Mutuae Relationes 8: Duty of the Hierarchy

SenanquecloisterThis section outlines the duties of the bishops and pope to people in religious life. We blogged on this several years ago. You can reread my comments and yours on two key sections of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, 44 and 45. Don’t forget: you can check the full document online here.

The duty of the sacred hierarchy with respect to religious life

8. Careful reflection on the functions and duties of the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in regard to the practical life of religious leads one to discover with particular concreteness and clarity its ecclesial dimension, namely the unquestionable bond of religious life with the life and holiness of the Church (cf. Lumen Gentium 44). Through the action of the sacred hierarchy, God consecrates religious for a more generous service of Him within the People of God (cf. LG 44). Likewise the Church, through the ministry of her Pastors, besides giving legal sanction to the religious form of life and thus raising it to the dignity of a canonical state… sets it forth liturgically also as a state of consecration to God” (LG 45; cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 80, 2).

Bishops facilitate the act of consecration, recognizing that “more generous service” rendered to God. This is a public liturgical ritual, we are reminded. There is also a legal dimension–part of the ministry of governance.

Bishops have responsibilities to the larger Church pertaining to matters of service and ministry that flower from religious institutes:

Bishops, furthermore, as members of the Episcopal College, in harmony with the will of the Supreme Pontiff, are united in this: namely, in wisely regulating the practice of the evangelical counsels (cf. LG 45); in authentically approving Rules proposed to them (cf. LG 45) in such a way that a mission recognized as typically theirs is conferred on Institutes; that a commitment to found new churches is fostered in them, and that specific duties and mandates are entrusted to them; in seeing to it, by their concern, that Institutes “upheld by their supervisory and protective authority… may develop and flourish in accordance with the spirit of their founders”(LG 45); in determining the exemption of some institutes “from the jurisdiction of local ordinaries for the sake of the general good” (LG 45) of the universal Church and to better “ensure that everything is suitably and harmoniously arranged within them, and the perfection of the religious life promoted” (Christus Dominus 35, 3)

In this second paragraph, we read that Vatican II endorsed the wise regulation of some major aspects of religious communities, especially poverty, chastity, and obedience. It’s not that bishops can dispense with these, but more on how they are administered.

According to LG 45, bishops have that duty to check an adherence to the founding charism of a community. But in order to do that, a bishop must know what the “spirit of the founder” actually is. My sense is that religious communities in general are far more schooled and discerned in that than many of today’s clergy.

The world often thinks in terms of absolutes. Even in how they, and sometimes we, look at the relationship between bishops and religious faithful. The communities have ultimate freedom, or the bishops rule one-hundred percent. In the Christian context, neither is true. As for a harmonious and fruitful relationship between bishops and religious, something deeper, something less simple is needed.

Thoughts or comments?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in bishops, Mutuae Relationes, women religious. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Mutuae Relationes 8: Duty of the Hierarchy

  1. FrMichael says:

    For some reason, I thought only bishops were allowed to celebrate Masses of final religious profession. I have since discovered that is not the case and even had the great privilege of celebrating the final vows of a friend of mine.

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