Difference between a vow and a promise


#1

This was discussed in this thread but the thread did not satisfy me.

So again, really, what is the difference between a vow and a promise? Diocesan priests make a promise to be celibate and to be obedient. How is that any different than a vow? As far as I’m concerned, therefore, diocesan priests are in fact making a vow of chastity and obedience, just not a vow of poverty.

Where am I going wrong?


#2

It may be that some people see the difference as the entity before whom the statement is made. A vow, perhaps, is considered as being made to or before God, whereas a promise is made between two people, without invoking or involving anyone else.

That said, in the final analysis I’m with you. One’s word is one’s word, no matter who is involved. God sees all and hears all, regardless of whether or not I invoke His Name in the process of making my promise.


#3

A* vow* is a promise (made to God) that is* binding in conscience under the virtue of religion* (and thus one sins against the virtue of religion if one goes against it) and offers latria (adoration) to God in the making of it and the living of it and is of further merit under that virtue. It can be a further consecration to God of one who is already consecrated to God in Baptism.


#4

So a promise is less binding? Especially given that you defined a vow as a promise?


#5

I see it as this, a promise is made from a decision in the context that the person is emotionally stable, A Vow is usually set to do something in reaction to something happening that causes the person to want to do something. For example, I would say “I vow to make you pay for killing XYZ” not “I promise to make you pay for XYZ”. In summary Vow is more hostile and means ill intent while promise is a deal made in earnest and in care.


#6

Yes.

A vow is a particular kind of promise.


#7

No that is not correct. Absolutely not.


#8

This makes it sound like a promise is just a weak vow and can be broken.

So what kind of a promise is a promise? What value does it have? In what way is it weaker than a vow?

Are the promises that diocesan priests make for celibacy and obedience therefore not solemn promises? They are, after all, made in the context of a sacrament (unlike the vows taken by those in the consecrated life). I would expect they would be solemn indeed.


#9

A promise (that is not a vow) can yes be certainly very weighty such as that you refer to. And can be yes morally binding as a promise. Or there can even be promises that intentionally do not bind at all in conscience (a commitment to be sure -but not intending to bind in conscience at all).

The promises you refer too are not “part of the sacrament” though they are yes rather serious.

Something can be rather serious without being a vow.

A vow is a very particular thing.

Canon Law:

Can. 1191 §1. A vow, that is, a deliberate and free promise made to God about a possible and better good, must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion.

vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4E.HTM (more detail there).

A vow must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion.

A *vow *is a promise (made to God) that is binding in conscience under the virtue of religion (and thus one sins against the virtue of religion if one goes against it) and offers latria (adoration) to God in the making of it and the living of it and is of further merit under that virtue. It can be a further consecration to God of one who is already consecrated to God in Baptism.

If a person makes a promise (non-vow) to obey their Bishop as a Priest - if they go against it they have sinned against the virtue of obedience.

So if I make a private vow of obedience and then go against that vow - I have not only sinned in against the virtue of obedience and they have sinned against the virtue of religion.

Likewise if a person makes a promise (non-vow) to obey their Bishop as a Priest - if they live that they are acting and meriting via the virtue of obedience.

So if I make a private vow of obedience and then live that vow - I am acting and meriting via the virtue of obedience and the virtue of religion. Indeed offering particular latria (adoration) to God. It is also a further consecration to God of one who is already consecrated to God in Baptism.

The same with say Chastity.

If a person makes a religious vow in consecrated life - that too is involves the same but is of more binding nature and more further consecration and if he sins against that vow -besides what I noted it is also a sacrilege (on the sin side…).


#10

Your question arises very simply from a misunderstanding of the theology of vows and the theology of consecrated life.

The public profession of vows is normally tied to certain institutes of consecrated life…note that I said normally. Since the 1983 code, there are provisions for the diocesan bishop to receive profession of vows for consecrated souls in his diocese but this is novel and an exception.

The norm, however, is that the emission of public vows is regulated by the code of canon law and the rule or constitutions of the institute of consecrated life. There is a distinction between solemn vows and simple vows, between institutes which admit perpetual vows as opposed to temporary vows.

Monastic communities descended from Saint Benedict use the traditional monastic vows: Obedience, stability and conversion of manners. Mendicants that descend from the friars movement will use either one vow (Obedience – The Dominicans) or the three vows (Poverty, Chastity and Obedience). Some Orders, such as the Trinitarians and the Mercedarians, add a fourth vow particular to the charism of their institute and this remains extant in various more modern institutes of consecrated life.

The explosion of active congregations in the post-Reformation Church will also greatly diversify consecrated life, moving toward the 20th century when we have the proliferation of the “new ecclesial movements” and secular institutes.

Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life will often use other sacred bonds, instead of vows, to express definitive incorporation into their institutes. These are matters that touch upon the theology and the charism particular to the institute. It would be wrong to think of one as “weaker” – as we read in Chapter 6 of Lumen Gentium. This paragraph may help to make it clearer

44. The faithful of Christ bind themselves to the three aforesaid counsels either by vows, or by other sacred bonds, which are like vows in their purpose. By such a bond, a person is totally dedicated to God, loved beyond all things. In this way, that person is ordained to the honor and service of God under a new and special title. Indeed through Baptism a person dies to sin and is consecrated to God. However, in order that he may be capable of deriving more abundant fruit from this baptismal grace, he intends, by the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church, to free himself from those obstacles, which might draw him away from the fervor of charity and the perfection of divine worship. By his profession of the evangelical counsels, then, he is more intimately consecrated to divine service.(4) This consecration will be the more perfect, in as much as the indissoluble bond of the union of Christ and His bride, the Church, is represented by firm and more stable bonds.*
The Holy Spirit effects in the soul of the person pronouncing vows or other sacred bonds, as a member of an institute of consecrated life, a consecration.

This is complementary to but distinctly different from my life as a diocesan priest. I am ordained by my bishop to serve as his co-worker and to his successors. The expectation is that I will serve out my life in my diocese, as a member of the presbyterate and the promises I take are ordered to that life – which is not at all an institute of consecrated life. By the sacred promises I pronounce at my ordinations as Deacon and as Priest, a real bond is created to the diocese in which I am incardinated. I have a serious moral responsibility to fulfill the promises I made in the hands of my bishop.

The promises assuredly binds seriously and only the Holy See can grant a re-script from the bond that is effected. I would be in as grave of a moral situation by refusing a directive under my promise of obedience as would a monk disobeying his abbot…although the canonical mechanisms are different.

Assuredly, I do not see the promises I emitted at ordination as any less or any weaker than those of Religious Order priests made at their religious profession. They are ordered differently because we have distinctly differing lives and missions.

So it is misunderstanding the nature of things to think of what I do as a “weak” alternative to what Religious priests do.

On the other hand, one who is incorporated into an institute of consecrated life is in a state of perfection in a way that a diocesan priest is not…which is why the Code of Canon Law mandates that if a diocesan priest wishes to become a monk or a friar or otherwise enter consecrated life, his bishop is to release him to pursue that vocation, since it is a higher calling – and the theology of vows and consecrated life exemplifies that.


#11

Feel free to PM me if I can help further. I do not often go to this forum and I may not see your further question.


#12

It depends. I would say a vow is binding under pain of sin but a promise is not necessarily. Also there are different degrees of promise.
For example, marriage vows and religious profession vows are binding under pain of sin. If you break either of these vows it would definitely be sinful. (Cheated on/abandoned your wife, disobedience to a religious superior etc.)
But promises are not necessarily binding in the same way. For example, some religious organisations have solemn promises instead of vows. These are not really made before God as such but to an organisation. They are also not sacramental. Marriage vows are sacramental. Religious vows are not sacramental but they do have a “semi” sacramental quality to them.
There are also promises of other religious organisations like the Pioneer Association. Members of the Pioneers make a promise to abstain from alcohol in order to make a sacrifice for the repentance of alcoholics. This promise I would imagine is binding under pain of venial sin.

Is there a particular promise you were thinking of?


#13

Marriage is very serious and yes a Sacrament - but are not vows in sense we are discussing.


#14

Catechism:

2102 “A vow is a deliberate and free promise made to God concerning a possible and better good which must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion,” A vow is an act of devotion in which the Christian dedicates himself to God or promises him some good work. By fulfilling his vows he renders to God what has been promised and consecrated to Him. The Acts of the Apostles shows us St. Paul concerned to fulfill the vows he had made.

scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c1a1.htm#2102

Canon Law:

A VOW

Can. 1191 §1. A vow, that is, a deliberate and free promise made to God about a possible and better good, must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion.

(for the rest see) vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4E.HTM


#15

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