Do religious vows of poverty include civil/legal component?


#1

When a religious takes a vow of poverty, do they sign contracts that make the vow of poverty legally binding?

For example, if it turned out that a religious was secretly running a business, trading stocks, filed for some patents, etc., would their religious order have legal claims to said business, portfolio, or patents?


#2

Well, I don't think a religious would have very much time for running a business, trading stocks or any or most of that. There is in most cases for woman religious, a moral, ethical contract and even a little piece of paper that essentially says, "I do." After all, this is spiritual marriage or union. One does not hide or keep things from one's spouse, do they?

Depending on the order/community the candidate will turn over one's personal assets or wealth, to the order/community for the good of the community. There may be special circumstances that can be worked out or agreed upon before entering, or if the person must leave go back to the life of a lay person, but I expect that would be very unusual without a very valid reason.

Most priest do not take the vow of poverty, but generally live in a state of self imposed poverty other than having what they need. Sometimes, but rarely, you will hear of a priest that has amassed a tidy bank account, but it not the norm, or even scandalous in rare situations.

And my question is: what would you do with or want to keep all that wealth or assets for anyway? They would just weigh you down and keep one from really hearing or answering the call. Remember what Jesus said to the young man who wanted to follow Him? "Go and sell all that you have." Peace and prayers.


#3

[quote="carefullytread, post:1, topic:430724"]
When a religious takes a vow of poverty, do they sign contracts that make the vow of poverty legally binding?

For example, if it turned out that a religious was secretly running a business, trading stocks, filed for some patents, etc., would their religious order have legal claims to said business, portfolio, or patents?

[/quote]

From the point of view of modern secular law - no, because such contracts would be seen as infringing the person's legal capacity. In most countries, they will be considered null and void.

Historically, however, when the Canon law and the secular legal systems were not yet so far apart, there were measures to accommodate the vow of poverty. The most well-known example is the Franciscans. To a large extent because of their inability to legally own anything, the Common Law institution of trust was developed. In this way, they would not "own" anything but still would have a right to use particular property. ;)


#4

I think in 99.9 % situations the community/order would expect the candidate to have dispersed or made proper provisions for any wealth or assets before entry or acceptance.

Don't forget that in the States we are supposed to be seperate from "Church and State." That does not exempt one from the just laws of the land or the expectations of the church.

Also, when one enters religious life one is expected to be free of debt or worldly obligations. All of this is really to much to go into depth or deep discussions over and is best left to your priest or the congregation one may be interested in. Peace


#5

Not all women, by any means, understand the religious vows in “spousal” terms. Further, this is a problematic metaphor, since women do NOT lose control of their property when they marry–at least in most Western nations, at least for the last 150 years or so.

So this doesn’t really respond to the question, does it?


#6

Yours is an interesting reflection on the term of spouse and the religious life of vows and poverty. It is intrinsically understood by and in most communities and orders what is inferred to when the term spouse in the spiritual sense means. These are the basic cornerstones of spiritual life, that one is giving up in most instances, what a vow of poverty, chasteness and obedience is, with some exceptions according to the needs or decisions of an order or community. If someone is considering the religious life they should not enter blindly, but study and understand that they are entering a volunteer state of life. No one puts a gun to someone's head if they can not comprehend or live the spiritual union with God/Jesus. In a sense it is a civil/legal union, depending on how one perceives such a commitment. Vows can be dispensed in, and in some cases, really should be. Think of it as a "divorce" from the religious life if that helps. I do urge anyone that considers such a state of life to think, pray, study, and think some more with added prayers. Peace and prayers.


#7

So there is there no contract at all in any jurisdiction?

I know US law best, and in US law certainly in some states there are some sorts of contracts that could be enforced. You can sign over all future patents, you can sign non-competes, you could probably sign over rights to any creative output, etc. The order couldn’t enforce all aspects of the vow of poverty, but it could have recourse in some situations if it had religious sign certain contracts.

But I don’t know what the laws are like in countries that are traditionally Catholic and have legal systems which were intertwined with the Church for centuries. I wasn’t sure if, in say Portugal or Italy, the Church would be able to enforce contracts that no one else could. I would expect that a religious would always have the legal right to leave their order, but the order might own whatever they did while they were still members.


#8

[quote="carefullytread, post:7, topic:430724"]
So there is there no contract at all in any jurisdiction?

I know US law best, and in US law certainly in some states there are some sorts of contracts that could be enforced. You can sign over all future patents, you can sign non-competes, you could probably sign over rights to any creative output, etc. The order couldn't enforce all aspects of the vow of poverty, but it could have recourse in some situations if it had religious sign certain contracts.

But I don't know what the laws are like in countries that are traditionally Catholic and have legal systems which were intertwined with the Church for centuries. I wasn't sure if, in say Portugal or Italy, the Church would be able to enforce contracts that no one else could. I would expect that a religious would always have the legal right to leave their order, but the order might own whatever they did while they were still members.

[/quote]

First, nothing is signed away until Final Profession and if a dowry has been given then that also is frozen until Final Professions.

When you enter you stop being active in any way with your past, with the outside world. So you would leave as in resign with all that that means

No Nun will have outside involvement with business or outside earnings.

And each order will have its ways to deal with that easily and simply

You let go.Simply that... No the order would not take over eg a business or contracts.

A good example. Thomas Merton, When he was a professed monk he started his writing career He would not have seen any of the huge amounts he made, He belonged to the order and no longer had rights of ownership etc.


#9

[quote="carefullytread, post:7, topic:430724"]
So there is there no contract at all in any jurisdiction?

I know US law best, and in US law certainly in some states there are some sorts of contracts that could be enforced. You can sign over all future patents, you can sign non-competes, you could probably sign over rights to any creative output, etc. The order couldn't enforce all aspects of the vow of poverty, but it could have recourse in some situations if it had religious sign certain contracts.

But I don't know what the laws are like in countries that are traditionally Catholic and have legal systems which were intertwined with the Church for centuries. I wasn't sure if, in say Portugal or Italy, the Church would be able to enforce contracts that no one else could. I would expect that a religious would always have the legal right to leave their order, but the order might own whatever they did while they were still members.

[/quote]

Well, such a contract can be considered "immoral" in many jurisdictions, U.S. included.

As concern the traditionally Catholic countries: it depends on the time You're asking about. The modern private law of Portugal, France, Italy, etc., was shaped after the French and other revolutions of late 18-19th centuries. Thus, they all have liberal Civil Codes, based on the principle of equality and private autonomy. Unless some privileges were reserved for the religious from time to time, the promises of poverty would be considered unenforceable due to their violation of these principles - of equality, private autonomy, inalienability of legal capacity.


#10

[quote="JurisPrudens, post:9, topic:430724"]
Well, such a contract can be considered "immoral" in many jurisdictions, U.S. included.

As concern the traditionally Catholic countries: it depends on the time You're asking about. The modern private law of Portugal, France, Italy, etc., was shaped after the French and other revolutions of late 18-19th centuries. Thus, they all have liberal Civil Codes, based on the principle of equality and private autonomy. Unless some privileges were reserved for the religious from time to time, the promises of poverty would be considered unenforceable due to their violation of these principles - of equality, private autonomy, inalienability of legal capacity.

[/quote]

The key word here is VOLUNTARY ... religious life is outside all of what you speak of . It is a voluntary giving and yielding of all possessions etc, and nothing to do with "privileges"


#11

The legal principle (a modern one) is that you cannot legally incapacitate yourself, even by free will. You cannot, say, sell yourself to slavery.

You don’t understand what I said about privileges. Read more attentively.


#12

[quote="JurisPrudens, post:11, topic:430724"]
The legal principle (a modern one) is that you cannot legally incapacitate yourself, even by free will. You cannot, say, sell yourself to slavery.

You don't understand what I said about privileges. Read more attentively.

[/quote]

I understand but you do not understand religious life.. Sell yourself to slavery? It is not legally incapacitating yourself either,

It is a free gift freely given. Simply that and no ones business but your own.


#13

Once a person has their mind made(JP) up it is hard to persuade them to think otherwise. We should recognize that here in the U. S. we still have the separation of Church and State 'though it is presently taking a licking. Just ask or follow the infringements of the government upon THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

Civil law is a little different than Cannon Law, but there at provisions in most Orders to deal with the civil law in a fair and equitable way. These are not the days of yore or pre- Vatican 11, and religious life and poverty are a volunteer renouncement of the material world. The so called contract is just that, renouncement of property, goods and money, mostly held in “security,” if you will, until final vows. Even than there may be circumstances where a candidate may need the return of some or all of their “security” depending on the needs or circumstance of the individual or family. No community wishes to have someone leave and be subject to poverty, ill health, or abandonment by family or friends. This a different era from the sometimes extremes of the past.

Each community or order will make such decisions about the renouncement of goods, money or property according the descernment of the superior, council, or constitution of the order or association, and it is generally a matter of MERCY and POVERTY that might effect the individual, rather than keep the assets for the order. No one wants to see someone kicked to the curb without a dime or nickel to one’s name.

So yes, there is a contract involved, but it is more of a moral, ethical, spiritual condition rather than a piece of paper one signs upon final vows. All contracts can be broken or contested, but please remember vows or promises are essentially a “higher” contract and not a civil bond. Lots of small differences between Cannon Law, Civil Law, and as I wish to call it, “Spiritual Law.” I guess this could go on and on, but lets hope not Peace and prayers.


#14

I wonder if you have any data on this. As a historian of religious life who has worked with dozens of congregations and read the history of hundreds, and who has served as a consultant with many communities over the years, this does not square with my experience or the theology of religious life that I have read (much less the history of the past 50 years). So I would appreciate sources.


#15

Not everything is written in stone. There are some things that are practiced according to tradition and culture. This the U. S. A.- not Scotland. Perhaps we tend to be a little more liberal or compassionate here in the States. You want sources? Other than saying “been there, done that” I would direct you to the Vat. 11 documents and newer encylicles coming out fro Rome. Not my desire to provide resources for you. We are looking at the modern, yet conservative reforms in religious orders. I just do not have the time to provide the resources you desire. Sorry. Peace.


#16

What part did you not understand? I have responded as simply and the best that I can without over complicating the issue. Peace.


#17

I am a tenured professor of history and religion in the US and most of my research is on the US. I have no idea where you got the Scotland idea–perhaps where you got the widespread spousal thing? Anyway, I asked for sources because you are making generalizations and, as a scholar–particularly when I DO have considerable evidence to the contrary–I would like something other than “because I say so” as support. But I suspect this is based on feeling and anecdotal observation, so… I will not pursue it. But it might help if you framed your comments as what they are–unsupported assertion. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously said, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.


#18

I guess I got the “Scotland thing” from a Scottish lawyer who was also posting and I do apologize for the mixup. I really, really don’t have the time to delve into this, but again I do ask, what part of my post did you not follow/understand. I am open for any corrections. Peace.


#19

When a person enters an order, and the vows, they give up the right to own any property themselves. So, using the earlier example of Thomas Merton, all royalties earned from his works went to his order and not to him. Similarly, if an religious were to win the lottery, their order would no doubt be very happy since the order would expect to receive the prize money. However, a religious could refuse. Religious vows are, for the most part, a private matter and so they could (in theory at least) take the money and run! I suppose the order could argue that the member was contractually obliged to hand over the money.

I don’t accept the comparison to slavery or agree that it would be regarded as an immoral contract provided of course the person entering into it was aware of what they were agreeing to and weren’t coerced.

One exception to the general rule does come to mind though. If a religious were to win an all expenses paid holiday (or similar, personal and non-transferable prize) then they would be allowed to keep it.

Finally, when a person leaves an order (after final vows) they are usually still looked after to some extent by their order, as opposed to just being cast out penniless and poor!


#20

The word poverty calls itself often calls to the reality of destitution that many people live in our country face poverty every single day. My neighbor believes together we can have a great impact in the fight against global poverty. So he always suggests me to have a peek here and join the voyage humanitaire as they’re volunteering trip is a great way of helping others facing problem due to poverty.


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