Pope Toughens Rules on New Religious Orders

Natural over-reaction in some regards post-independence I’d say, it became too closely tied to the state for a complex number of reasons and sought itself to identify itself with the independence struggle retroactively. Whereas the real truth is more murky and contradictory. The Church initially became a totem of a newly independent state and that seemed to serve it well initially but in the end it was a disastrous road to go down. But eagle eye hindsight is always easy.

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So let’s say 3 guys get together and they form a Franciscan-styled religious institute that gains Diocesan Right from their bishop and they go for a few years and then they fall apart.

What typically happens to the men and women from such communities? Can they integrate well into another Franciscan family? Or another institute altogether? Have they been poorly formed or maladjusted and so can’t be accepted back into religious life? It seems a real loss to be released from vows at such a point, and going back to the life of a layman.

The situation you describe seems to be the one that the Pope is trying to prevent by toughening the rules.

It gets worse the more number of years these 3 guys invest before things fall apart.

One reason I stayed on CAF is occasional analysis that connects dots in a way that seems to make sense… pending other data that may come in.

Your post sounds like the ones from Quebec posters about Church decline there.

Some similarities possibly but I’m not from Quebec and there are issues on the ground there that I am probably unaware of which would need a native to look at. The Church was seen as an iconic part of being Irish whilst the occupation of the island went on, but even then the matter was more complex and whilst the physical force tradition in Irish politics urged people to fight using arms some Churchmen would give grudging approval to that or at least hint at doing so and others would say anyone who did do that was condemned to Hell. Witness the infamous speech about Hell not being hot enough or long enough for Irish Fenians which is well known.

To me it seems like the pope is toughening in the wrong places.

Consider the Jesuits:

  • Many institutions mostly secularized
  • Very, very little public witness or practical activity related to apologetics, Evangelism, prolife
  • Heavy public witness repeating the same social justice causes already proclaimed by the Secular media.
  • Very, very little support for Catholic doctrinal content in their schools or media
  • Recruitment that is far, far below replacement level, below Dioceses and most Religious orders.

Are the new Religious communities (granted some mistakes) really causing as much problems as the Jesuits?


Just as each foundation is unique, the suppression will be just as unique. They have a right to seek admittance to another congregation, if they feel led to do so. Others will exclaustrate, then some will hold resentment against the group. Others will abandon their pain to God, and move on.

I don’t think this is all about how “secularized” or “traditional” or whatever an order is. And haven’t we already been over that subject in this thread a number of posts ago?

The Jesuits presumably have mechanisms in place to provide for their members if the order went away. Also, Jesuits tend to be well-educated, and most of them except the very elderly could probably take care of themselves in the secular world, or find a diocese where they could go be priests, if the order went away.

The concern here seems to be that new religious orders get set up, people devote some years of their lives to them, and then the order isn’t a success and it’s not clear what the members are supposed to do.

I am not sure how this “prevents” any kind of scenario.

It just centralizes the bad decisions by less-well-informed functionaries, and shackles the ordinaries.

It’s an authoritarian move after the last 7 years have had talk of collegiality and more subsidiarity, and an overall initiative to weaken and reduce the Roman Curia.

Perhaps it is not an anti-Traditionalist move, but we will never know what decisions are made at this level, so speculation is uncharitable and useless.


Actually not. There had been a tendency for the Ordinaries to issue the letter of recognition before consulting Rome. Canon Law specifically stated that the Ordinary was to consult Rome on the matter. Francis has simply changed a word to impress on everyone that the paperwork has to be sent to Rome first – and Rome responds back “yes” or “no” – before the recognition ceremony can be held.

However, bishops who have no idea as to what goes into the foundation of a new congregation are just flatly refusing to work with founders now. My observation is that there is a great lack of catechesis on the subject. There is an out-of-print book by the Canon Law Society of America outlining how to found a new congregation. We desperately need that book back in print.

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Wait a minute here, I thought there was a material change, from notification to recognitio being required. The ordinary was previously required to “consult” Rome but what do you mean by that – notify Rome? Ask for Rome’s opinion? Gain Rome’s approval? The new rules seem to clearly require Rome’s approval or there is no approval possible at the ordinary’s level, true or not true?

Yes, Rome’s approval is basically required before the recognition ceremony. In this case, I’m using notify and consult interchangeably.

I am actually curious about the situation because Trent said “no new religious orders” and it was causa finita for a long time, and then new religious “orders” started cropping up all over the place, except they were not technically orders so they loopholed Trent’s prohibition, I guess?

So perhaps this is a good measure to prevent the proliferation of institutes that won’t bear good fruit. But I think the renewal of the “Reform of the Reform” needs to be nurtured by good institutes such as FSSP, ICRSS, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, the Carmelites of Los Angeles, et. al. So I hope the larger institutes make room for more and more novices as a renaissance blooms again.

Trent said no new orders, but the loophole was calling the same thing a congregation and making simple vows. Orders usually have solemn vows. While Trent also said to follow one of the established rules, there are eclectic rules depending on the gift the group is bringing to the church and the world.

I would hesitate to put all those new groups under the same category, though. Look at the reason they were founded first. IIRC, the two priestly fraternities were part of Pope St. John Paul the Great’s “philanthropy” towards Latin Mass adherents. That met a need presented by the MEF community. He approved something like 100 priestly fraternities world wide simultaneously to meet that need.

The DSMME were founded by five St. Cecilia Dominicans who felt called to work specifically for the New Evangelization. I believe that makes their focus slightly different from that of Nashville. The DSMME are open to founding new Dominican congregations from their missions, which is historically accurate. That’s how the different Dominican Sister congregations in the US got started to begin with.

I know of the LA Carmelites, but don’t know their history.

What Rome will be looking at is whether a congregation is meeting a need within the diocese in which they are emerging. They will also put the personnel under the microscope to make sure there aren’t any child/adult molesters, which has been a problem as of late with some of the new congregations.

Thank you Cloisters, this is all very good information. I dearly appreciate your contributions to this forum.

One thing I will kvetch about is “screening for molesters”. There’s no clinical test to catch pedophiles, homosexuals, or abusers of power. Yeah, you can do a psychological profile and background check and weed out a few. But I think that that kind of vetting is a panacea that will not actually catch everyone and everything that develops later. People change, situations happen, facts come to light years later. Hindsight is 20/20 and we can criticize the past Church all we want, but she was doing her level best.

I think what can help way more than vetting and screening is having good policies and procedures and education in place. Awareness is key. If everyone knows the signs and is looking out, there is far less chance of it slipping through. If everyone is empowered to report warning signs, then there will be more scrutiny. I don’t hope for a police state environment, but I hope for widespread awareness and knowledge about how abuse starts, how it works, and how to put an end to it quickly.

I take it you’ve never been vetted for VIRTUS training? I nearly went into physical shock reading the MO of the pedophile priests (and I’m an abuse survivor!). What VIRTUS boils down to is line of sight and behaving oneself. Our vestry at church is separate – and on the main walkway to the sanctuary – with window. The Ministers of the Eucharist and Altar Servers share a room on the other side of the wall from the vestry. All of the doors in the new school and offices have a glass pane down the center, and the conference room is a glass box (essentially).

VIRTUS also requires parish membership, and volunteering for a ministry within the parish. I helped with Mingle after Mass on Fridays. There is a background check required (I have a CCW, which should have made things easier for them). My son and I have yet to take the four hour class, which was disrupted by COVID-19.

Now, concerning new congregations, I said there needs to be better catechesis where that’s concerned. I think the persecution from the laity would be a lot less if they knew the processes and procedures. I also find the redundancy of terminology to be troublesome. Is not the “groundwork” stage a period of experimentation? Should it not be Experimentation Period I? Then the Founder’s Novitiate? Then Experimentation Period II after the reception of the bishop’s letter? My particular ministry has a founder’s outreach called the Fullerton Society. We are trying to get all the resources for founders in one place, and hope to eventually host “Founder’s College.”

Yes I have actually been vetted by several different safe environment programs since their inception after the scandal broke. Both through the diocese and the Knights of Columbus. At our parish we have private rooms and private confessionals; our pastor recently opaqued the windows which used to have a slot of clear glass. He also uses a white noise generator to drown out voices.

We no longer have a school. The parish requires parental supervision at all times but I was castigated when I pointed out that some children were being sent to Mass without any responsible adult present. I guess I was a little too loud about it.

My point in mentioning VIRTUS is that if Rome sees that all of a new congregation’s personnel have that training, it would be in the group’s favor.

They’re also concerned about duplications. I questioned the foundress of a pro-life congregation about her being so close to another one, and she said separate states and dioceses. She eventually moved halfway across the country to set up shop.

There are some folks who see an order they really like, and then try to set one up like it themselves. That’s also an issue they’re wanting to get under control.

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One of the principal concerns is financial. My bishop friend was the USCCB rep on the committee for grants to retired religious (jointly with LCWR, CMSM, and CMSWR). Many of the newer communities were horribly impoverished, and bishops who had invited them to the diocese made no provision for their well being. It was truly scandalous, and some bishops were multiple offenders (for several communities). Many of the new groups had members who were poorly educated, and who could not perform ministries that brought in much if any income. It was very sad, and there was no real oversight from Rome–a bishop could invite or start a community and then leave it stranded. Or, when one bishop died/retired, the replacement refused to take responsibility. It was a mess, and probably still is. A couple of bishops/dioceses were pretty notorious…

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It’s disturbing that this would happen in USA. Both that those who started the community would not plan adequately for a means of support, and that the bishops would enable that, and that the future bishops would then leave them in the lurch.

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