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January 11, 2012

Canonical Protection for Consecrated virgins -- PART 2

Referring  to comment /s in the  previous post  Part I     Here    I’m sure this is the beginning of an important discussion.  For the sake of more perspectives, I shall give other and differing viewpoints although I myself am searching for the truth in these matters. I would sincerely like canon lawyers, bishops, and consecrated virgins to ponder on this holistically from various dimensions of the human person and VERY ESPECIALLY THE PERSPECTIVE /MIND OF JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF WHEN HE FOUNDED THE CHURCH, the same Church with whom every  consecrated virgin is /should be  identified  irrespective of which category in my Q.1 of the previous post  she belongs to.


  1. When on the Cross, Jesus’ heart was pierced and the Bride of Christ was born.  I believe that the mind of Jesus Christ at that moment on the Cross –is the most truthful and reliable guide through the fog  consecrated virgins/the churches  all over the world are experiencing.
  2. At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles /disciples.
The OrdoVirginum is predominantly a vocation as bride of Christ, hence it was founded on the Cross and empowered on Pentecost.  This will give us a clue regarding the essence of the vocation.

According to the mind of Christ the Church is Community. It  is called to live the New Commandment of Love; whereas individualism is exactly what the Church is NOT.  This will help us discern whether it is the Holy Spirit or purely human motivations and convenience that are leading the vocation of   consecrated virgins  in today’s world.

Due to this kind of individualism, in some places, even though several consecrated virgins  exist within the same diocese, they do not concretely support each other  in spite of having the time and the resources to do so. In today’s world where we are aware of abuse / exploitation of consecrated women  especially in African and Asian countries, the need for  canonical protection is what I see.

 Can  the  Covenant with Christ be expressed in its fullness without  a real bond of love - of solidarity lived concretely - between consecrated virgins themselves wherever several are present within the same diocese, even if they are not living in community ?

Before continuing the discussion let me clarify for readers that by the word ‘community’ I am not insisting that  consecrated virgins should  live together  like religious  institutes.  I personally feel that  the Rite of consecration to a life of virginity for women living in the world  is being misused  in some parts of the world by women who want to live an individualistic spirituality which  is against the mind of Christ, because they do not see the local Church as a community / family to whose service they are dedicated.

The constituents of the Church can be found in the Catholic Church at the Universal and Diocesan level to the fullest extent:

This is visible at its best in a Diocesan Pastoral Council which has representatives of all sections of the local catholic community thus truly representing the whole Body of Christ. Next  it becomes visible in a Parish Pastoral Council.  In all other communities like Religious Institutes, Associations, Movements, Small Christian communities, etc., only some part of the Body of Christ is usually represented. So  when we say that the consecrated virgin is an image of the Church herself,  she best represents the Diocesan Church  and the Universal Church that is founded on Rock according to the intention of Jesus Christ.


Can. 604 §1 The order of virgins is also to be added to these forms of consecrated life. Through their pledge to follow Christ more closely, virgins are consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan Bishop consecrates them according to the approved liturgical rite.
§2 Virgins can be associated together to fulfil their pledge more faithfully, and to assist each other to serve the Church in a way that befits their state.

Why has 'order of virgins' been added to the canons on consecrated life  in only one particular canon 604 ? 

When the Rite was promulgated after the Second Vatican Council and  canon law 604 was formulated, why did it indicate the term  ‘order of virgins’ to be added  specifically to canon 604? The term 'order of virgins' is not mentioned anywhere else in canon law, even for monastics who have a separate  version of the same rite in the Roman Pontifical.

If the term  ‘order of virgins’ applies to ALL women  who received the consecration according to any of the two  liturgical versions, according to this view  canon 604 #1 may be interpreted as describing  a purely liturgical category  like the order of priests, order of deacons, order of catechumens,  etc.

However, the canons on Consecrated Life do not include specific canons for the order of priests, order of deacons, etc., who can be incardinated in a diocese or belong to a monastery or religious community or secular institute, lay association, etc. Hence, my interpretation is that canon 604 #1 does not describe the ‘purely liturgical’ category of the order of virgins. Instead it describes the ‘SOCIO-liturgical’ category of ‘Diocesan/Universal’ consecrated virgins with a particular identity and mission.

Point A] If the OrdoVirginum includes all women who received the consecration  through one of the two versions of the rite for  monastics  or those living in the world, by logical extension  it would include women who received it  while being full members of  Secular Inst,  Lay Asso. , Third Orders  of Pontifical or Diocesan right, Diocesan hermits, Solitaries, and Lay Singles.

Point B] If the OrdoVirginum is legally limited to canon 604 and has its own vocational identity and mission, then logically it should NOT apply to Secular Inst,  Lay Asso., Third Orders  of Pontifical or Diocesan right, Diocesan hermits, Solitaries, Lay Singles, etc., who follow a different spirituality. [ e.g. in a situation where such a woman seeks dispensation from vows of a secular institute or lay asso. or third Order  of pontifical right, the procedure of the institute / association/ third order  would  be followed. The diocesan bishop would not be primarily involved .

Point C]  In some parts of the world, women receive the consecration of virgins   when they already belong to and follow the spirituality of  a secular inst. or lay association or third order or hermit or solitary or lay single, etc. Hence, I wonder whether  they would  have a special link with the particular diocese  according to the identity and mission of OrdoVirginum. Then they should not come under canon 604. They come under the social category of the group or spirituality they follow.

Others have first received the consecration of virgins, are  linked to the diocese, and then  because they are the only CV in the diocese, they join a secular inst. or lay association or third order [as core members, not as associates of these groups, for support]. In such situation they  naturally  cannot live fully the specific identity and mission of OrdoVirginum and should cease to come under canon 604.

[I have taken the analogy from canons related to Deacons who can be diocesan or belong to a religious institute or secular institute, etc. read here ]

Point D] To avoid confusion, should the Church limit the term  OrdoVirginum to  women who specifically lead a  diocesan based spirituality in its original expression as mentioned in the Rite and tradition of the early Church, adapted to today’s world  -which means their community is the diocese, and to associations  of consecrated virgins strictly based on Canon 604#2  ? This would also give the Order of virgins according to canon 604 a public juridical personality because it signifies ‘order’ as a liturgical and social category in the Church.

Public Juridical person:
 If canon 604 is limited to consecrated virgins leading a diocesan vocation with the original identity and mission  as mentioned in the Rite and in early Church tradition, then I think every consecrated virgin even as an individual would belong to a public juridical person, as per canon 113, since she  belongs to the order of virgins which  is a communion of all consecrated virgins since 2000 yrs. By the same logic, all consecrated virgins together who are alive on the earth today  would be a public juridical person.

An individual consecrated virgin or the  OrdoVirginum symbolises the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Hence they could perhaps have the status of a moral person or public juridical person. Even if there is only one  diocesan consecrated virgin, there should be prayers for the order of virgins because by doing so the community is praying for all virgins /churches/souls/ in  history and in present and future. The same effect is not present in prayers only for clergy, religious institutes or lay faithful  as we usually hear. Scripturally the order of virgins IS connected with the identity and mission of the Church as mentioned in the book of Revelations.  It’s omission from the prayers in the liturgy of the Church is a big ? for me.

The questions  I have begun reflecting in this and the previous blog-post  have practical effects on the lives and vocation of consecrated virgins today. To summarize, the OrdoVirginum is a liturgical category according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and includes nuns or those who live in the world who have received the same consecration. By logical extension the OrdoVirginum  would include all virgins consecrated through one of the two versions of the Rite of consecration in the Catholic liturgy.

CCC The Consecrated Virgin (922-924)

Christian virgins cling to the Lord with a greater freedom and live in an approved state of virginity "for the sake of the kingdom" (Mt 19:12). Virgins are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop and are dedicated to the service of the Church (Canon 604).
The order of virgins establishes a woman living in the world (nun) in prayer, service, and apostolic activity. These virgins can form themselves into associations (Canon 604, #2).

However Canon 604 #1 is placed in the section on Consecrated Life  in the Code of Canon Law, which does not have parallel /specific canons for the liturgical category of order of priests, order of deacons, etc., who like the order of virgins  may also join monasteries, secular institutes, lay  associations, third orders or live single, solitary lives, etc.

Hence my interpretation is that canon 604 #1 and 2 refers  specifically to Diocesan/Universal  consecrated virgins. It should not be applied to consecrated virgins who become core-members of other communal or individual  forms of consecrated life that have a different spirituality.

I think it is in a similar sense that Vita Consecrata describes the Order of Virgins . see here

Interestingly the Speech of Holy Father Benedict XVI during the Meeting with consecrated virgins in Rome recently in yr 2008 was addressed ‘To the Order of Virgins’ see here   and it clearly describes the particular  Diocesan /Universal identity  and mission .

The OrdoVirginum also represents in a particular manner –the Marian dimension of the Catholic church. How far this can be realized when a consecrated virgin is   also a  member  of another communal or individual form of consecrated life  -is something to reflect upon, because it may blur and dilute the real vocation.

For Part I  of this  post   Read here

For my personal research article  on Ordo Virginum   click here

1 comment:

  1. Isn't every couple a public juridical person in the eyes of society and the Church ? By this logic , wouldn't every consecrated virgin [as per canon 604] also be a public juridical person in her union with Jesus Christ ?


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