Hierarchy of the Discalced Carmelites

I am trying to get a good understanding of the hierarchy of the Discalced Carmelites. For example, where is the Definitor’s (is there more than one?) place in the hierarchy and what are his specific duties. Apostolic Visitator, General Superior, Prior Provincial (I’m not certain all these titles are correct).

Where can I find more information on all of this?

JMJ, the Definators (more than one and you can see the list of those presently serving in that capacity at the OCD official website (discalcedcarmel.com) serve as councillors to the General Superior of the Order; they oversee particular geographical regions. This presentation by Fr. Stephen Watson, General Definator, might help:


A Provincial of the Order is over a smaller geographical area, e.g., there is one Provincial for the Eastern Province of the U.S.A., another for the Central Province, and another for the Western Province.

I’m sure there is the Constitutions for the OCD somewhere online, but I can’t find it. I found the one for OCDS, but not OCD – does anyone know where I can find the Constitutions for the OCD?

The Constitutions for the friars and nuns (1991s) are available to buy here, but it says they are restricted for private OCD community use.

On another note, concerning the hierarchy … there are two Constitutions for the nuns. Those under the 1990 Constitutions answer directly to the Holy Father. Those under the 1991 Constitutions are under the OCD Father General. For more information, here’s a blog a friend started, who entered a 1990 Carmel, discalcedcarmelites1990.blogspot.com/ (much of which is a translation from a Spanish blog here, carmelitasdescalzas1990.blogspot.com/) which I’m hoping to finish for her :thumbsup:

Most religious orders do not put our constitutions out for the laity. They are considered internal documents for use by the members of the order or religious of other orders. Often, they are highly classified documents, especially in the orders, as opposed to the congregations.

The term definitor is a medieval term for what today would be a councilor. You find definitors among Carmelites, Franciscans and Dominicans. Definitors have no power. They are to council the major superior, be it the provincial superior or the general superior.

In reality, councils in religious orders, not in congregations, have no power. They can vote on anything. But the major superior can overrule whatever they vote on. He has absolute power. The only authority over a prinvincial superior is the general superior. The only authority over the general superior is the general chapter.

The ranking from top to bottom goes like this:

Prior General and his council or definitory

Prior Provincial and his council or definitory

Local Prior

Each of these superiors can delegate authority to their definitors, but may delegate over their heads to someone else not on the council.

This organization is only for the friars, not for the nuns or the seculars. They have their own organizational chart.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Thanks Brother. I can understand on the one hand keeping things in house (though, how top secret can a Catholic order be :p), but they could at least publish the definitions or a glossary. For example, in the OCDS Constitutions (which are for all to see), they make reference to the General Definitory. Great, but if you don’t know what a/the General Definitory is, you just out of luck.

Anyway, thanks.

Interestingly, the Servites seemingly have their entire constitution online, including the rules about positions within the order. I am in no way criticizing the Servites, but I just wanted to say that there are even rules about having simple food(does that mean no flavorful French or Italian dinners?) and apparently restricted time for friars using their libraries.

I’m not a Servite, but they are very similar to Franciscans. I would imagine that simple foods means the basics: meat, potatoe, veggies and something to drink. We eat a lot of rice, because it’s cheap. That’s another way of eating simply, staying within a budget.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

For a while religious orders of men were sharing our constitutions with the laity. But many of us stopped it when all of these factions: traditionalists vs liberals, laity vs religious and others started to arise. Most of us did not want to get caught in the middle of these debates. We really just want to be left alone to live out our calling as Christ called us and to serve as our founders wanted us to serve. We appreciate people’s kindness toward us and their concern. But like every family, we don’t enjoy being told what to do or not do by the clergy or the laity. I don’t think any family likes to be told what to do by outsiders who have no authority over them. It gets annoying. When you hear it too much, it’s no longer an act of concern as it is an attempt to influence you to do what makes others happy, even when it violates your taditions.

To avoid those conflicts, many communities do not share their constitutions. Our rule is different. Those were written by the founders and have been in the public domaoin for centuries, but the constitution is really what governs an order, not the rule. The constittution has all the laws about daily life, government, formation and more.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Thank you, Brother.

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