Are the Consecrated Women Truly Consecrated in the Eyes of the Church?

Juan Carlos Arceo, my friend and colleague with the Legion’s Mexico-based communications team, posted the information below on the Spanish-language version of Regnum Christi Live. This has been a topic of much discussion, so I thought it would be helpful to post a translation on our site…

A little while ago, a very interesting question was posed in relation to the consecrated men and women of the Regnum Christi Movement. What is the juridical status in the Church of Regnum Christi’s consecrated members?

The question did not arise on its own. There has been some confusion in the media and in the blogosphere about whether the consecrated women are truly consecrated in the eyes of the Church, and whether ecclesiastical authorities recognize their vocation or not.

To answer the specific question of their juridical status in the Church, we have to turn to two sources: the Code of Canon Law and the Regnum Christi Statutes, which were approved by the Holy See on November 26, 2004.

In the Code of Canon Law, in the section on the Associations of the Christian Faithful, we read:

• 298 § 1. In the Church there are associations distinct from institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life; in these associations the Christian faithful, whether clerics, lay persons, or clerics and lay persons together, strive in a common endeavor to foster a more perfect life, to promote public worship or Christian doctrine, or to exercise other works of the apostolate such as initiatives of evangelization, works of piety or charity, and those which animate the temporal order with a Christian spirit.

• 303 Associations whose members share in the spirit of some religious institute while in secular life, lead an apostolic life, and strive for Christian perfection under the higher direction of the same institute are called third orders or some other appropriate name.

And in the section on Institutes of Consecrated Life, the text states:

• 573 § 1. The life consecrated through the profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living by which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title to His honor, to the building up of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the kingdom of God and, having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory.

• § 2. The Christian faithful freely assume this form of living in institutes of consecrated life canonically erected by competent authority of the Church. Through vows or other sacred bonds according to the proper laws of the institutes, they profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience and, through the charity to which the counsels lead, are joined in a special way to the Church and its mystery.

In the Regnum Christi Statutes, there are several numbers explaining the nature of consecrated life in Regnum Christi (also called the “third degree”):

• 83 § 1. The third degree members are celibate men and women who offer their lives to God in the imitation of Christ, in a free and total way, through the practice of the evangelical ideals of chastity, poverty, and obedience. They dedicate all their time and effort to the service of the Church according to the Regnum Christi charism, and they ordinarily live in teams.

• § 2. Those who are called to the third degree embrace this lifestyle by virtue of a personal commitment with God and with the Movement. Rooted in their baptism, this commitment helps them to pursue their growth in holiness and carry out their apostolic work more effectively.

Although the full range of norms by which the consecrated men and women live were not explicitly approved by the Church’s authorities and their lifestyle will be subject to deeper examination in their upcoming apostolic visitation (as per the Holy See’s May 1, 2010 statement), the essential lines of their vocation are approved and valid on the juridical level.

The bottom line: although there is a need for reform in some aspects, there is also a real canonical foundation for the vocation to the consecrated life in the Regnum Christi Movement.

About Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a writer and consultant. He lives in the Chicago area and has a wonderful wife, son and daughter. He enjoys fishing and occasionally catches something. He tries to play the piano and sings a little. In addition to writing for Regnum Christi Live, he blogs at Laughing Catholic. And you can follow him on Twitter: Jim Fair (@fishfair).
This entry was posted in RC Live. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Are the Consecrated Women Truly Consecrated in the Eyes of the Church?

  1. lphelan says:

    Thanks for posting this Jim. Can you please clear something up for me?

    I am aware of two forms of consecrated life in the Catholic Church. Those who are part of a religious order (for example, a nun, a religious sister, a monk or a cleric) and those who are consecrated virgins. Both are described in detail in Canon Law.

    The portions of Canon Law provided by your colleague in Mexico discuss Institutes of Consecrated Life (section 573) but these seem to cover mostly religious orders and religious congregations, if I’m not mistaken. So they would include the religious of the Legion of Christ and not include Regnum Christi and it’s membership. Is that correct?

    Consecrated Virgins require a particular rite presided over by a bishop. It’s my understanding that the consecrated of Regnum Christi make their promises in front of a Legionary priest, not the bishop. Also, those living in this state usually have independent means of support (for example, outside employment).

    While the Code of Canon Law sections 298 and 303 refer to associations of the Christian Faithful as well as third orders, these have never been described as “consecrated life” as far as I know. Most third order vocations are married adults. I’ve never heard a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi describe her vocation as equivalent to a third order.

    Is there another designation of consecrated life that I’m missing?

  2. Jim Fair says:

    lphelan…There are various new forms of consecrated life that have come into being with the rise of new movements such as Regnum Christi — and dozens of others. Many have consecrated communities, which are supported by the canons cited in the original posting. Some of the language in canon law likely will be updated at some point as it precedes the movements. In the case of the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women, we were blessed this past weekend to witness the consecration of 13 new women — and the renewal of their promises by an additional 12. This is very much approved and welcomed by the Church.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *