generally civilly incorporate so that they have the civil right to act corporately. They may establish additional civil entities for particular ministries, for larger houses, and for retirement funds.
  • Religious institutes are public juridic persons, as such they act in nomine ecclesiae and their goods are ecclesiastical goods. Public juridic persons, yet not part of the hierarchical structure of the church. (Canon 207.2)
  • St. Clare worked hard to ensure that her sisters could not own anything - it was in her rule, approved on her deathbed.
  • In the US, ministries are often separately incorporated under civil law, but they remain part of the juridic person of the institute or province. It is possible to maintain sufficient control over these separately incorporated ministries so that the institute's or province's canonical responsibilities can be carried out.

§2. Nevertheless, they are to avoid any appearance of excess, immoderate wealth, and accumulation of goods.

  • Echoes PC 13, LG 13, GS 68-72.

Canon 635 Ecclesiastical Goods

§1. Since the temporal goods of religious institutes are ecclesiastical, they are governed by the prescripts of Book V, The Temporal Goods of the Church, unless other provision is expressly made.

  • Book V sets out the requirements for good stewardship, and the principles of acquisition and administration of goods. There are four titles after four introductory canons on ownership, 1. acquisition, 2. Administration, 3. Alienation, 4. Pious Wills and Foundations.

§2. Nevertheless, each institute is to establish suitable norms concerning the use and administration of goods, by which the poverty proper to it is to be fostered, protected, and expressed.

  • Institutes may differ on the focus of the vow of poverty: personal divestment, community divestment, sharing of goods in community, solidarity with the poor, living lightly on the earth, freeing up assets for mission.

Canon 636 Separate Finance Officer

§1. In each institute and likewise in each province which is governed by a major superior, there is to be a finance officer, distinct from the major superior and constituted according to the norm of proper law, who is to manage the administration of goods under the direction of the respective superior. Insofar as possible, a Finance officer distinct from the local superior is to be designated even in local communities.

  • Historically this role has always been filled by a communtiy member. This canon has no requirement that the finance officer be a member of the community. However, it is prudent to ensure that some member of the community has sufficient financial literacy to oversee the work of a finance officer to avoid potential problems. External audits or financial reviews can also ensure the integrity of the financial services.
  • Leadership and the Finance Officer have distinct yet related roles in service of the community.

§2. At the time and in the manner established by proper law, Finance officers and other administrators are to render an account of their administration to the competent authority.

Canon 637 Local Ordinary Once a year, the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615 are to render an account of their administration to the local Ordinary. The local Ordinary also has the right to be informed about the financial affairs of a religious house of diocesan right.

  • There is no right to intervene as there was in CIC17.

Canon 638 Extraordinary Administration §1. Within the scope of universal law, it belongs to proper law to determine acts which exceed the limit and manner of ordinary administration and to establish what is necessary to place an act of extraordinary administration validly.

  • There may be a monetary limit, a percent of budget, and/ or a limit on the type of transaction, e.g. purchase and sale of real property, loans, etc. The limit might be different for a contemplative monastery, or a community that runs hospitals and universities.

§2. In addition to superiors, the officials who are designated for this in proper law also validly incur expenses and perform juridic acts of ordinary administration within the limits of their function.

  • Civil validity would be determined by civil law of the jurisdiction. Sometimes it may refer to Church law as well.

§3. For the validity of alienation and of any other affair in which the patrimonial condition of a juridic person can worsen, the written permission of the competent superior with the consent of the council is required. Nevertheless, if it concerns an affair which exceeds the amount defined by the Holy See for each region, or things given to the Church by vow, or things precious for artistic or historical reasons, the permission of the Holy See itself is also required.

  • Alienation is selling stable patrimony. It could include spending significant reserved assets for another purpose, long-term lease, mortgage, incuring debt, relinquishing control of a governing board. (48 Jurist 709 (1988)

Ordinary and Extraordinary Administration: Canon 1277) See Canon 1292. The request requires:

  • An explanation of the just cause (c. 1293, para. 1)
  • Written evaluations or appraisals (c. 1293, para 1)
  • An explanation of how other particulars of law have been observed (c. 1293, para. 2)
  • The consent of intermediate bodies or councils—often in the form of minutes
  • A statement regarding divisible goods (c. 1292,para. 3)
  • The offer to purchase, it possible (c. 1294, para. 1);
  • A statement of what is to be done with the proceeds (c. 1294, para. 2)
  • Sometimes, a statement regarding the observance of the formalities of secular law (c. 1296)
  • A statement from the bishop where the property is located, this must be consent in the case of a diocesan institute or 615 monastery. See also canon 1276.
  • Worsen patrimonial condition - e.g. loan, mortgage, incurring debt.
  • The civil sale of assets may be valid, even if permission for alienation is not sought or not obtained, but a suitable response may be taken (canons 1290, 1296). Coordinating civil and canonical responsibilities can be a challenge, particularly in complex transactions.
  • Leasing of ecclesiastical property over $1M in US requires nihil obstat of diocesan bishop. Norm.

§4. For the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615 and for institutes of diocesan right, it is also necessary to have the written consent of the local ordinary. Derogated for contemplative nuns by CO 52, 81d, 108

  • CO#52 - Consent of Major Superior and council or conventual chapter, and federation president are required.
  • CO#81 c,d - For monasteries entrusted to the care of the diocesan bishop - he examines the accounts submitted and he gives his consent if so required in proper law.
  • CO#108 - For suppressed monasteries, the Federation President with her Council is competent, with the Holy See in some cases.
  • See Perlasca, Alberto. “La Capacità Patrimoniale Degli Istituti Religiosi.” Quaderni Di Diritto Ecclesiale 22, no. 1 (2009): 118–129. Guidelines on Managment 2014

Canon 639 Responsibility for Debts

  • General principles of agency and responsibility for actions taken.

§1. If a juridic person has contracted debts and obligations even with the permission of the superiors, it is bound to answer for them.

§2. If a member has entered into a contract concerning his or her own goods with the permission of the superior, the member must answer for it, but if the business of the institute was conducted by mandate of the superior, the institute must answer.

§3. If a religious has entered into a contract without any permission of superiors, he or she must answer, but not the juridic person.

  • These principles can come into play in a case when a brother/sister mishandles assets of a ministry.

§4. It is a fixed rule, however, that an action can always be brought against one who has profited from the contract entered into.

§5. Religious superiors are to take care that they do not permit debts to be contracted unless it is certain that the interest on the debt can be paid off from ordinary income and that the capital sum can be paid off through legitimate amortization within a period that is not too long.

Canon 640 Collective Testimony Taking into account the circumstances of the individual places, institutes are to make a special effort to give, as it were, a collective testimony of charity and poverty. They are to do all in their power to donate something from their own resources to help the needs of the Church and the support of the poor.

  • From PC 13. CIC 17 was much more cautious, not allowing gifts from the community unless “by will of the superior and according to the norms of the constitutions.”
  • Canon 1286.1, .2 call for equitable wage for employees of the community, taking also into account the needs of their families.



  • CIC17 had requirement for postulancy, a prepatory period before novitiate. This is no longer regulated by canon law, but continues to exist in proper law and the practice of many institutes. It may also be called candidacy or pre-novitiate.
  • This section was reduced from 50 canons in CIC17 to 20 in CIC83. Some of the issues regulated by the former canons are now within the authority of proper law, and may also be adjusted and dispensed by major superiors.
  • There are fewer impediments and fewer testimonials required for admission. E.g. at one time the bishop had to interview novices to ensure that they were free from undue influence in professing vows.
  • Renovationis causam (1969) introduced changes, all but the last came into the 1983 Code:
    • Longer period of formation.
    • Candidates need preparation for novitiate.
    • Need for apostolic preparation for apostolic communities.
    • Former sisters/brothers can return without repeating novitiate.
    • Temporary vows can be replaced with another type of bond or promise.
  • Also greater active collaboration of candidates in their own formation, insights from the behavioral sciences, moving beyond detailed minutiae to integral formation, more flexibility left to individual institutes.
  • Stages:
    • Screening and Discernment
    • Pre-novitiate
    • Novitiate
    • Temporary Profession
  • Requirements and criteria
    • A community member to accompany those at each stage.
    • A community and ministry
    • Gradual growth and maturing in their vocation

Canon 641 Right to Admit The right to admit candidates to the novitiate belongs to the major Superiors, in accordance with the norms of the institute's own law.

  • CIC17 required vote of council or chapter, now it is left to institute's own law to determine what is necessary. It also required a period of formation prior to novitiate.
  • CO 262-276 require for contemplative communities: aspirancy - 12-24 month period of formation prior to entrance and postulancy - 12-14 month period of formation after entrance, prior to novitiate.
  • Personal knowledge and experience of the canidates should supplement the documents submitted with the application.

Canon 642 Diligence in Screening Superiors are to exercise a vigilant care to admit only those who, besides being of required age, are healthy, have a suitable disposition, and have sufficient maturity to embrace the life which is proper to the institute. If necessary, the health, disposition and maturity are to be established by experts, without prejudice to can. 220.

  • Use of experts is subject to fundamental right to privacy Lex ecclesiae fundamentalis, canon 220.
  • Discretion is necessary in the handling of sensitive information about the individual, what information is retained? how long? who has access? what happens if the person leaves? if the person makes final profession?
  • Long term contact of a candidate with members of the institute can supplement more formal inquiries into a person's suitability.

Canon 643 Requirements

  • Three canons on impediments 643, requirements 644, and prerequisites 645.

§1 The following are invalidly admitted to the novitiate:

  • 1° One who has not yet completed the seventeenth year of age;
    • CIC17 required 15 years of age. Many institutes prefer more mature candidates
  • 2° a spouse, while the marriage lasts;
    • Obtain certificates of marriage and divorce as well as the decree of nullity.
    • It is wise to read the annulment sentence to determine its impact on the suitability of the candidate.
    • Also determine whether any children are independent financially and emotionally.
    • It is possible to apply to the Apostolic See for dispensation from this impediment.
  • 3° one who is currently bound by a sacred bond to some institute of consecrated life, or is incorporated in some society of apostolic life, without prejudice to can. 684;
    • Canon 684 is on transfer.
  • 4° one who enters the institute through force, fear or deceit, or whom the Superior accepts under the same influences;
    • Fraud includes false assertion and knowing concealment of an important factor regarding suitability for religious life. E.g. disability, criminality, professional credentials.
    • Force, fear and deceit interfere with the freedom necessary for the validity of the juridical act of admission to novitiate. Canon 125.
    • This highlights the importance of third party verification in the screening process to ensure the veracity of the applicant. Transcripts, earnings history, criminal background check, credit check.
  • 5° one who has concealed his or her incorporation in an institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life.
    • Testimony of prior superior is required in canon 645 below. It is also important in determining capacity of a candidate to embrace the life of the institute.
    • In prior law there were more impediments, for liceity: those subject to lawsuit or bound as trustees, executors, etc; those needed to assist parents or other relatives; for clerical institutes, those barred from ordination; those of a different Church sui iuris than the institute.
    • If an impediment is discovered after a person is admitted, the institute may petition for a dispensation, allow a novice to depart or be dismissed, allow a professed member to petition for dispensation or be dismissed.
    • Concealment of profession brings a candidate's honesty into serious doubt. Concealment of earlier stages of profession does not invalidate, but would raise similar serious concerns.

§2 An institute's own law can constitute other impediments even for the validity of admission, or attach other conditions.

  • conditions can go to validity or liceity of admission, or they can be considered as one of many criteria of evaluation.
  • E.g. age, education, language, citizenship, health, etc.
  • Instiute's law could also provide the authority to dispense.
  • Invalid admission would invalidate all subsequent acts: novitiate, profession, etc. Sanatio in radice could be sought in order to cure such a situation.

Canon 644 Secular Clerics Superiors are not to admit secular clerics to the novitiate without consulting their proper Ordinary; nor those who have debts which they are unable to meet.

  • Superiors are to consult, even if the cleric has already communicated with the bishop; permission is not required.
  • Admission in violation of either criteria is illicit, but not invalid.
  • Educational debt is common in the US - some communities will admit those with educational debt, agreeing to make payments on the debt so long as the person remains in the community. (Hereford, Amy. “Canon 644: Education Loans of Those Entering Religious Communities (Advisory Opinion).” Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2010, 114–15.)

Canon 645 Suitability

§1 Before candidates are admitted to the novitiate they must produce proof of baptism and confirmation, and of their free status.

  • Require recent authenticated baptismal certificate (3-6 months before admittance). Religious profession, orders and marriage should be noted on the baptismal certificate. In these cases, the community should obtain written evidence of free status: dispensation, annulment, etc.
  • If no baptismal certificate is available, ask for testimony of a reliable witness.

§2 The admission of clerics or others who had been admitted to another institute of consecrated life, to a society of apostolic life, or to a seminary, requires in addition the testimony of, respectively, the local Ordinary, or the major Superior of the institute or society, or the rector of the seminary.

  • If the diocese, institute or society has merged or split, the admitting community should approach an existing diocese, institute or society and ask for the testimony, working with them to obtain information relevant to the candidate.
  • Information should be obtained confidentially, regarding the person's prior experience, and it's impact on their present suitability for formation.

§3 An institute's own law can demand further proofs concerning the suitability of candidates and their freedom from any impediment.

§4 The Superiors can seek other information, even under secrecy, if this seems necessary to them.


  • Higher level of accountabiity - decisions about house reserved to supreme moderator.
  • Issues of validity which go to of novitiate and hence of profession.

Canon 646 Purpose The purpose of the novitiate, by which life in an institute begins, is to give the novices a greater understanding of their divine vocation, and of their vocation to that institute. During the novitiate the novices are to experience the manner of life of the institute and form their minds and hearts in its spirit. At the same time their resolution and suitability are to be confirmed (comprotentur).

  • Purpose
    • Come to know the vocation and institute
    • experience and discover their place in it
    • comprobentur ratify, confirm - commitment and suitablity
  • Novices come with differing levels of personal, spiritual and professional maturity. It is important to provide flexibility to meet the various needs.

Canon 647 Novitiate House

§1 The establishment, transfer and suppression of a novitiate house are to take place by a written decree of the supreme moderator of the institute, given with the consent of the council.

  • CIC17 required pontifical institutes to request this of the Holy See.
  • Collaborative novitiates are often established for novices of the same charism, e.g. franciscan or dominican. This requires permission of CEA. The novice director in this case would not be in the same institute as all of the novices. These programs often last one year. There is usually a novice director from the home congregation who directs the novices for a second year of novitiate.
  • The novitiate is generally in the culture and language of the novices since it is an intensive spiritual journey and vocational discernment.
  • Even in a large international institute, this is the novitiate house is the responibility of the supreme moderator. There may be more than one novitiate in a province, e.g. if there is a large geographic region, or there are multiple languages and cultures involved.

§2 To be valid, a novitiate must take place in a house which is duly designated for this purpose. In particular cases and by way of exception and with the permission of the supreme moderator given with the consent of the council, a candidate can make the novitiate in another house of the institute, under the direction of an approved religious who takes the place of the director of novices.

  • In particular cases, as an exception, the novitiate can take place in another house - e.g. if there is a large geographic region, or there are multiple languages and cultures involved or there are particular needs, e.g. immigration.

§3 A major Superior can allow a group of novices to reside, for a certain period of time, in another specified house of the institute.

  • There are no restrictions on this other than it be another house of the institute.

Canon 648 Length of Novitiate

§1 For validity, the novitiate must comprise twelve months spent in the novitiate community, without prejudice to the provision of can. 647 §3.

  • The requirement to be in the 'novitiate community' has been variously interpreted, especially when there are few or only one novice.
  • CIC17 required a complete and unbroken year. This could allow more more flexibility.

§2 To complete the formation of the novices, the constitutions can prescribe, in addition to the time mentioned in §1, one or more periods of apostolic activity, to be performed outside the novitiate community.

  • In the case of novices who have worked professionally in a field related to the apostolic mission of the institute, a novice could return to their profession for their apostolic experience. This can allow for those candidates who may have established careers to take a leave of absence for their work to complete the canonical novitiate, then return to their empoyment, provided that 1. the work is related to the institute's mission, 2. 12 months of novitiate have been completed in the novitiate community and 3. the experience is in service of formation. (PI 48)

§3 The novitiate is not to be extended beyond two years.

Canon 649 Time Away

§1 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 647 §3, and can. 648 §2, a novitiate is invalidated by an absence from the novitiate house of more than three months, continuous or broken. Any absence of more than fifteen days must be made good.

  • The norm seeks to protect the integrity and stability of this important period of formation. Reasons for absence might include family emergency, personal illness, professional or immigration requirements.
  • There is automatic permission for this, in RC, it required a decision of the superior. In the current situation. This would generally be done with the knowledge and support of the major superior, even if not express permission.
  • The canon emphasizes the important time of this extended period of formation, absenses from which should not be taken lightly.

§2 With the permission of the competent major Superior, first profession may be anticipated, though not by more than fifteen days.

Canon 650 Director of Novices

§1 The object of the novitiate demands that novices be formed under the supervision of the director of novices, in a manner of formation to be defined by the institute's own law.

§2 The governance of the novices is reserved to one director of novices alone, under the authority of the major Superiors.

  • The director of novices supervies the novices, according to the institute's law, and under the authority of the major superiors. Clarity of roles and collaboration between formation and leadership are critical.
  • In cases of experience outside the novitiate community, experience of ministry, or other cases where others are involved in life of the novices, the novice director would collaborate with them to minimize confusion.

Canon 651 Director of Novices

§1 The director of novices is to be a member of the institute who has taken perpetual vows and has been lawfully designated.

  • CIC17 had more requirements, and now, proper law can add more requirements, e.g. a period of years in final vows.

§2 If need be, directors of novices may be given assistants, who are subject to them in regard to the governance of the novitiate and the manner of formation.

§3 Those in charge of the formation of novices are to be members who have been carefully prepared, and who are not burdened with other tasks, so that they may discharge their office fruitfully and in a stable fashion.

  • Preparation includes theology, spirituality, charism and spiritual accompaniment.

Canon 652 Responsibilities

§1 It is the responsibility of the directors of novices and their assistants to discern and test the vocation of the novices, and gradually to form them to lead the life of perfection which is proper to the institute.


  • Novices are to be led to develop human and Christian virtues.
  • Through prayer and self-denial they are to be introduced to a fuller way of perfection.
  • They are to be instructed in contemplation of the mystery of salvation, and in reading and meditating on the sacred Scriptures.
  • Their preparation is to enable them to develop their worship of God in the sacred liturgy.
  • They are to learn how to lead a life consecrated to God and their neighbor in Christ through the evangelical counsels.
  • They are to learn about the character and spirit of the institute, its purpose and discipline, its history and life, and
  • to be imbued with a love for the Church and its sacred Pastors.

§3 Novices, conscious of their own responsibility, are to cooperate actively with the director of novices, so that they may faithfully respond to the grace of their divine vocation.

§4 By the example of their lives and by prayer, the members of the institute are to ensure that they do their part in assisting the work of formation of the novices.

§5 The period of novitiate mentioned in can. 648 §1, is to be set aside exclusively for the work of formation. The novices are therefore not to be engaged in studies or duties which do not directly serve this formation.

  • There may be work or study, but it should be oriented to formation. Theology, spirituality, ministry with extended time for theological reflection may be helpful.

Canon 653 Free to Leave

§1 A novice may freely leave the institute. The competent authority of the institute may also dismiss a novice.

§2 On the completion of the novitiate, a novice, if judged suitable, is to be admitted to temporary profession; otherwise the novice is to be dismissed. If a doubt exists concerning suitability, the time of probation may be prolonged by the major Superior, in accordance with the institute's own law, but for a period not exceeding six months.

  • The prolongation should only be in cases of doubt where the additional time would provide a real promise of rendering the novice ready for profession.
  • Ideally the decision regarding profession or departure is mutual, made in a spirit of discernment. To make profession, both the novice and the institute must agree. If either decides for departure, that is the result.


  • Five canons here, in place of seventeen in CIC17.
  • The prior distinction of simple and solemn vows no longer applies. In earlier legislation, those in solemn vows could not validly own (though civil law may differ), they could not validly marry, and dispension and readmission were reserved to the holy see.
  • Sanation of invalid profession (from CIC17) not mentioned. This may be done by analogy, or a new profession may be required - not clear in the law.
  • The rite of religious profession is contained in the Roman Ritual.

Canon 654 Profession By religious profession members make a public vow to observe the three evangelical counsels. Through the ministry of the Church they are consecrated to God, and are incorporated into the institute, with the rights and duties defined by law.

  • Public vows are accepted in the name of the Church - canon 1192.1
  • Some institutes profess additional vows, and some orders have a different formula, e.g. Benedictines and Dominicans.
  • Those with temporary vows may have some restrictions on rights, e.g. voting and qualification for offices in the institute.

Canon 655 Length of Temporary Profession Temporary profession is to be made for the period defined by the institute's own law. This period may not be less than three years nor longer than six years.

  • Temporary profession is a relatively modern innovation, becoming common in the 19th century, particularly with the new apostolic institutes. With CIC17 it became normative.
  • During this time, the person is living the life of the institute in a more or less complete way. They may have additional formation responsibilities, and may have a formation director. Pre-novitiate and novitate are more focused on introducing the person to the life and helping them grow into their vocation. In temporary profession, the person has the opportunity to live a life more like that which they will be committing to at perpetual profession. It gives the individual and the community an extended time to experience the person's readiness for the life of the institute. If signs of lack of suitability begin to appear, it is important to address them, and not to simply extend the time of temporary vows if there is little hope that the person can be admitted to final vows.

Canon 656 Valid Temporary Profession The validity of temporary profession requires:

  • 1° that the person making it has completed at least the eighteenth year of age;
  • 2° that a valid novitiate has been made;
  • 3° that admission has been granted, freely and in accordance with the norms of law, by the competent Superior, after a vote of his or her council;
  • 4° that the profession be explicit and made without force, fear or deceit;
  • 5° that the profession be received by the lawful Superior, personally or through another.
    • Profession of the three vows, according to the constitutions of the institute, in the hands of the superior.
    • The canonical acts of request for admission, acceptance and witness of the profession should in writing and should be retained. As juridical acts the must be free to be valid.

Canon 657 Perpetual Profession

§1 When the period of time for which the profession was made has been completed, a religious who freely asks, and is judged suitable, is to be admitted to a renewal of profession or to perpetual profession; otherwise, the religious is to leave.

  • Time of temporary profession affords a person a time of experiencing the life of the institute more fully. This should afford the person and the institute a more stable experience from which to discern the ability to live the life of the institute for the long-term.
  • Admitting to final profession, and the profession itself constitute a serious mutual commitment. After nearly a decade in the institute, it is important to make a serious examination. At the same time it raises the question about the whole process of formation. There is a growing level of commitment of the person and the institute. It is important to be clear that if the person won't make final profession, that becomes clear as early in the process as possible. It may also take time to discern whether a person is able to come into maturity as a member of the community. It can be difficult to articulate the reason, and sometimes this delays the decision. To a point, temporary profession helps to mature one's vocation, after that point it may no longer do so.
  • Admission to final profession requires serious mutual discernment and evaluation of the suitability of the candidate.
  • Admission to further temporary profession or non-admission are other possible decisions.
  • Proper law determines the competent authority in the insitute to admit: a major superior, with or without council.
  • Perpetual profession should be preceded by a will, canon 668.1, and should be noted in the parish of baptism, canon 535.2.

§2 If it seems opportune, the period of temporary profession can be extended by the competent Superior in accordance with the institute's own law. The total time during which the member is bound by temporary vows may not, however, extend beyond nine years.

§3 Perpetual profession can for a just reason be anticipated, but not by more than three months.

  • This is only an issue for someone making profession after the minimum of three years. After that, this minimum would not be a concern.

Canon 658 Requirements Besides the conditions mentioned in can. 656, nn. 3, 4 and 5, and others attached by the institute's own law, the validity of perpetual profession requires:

  • 1° that the person has completed at least the twenty-first year of age;
  • 2° that there has been previous temporary profession for at least three years, without prejudice to the provision of can. 657 §3.
    • This follows from minimum ages for novitiate and first profession. Dispensable.


  • Formation after final profession was not in CIC17 or previous legislation.

Canon 659 Continuing Formation

§1 After first profession, the formation of all members in each institute is to be completed, so that they may lead the life proper to the institute more fully, and fulfill its mission more effectively.

§2 The institute's own law is, therefore, to define the nature and duration of this formation. In this, the needs of the Church and the conditions of people and times are to be kept in mind, insofar as this is required by the purpose and the character of the institute.

  • Formation is oriented to the needs of the person, spirituality, community and mission.

§3 The formation of members who are being prepared for sacred orders is governed by the universal law and the institute's own program of studies.

  • Canons 242-264.

Canon 660 Systematic Formation

§1 Formation is to be systematic, adapted to the capacity of the members, spiritual and apostolic, both doctrinal and practical. Suitable ecclesiastical and civil degrees are to be obtained as opportunity offers.

§2 During the period of formation members are not to be given offices and undertakings which hinder their formation.

  • It is important to be both systematic and adapted to the person, covering spirituality, community and mission. Fostering personal growth.
  • The institute has to provide this opportunity and afford sisters/brothers the time and space to do this, and the freedom from other responsibilities so that they can gain the most fruit from the formation opportunities.

Canon 661 Life-long Formation Religious are to be diligent in continuing their spiritual, doctrinal and practical formation throughout their lives. Superiors are to ensure that they have the assistance and the time to do this.

  • Restatement of PC 18. Institute has the obligation to provide opportunities, Religious have the obligation to make good use of the opportunities they have.
  • Degree programs, certificate programs, academic courses, workshops, conferences, etc. Professional and academic preparation may be easier than providing spiritual and personal renewal opportunities.


English Latin Rights in Canon Law

  • Obligations and Rights of the Christian Faithful
  • Obligations and Rights of the Lay Christian Faithful
  • Obligations and Rights of Clerics
  • Obligations and Rights of Institutes and their Members.

Human and Civil Rights

  • Retained by Religious
  • Choose to limit exercise
  • Limit: Ownership, Family
  • Interdependent use: education, work, residence
  • Free association
  • Conditions on membership

Christian Faithful

  • Obligations and Rights
  • Each right implies an obligation
  • Retained by members of religious institutes
  • Limit the exercise of these rights
  • Use in interdependence with the institute

Important Rights

  • Right and duty to express opinions (212)
  • Right to choose state in life (Canon 219)
  • Right to privacy and reputation (Canon 220)
  • Right to due process and right of defense
  • (Canon 221)

Canon 212

  • §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the
  • §3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

Canon 219*

  • All the Christian faithful have the right to be free from any kind of coercion in choosing a state of life.

Canon 220

  • No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses nor to injure the right of any person to protect his or her own privacy.

Right of Privacy / Reputation

  • Moderate their exercise of the right to privacy
  • Not forfeited
  • Shared information: screening, misconduct, personnel decisions
  • Balancing Privacy and Reputation with necessary sharing and openness

Canon 221

  • §1. The Christian faithful can legitimately vindicate and defend the rights which they possess in the Church in the competent ecclesiastical forum according to the norm of law.
  • §2. If they are summoned to a trial by a competent authority, the Christian faithful also have the right to be judged according to the prescripts of the law applied with equity.
  • §3. The Christian faithful have the right not to be punished with canonical penalties except according to the norm of law.

Due Process / Defense

  • Fundamental fairness in administrative or judicial actions.
  • Not fully spelled out in the code
  • Defense of one's rights
  • Assistance of canonical counsel
  • Procedures
  • Protect the integrity of the Church's legal system.

Canon 662 Following Christ Religious are to find their supreme rule of life in the following of Christ as proposed in the Gospel and as expressed in the constitutions of their own institute.

  • Supreme law is the following of Christ – all the rest of the canons are the means. Following Christ is lived according to the particular expression of the religious institute.
  • Sources: 593; LG 46; PC 1-2a; PO 18; ES 11; ET 12.
  • Connection: 573, 598ss, 607, 654.
  • The constitutions have structures and juridical norms, along with aspirational texts that articulate the vision of the community for living the Gospel (Canons 578. 587).

Canon 663 Prayer

§1 The first and principal duty of all religious is to be the contemplation of things divine and constant union with God in prayer.

  • Religious are transformed in and into contemplation; no longer a religious who prays, but a religious pray-er.
  • Fidelity to prayer is the test of the vitality of Christian life and of religious life. This is exhortation, not juridical norm.

§2 Each day the members are to make every effort to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice, receive the most holy Body of Christ and adore the Lord himself present in the Sacrament.

  • Eucharist center of life – also linked to 608 requiring an oratory in the house. To the degree it is possible – in 1917 it was the superior who regulated. Absolute respect for conscience is proposed here. Only excluded are those excommunicates / interdicted, etc. 912, 915, 1331, 1332. For clerics, concelebration can't be imposed nor individual celebration forbidden.
  • Daily surrender to divine kenosis.

§3 They are to devote themselves to reading the sacred Scriptures and to mental prayer. In accordance with the provisions of their own law, they are to celebrate the liturgy of the hours worthily, without prejudice to the obligation of clerics mentioned in can. 276, §2, n.3. They are also to perform other exercises of piety.

  • Lectio divina is one method; meditation is another. Constitutions should fix the foundational modalities and times and communitarian practices.

§4 They are to have a special devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, the example and protectress of all consecrated life, including by way of the rosary.

  • Devotion colored by the particular spirituality of the institute is recommended; rosary is recommended, not required. Develop in the light of canons: 246.3, 276.2.3 5, & 1186.

§5 They are faithfully to observe the period of annual retreat.

  • This is a seal on the spiritual journey. Proper law will supply the modality, type, and duration, in accord with the ancient practice of 5, 6 or 8 days. Also there are the periodic days of retreat, reflection and desert.
  • Sources:
    • 1. CD 33; PC 2,5,6; PO 18; RC 5; VS V; ET 42, 43, 45; MR, 16, 24; LMR II: 1
    • 2. 125.2; 595.1.2, 2; 610.2; PC 6; PO 18; ET 47, 48; MF 771; LMR II:9
    • 3. 125.2; 595.1.2; 610.1 3; PC 6; OT 8; DV 25; PO 18; ES II: 21; SCR Rescr., 17 aug 1967, 1; VS II; ET 42, 43, 45; MR 24; LMR II:8, 12
    • 4. 125.2; LG 65; OT 8; Paulus PP. VI, adh Ap. Signum magnum, 13 maii 1967, II (AAS 59 [1967] 471); ET 56, Paulus PP. VI, Adh. Ap. Marialis cultus, 2 feb. 1974, 21, 49 (AAS 66 [1974] 132-133, 158-159); LMR II: 13
    • 5. 126, 595.1.1; PO 18; ET 35
  • Connections: 246.3, 276.2.3 5, 608, 912, 915, 1331-1332, 1186
  • Other than Liturgy of the Hours for clerics, these are not juridically imposed, but they are guidelines for good prayer.

Canon 664 Conversion Religious are earnestly to strive for the conversion of soul to God. They are to examine their consciences daily, and to approach the sacrament of penance frequently.

  • Constitutions or proper law may indicate specific practices in keeping with the spirit of a particular institute. At the same time freedom of conscience remains at all times.
  • CIC17 had more detailed requirements for confessors for lay religious.
  • Daily examen is an important part spiritual growth, along with frequent sacrament of reconciliation.
  • Sources: 125.1, 595.1.3; PO 18; Paen IIIe; SCRIS Decr. Dum canonicarum legum, 8, dec 1970, 3 (AAS 63 [1971] 318); LMR II: 10.
  • Connections: 630 – provision of confessor and freedom of conscience. This canon is closely linked with the one before both in content and in legislative sources.

Canon 665 Religious Houses

§1 Religious are to reside in their own religious house and observe the common life; they are not to stay elsewhere except with the permission of the Superior. For a lengthy absence from the religious house, the major Superior, for a just reason and with the consent of the council, can authorize a member to live outside a house of the institute; such an absence is not to exceed one year, unless it be for reasons of health, studies or an apostolate to be exercised in the name of the institute.

  • Prolonged absence is not defined, but clearly is less than a year. The 1917 code limited it to 6 months. The propria domo religiosa is more clearly expressed in the constitutions and practices of each institute. Flexibility is required in today's mobile society, taking into account the good of the individual, the community and the ministry. Intercongregational living is now a way of balancing the values of community, mission and charism. This is changing as religious life evolves.
  • 1) Absence is always to have a just cause (note, a grave cause is not required). Assignment to a particular ministry usualy implies daily absence, may imply weekly trips, etc.
  • 2) Permission of the major superior is always required for lengthy absence.
  • 3) The absence should be for cause of illness, apostolate or study, otherwise it must be no more than a year. Note, if a longer absence is required, see Canon 686 on exclaustration. It is becoming more common for a religious to be absent from the community for a period of years for the care of an aging parent. This may be assigned as ministry, thus coming under this exception, with the proper permission.
  • This absence doesn't change the canonical status of religious in the way that exclaustration does (Canon 686, 687)
  • Permission may be implied in an assignment to a ministry, or to study.
  • Communities may have policies that clarify the expectations of leadership and members, while allowing flexibility.
  • Canon focuses on physical presence rather than the quality of community.
  • Sources: 1: 594.1, 606; CA 15; PC 15; SCR Decr. Religionum laicalium, 31 maii 1966, 4 (AAS 59 [1967] 362); ES II: 25

§2 Members who unlawfully absent themselves from a religious house with the intention of withdrawing from the authority of Superiors, are to be carefully sought out and helped to return and to persevere in their vocation.

  • This is much softer than the provisions of the 1917 code (644, 645, 2386) which spoke of the apostate and fugitive religious. However, Canon 696 below speaks of acting canonically against a religious who is illegitimately absent for 6 months.
  • Sources: 2: 616.1, 644, 645, 2385, 2386, 2389.
  • Connections: 90, 127.2.1, 202, 607-608, 620, 686-693, 696, 702.2, 1341, 1371.2.

Canon 666 Social Communication In using the means of social communication, a necessary discretion is to be observed. Members are to avoid whatever is harmful to their vocation and dangerous to the chastity of a consecrated person.

  • Vatican II reversed early magisterial denunciations of new media, proclaiming the means of social communication to be marvelous inventions and tools for evangelization. This has no source in the 1917 code, but here puts the responsibility on the member.
  • This is increasingly important with the rise of social media, giving rise to the need to develop policies for use of media in community, in formation, in governance.
  • Media can become harmful to one's vocation and to the life of the community if individuals use it excessively, thus it is not merely a matter of chastity.
  • Sources: SCS Notif., 10 jul 1957; SCR Lit. cir., 6 aug 1957; IM 9, 10; SCS Instr., 15 jul. 1964; PC 12; ES I: 25.2a,b; CICS Instr. Communio et progression, 21 maii 1971, 64-70 (AAS 63 [1971] 617-620); ET 46; LMR II: 14.
  • Connections: 598.1, 607, 662-664, 822-832 (on means of communication in Book Three - Teaching Office) CO 168-171

Canon 667 Enclosure

§1 In accordance with the institute's own law, there is to be in all houses an enclosure appropriate to the character and mission of the institute. Some part of the house is always to be reserved to the members alone.

  • Cloister establishes a zone of privacy for the community such as Canon 220 provides for the individual; restricting the right of ingress of nonmembers and the right of egress of members. It is much more flexible than the 1917 code and much is left to the constitutions.
  • Balance christian hospitality with the need to be 'at home' in a private part of the house.
  • Sources: 604.1,2; SCR Rescr., 17 aug 1967, 3; ET 46

§2 A stricter discipline of enclosure is to be observed in monasteries which are devoted to the contemplative life.

  • Sources: 597-599; PC 16; ES II: 30; VS VII: 1,2

§3 Monasteries of cloistered nuns who are wholly devoted to the contemplative life, must observe papal enclosure, that is, in accordance with the norms given by the Apostolic See (now Cor orans). Other monasteries of cloistered nuns are to observe an enclosure which is appropriate to their nature and is defined in the constitutions.

  • Sources: 597.1, 600-603; CI Resp. III, 1 mar. 1921 (AAS 13 [1921] 177); SCR Instr. Nuper edito, 6 feb. 1924 (AAS 16 [1924] 96-101); SCR Instr. Inter cetera, 25 mar. 1956 (AAS 48 [1956] 512-526); SpC IV; SCR Instr. Inter praeclara, 23 nov. 1950, I-XVI (AAS 43 [1951] 37-41); PC 7, 16; ES II: 30-32; VS VII: 1-17.
  • 2016 Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quarere on women's contemplative life.
  • Monasteries elect Papal cloister, Constitutional cloister with allowance for service or Monastic cloister with allowance for hospitality.
  • Vultum Dei and Cor orans provide four types of cloister:
    • Papal - CO 189-203
    • Constitutional - defined in constitutions
    • Monastic - from JPII VitaConsecrata - CO 208-211
    • Common cloister of the apostolic communities. VDQ 31

§4 The diocesan Bishop has the faculty of entering, for a just reason, the enclosure of cloistered nuns whose monasteries are situated in his diocese. For a grave reason and with the assent of the Abbess, he can permit others to be admitted to the enclosure, and permit the nuns to leave the enclosure for whatever time is truly necessary. Derogated by CO 83g, 174, 175

  • Entrance required authorization of the bishop, consent of the Abbess and a grave and just cause - consent of the abbess is not in PM 34, but was introduced in the code; likewise, privileges for heads of state from the 1917 code are abolished. Healthcare, technical services, etc have always been permitted.
  • Sources: cc 600.1, 4, 601; PM 34; SCRIS Decl., 2 jan. 1970.
  • Connections: 6.1.2,3, 17, 90, 127, 220, 607.3
  • Cor orans:
    • 83g: The diocesan Bishop has the faculty, for a just cause, of entering the cloister and allowing other people to enter, with the consent of the Major Superior.
    • 174. In derogation from the provision of can. 667, §4 CJC, the diocesan Bishop, as well as the religious Ordinary, does not intervene in granting dispensation from the cloister.
    • 175. In derogation of the provisions of can. 667, §4 CJC, the dispensation from the cloister rests solely with the Major Superior who, in the event that such dispensation exceeds fifteen days, can grant it only after having obtained the consent of her Council.

Canon 668 Poverty

§1 Before their first profession, members are to cede the administration of their goods to whomsoever they wish and, unless the constitutions provide otherwise, they are freely to make dispositions concerning the use and enjoyment of these goods. At least before perpetual profession, they are to make a will which is valid also in civil law.

  • Practical norms are linked to Canon 600 on the vow of poverty. This encourages simplicity and communal sharing.
  • Most religious can continue to own personal property, but it generally cannot be used during life and must pass by will after death. Religious may have property when then come to the community, and/or they may receive a family inheritance. Often religious institutes will administer the simple assets of their members, if the member so chooses. More complex estates are better handled by those with sufficient professional expertise.
  • If a will is made prior to entrance, it need not be changed unless the brother/sister wishes to do so.
  • Sources: 569.1,3, 580.1 CI Resp 9, 16 oct 1919 (AAS 11 [1919] 478); SCR Resp., 26 mar. 1957; SCR Resp., 1 mar 1958; AIE 6

§2 To change these dispositions for a just reason, and to take any action concerning temporal goods, there is required the permission of the Superior who is competent in accordance with the institute's own law.

  • In addition to changing the cession and will, or to take any other act concerning temporal goods, e.g. contracts, or acting as power of attorney or executor for another.
  • Sources: 580.3, 583.2; CA 17; SCR Decr. Religionum laicalium, 31 maii 1966, 6 (AAS 59 [1967] 363); SCRIS Decr. Cum superiores generales, 27 nov 1969 (AAS 61 [1969] 738-739)

§3 Whatever a religious acquires by personal labor, or on behalf of the institute, belongs to the institute. Whatever comes to a religious in any way through pension, grant or insurance also passes to the institute, unless the institute's own law decrees otherwise.

  • Anything coming to the individual belongs to the institute: salary, pension, grant, insurance, etc.
  • As an integral part of the institute, the brothers and sisters receive all necessities from the institute.
  • The institute should discuss pension assets with a candidate for entrance. Institute law may handle these assets in various ways, in addition civil law will have differing treatments of pensions. Pension assets canonically belong to the institute, and civilly, they should be used for the care of the member. Some institutes treat pension earned before admission to the institute to be personal assets.
  • Inheritances and gifts receive through the family generally belong to the member, but those who come through benefactors or friends associated with ministry or the institute generally belong to the institute.
  • Canons 654 670. 580.1,2 582, 594.2; SCR Resp., 16 mar 1922 (AAS 14 [1922] 196-197); PC 13; ES ii: 23; ET21

§4 When the nature of an institute requires members to renounce their goods totally, this renunciation is to be made before perpetual profession and, as far as possible, in a form that is valid also in civil law; it shall come into effect from the day of profession. The same procedure is to be followed by a perpetually professed religious who, in accordance with the norms of the institute's own law and with the permission of the supreme Moderator, wishes to renounce goods, in whole or in part.

  • 581; CA 16; ES II: 24; SCR Decr. Religionum laicalium, 31 maii 1966, 6 (AAS 59 [1967] 363)
  • Complete renunciation - done before final vows. Future acquisitions are for the institute. This was an effect of solemn vows in prior law.
  • Voluntary renunciation - according to proper law, with permission of supreme moderator, generally some years after final vows required.
  • To the extent possible, the this act should be documented in a civilly valid document.

§5 Professed religious who, because of the nature of their institute, totally renounce their goods, lose the capacity to acquire and possess goods; actions of theirs contrary to the vow of poverty are therefore invalid. Whatever they acquire after renunciation belongs to the institute, in accordance with the institute's own law.

  • 579, 582.1. Connections: 600, 653.2, 654, 670, 1192.2. Sackett 85 CLSA Proceedings - case studies.

Canon 669 Sign of Consecration

§1 As a sign of their consecration and as a witness to poverty, religious are to wear the dress of their institute, determined in accordance with the institute's own law.

  • If there is no particular dress of the institute, they wear simple clothing of the region. Unlike CIC17, there is no indication when a habit is worn.
  • A custom contra legem exists in this regard in many institutes and in many parts of the world.
  • Habit comes from the monastic tradition - a specific garb of the community. Many communities simply adopted the simple clothing of their era, which did not change over time, and became a particular uniform of the institute.
  • Sources 596; SCR Notif., 6 feb. 1965; PC 17; SCR Rescr., 17 aug. 1967, 2; SCRIS Normae, 8 jun. 1970; ET 22; SCRIS Notif., 25 feb. 1972; SCRIS Notif mar 1974; SCRIS Notif., 12 nov. 1976; SCGE Litt. circ. 25 jan 1977; SCRIS Ep., 4 mar. 1977

§2 Religious of a clerical institute who do not have a special habit are to wear clerical dress, in accordance with can. 284.

  • Sources 136.1, 188.7, 2379; SCRIS Notif., 25 feb. 1972; SCRIS Notif mar 1974; SCE Litt. circ. 27 jan 1976; SCRIS Notif., 12 nov. 1976

Canon 670 Right to All Necessary for Vocation The institute must supply the members with everything that, in accordance with the constitutions, is necessary to fulfill the purpose of their vocation.

  • N: This is the only right strictly speaking in the whole title; an it is quite general, and in a sense is a sum of all the duties of the institute toward the members and was not found in CIC17.
  • Included would be basic physical needs food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, along with those thing necessary to participate in the life of the institute. The needs of the individuals, the common good and the mission of the institute are balanced, according also to the resources available to the institute.
  • Sources: LG 43; PC 18; ET 26; See also Trent XXV regulares c.2.
  • Connections: 618-619, 659.

Canon 671 Permission for Outside Offices Religious are not to undertake tasks and offices outside their own institute without the permission of the lawful Superior.

  • Institutes have a procedure for missioning the brothers/sisters, that includes permission to take on particular offices or employment from the appropriate superior.
  • Sources: 608; CD 35.2; ET 20, 26. Connections: 145.1, 601, 618, 654, 681-682

Canon 672 Other Canons Religious are bound by the provisions of cann. 277 (celibacy), 285 (exercise of civil power), 286 (unauthorized commercial activities), 287 (political or labor offices - except to defend the rights of the church or common good) and 289 (military service that is not avoidable). Religious who are clerics are also bound by the provisions of can. 279 §2 (continuing education). In lay institutes of pontifical right, the permission mentioned in can. 285 §4 (administering the affairs of lay people) can be given by the major Superior.

  • No prohibition on practice of medicine as was found in CIC17. But stricter prohibition on partisan politics.
  • Sources: 592; SCR Resp. 15 jul. 1919 (AAS 11 [1919] 321-323); SCR Litt. circ., 10 feb. 1924; SCR Litt. 29 apr. 1946; SCR Litt. circ., 2 maii 1951; SCR Secr. Militare servitium, 30 jul. 1957 (AAS 49 [1957] 871-874); LMR I.
  • Connections: 135.2, 277, 279.2, 285-287, 289, 599, 607, 660-661, 666-667, 669, 1392.


English Latin

  • This chapter is not in CIC17.
  • Religious life and contemplative life are central.
  • This chapter speaks of apostolates of the institutes as distinct from the apostolate of individual religious or of individual christians.

Canon 673 Life is Primary Mission The apostolate of all religious consists primarily in the witness of their consecrated life, which they are bound to foster through prayer and penance.

Canon 674 Contemplative Institutes Institutes which are wholly directed to contemplation always have an outstanding part in the mystical Body of Christ. They offer to God an exceptional sacrifice of praise. They embellish the people of God with very rich fruits of holiness, move them by their example, and give them increase by a hidden apostolic fruitfulness. Because of this, no matter how urgent the needs of the active apostolate, the members of these institutes cannot be called upon to assist in the various pastoral ministries.

  • Reaffirmed in Vultum Dei quaerere and Cor orans.

Canon 675 Apostolate Essential

§1 Apostolic action is of the very nature of institutes dedicated to apostolic works. The whole life of the members is, therefore, to be imbued with an apostolic spirit, and the whole of their apostolic action is to be animated by a religious spirit.

  • Apostolic action is essential to apostolic institutes.
  • Apostolic spirit ⇒ religious life. Religious spirit ⇒ apostolic life. They are mutually enriching.

§2 Apostolic action is always to proceed from intimate union with God, and is to confirm and foster this union.

§3 Apostolic action exercised in the name of the Church and by its command is to be performed in communion with the Church.

  • As public juridic persons, by the law itself, institutes act in nominae ecclesiae.

Canon 676 Participation in Pastoral Mission Lay institutes of men and women participate in the pastoral mission of the Church through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, performing very many different services for people. They are therefore to remain faithful to the grace of their vocation.

  • descriptive

Canon 677 Proper Works

§1 Superiors and members are faithfully to hold fast to the mission and works which are proper to their institute. According to the needs of time and place, however, they are prudently to adapt them, making use of new and appropriate means.

  • Proper works are those most closely related to the institute's nature, purpose, spirit, and character, and to its traditional ministries. This may adapt over time with the changing needs of church and society.

§2 Institutes which have associations of Christ's faithful joined to them are to have a special care that these associations are imbued with the genuine spirit of their family.

  • Some institutes have associations aggregated to them. Others invite individuals to associate to the institute, in a movement that is evolving, particularly in the US. There had been some ambiguity regarding the rights of associates, some institutes affording them nearly the same rights as their sisters/brothers in the governance of the institute. As the movements continue to evolve, the distinctive vocation of associates is becoming clearer and they are beginning to establish their own associations and leadership.

Canon 678 Relations of Bishop to Apostolate

§1 In matters concerning the care of souls, the public exercise of divine worship and other works of the apostolate, religious are subject to the authority of the Bishops, whom they are bound to treat with sincere obedience and reverence.

  • Bishops welcome and support the ministry of religious in the local church, and they will have particular concern for the clerical “care of souls” (canon 150) and “the public exercise of divine worship” (canon 834).

§2 In the exercise of an apostolate towards persons outside the institute, religious are also subject to their own Superiors and must remain faithful to the discipline of the institute. If the need arises, Bishops themselves are not to fail to insist on this obligation.

  • See also canon 671.

§3 In directing the apostolic works of religious, diocesan Bishops and religious Superiors must proceed by way of mutual consultation.

  • Mutuae relationes (1978). Pope Francis announced, in January 2014, the need for a reform of the document, this may take some time.

Canon 679 Bishop Forbids Residence For a very grave reason a diocesan Bishop can forbid a member of a religious institute to remain in his diocese, provided the person's major Superior has been informed and has failed to act; the matter must immediately be reported to the Holy See.

  • An exception to the right of a religious to live in the house of the institute.
  • This would be a serious problem for an institute present in only one diocese. Where would they live? Rarely used.

Canon 680 Apostolic Cooperation Organized cooperation is to be fostered among different institutes, and between them and the secular clergy. Under the direction of the Bishop, there is to be a coordination of all apostolic works and actions, with due respect for the character and purpose of each institute and the laws of its foundation.

Canon 681 Works Entrusted

§1 Works which the diocesan Bishop entrusts to religious are under the authority and direction of the Bishop, without prejudice to the rights of religious Superiors in accordance with can. 678 §§2 and 3.

  • Often parishes or schools, should be works in keeping with the mission of the institute.

§2 In these cases a written agreement is to be made between the diocesan Bishop and the competent Superior of the institute. This agreement must expressly and accurately define, among other things, the work to be done, the members to be assigned to it and the financial arrangements.

  • Written agreements help to avoid misunderstanding. They may also cover term of the agreement, compensation, benefits, insurance, transportation, housing, time off for retreats, vacations and medical issues.

Canon 682 Ecclesiastical Office

§1 If an ecclesiastical office in a diocese is to be conferred on a member of a religious institute, the religious is appointed by the diocesan Bishop on presentation by, or at least with the consent of, the competent Superior.

  • Here a member of the institute is entrusted with an ecclesiastical office in the diocese.

§2 The religious can be removed from the office at the discretion of the authority who made the appointment, with prior notice being given to the religious Superior; or by the religious Superior, with prior notice being given to the appointing authority. Neither requires the other's consent.

  • A written agreement may provide conditions or a procedure for removal, e.g. a just cause, prior notice, etc.

Canon 683 Episcopal Visitation

§1 Either personally or through a delegate, the diocesan Bishop can visit churches or oratories to which Christ's faithful have habitual access, schools other than those open only to the institute's own members, and other works of religion and charity entrusted to religious, whether these works be spiritual or temporal. He can do this at the time of pastoral visitation, or in a case of necessity.

§2 If the diocesan Bishop becomes aware of abuses, and a warning to the religious Superior having been in vain, he can by his own authority deal with the matter.

  • Superiors have the primary responsibility for the internal life of the institute and its internal works: formation, life of the members. However, if it is part of the public ministry of the local church, the bishop can visit.


  • Many institutes' constitutions provide only basic information on departure, indicating that “the norms of canon law are followed.”


Canon 684 Transfer

§1 Perpetually professed members cannot transfer from their own religious institute to another, except by permission of the supreme Moderators of both institutes, given with the consent of their respective councils.

  • Formerly required permission of Holy See, now just permission of institutes a quo and ad quem. Historically seen as only very exceptional. Also in CIC17 one could not enter another institute after departing a first. Also, one had to move to a 'more strict' order and there was a distinction drawn between simple and solemn vows.
  • Only religious in perpetual vows (thought temporary professed could transfer in CIC17). It is not a right, but superiors should work to help sisters/brothers live their vocation fruitfully.
  • The institute a quo should give reasonable information about the member to the institute ad quem and should give permission generously. If the applicant has a history of physical or psychological illness, addictions or behavioral problems permission is rarely given. In the absence of permission, a sincere religious could petition CEA.
  • Motivations: US-1983-2007: 1* desire to live more authentically a religious life renewed in accord with VCII; 2* new sense of vocation within the individual: contemplative, missionary, etc.

§2 On completion of a probationary period of at least three years, the member can be admitted to perpetual profession in the new institute. A member who refuses to make this profession, or is not admitted to do so by the competent Superiors, is to return to the original institute, unless an indult of secularization has been obtained.

  • Probation is at least three years, and should not extend indefinitely. At least in theory, this probation could begin before the permission to transfer, e.g. as in the case of a religious who lives with another community for a period of years for study or ministry, and subsequently seeks to transfer.
  • At the end of probation 1) profession in the new institute, or 2) return to the original institute, or 3) departure from religious life - through the original institue. (Use of secularization here is an anomaly.) In the case of doubt, one could extend the period of probation, or seek exclaustration.
  • Purpose is to verify the discernment of transfer and reach a mutual agreement on the suitability of the member for life in the institute ad quem.
  • The member and the institute ad quem remain free during the probationary period. The Institute a quo must welcome the member back if the transfer is not successful, however, experience shows this can be a challenge.
  • CIC17 required novitiate in the new institute.

§3 For a religious to transfer from one autonomous monastery to another monastery of the same institute, federation or confederation, the consent of the major Superior of both monasteries and of the chapter of the receiving monastery is required and is sufficient, unless the institute's own law has established further conditions. A new profession is not required.

  • Here again, the permission of the Holy See is not required.
  • E.g. transfer from one Carmelite monastery to another. The person remains under the same constitutions, however, the person will have to adapt to the manner of living the constitution in the new monastery.
  • Authentic Interpretation Religious means also those in temporary vows.

§4 The institute's own law is to determine the time and manner of the probation which must precede the member's profession in the new institute.

  • The member already has experience of religious life, but will need formation with regard to the particular institute ad quem: the particular manner of living spirituality, community and mission. It is also important to become 'socialized' to the new institute.

§5 To transfer to a secular institute or to a society of apostolic life, or to transfer from these to a religious institute, the permission of the Holy See is required and its instructions are to be followed.

  • This concerns changing to a different type of life. Here, consent of SM is no longer sufficient - this is reserved to the Holy See, with the belief that they can assist in establishing an appropriate process.
  • Transfer to eremetical life or that of a consecrated virgin is not permitted. One wishing to make such a move would consult the diocesan bishop and determine if they would be accepted and determine the necessary preparation, and then coordinate departure from the institute with taking up the new life.
  • Transfer to or from a new foundation would not be covered by these canons and is juridically something different entirely. However, these canons can be used for guidance in establishing a process.

Canon 685 Rights during Transfers

§1 Until profession is made in the new institute, the rights and obligations of the member in the previous institute are suspended, but the vows remain. From the beginning of probation, the member is bound to observe the laws of the new institute.

  • The individual remains a member of the insitute a quo with rights and obligations suspended, while living the life of the institute ad quem.

§2 By profession in the new institute the member is incorporated into it, and the earlier vows, rights and obligations cease.


  • Contrary to CIC17 the procedures are the same here for male and female, cleric and lay, exempt and non-exempt, temporary and perpetually professed.
  • Contrary to CIC17 lawful definitive departure results ipso facto in termination of vows and rights and obligations of membership.
  • Contrary to CIC17 procedures vary more according to cause for departure, than the status of the religious.
  • Contrary to CIC17 there is a list in 696.1 of some reasons for dismissal.

Canon 686 Exclaustration

§1 With the consent of the council, the supreme Moderator can for a grave reason grant an indult of exclaustration to a finally professed member for up to five years. In the case of a cleric, this requires the prior consent of the Ordinary of the place where the cleric resides. To extend this indult, or to grant one for more than five years, is reserved to the Holy See or, in an institute of diocesan right, to the diocesan Bishop.

  • [Competentias quasdam decernere Feb 11, 2022] Increased from three years to five years. CCEO – can. 489 § 2: The eparchial bishop can grant this indult only for up to five years.
  • CIC17 reserved this entire matter to the Holy See and the bishop of the residence of the religious.
  • Exclaustration is a temporary departure from the institute.
  • This is different from absense in canon 665, requires a grave cause, and often it is for vocational discernment. Sometimes, a religious would like freedom to pursue a ministry or education, for a period of time, and exclaustration may provide the possibility. However, it is not a right.
  • There should be some contact and pastoral care; this should be discussed with the member, since expectations in this regard may differ.
  • Extensions may be granted by the Holy See once, but rarely a second time. It is understood that the institute can grant 1 one year periods, it is only when the whole time is more than 3 years that one must go to Rome for the permission.
  • Exclaustration time requires a lot of adjustment - it requires discipline for a member to find the necessary time to discern, with all the distractions of transition, living and working.
  • Civil law issues include implied agency relationship, or negligent entrustment of roles and assets, negligent supervision. Take care if an exclaustrated member may have access / opportunity for malfeasance, for their sake, the good of the public, and the potential liability of the institute.

§2 Only the Apostolic See can grant an indult of exclaustration for cloistered nuns. Derogated by CO 130, 177, 178

  • CO 177 - The major superior with the consent of her council can grant exclaustration up to one year.
  • CO 130, 178 - Federation Council gives up to three years exclaustration.

§3 At the request of the supreme Moderator acting with the consent of the council, exclaustration can be imposed by the Holy See on a member of an institute of pontifical right, or by a diocesan Bishop on a member of an institute of diocesan right. In either case a grave reason is required, and equity and charity are to be observed.

  • This was not present in CIC17, but in the practice of CICL exclaustratio ad nutum Sanctae Sedis beginning in the 1950s.
  • Can end only with the permission of the imposing authority. Granted rarely. Since it implicates rights, process for dismissal must be used: warnings, right of defense, etc.
  • Often used when someone cannot live the life of the community without disrupting the monastery. However, sometimes this has gone on for a long time and the person is too unhealthy or elderly to be dismissed. Thus they live outside, with the support of the community. Rare, most often with contemplative nuns.
  • Leave of Absence is simple permission to be absent. It was used under CIC17 to avoid going to Rome for exclaustration. Current practice in this regard is often a hold over from that period.

Canon 687 Effects of Exclaustration

  • Exclaustrated members are dispensed from obligations incompatible with their new condition. They remain dependent on and under the care of their Superiors and, particularly in the case of a cleric, of the local Ordinary. They may wear the religious habit, unless the indult specifies otherwise, but they lack active and passive voice.
  • Live poverty: simply, turning over excess income, non-ownership. However, if members are planning to depart, the accountability is relaxed. Member should be self-supporting, but Can 670 requires equity and charity. Duty of celibate chastity remains. Habit can be worn, but is not recommended.
  • It is important to clarify financial matters to avoid confusion and conflict.

Canon 688 Temporary Professed

§1 A person who, on completion of the time of temporary profession, wishes to leave the institute, is free to do so.

§2 During the time of temporary profession, a person who asks to leave the institute for a grave cause can obtain an indult of departure from the supreme moderator with the consent of his or her council; in the case of an autonomous monastery, mentioned in can. 615, however, the bishop of the house of assignment must confirm the indult for it to be valid. [Competentias quasdam decernere Feb 11, 2022]

§2 A person who, during the time of temporary profession, for a grave reason asks to leave the institute, can obtain an indult to leave. In an institute of pontifical right, this indult can be given by the supreme Moderator with the consent of his or her council. In institutes of diocesan right and in the monasteries mentioned in can. 615, the indult must, for validity, be confirmed by the Bishop in whose diocese is located the house to which the person is assigned.

  • This is a an exercise of the power of governance by lay supreme moderator of a pontifical institute.
  • Also changed in CCEO:
    • CCEO – can. 496: One who during temporary profession wishes for a grave cause to leave the monastery and return to secular life is to present a petition to his or her superior of the monastery sui iuris. The superior, with the consent of his or her council, grants the indult, unless particular law reserves this to the patriarch for monasteries located within the territorial boundaries of the patriarchal Church.
    • CCEO – can. 546 §2: One who, while still in temporary vows, requests for a grave cause to leave the order or congregation, can obtain from the superior general with the consent of his or her council the indult to leave the order definitively and return to secular life, with the effects mentioned in can. 493.

Canon 689 Exclusion From Further Profession

§1 The competent major Superior, after consulting his or council, can for just reasons exclude a member from making further profession on the completion of temporary profession.

§2 Even though contracted after profession, a physical or psychological infirmity which, in the judgment of experts, renders the member mentioned in §1 unsuited to lead a life in the institute, constitutes a reason for not admitting the member to renewal of profession or to perpetual profession, unless the infirmity was contracted through the negligence of the institute or because of work performed in the institute.

  • If one was formerly capable of living the life of the institute and becomes incapable, then they cannot be admitted to further profession.

§3 A religious who becomes insane during the period of temporary vows cannot be dismissed from the institute, even though unable to make a new profession.

  • Amens incapable of the human act of profession or departure. If the person can be restored to sufficient use of reason, the person and the community can make a decision.
  • We would use more precise terminology today, and it is unlikely to arise in the short period of temporary vows, if it wasn't there before.

Canon 690 Re-admission

§1 A person who lawfully leaves the institute after completing the novitiate or after profession, can be re-admitted by the supreme Moderator, with the consent of his or her council, without the obligation of repeating the novitiate. The same Moderator is to determine an appropriate probation prior to temporary profession, and the length of time in vows before making perpetual profession, in accordance with the norms of can. 655 and 657.

  • Readmission is to the same institute. Also, if the institute has merged, one must ascertain whether readmission is possible. I.e. is the institute the person was in substantialy present? or has it substantially changed
  • In CCEO, novitiate must be entirely repeated.
  • This and 684-685 are on admission and formation, but are in the section on separation because they also have an element of separation.
  • Length of temporary vows is somewhat ambiguous: can the nine year limit be exceeded, counting the two periods of time in temporary vows. Most would say yes, but the period in formation should be unnecessarily prolonged.

§2 The Superior of an autonomous monastery, acting with the consent of his or her council, has the same faculty.

Canon 691 Grounds for Departure

§1 A perpetually professed religious is not to seek an indult to leave the institute, except for very grave reasons, weighed before the Lord. The petition is to be presented to the supreme Moderator of the institute, who will forward it to the competent authority with his or her own opinion and that of the council.

  • With gravest reasons, petitions the Pope or bishop. SM forwards it with their opinion and that of the council.

§2 In institutes of pontifical right this indult is reserved to the Apostolic See. In institutes of diocesan right the indult can be granted by the Bishop in whose diocese is located the house to which the religious is assigned.

Canon 692 Effect of Indult An indult to leave the institute, which is lawfully granted and notified to the member, by virtue of the law itself carries with it, unless it has been rejected by the member in the act of notification, a dispensation from the vows and from all obligations arising from profession.

  • A rescript granted in favor of the individual does not have to be used, canon 71.
  • Indult comes from CEA to SM. S/he communicates it to the member. It is wise to get proof of delivery, a signature, witnesses. There is sometimes a disagreement about arrangements for departure, but the individual still does not intend to return to the institute - and in this accepts the rescript.

Canon 693 Incardination after Departure If the member is a cleric, the indult is not granted until he has found a Bishop who will incardinate him in his diocese or at least receive him there on probation. If he is received on probation, he is by virtue of the law itself incardinated in the diocese after five years, unless the Bishop has rejected him.

  • If no bishop is found, a cleric will either not exercise ministry, or will seek laicization.


  • Contrary to CIC17 the procedures are the same here for male and female, cleric and lay, exempt and non-exempt, temporary and perpetually professed.
  • Contrary to CIC17 lawful definitive departure results ipso facto in termination of vows and rights and obligations of membership.
  • Contrary to CIC17 procedures vary more according to cause for departure, than the status of the religious.
  • Contrary to CIC17 there is a list in 696.1 of some reasons for dismissal.

Canon 694 Automatic Dismissal

§1 A member is to be considered automatically dismissed if he or she:

  • 1° has notoriously defected from the catholic faith;
  • 2° has contracted marriage or attempted to do so, even civilly.
  • 3° has been absent from the religious house illegitimately, in accordance with can. 665 § 2, for twelve uninterrupted months, and is unreachable. added by Communis Vita 2019

§2 In these cases the major Superior with his or her council must, after collecting the evidence, without delay make a declaration of the fact, so that the dismissal is juridically established.

  • Dismissal occurs by operation of law. The superior collects the proofs so that it is juridically established and can be properly noted. For this reason, it is not reserved to the SM.
  • Notorious defection is not the same as delicts of canon 751 that result in latae sententiae excommunication. E.g. if a religious joins another religion, or accepts ordination in another religion.
  • Marriage is proven through documentation. It does not include other offenses against the vow of chastity.

§3. In the case provided for in § 1 no. 3, for this declaration to be legally established it must be confirmed by the Holy See; for the institutes of diocesan right the confirmation is up to the Bishop of the principal house. added by Communis Vita 2019

Canon 695 Obligatory Dismissal

§1 A religious must be dismissed from the institute for the offenses mentioned in cann. 1395, 1397 and 1398, unless, for the offenses mentioned in can. 1395 §2-3 and 1398 §1, the Superior judges that dismissal is not absolutely necessary; and that sufficient provision can be made in some other way for the amendment of the member, the restoration of justice and the reparation of scandal.

  • Canon 1397 - Homicide, kidnaping, detains, mutilates, or gravely wounds a person by force or fraud.
  • Canon 1398 - Completed abortion.
  • Canon 1395 - Concubinage, persists with scandal in another external sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue. §2 Offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, by force or threats or publicly or with a minor. (These can be repaired.)

§2 In these cases the major Superior is to collect the evidence concerning the facts and the imputability of the offense. The accusation and the evidence are then to be presented to the member, who shall be given the opportunity for defense. All the acts, signed by the major Superior and the notary, are to be forwarded, together with the written and signed replies of the member, to the supreme Moderator.

  • Dismissal is determined, if the situation is proved and imputable. If proved, the dismissal is required, no possibility of reform, renewal is admitted, except possibly 1395.2.
  • Major superior is competent, and doesn't need the support of the council. Dismissal is required, there is no need for council.
  • There is no parallel in the Eastern code.

Canon 696 Discretionary Dismissal

§1 A member can be dismissed for other causes, provided they are grave, external, imputable and juridically proven. Among such causes are:

  • habitual neglect of the obligations of consecrated life;
  • repeated violations of the sacred bonds;
  • obstinate disobedience to the lawful orders of Superiors in grave matters;
  • grave scandal arising from the culpable behavior of the member;
  • obstinate attachment to, or diffusion of, teachings condemned by the magisterium of the Church;
  • public adherence to materialistic or atheistic ideologies;
  • the unlawful absence mentioned in can. 665 §2, if it extends for a period of six months;
  • other reasons of similar gravity which are perhaps defined in the institute's own law.

§2 A member in temporary vows can be dismissed even for less grave reasons determined in the institute's own law.

Canon 697 Development of Record

§1 In the cases mentioned in can. 696, if the major Superior, after consulting his or her council, judges that the process of dismissal should be commenced:

  • 1° the major Superior is to collect or complete the evidence;
  • 2° the major Superior is to warn the member in writing, or before two witnesses, with an explicit caution that dismissal will follow unless the member reforms. The reasons for dismissal are to be clearly expressed and the member is to be given every opportunity for defense. If the warning has no effect, another warning is to be given after an interval of at least fifteen days;
  • 3° if this latter warning is also ineffectual, and the major Superior with his or her council judges that there is sufficient proof of incorrigibility, and that the defense by the member is insufficient, after fifteen days from the last warning have passed in vain all the acts, signed by the major Superior and the notary, are to be forwarded, together with the signed replies of the member, to the supreme Moderator.
  • This should be done with the help of a canonist expert in law of religious communities. If the dismissal process fails to be accepted by CEA, it is generally on procedural ground.
  • If there is reform, the process stops. If the individual provides a defense, any further action must take that into account.
  • See canon 201.2 for counting of days.

Canon 698 Communication with Supreme Moderator In all the cases mentioned in cann. 695 and 696, the member always retains the right to communicate with, and send replies directly to, the supreme Moderator.

Canon 699 Dismissal Decision

§1 The supreme Moderator and his or her council are to proceed in collegial fashion in accurately weighing the evidence, the arguments, and the defense. For validity, the council must comprise at least four members. If by a secret vote it is decided to dismiss the religious, a decree of dismissal is to be drawn up, which for validity must express at least in summary form the reasons in law and in fact.

  • If there are not four councillors, proper law should have some provision for appointing the needed councilors. If not, the SM selects experienced and prudent finally professed members.
  • Secret, collegial vote - all five vote, three must vote for dismissal.

§2 In the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615, the judgment about dismissal belongs to the major superior, with the consent of her council.diocesan Bishop. The Superior is to submit the acts to him after they have been reviewed by the council.

  • Changed by CQD (Competentias quasdam decernere) '22

Canon 700 Decree of Dismissal The decree of dismissal issued in the case of a professed member takes effect from the time that it is communicated to the member concerned. has no effect unless it is confirmed by the Holy See, to whom the decree and all the acts are to be forwarded. If the matter concerns an institute of diocesan right, the confirmation belongs to the Bishop in whose diocese is located the house to which the religious belongs. For validity the decree must indicate the right of the person dismissed to have recourse to the competent authority within thirty days of receiving notification of the decree. The recourse has a suspensive effect.

  • Changed by CQD (Competentias quasdam decernere) '22
  • Authentic interpretation requires confirmation to be sought before the member is notified of the decree of dismissal.
  • Recourse against the decree of the SM, confirmed by CICL is to CICL, per an authentic interpretation. After that, recourse is to the Signatura.
  • Recourse against the decree of the SM, confirmed by the bishop is to the bishop, per an authentic interpretation. After that, recourse is to CICL then to the Signatura.
  • The institute would pay the canonist and the expenses of this process.
  • CCEO changed to match.
    • CCEO – can. 499: A member can be dismissed during temporary profession by the superior of the monastery sui iuris with the consent of his or her council according to can. 552 §§2 and 3, but, for validity, the dismissal must be confirmed by the patriarch if particular law so establishes for monasteries situated with the territorial boundaries of the patriarchal Church.
    • CCEO – can. 501 §2: However, the member can, within fifteen days, either make recourse with suspensive effect against the decree of dismissal or request that the case be handled judicially.
    • CCEO – can. 552 §1: A member in temporary vows can be dismissed by the superior general with the consent of his or her council.

Canon 701 Effect of Dismissal By lawful dismissal, both the vows and the rights and duties deriving from profession automatically cease. If the member is a cleric, he may not exercise sacred orders until he finds a Bishop who will, after a suitable probation, receive him into his diocese in accordance with can. 693, or who will at least allow him to exercise his sacred orders.

Canon 702 Equity and Charity

§1 Whoever lawfully leaves a religious institute or is lawfully dismissed from one, cannot claim anything from the institute for any work done in it.

  • Those who leave receive any personal property they have as their personal goods, and also any education, etc. but they do not receive any earnings.

§2 The institute, however, is to show equity and evangelical charity towards the member who is separated from it.

  • Those who must reestablish themselves generally receive initial support from the instiute. This support is determined by the age and health of the person, their earning capacity, any personal goods they have, etc. Any funds earned during a prior period of exclaustration are generally given to the individual.
  • The financial arrangement should be in writing.

Canon 703 Expulsion from a House §1 In a case of grave external scandal, or of extremely grave and imminent harm to the institute, a member can be expelled forthwith from the house by the major Superior. If there is danger in delay, this can be done by the local Superior with the consent of his or her council. The major Superior, if need be, is to introduce a process of dismissal in accordance with the norms of law, or refer the matter to the Apostolic See.

  • E.g. violence toward elderly sisters/brothers.

Canon 704 Report Separated Members In the report to be sent to the Apostolic See in accordance with can. 592, §1, mention is to be made of members who have been separated in any way from the institute.


English Latin

Canon 705 Released from Religious obligations A religious who is raised to the episcopate remains a member of his institute, but is subject only to the Roman Pontiff by his vow of obedience. He is not bound by obligations which he prudently judges are not compatible with his condition.

[|Authentic Interpretation] Religious Bishops loose active and passive vote.

Canon 706 Administration of Goods In the case of the religious mentioned above:

  • 1° if he has lost the ownership of his goods through his profession he now has the use and enjoyment and the administration of the goods which he acquires. In the case of a diocesan Bishop and of those mentioned in can. 381 §2, the particular Church acquires their ownership; in the case of others, they belong to the institute or the Holy See, depending on whether the institute is or is not capable of possessing goods;
  • 2° if he has not lost the ownership of his goods through his profession, he recovers the use and enjoyment and the administration of the goods he possessed; what he obtains later, he acquires fully;
  • 3° in both cases any goods he receives which are not personal gifts must be disposed of according to the intention of the donors.

Canon 707 Emeritus

§1 A religious Bishop 'emeritus' may choose to reside outside the house of his institute, unless the Apostolic See disposes otherwise.

§2 If he has served a diocese, can. 402 §2 is to be observed concerning his suitable and worthy maintenance, unless his own institute wishes to provide such maintenance. Otherwise, the Apostolic See is to make other provision.


English Latin

  • Date back to 1898, promoted by popes through the 20th century.

Canon 708 Establishment Major Superiors can usefully meet together in conferences and councils, so that by combined effort they may work to achieve more fully the purpose of each institute, while respecting the autonomy, nature and spirit of each. They can also deal with affairs which are common to all, and work to establish suitable coordination and cooperation with Episcopal Conferences and with individual Bishops.

  • No power of governance, instead the act for collaboration and addressing common concerns. E.g. helping institutes with financial and legal affairs, vocation and formation, preparation of superiors, addressing completion.
  • Some have mixed commissions of major superiors and bishops aimed at mutual information and collaboration.

Canon 709 Statutes Conferences of major Superiors are to have their own statutes, which must be approved by the Holy See. Only the Holy See can establish them or give them juridical personality. They remain under the ultimate direction of the Holy See.

  • Some conferences are unified, for all religious
  • Some have separate conferences for men, women, cleric, lay, contemplative, etc.


(Cann. 710 - 730) English Latin

Canon 710 Definition A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which Christ's faithful, living in the world, strive for the perfection of charity and endeavor to contribute to the sanctification of the world, especially from within.

  • Vowed life in a secular setting, community and mission are not essential to this form of consecrated life.
  • Common norms on consecrate life in Title I are applicable.

Canon 711 Canonical Status Without prejudice to the provisions of the law concerning institutes of consecrated life, consecration as a member of a secular institute does not change the member's canonical state among the people of God, be it lay or clerical.

  • Members are not “religious” and historically there as been a sense of anonymity or “secretiveness” that has been part of this vocation. Not all are called to celibate chastity.

Canon 712 Sacred Bonds Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 598-601, the constitutions are to establish the sacred bonds by which the evangelical counsels are undertaken in the institute. They are to define the obligations which these bonds entail, while always preserving in the manner of life the secular character proper to the institute.

  • Manner of living the counsels will preserve the secularity that is proper to their institute.
  • Poverty and Obedience are those of one living singly - with accountability to the moderator.
  • The counsels are not undertaken by public vows - however, they seem to be more than private vows under canons 1191-1198.

Canon 713 Apostolic Activity

§1 Members of these institutes express and exercise their special consecration in apostolic activity. Like a leaven, they endeavor to permeate everything with an evangelical spirit for the strengthening and growth of the Body of Christ.

§2 Lay members participate in the evangelizing mission of the Church in the world and from within the world. They do this by their witness of Christian life and of fidelity to their consecration, and by the assistance they give in directing temporal affairs to God and in animating the world by the power of the Gospel. They also offer their cooperation to serve the ecclesial community in accordance with the secular manner of life proper to them.

§3 Clerical members, by the witness of their consecrated life, especially in the presbyterium, support their colleagues by a distinctive apostolic charity, and in the people of God they further the sanctification of the world by their sacred ministry.

  • Consecration enhances ministry of clerics.

Canon 714 Life in the World Members are to live their lives in the ordinary conditions of the world, either alone, in their families or in fraternal groups, in accordance with the constitutions.

Canon 715 Clerical members

§1 Clerical members incardinated in a diocese are subject to the diocesan Bishop, except for whatever concerns the consecrated life of their own institutes.

§2 Those who, in accordance with the norms of can. 266 §3, are incardinated in the institute, and who are appointed to works proper to the institute or to the governance of the institute, are subject to the Bishop in the same way as religious.

Canon 716 Active members

§1 All members are to take an active part in the life of the institute, in accordance with the institute's own law.

§2 Members of the same institute are to preserve a rapport with one another, carefully fostering a unity of spirit and a genuine fraternity.

Canon 717 Governance

§1 The constitutions are to determine the institute's own form of governance. They are to define the period of time for which Moderators exercise their office and the manner in which they are to be designated.

§2 No one is to be designated supreme Moderator unless definitively incorporated into the institute.

§3 Those entrusted with the governance of the institute are to ensure that its unity of spirit is maintained, and that the active participation of the members is developed.

  • Canon gives broad flexibility in establishing governance.

Canon 718 Temporal Goods The administration of the goods of the institute must express and foster evangelical poverty. It is governed by the norms of Book V on 'The Temporal Goods of the Church', and by the institute's own law. This same law of the institute is also to define the obligations, especially the financial obligations, of the institute towards the members engaged in its work.

  • Manner of life indicates that there may not be houses or ministries of the institute, but it will have some funds for the support of community, governance, formation and mission.

Canon 719 Spiritual Obligations of Members

§1 Members are to respond faithfully to their vocation, and their apostolic action is to proceed from their union with Christ. They are therefore to devote themselves assiduously to prayer and engage in a suitable way in the reading of the sacred Scriptures. They are to make an annual retreat and perform other spiritual exercises in accordance with their own law.

§2 The celebration of the Eucharist, daily where possible, is to be the source and strength of their whole consecrated life.

§3 They are to go freely to the sacrament of penance and receive it frequently.

§4 They are to be free to obtain the necessary spiritual direction. Should they so desire, they may seek such counsel even from their Moderators.

Canon 720 Who Admits The right of admitting a person to the institute, or to probation, or to the taking of sacred bonds, both temporary and perpetual or definitive, belongs to the major Moderators with their council, in accordance with the constitutions.

  • Admission to the institute and to each stage belongs to the major Moderator and council. Canon 597 has basic requirements that also apply.

Canon 721 Admission

§1 The following are invalidly admitted to initial probation:

  • 1° one who has not yet attained majority;
  • 2° one who is currently bound by a sacred bond in another institute of consecrated life, or incorporated in a society of apostolic life;
  • 3° a spouse, while the marriage lasts.

§2 The constitutions can establish other impediments to admission, even for validity, or attach conditions to it.

§3 For a person to be received into the institute, that degree of maturity is required which is necessary to live the life of the institute properly.

Canon 722 Initial Probation

§1 The initial probation is to be so arranged that the candidates can better recognize their divine vocation and their vocation to that institute, and be trained in the spirit and manner of life of the institute.

§2 Candidates are to be properly formed to live a life according to the evangelical counsels. They are to be taught how to translate this life completely into their apostolate, applying those forms of evangelizaion which best correspond to the purpose, spirit and character of the institute.

§3 The constitutions are to define the manner and time of the probation to be made before the first sacred bonds are undertaken in the institute; this time is to be not less than two years.

Canon 723 First Incorporation

§1 When the time of the initial probation has been completed, a candidate who is judged suitable is either to undertake the three evangelical counsels, sealed with a sacred bond, or to leave the institute.

§2 This first incorporation is to be temporary, in accordance with the constitutions, but is to be for not less than five years.

§3 When this period of incorporation has been completed, a member who is judged suitable is to be admitted to perpetual, or definitive incorporation, that is, by temporary bonds always to be renewed.

  • Can be definitive, or life-long temporary.

§4 Definitive incorporation is equivalent to perpetual incorporation in respect of defined juridical effects, which are to be established in the constitutions.

Canon 724 Ongoing Formation

§1 After the first acceptance of the sacred bonds, formation is to continue without interruption in accordance with the constitutions.

§2 Members are to be formed simultaneously in matters human and divine. The Moderators of the institute are to have a serious concern for the continued spiritual formation of the members.

Canon 725 Associate Members The institute can associate with itself, by some form of bond determined in the constitutions, other members of Christ's faithful who seek evangelical perfection according to the spirit of the institute and who share in its mission.

  • Clarity required in the constitutions. Many religious institutes are experimenting with this as well.
  • Married persons could be part of this associated group.

Canon 726 Departure of Temporary Incorporated

§1 When the time of temporary incorporation is completed, the member can freely leave the institute, or can for a just cause be excluded from renewing the sacred bonds by the major Moderator, after consultation with his or her council.

§2 A temporarily incorporated member who freely requests it, can for a grave reason be granted an indult to leave the institute by the supreme Moderator, with the consent of the council.

Canon 727 Departure

§1 A perpetually incorporated member who wishes to leave the institute must, after seriously weighing the matter before the Lord, petition the Apostolic See through the supreme Moderator, if the institute is of pontifical right; otherwise, the indult can also be obtained from the diocesan Bishop, as determined in the constitutions.

§2 For a cleric who is incardinated in the institute, the provision of can. 693 is to be observed.

Canon 728 Effect of Departure When an indult to leave the institute has been lawfully granted, all bonds, rights and obligations deriving from incorporation cease.

Canon 729 Dismissal A member is dismissed from the institute in accordance with the norms of cann. 694 § 1, 1 and 2 and 695. The constitutions are also to determine other reasons for dismissal, provided they are proportionately serious, external, imputable and juridically proven. The procedure established in cann. 697-700 is to be observed, and the provisions of can. 701 apply to the person who is dismissed. reference to numbers 1 and 2 of 694 § 1 were added by Communis Vita 2019

  • Procedural safeguards established for religious life are observed. Communis Vita in 2019 added automatic dismissal for members of religious institutes who are illegitimately absent for 12 continuous months and unreachable, (Canon 694 §1.3). However, since community is not a constitutive element of secular institutes, this does not apply to them.

Canon 730 Transfer For a member to transfer from one secular institute to another, the provisions of can. 684 §§1, 2, 4 and 685, are to be observed. A transfer to or from another kind of institute of consecrated life requires the permission of the Apostolic See, whose instructions must be followed.

  • Tranfer between secular institutes is the responsibility of the moderators.
  • To go from a secular institute to a society or a religious institue, or the reverse requires a closer look at the needs of the individual and the institute/society to ensure appropriate preparation and safeguarding rights. The Holy See has reserved this to itself.


(Cann. 731 - 746) English Latin

  • Oratory of St. Philip Neri - Oratorians founded 1575.
  • Best known early societies come out of the French School in the 17th century: Sulpicians, Eudists, Oratory of Jesus and Mary (Berulle). Also from this period are the Daughters of Charity and the Congregation of the Mission.
  • Missionary societies of 19th & 20th Centuries include Missionaries of Africa, Maryknoll, Columbans, Pallotines.

Canon 731 Definition

§1 Societies of apostolic life resemble institutes of consecrated life. Their members, without taking religious vows, pursue the apostolic purpose proper to each society. Living a fraternal life in common in their own special manner, they strive for the perfection of charity through the observance of the constitutions.

§2 Among these societies are some in which the members, through a bond defined in the constitutions, undertake to live the evangelical counsels.

  • There is some concern not to make all societies look the same.

Canon 732 Other Canons Cann. 578-597 and 606 apply to societies of apostolic life, with due regard, however, for the nature of each society. For the societies mentioned in can. 731 §2, cann. 598-602 also apply.

  • I.e. all the common norms apply, with deference to constitutions, except those on the vows and common life don't apply to societies that don't take vows.

Canon 733 Establishing Houses

§1 A house is established and a local community is constituted by the competent authority of the society, with the prior written consent of the diocesan Bishop. The Bishop must also be consulted when there is question of its suppression.

  • Less specificity than canons 608-616 for religious houses. Also, seem to distinguish house and communtiy.

§2 Consent to establish a house carries with it the right to have at least an oratory in which the blessed Eucharist is celebrated and reserved.

Canon 734 Constitutions The governance of the society is determined by the constitutions, without prejudice, in accordance with the nature of each society, to cann. 617-633.

  • RI canons on supeiors, councils and chapters apply, with deference to nature of the society.

Canon 735 Admission

§1 The admission, probation, incorporation and formation of members are determined by each society's own law.

§2 For admission into the society, the conditions prescribed in cann. 642-645 are to be observed.

  • Only the canons on requirements are incorporated.

§3 The society's own law must determine a program of doctrinal, spiritual and apostolic probation and formation that is adapted to the purpose and character of the society. In this way members can recognize their divine vocation and be suitably prepared for the mission and way of life of the society.

  • Phases of formation and the time in each phase is left to proper law. Also, the manner of incorporation or “aggregation” is in proper law, esp since the society might no take vows. Some societies have life-long temporary incorporation, others have no temporary incorporation but move directly from initial 'probation' to definitive incorporation. There is broad flexibility here.

Canon 736 Incardination

§1 In clerical societies, the clerics are incardinated into the society, unless the constitutions determine otherwise.

§2 The norms concerning the secular clergy apply to the program of studies and reception of orders, without prejudice to §1.

  • Incardination can be in the society or in the diocese in accord with the constitutions.

Canon 737 Incorporation For the members, incorporation carries with it the rights and obligations defined in the constitutions. On the part of the society, it implies a responsibility to lead the members towards the purpose of their vocation, in accordance with the constitutions.

  • Replaces canons on rights and obligations for RI, canons 662-672.

Canon 738 Authority

§1 All members are subject to their own Moderators in matters concerning the internal life and discipline of the society, in accordance with the constitutions.

  • Not taking the vow of obedience, these institutes have to define the relationship between members and authority.

§2 They are also subject to the diocesan Bishop in matters concerning public worship, the care of souls and other works of the apostolate, with due regard to cann. 679-683.

  • Incorporates canons on apostolate of religious.

§3 The relationship between a member who is incardinated in a diocese and his proper Bishop is to be defined in the constitutions or in particular agreements.

Canon 739 Clerical Obligations Apart from the obligations which derive from their constitutions, members are bound by the common obligations of clerics, unless the nature of things or the context indicates otherwise.

  • Canons 273-289 describe the common obligations of clerics.

Canon 740 Live in Houses Members must live in a lawfully constituted house or community and observe a common life, in accordance with their own law. This same law also governs their absence from the house or community.

  • Proper law must provide norms for absences. Community life is at the service of mission, the community is a center from which to go out in mission.

Canon 741 Juridic Personality

§1 Societies and, unless the constitutions provide otherwise, their constituent parts and their houses, are juridical persons. As such, they are capable of acquiring, possessing, administering and alienating temporal goods in accordance with the provisions of Book V on 'The Temporal Goods of the Church', of cann. 636, 638 and 639, and of their own law.

  • Canons incorporated are those on the finance officer, on ordinary and extraordinary administration and on debts.

§2 Members are also capable, in accordance with their own law, of acquiring, possessing, administering and disposing of temporal goods, but whatever comes to them in view of the society is acquired for the society.

  • Unless they take the vows of poverty, they continue to own and administer their own goods.

Canon 742 Departure The departure and dismissal of a member who is not definitively incorporated are governed by the constitutions of each society.

  • Canons on religious life do not apply. The constitutions must regulate this matter entirely. They may incorporate canons on separation, and/or use them as guidelines.

Canon 743 Dispensation A member who is definitively incorporated can obtain an indult to leave the society from the supreme Moderator with the consent of the council, unless the constitutions reserve this to the Apostolic See. This indult means that the rights and obligations deriving from definitive incorporation cease, without prejudice to can. 693.

  • Canon 693: A cleric must still seek incardination before being released from rights and obligations of incorporation.

Canon 744 Transfer

§1 Permission for a member who is definitively incorporated to transfer to another society of apostolic life is likewise reserved to the supreme Moderator with the consent of his or her council. The rights and obligations of the member's own society are suspended for the time being, but the member has the right to return to it before definitive incorporation into the new society.

  • Permission to transfer between societies is in the competence of the respective supreme moderators.

§2 To transfer to an institute of consecrated life or from such an institute to a society of apostolic life, the permission of the Holy See is required, and its instructions are to be followed.

  • To go from an institute to a society, or the reverse requires a closer look at the needs of the individual and the institute/society to ensure appropriate preparation and safeguarding rights. The Holy See has reserved this to itself.

Canon 745 Live Outside The supreme Moderator, with the consent of his or her council, can grant a definitively incorporated member an indult to live outside the society for a period not exceeding three years. Rights and obligations which are not compatible with this new condition are suspended, but the member remains under the care of the Moderators. If the member is a cleric, the consent of the Ordinary of the place where he must reside is also required, and the member remains under the care of the Ordinary and dependent upon him.

  • The proper law may provide for a member living outside a house or community. This canon speaks of living outside the society - thus outside the authority of its Moderators.

Canon 746 Involuntary Dismissal For the dismissal of a member who is definitively incorporated, the provisions of cann. 694-704 are to be observed, making the appropriate adjustments.

  • Canons 694-704 provide procedural norms for the involuntary dismissal of a member.
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