Relationship Between Bishops and Religious Order Priests


#1

I am currently a Dominican novice here in the States and I am a clerical candidate (meaning I want to become a priest). So, I guess this might be sort of a stupid question, but, here goes:

The Church Fathers stress immensely the connection between the bishop and his presbyterate; a notion that Vatican II helped us rediscover.

If I do become a Dominican priest, who will be my bishop? My superiors are all priests (including the Master of the Order, as St. Dominic intended), which is fine, but I find the connection between bishops and priests so crucial to understanding what it means to be a priest. Thus, I’d like to know more about this dynamic.

For what it’s worth, my Novice Master and my Priory’s “wisdom figure” (the most senior member of the House) both said that, through the Master of the Order, we are linked to the Pope of Rome. Obviously, I am going to go with that, but I wanted to get some other viewpoints to help flesh things out and better understand how it works for other religious orders too.

Peace in Christ and St. Dominic!

Br. Anthony John


#2

This doesn’t exactly answer your question, but the Benedictines, the most ancient of the Western Orders, have kept a special connection between the monks and the local bishop. Abbeys are autonomous yet the Abbot is blessed / enthroned by the local bishop and the abbey receives its chrism from the local bishop.


#3

I guess the short answer is that “your” bishop will be the bishop of whichever diocese you’re working in. The long answer is: it’s complicated.

On ordination, a religious promises obedience to their “ordinary” - normally the provincial. However, in order to operate within a diocese any order (along with its individual members) needs the approval of the local bishop and so therefore need to work cooperatively with him. While not strictly bound to obedience towards the local bishop, religious are nonetheless called to respect the authority of his office since it represents part of the magisterium of the Church. For their part, bishops need to respect the distinctive nature of religious orders. As Vita Consecrata puts it:

Bishops will thus seek to support and help consecrated persons, so that, in communion with the Church, they open themselves to spiritual and pastoral initiatives responding to the needs of our time, while remaining faithful to their founding charism. For their part, consecrated persons will not fail to cooperate generously with the particular Churches as much as they can and with respect for their own charism, working in full communion with the Bishop in the areas of evangelization, catechesis and parish life.

The connection with the bishop is important because of their role as the father and pastor of the particular Church in its entirety (VC 49) as well as because of the special place of bishops in the Church as successors of the apostles. So while you’re linked to the Pope through the Master of the Order you’re also linked to the local bishop in whose diocese you will work.

Disclaimer: this post is written by a diocesan seminarian (so a member of the “other team” :D)


#4

No, it doesn’t answer my question, BUT it is very helpful in better fleshing out this complicated dynamic. Thank you! :slight_smile: I know that the Benedictines have a unique relationship with the local particular churches, and so I suspect the development of later Western religious orders (including my own) have some connection with their experience (if only slight).

St. Dominic took a lot of ideas from the Cistercians, for example. :wink:


#5

[DISCLAIMER: I am a layman, but was raised in the wild by Capuchins]

Concur: Your bishop will be the bishop of whatever place you are assigned.

By my understanding, it is a cooperative relationship. Technically, an order operates in any given diocese at the invitation of the bishop, and if he wished, the bishop could prohibit an order’s priests from public ministry in his territory. This would not be done capriciously, of course.

Similarly, the bishop will assign ordered priests (when appropriate) in consultation with the order’s superior. Eg, I usually see diocesan announcements of pastoral assignments to a parish served by an order a la: “At the presentation of the Very Rev. John Smith, OP, the Rev. Sam Jones, OP, assigned as pastor of St Dominic for a period of 5 years”.

There are weird situations too, where everyone just acts appropriately, and I do not know what would happen if those with technical jurisdiction over others would try to exercise it inappropriately. For instance, Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap of Boston is still technically under the jurisdiction of the Capuchin provincial of the Province of St Augustine, headquartered in Pittsburgh – But the provincial does not try to re-assign Cardinal Sean elsewhere.

Likewise, I would not be surprised to learn that his holiness Pope Francis is still under obedience to a Jesuit superior (who keeps his mouth shut if he knows what’s good for him :wink: :rotfl: ).

Disclaimer: Everything I’ve written might be wrong, especially those last couple of paragraphs.

tee


#6

The Dominicans are an “exempt” order–that is, they are pontifically approved and thus exempt from direct jurisdiction of local Ordinaries. You can consult canon law on this.

Of course, no religious order (male or female) operates within a diocese without the approval of the local bishop, so there is certainly cooperation. But your vow of obedience is to your religious superiors (and God), whereas secular priests promise obedience to the local (ordaining) Ordinary and his successor.


#7

Your Ordinary is the Provincial of your Dominican Province.

If you operate at a Diocesan parish, the local bishop would approve or deny your petition. In matters related to liturgy and particular law while at a diocesan parish would be subject to him.

Your assignment to a Dominican Friary would be independent of the local bishop. The local bishop would need to give permission for the establishment of a Friary, but after that, the Friary is completely under the control of the Abbot and , through him, to the Provincial.


#8

Hmmm…these are all very interesting answers, but I think they’ve exposed that I’m looking less for a canonical answer than a more “spiritual” one.

I understand fully that Dominican priests are subject to the local bishops in the places where they minister, but it seems to me that (since we are mobile) that if we were linked to the local bishops, then our bishops would be changing alot (sometimes within the same month or year).

What I’m getting at is the Patristic conviction of a close spiritual bond between the bishop and his priests. It is the bishops who govern the Church and, as I understand it, all authority comes from them (in union with the Pope) since they are successors to the Apostles.

Therefore, my question is really centering around from which bishop (or from whence in general) the authority within the Order flows. While my Provincial is obviously a legitimate superior, as a priest it would seem he is connected somehow to the episcopacy. How? In what way?

It seems to me to be one of two answers:

  1. The local bishop (whoever he is at any given moment of the friar’s geographic situation) is the episcopal figure to whom the priests are united in Apostolic authority. This is then communicated through the priestly superiors (Provincials, priors, etc.).

Or,

  1. The Pope of Rome (particularly in an exempt institute of pontifical right, like my own) is the ultimate source of episcopal authority which is communicated through the priestly superiors. [Though, of course, respect and obedience to the local bishop is present].

My current search suggests the latter rather than the former, but canon law seems to vague for me to find any clear cut answer.

Nevertheless, having the opportunity to get some good answer’s from y’all has helped me hone what I am looking for. Thanks!


#9

As I said above, the Dominicans, and other pontifical orders are EXEMPT religious orders. There is a ton of information on this in canon law, if that is what you are looking for, or start here:
catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=4491


#10

I think you’re right. In a spiritual sense, the bishop of religious orders of pontifical right would be the Pope of Rome himself. Of course, this dynamic didn’t exist in the ancient Church. The idea of presbyters roaming the world under the authority of the Pope but not directly under the authority of the local bishop evolved relatively late in Church history. The diocesan presbyterate united to its bishop at a Chrism mass best represents the ancient model described by the Fathers. I suppose in that sense, a religious priest who becomes the pastor of a parish is also “grafted on”, in a spiritual sense, to the local bishop’s presbytery? (Canonically this is not the case - but in a spiritual sense)


#11

A religious priest is tied to the bishop of the diocese in which he operates.

When a religious priest is ordained, he kneels before the bishop and promises obedience to the bishop, and his religious superiors (albeit the focus of religious life is geared much more towards obeying one’s superiors).

Additionally, a religious priest still must receive faculties from the local Ordinary. Whereas a diocesan priest would receive his faculties from the local Ordinary only, a religious priest must receive his faculties from both his superior and the local Ordinary.


#12

So, then I guess the answer would correspond more to #1 of the above:

  1. The local bishop (whoever he is at any given moment of the friar’s geographic situation) is the episcopal figure to whom the priests are united in Apostolic authority. This is then communicated through the priestly superiors (Provincials, priors, etc.).

?

Please do understand that I do not, in any way, dispute the authority of the local bishop or the strict unity between all priests in a given Diocese and the local bishop (whether religious or secular). My question is more subtle…though you may have provided the answer. Many thanks.


#13

I think you’re right. In a spiritual sense, the bishop of religious orders of pontifical right would be the Pope of Rome himself.

See this is where my thinking most aligns (obviously). In the case of the Dominicans, the Pope of Rome established our Order (A.D. 1216, it’s almost our 800’s anniversary!! :smiley: ) and, in that sense, took our Order under Papal protection. Because of this, we “belong” to him in a certain sense, while, of course, respecting the local bishops under whom we have faculties outside our convents.

Of course, this dynamic didn’t exist in the ancient Church. The idea of presbyters roaming the world under the authority of the Pope but not directly under the authority of the local bishop evolved relatively late in Church history. The diocesan presbyterate united to its bishop at a Chrism mass best represents the ancient model described by the Fathers.

Exactly. It is only with the development of Papal usage of their inherent authority (and development of doctrine to a much lesser degree) that the idea of wandering presbyters becomes possible. The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches do not have this dynamic, and for reasons that I suspect derive from this. It is intriguing really! :slight_smile:

I suppose in that sense, a religious priest who becomes the pastor of a parish is also “grafted on”, in a spiritual sense, to the local bishop’s presbytery? (Canonically this is not the case - but in a spiritual sense)

Indeed. I suspect this too. The concepts of episcopo-spiritual authority outlined in both the Patristic texts and in Vatican II suggest this idea quite strongly…it is even enshrined in the Catechism. Yet, at the same time, both canonically and historically, there is a subtlety present regarding to whom the religious priests ultimately “belong” (especially if they are “roaming” often like mendicants through various Dioceses).


#14

If you are in the OP Novitiate, then you should ask your Novice Master this information. The Novitiate is the time to clear up all your doubts or questions. No one is better qualified to do this than your Novice Master.


#15

Well, I’ve already asked him and he seems to agree with #2 above.

Obviously that is going to be my primary answer at the moment, but I did want to get a variety of views to better flesh things out.


#16

That is what I’ve heard as well. Priests are obedient to their local ordinary (i.e. bishop) in the nature of their priesthood. As members of religious institutes, however, their obedience is to their superior(s) and ultimately the Pope.


closed #17

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