Is it possible to switch religious orders?

Like, if a Franciscan wanted to suddenly become a Jesuit or Dominican? Can he do that? I know he’s always a priest, but can he switch orders?


He can do it if the respective superiors are favorable. It would not be a “sudden” process…maybe you didn’t mean that literally.

See canon 684 in the Code of Canon Law for general rules. Individual institutes might have more precise regulations.


There is a Franciscan 3rd order in our community that is changing to Secular Carmelite. For this, there needs to be permission from the Franciscans, the Carmelites, and the local communities.

I have no idea for the Priests who have made religious vows.

Once you have taken final vows, I would expect it would be up to the Order.

My mother’s uncle is a religious brother who went through 3 different Orders before he found the one to which he was called. He began with the White Fathers, who trained him as a nurse. He realized that his vocation was to be a brother, not a priest. He joined the Trappists to see if he was called to a cloistered order. Eventually he joined, and is still with, the Missionaries of Charity (St. Teresa’s order; he is in the men’s order). Today, he is a nurse and cares for the sick and dying.

Our former Pastor spent time as a Trappist before he became an Oblate of Mary Immaculate. I can’t think of two more diametrically opposed groups, particular the OMI in the Province to which he belonged.

I know a number of sisters in final vows who transferred. For example, after Vatican II, some women went from more traditional to more progressive communities, and some did the opposite. There have always been women who transferred from apostolic to contemplative communities (there were 2 or 3 in the Indianapolis Carmelites). There is usually a 3-year process involved for these women, during which they are still under vows, but not finally professed members of their new congregations. Officially, they are exclaustrated from their original ones. So it’s hardly “sudden,” but it IS possible.

Here in the Archdiocese of Denver, we have one diocesan priest of 37 years, who became a Trappist monk. I don’t know if there have been other priests, but Father Hoffman did it. Here’s a link to the article:

Finding the rhythm of comtemplative life

They take permanent vows. It’s not so simple as superiors agreeing.


My response was intentionally brief and simplified but also correct. The referenced canon fills in more details.


*Can *they? Certainly. It’s a bit of a process, however.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911):

The regular may also, in theory, migrate from one order to another more severe; from this point of view, the Carthusian Order is the most perfect. In practice, failing the consent of the superior-general of both the orders in question, these migrations take place only with the authorization of the Holy See. The professed regular who migrates into another order makes his novitiate afresh therein, but retains his first profession until he has made solemn profession in his new order. Until that time, if he does not persevere in the second order, he must take his former place in the order he has quitted; and even then if, in addition to the essential vows of religion, his first profession has laid any special obligations upon him, for instance that of not accepting any ecclesiastical dignities, these obligations are not removed by his new profession.

Relevant Canon Law:



Art. 1.


Can. 684 §1. A member in perpetual vows cannot transfer from one religious institute to another except by a grant of the supreme moderator of each institute and with the consent of their respective councils.

§2. After completing a probation which is to last at least three years, the member can be admitted to perpetual profession in the new institute. If the member refuses to make this profession or is not admitted to make it by competent superiors, however, the member is to return to the original institute unless an indult of secularization has been obtained.

§3. For a religious to transfer from an autonomous monastery to another of the same institute or federation or confederation, the consent of the major superior of each monastery and of the chapter of the receiving monastery is required and is sufficient, without prejudice to other requirements established by proper law; a new profession is not required.

§4. Proper law is to determine the time and manner of the probation which must precede the profession of a member in the new institute.

§5. For a transfer to be made to a secular institute or a society of apostolic life or from them to a religious institute, permission of the Holy See is required, whose mandates must be observed.

Can. 685 §1. Until a person makes profession in the new institute, the rights and obligations which the member had in the former institute are suspended although the vows remain. Nevertheless, from the beginning of probation, the member is bound to the observance of the proper law of the new institute.

§2. Through profession in the new institute, the member is incorporated into it while the preceding vows, rights, and obligations cease.

BTW orders are not institutes - it’s tougher for members of Orders. They have to be excused from the Permanent vows first.

Since Franciscans, Jesuits and Dominicans can all teach (for instance) I’m not sure what one has to offer over the others.

Respectfully, they don’t have to be excused from permanent vows first. Read the citations I have provided above for reference.

While it is common for everyone to talk about “religious orders”, and for some communities to refer to themselves as “religious orders”, the Code does not use the term “religious order.” Instead, it uses “religious institute” and so, as far as the Code is concerned, orders are institutes. The referenced canon(s) apply to “orders.”


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