Mutuae Relationes 28: Duty and Advocation

SenanquecloisterSome question the involvement of the bishops in religious life at all. After all, religious communities span regions beyond dioceses. Men may lack a particular understanding of women, clerics of laity, chancery-bound prelates with people in the world, bishops in the world with people in a cloistered life. Mutuae Relationes (which can check online here) suggests that bishops have a duty. Many bishops probably see this as a responsibility. That’s not a wholly bad thing; it implies bishops take initiative to be informed, to be fair, and to cultivate relationships.

28. It is the duty of bishops as authentic teachers and guides of perfection for all the members of the diocese (cf. Christus Dominus 12; 15; 35, 2; Lumen Gentium 25; 45) to be the guardians likewise of fidelity to the religious vocation in the spirit of each institute. In carrying out this pastoral obligation, bishops in open communion of doctrine and intent with the Supreme Pontiff and the offices of the Holy See, and with the other bishops and local Ordinaries, should strive to promote relations with superiors, to whom the religious are subject in the spirit of faith (cf. Perfectae Caritatis 14).

Bishops, with their presbyters and deacons, are more than watchdogs. They are called to active promotion:

Bishops, along with their clergy, should be convinced advocates of the consecrated life, defenders of religious communities, promotors of vocations, firm guardians of the specific character of each religious family both in the spiritual and in the apostolic field.

Much is made of the Church’s problem with mothers. The shadows of sexism, and in some cases misogyny, has actively discouraged some parents from encouraging their children to consider the priesthood. Is a similar dynamic operating among today’s clergy? Do some priests choose ignorance of religious life, especially apostolic institutes of women? I’ve known many clerics who encourage priesthood, but seem ignorant or skeptical of religious life. Even among men, it is difficult sometimes for a bishop of vocation-oriented cleric to distinguish in a young man a religious vocation that might lead him to a religious community.

Indeed, some bishops delegate authority to a “diocesan vocation director.” How bishops comply with their “duty” in MR 28 will be shown in how that director guides people into lives other than as diocesan clergy.

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 28: Duty and Advocation

  1. FrMichael says:

    I currently have two young ladies in my parish discerning the call to religious life. It’s not that I dissuaded the more serious of the two from considering the local congregations with significant footprints, including the order that ran the parochial school for decades, it’s that she self-selected for conservative fully-habitted orders with mother houses elsewhere in the US.

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