No.32 - July 17, 2023
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The Apostolate Of Religious In Cceo: A Critical Appraisal

V.Varghese Koluthara, CMI

Every baptized person participates in the mission of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, anointed and sent by the Father for the salvation of the world. But Christians share in that mission in different ways according to their call and state of life. As members of the mystical body of Christ, all Christians participate in the apostolate of the Church

1.Tracing Back to the Origins

(a) Etymologically, the adjective ‘apostolic’ comes from the Greek ‘apostellein’ meaning ‘to send’. The Greek ‘apostellein’ implies the sending of a messenger on a special mission, with emphasis on the relationship between the messenger and the sender. The twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ were sent by Him on their mission to preach the Kingdom of God. The word ‘apostolate’ originates from the Latin word ‘apostolatus’, and the Latin word ‘Missio’ means mission. In our common parlance, both mission and apostolate mean the same, the former emphasizing the ‘being sent’ and the latter referring to the activity of those who are sent into the world to transform it with the power of the Gospel.

(b) Historical Notes: it is fascinating to trace back the origin of apostolate in the religious institutes of the Church. In the primitive Church, the followers of Christ committed themselves to a life of dedication and contributed to the spreading of the Gospel. When we learn the history of religious institutes, we can certainly state that religious life as an institution of the Church had its origin in the Christian East.[1] The practice and the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church have expressed themselves not only on an individual level but also in a communitarian style brought into being in the Church by the work of the Holy Spirit. Monasticism in the East was mainly of two types: the eremitical [2] life of hermits or anchorites, and the cenobitic [3] life of monks. The model of eremitical life [4] was Antony of Egypt (d. 356). When eremitical life was flourishing in the East another form of monastic life – cenobitic – was introduced by St. Pachomius (292-348). For Pachomius, obedience was the very foundation of cenobitic life. The monastic observances prescribed by the rule of St. Pachomius were adopted.

by the laura [5] of Palestine, founded by St. Hilarion, and perfected by Theodosius. By the time St. Pachomius died in 348, a large number of monastic communities were flourishing in Egypt. However, it was in Cappadocia under the leadership of St. Basil (329-379) that monasticism took a new turn.[6]

As a result of his contributions to monastic theology and the structure of the coenobitic life, St. Basil is commonly hailed as the father of monasticism in the East. His important works on monasticism are Detailed Rules (Regulae fusius tractatae) [7] and Short Rules (Regulae brevius tractatae). [8] Both are arranged in the form of questions and answers based on Basil’s conversations with the monastic communities he had visited.[9] Pachomian coenobitism, considerably corrected and modified, was the model of the monastic system propagated by St. Basil.[10] The rule composed by St. Basil became the standard legislation for monasticism in the East, and it influenced also the monastic rules of the West.

The Cappadocian fathers – Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, and Gregory of Nyssa – furnished monasticism with a well-worked-out theory coupled with the organizational set-up of Pachomian cenobitism. They managed to combine asceticism with obedience to the ecclesiastical authority and it resulted in a stable and balanced cenobitism.[11] According to Louis Bouyer, this trend of ‘erudite monasticism’ of the East reached its highest point of development with pseudo-Dionysius, Evagrius, and Macarius in the fifth century.[12] The most active concentration of monasticism in the fifth century was in Palestine.

With the Christological crisis, the monks of the East adopted extremist positions not hesitating to withdraw from the jurisdiction of their bishops, often at the invitation of a neighbouring bishop. [13] Therefore, the Council of Chalcedon (451) issued canons to put the monks under the authority of the bishops.[14] Later, in 692 the Council at Trullo [15] enacted monastic legislation with specific canons.

One of the striking events in the history of Eastern monasticism of the eighth century was the reformation and organization of monastic life by Studite foundations. St. Theodore the Studite (759-826) organized monasteries especially in Constantinople in the ninth century on the Basilian ideals. Strong in their moral authority, the Studite foundations were often vigorous opponents of the emperor and the patriarch.[16] The second Council of Nicaea[17] regulated monastic life with particular instructions. In the monastic legislation of the East not only the ecclesiastical authorities but also the civil authorities had a role to play. Thus, in the Code of Theodosius (d. 450) there were prescriptions for monks that were developed further by Justinian (d. 565) in his Codex and Novellae.[18]

The most remarkable event during the tenth and eleventh centuries in Oriental monasticism was the appearance of a mystical revival under Symeon the New Theologian (d. 1022). In contrast to the ancient anchorites, the Hesychasts of the school of Symeon lived and worked in communities but championed a demanding conception of union with God. The period of the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in the thirteenth century was a time of ruin and decline for Oriental monasticism. After the Turkish invasion monasticism in the East began to decline. Though Eastern monasticism retained its primitive simpler form of the beginnings in centers like the Holy Mount Athos of northern Greece, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sinai and Palestine, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, the Balkan Countries, Russia, and Ukraine, [19] it is almost extinct in these monastic centres with the exception of Mount Athos where it still survives, and in Romania where it is flourishing today.

It was a spirituality of ‘running away from the world’ and living in enclosure. All the first eight ecumenical councils took place in the East and traditionally the East was considered the ‘think-tank’ of the Church up to the 9 th century. All the major traditional Churches in the East fell into decadence after the Islamic invasions.

2.The Evolution of Apostolic Institutes in the Oriental Churches

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the remnant Churches of the East did not have the internal vigour and strength to develop their own spirituality, monasticism, and new forms of consecrated life, and flourish like the Western Church. According to Ronald Roberson the frequent reunions of the Eastern Churches with the Western Church “resulted in a process of Latinization, or the adoption of certain practices and attitudes proper to the Latin Church to a certain degree, depending on the circumstances of the group. As a result, these Churches sometimes lost contact with their spiritual roots. The monastic tradition, so central to Orthodox spirituality, died out in most of the Eastern Catholic Churches, although religious life often continued in the form of religious congregations modeled on Latin apostolic communities.” [20]

This means that the apostolic life that we find in today’s religious communities of the East, may not have originated from the Eastern sources but from the Western Church and its tradition. However, it should be stated that the East Syrian Church, which, before its decline under Islam, was an eminent missionary Church, whose monks evangelized most of Central Asia. In the Western Church, this apostolic commitment was more clearly affirmed when the profession of the evangelical counsels and the call to priesthood met and merged, as happened with the Canons Regular. Until the ninth century, apostolic life meant common life in poverty and prayer. As early as the thirteenth century, apostolic religious life was an issue for the Franciscans and the Dominicans. While preaching was their primary work, each group understood apostolic life differently. Franciscan life was to be an imitation of the life of the apostles. In the sixteenth century, St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus as an apostolic group with neither choir nor habit, which was a radical departure from monasticism. Ignatius inspired his followers with the motto “For the greater glory of God”, which includes apostolate for the salvation of humanity.

In the sixteenth century, women leaders like Angela Merici and Mary Ward also took up apostolate as part of their consecrated life. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, several religious congregations of women succeeded in leading an apostolically active life (e.g., Daughters of Charity, Sisters of St. Joseph). The establishment of hospitals, orphanages, and schools also enabled the sisters to live an active life within the confines of their own institutions.

The nineteenth century can truly be called “the apostolic flowering of religious life”. In the wake of the French Revolution, a good number of religious congregations were founded in France and Italy. In India, also for the first time, indigenous religious institutes with apostolic zeal were established during this period by St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara (e.g. CMI and CMC).

Clemente Pujol SJ describes religious life in the Oriental Churches after the reunion with Rome in his work La vita religiosa orientale. According to him, after the reunion of some of the Oriental Churches with Rome, there was in almost all of them a new flowering of religious life. These institutes of religious life did not have the characteristic notes of strict monasticism but were more in tune with a new inclination for active and apostolic life, characteristic of Western religious life. However, monastic life, though not always authentically Oriental, continues to be present in most of the Eastern Catholic Churches. [21] He mentions the names and the style of these newly emerged religious institutes of active and apostolic life in the Eastern Catholic Churches, in the Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian, Byzantine, and Chaldean traditions, and in the Syro-Malabar and Syro- Malankara Churches sui iuris.[22] In general, all these religious institutes with simple vows devoted themselves to various forms of apostolate under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and responding to the needs of the Church and the signs of the times.

3.Apostolate of Religious in CIC (1917) and in the Motu Proprio Postquam Apostolicis Litteris (PA 1952)

In the 1917 CIC, the apostolate of religious did not appear as a distinct section. This Code never employed the terms apostolate or apostolic works but spoke instead of ministry or sacred ministry which were applicable only to those who had been ordained and to works or pious works, comprising both lay persons and clergy.

Before the mid-nineteenth century the expression ‘apostolate’ was reserved in ecclesiastical terminology to the hierarchy with participation extended to presbyters. However, as lay persons, especially the members of the newly founded and canonically recognized lay congregations were increasingly seen as sharing in the task of building up the Body of Christ and spreading the Kingdom of God; they also began to participate in or assist the hierarchical apostolate. It was Pope Pius XI who first began to speak of lay apostolic works. Pope Pius XII broadened the term of the lay apostolate. Beginning with his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi in 1943 and concluding with his addresses to the First and Second World Congress of the Lay Apostolate in 1951 and 1957, the lay apostolate acquired ecclesiastical approval. Pope Pius taught that lay apostolate has its theological basis in baptism and confirmation and does not solely originate from a mandate of and in close dependence on the hierarchy.[23]

In the Motu Proprio PA, we do not find a separate section on the apostolate of religious. There are some scanty references to the pastoral activities of the religious in PA, especially in canon 154. But the references are only made in the context of the pastoral life of an eparchy, cf. c.154 § 1: when their ministry is required by the local hierarch or pastors to provide for the needs of the people, they shall willingly lend their services; c. 154 § 2: likewise the local hierarch and the pastors shall willingly make use of the help of the religious in the sacred ministry and above all in the preaching of the Word of God and in the administration of the sacrament of penance; c.154 § 3: when in the judgement of the local hierarch the help of the religious is needed for the catechetical instruction of the people, religious superiors, including those exempt, must, if requested by the Hierarch, give such instruction to the people, especially in their own churches, however, without detriment to the monastic observance and religious discipline.[24]

In fact, the term “apostolatus” does not even figure “in the Pio-Benedictine Code (Codex Iuris Canonici of 1917) at all, as may be checked in the extensive “Index analytic-alphabeticus” of CIC 1917.” [25] This is also true of the Motu Proprio PA.

4.The Second Vatican Council and the Theological Foundations Leading to Canonical Rights

The affirmation of apostolic religious life proves the correspondence between religious life and the baptismal promises; if the profession of the evangelical counsels flows from baptismal grace, it is also logical that it should be translated into apostolic activity according to one’s own vocation, as development and maturation of the call to the apostolate innate in every baptized person.[26]Vatican Council II definitively embraced the expression “apostolate” as fully applicable and belonging to laity and clergy, and it promulgated the decree on the apostolate of the laity and by using this expression in practically all its other documents. The Council described the apostolate as “all activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of the goal of spreading the Kingdom of Christ” everywhere (cf. AA 2, PC 8, CD 35, AG 40). This apostolate should be carried out by every member of the Church because the vocation to be a Christian comprises in itself the vocation to the apostolate (cf. AA 3, PO 2, LG 44). Religious through their profession, therefore have an added responsibility for the apostolate.[27]

The fundamental right and obligation of all the Christian faithful to spread the Gospel is expressed in the Codes of Canon Law (CCEO c. 14; CIC c. 211) which assert that all Christian faithful have the right and obligation to work so that the divine message of salvation may reach more and more people at all times and all over the world. This right and obligation has a sacramental basis (CCEO cc. 7, 11; CIC cc. 204, 208) and is further specified through the charisms given by the Spirit to individual members and institutes of consecrated life (CCEO c. 410; CIC c. 573).

Since institutes of consecrated life are special gifts of the Holy Spirit intended to “contribute to its salvific mission” (CCEO cc. 410, 411; CIC cc. 574, 676), the exercise of an apostolic activity necessarily involves an ecclesial dimension within the local community of believers. Apostolic activity pertains not only to the very nature of some institutes of consecrated life but also becomes the distinctive mark between them.[28] For example, evangelization is integral to the charism of all secular institutes, whose clerical and lay members express and exercise their consecration through their apostolic activity which is ordinarily carried out on the initiative of their members (CCEO c. 563; CIC c. 713).

5.CIC Canons 673-683 sets a Model for CCEO for Apostolates of Religious

[29]The various forms of apostolate of institutes of consecrated life are specifically dealt with in CIC cc. 673- 683. Such norms are found to be missing in CCEO. CIC outlines clearly the motivating factors of apostolates, the understanding that should exist between bishops and major superiors, how contracts are to be drawn up for entrusted apostolates and how harmony is to be maintained among the people of God, how fatherly concern towards the religious can be expressed by a bishop in a diocese, etc. All these are well delineated in the chapter on apostolates in CIC for the Latin Church. Religious have the obligation to promote witnessing by means of prayer and penance undertaken by individuals and communities (cf. CIC c. 674). The contemplative life is an all-important part of the mystical body of Christ and contemplative religious should be spared from active apostolate (cf. CIC c. 673). Apostolic activity is not some kind of extra optional but an integral part of the life of these institutes; the close union with God is to be the source of all apostolic activity which can never take place in isolation from the local Church (cf. CIC c. 675). Lay religious life is not less valuable simply because it does not involve the exercise of sacred orders (cf. CIC c. 677). Superiors and members are to hold fast to the mission and works which are proper to the institute (cf. CIC c. 678). Therefore, adaptation does not mean substitution. The direction of all apostolic work in a diocese is the prerogative of the diocesan Bishop. Religious are nevertheless completely free agents in their exercise of apostolic work. The religious remain subject to their superiors and are obliged to live according to the proper discipline of their institute even when they take up external apostolate. Whenever religious exercise external apostolate, they are subject to the dual authority of the bishop and their own superiors, giving rise to the possibility of disputes or conflicts of competence. Only for the gravest reasons, can a diocesan Bishop forbid a member of a religious institute to remain in a diocese (cf. CIC c. 679). Mutual coordination and cooperation are to be fostered among different institutes and between them and the secular clergy (cf. CIC c. 680). Therefore, rivalry, hostility, or suspicion, are to be avoided. Assignments entrusted by the bishop are always subject to his authority alone, for example, work in a parish, hospital, school, or retreat house. In these situations, a clear-cut contract is to be drawn up for the work to be done, the members to be assigned, and the financial arrangements (cf. CIC c. 681). In removing a religious from a diocesan office, the authority of both the diocesan Bishop and the religious superior must be mutually understood (cf. CIC c. 682). The diocesan Bishop has the authority to visitation personally or through a delegate in the apostolic centers of the religious (cf. CIC c. 683). Thus, CIC presents a model for the apostolate of religious in a local Church. The possibility of disputes or conflicts of competence may arise when religious are subject to the dual authority of the bishop and of their superiors. But the Code promotes dialogue and conflict-solving guidelines and means. George Nedungatt who was a member of the PCCICOR, comments on it:

Since the Second Vatican Council expressed positive appreciation of the apostolate of religious both of the Western and the Eastern Churches, the norms codified in CIC regarding their apostolate could have been received in CCEO as well without incurring the reproach of Latinization. For the Churches do not differ in the matter of apostolate as they do, instead, in the matter of rites. The apostolate is essentially the exercise of organized charity, and charity knows no differences or boundaries between East and West. With its lacuna as regards apostolates of religious, CCEO is not faithful to the Council in contrast to CIC. It is important to correct this defect. In many areas, it is through their apostolate that the Gospel is first announced and that the Church comes alive. The lacuna can cause serious harm even elsewhere. The Church is well established as has indeed happened in a well-known case of open conflict between the local Bishop and the religious of a congregation noted for various kinds of apostolate. [30]

6.The Work of the Study Group of PCCICOR on Monks and Other Religious

The study group on monks and other religious of the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, met twice for four weeks, i.e., from 30 November 1981 and from 15 February 1982, and reviewed the canons of the schema, which contains altogether 143 canons as in Nuntia 11 (1980) p. 3-53. For these sessions, they had the help of ten experts in the field of religious life to enlighten them on various issues. The result of these sessions is reported in Nuntia 16 (1983). [31]

Following the guidelines, different study groups worked out the draft of the Code. The fifth study group which was entrusted with the work on monks and other religious met for the first time from October 7-12, 1974. This session seems to be important in the sense that the policies formulated there, provided the direction and format on how the group worked in later sessions.[32]The following observations were made:

  1. The excessive legality which finds its concrete expression in the detailed norms is not coherent with the spirit and nature of oriental monasticism. Oriental monasticism clearly springs from the Holy Spirit with its charismatic character. Religious life which is more than what can be expressed in juridical terms – being part of the mystical aspect of the Church – also has an ecclesial dimension which explains why the hierarchy of the Church drafted both rights and duties on religious life.
  2. If the law of the Church is to recognize and regulate the charism of religious life, it must also respect its nature and its manifestations without uniformizing it through common norms and detailed laws. The Church must allow space for particular laws which each monastery or institute can provide itself with, expressing their proper characteristics and specific personality in the Church.
  3. It must be noted that in various religious institutes of the Oriental Churches, the fact of imposing revision of their own Constitutions according to PA in various minute details may have been detrimental to expressing their proper identity and charism.
  4.  These and similar considerations led the group to include among the guiding principles in their work that of limiting to the necessary level what is demanded by common law, leaving ample space for every institute to have their particular law applying the principle of subsidiarity.

The first session proposed a detailed consideration of monastic institutes and monks, dedicating the first section of the code to monks and monasteries. In the second session of the study group, the first few canons were formulated and were accepted unanimously.[33] The central study group in their meetings of December 15-19, 1975,decided to avoid expressions like solemn and simple vows in the section on religious.[34] The fourth session held on April 19-28, 1975, formulated the canon of vows. [35]

After the fourth session of the study group, a special group of consultors was formed to work out a basic text for the revision of the entire MP PA. The group of consultors finally formulated a schema and sent it to the study group for examination. It finished its work on February 12-27, 1979 [36] . By the end of December 1980, the study group brought out the first schema on Religious. [37] Observations and criticisms were collected and studied by a special group appointed for this purpose.[38]

In the draft of the Code published in November 1986, title XII with its four chapters dealt with monks and other religious as well as with members of other institutes of consecrated life. [39] On October 17, 1986, the 1986 draft was handed over to the members of the PCCICOR with a request for a response by April 30, 1987.[40] The comments received from the members were examined by a committee de expensione observationum during its workshops held November 9-27, 1987, and January 11-20, 1988. The Committee compiled its responses and distributed them to the members of the PCCICOR.[41]

The Second Plenary Meeting of the PCCICOR marked the final step of the preparation of a text which would be presented to the Pope for promulgation. The meeting took place November 3-14, 1988.[42]

Among the thirty titles of the CCEO, title XII deals with monks and other religious as well as with members of other institutes of consecrated life.

7.Why the Vatican Council II’s Teachings on the Apostolate of Religious is missing in the CCEO?

To understand the role of religious in a diocese/eparchy we need to distinguish how these institutes are dealt with in CIC and CCEO. In general, we could say that in the presentation of religious institutes, CIC makes use of a methodology that might be called a principle of abstraction while CCEO follows a methodology of historicity. CIC, following the principle of abstraction in the presentation of religious institutes, puts religious institutes as one of the categories of institutes of consecrated life. Under the categorization of institutes of consecrated life, there are religious institutes and secular institutes. The societies of apostolic life are dealt with as separate units. Thus, CIC presents certain common principles applicable to all institutes of consecrated life which we generally call principles of abstraction [43].

CCEO, following the method of historicity, presents different institutes of consecrated life chronologically as they originated in Church history. Thus, CCEO first presents monks, then other religious, followed by the members of other institutes of consecrated life. CCEO places monks and monasteries as the model and prototype of all other forms of institutes of consecrated life.[44] George Nedungatt, who was a member of the PCCICOR, comments on this:

It is surprising that in spite of such clear conciliar teaching, CCEO has stood by PA without revising it according to Vatican II. CCEO also has ignored the post-conciliar instructions and norms issued by the Roman Apostolic See regarding apostolates of religious. These were codified in CIC 1983 cc. 673-683, but CCEO has ignored them. Of course, CIC is no juridical source for CCEO. But the sources of CIC 1983 cc. 673-683 were common to the Latin Church and to the Eastern Catholic Churches. Apparently, those who drafted Title XII of CCEO failed to note this fact. Thus, it has come about that the title XII of CCEO on monks and other religious is marked by the narrow vision of monasticism that is not conciliar. This can be ascertained from the pages of Nuntia which reported the work done by Coetus V, De Monachis aliisque (ceterisque) religiosis. This Study Group was guided by its relator Hieromonk Theodore Minisci OBI, abbot of the monastery of St. Nilus, Grottaferrata.[45]Under his leadership Study Group V exalted monasticism as being, “al servizio della lode divina e della totale consacrazione personale a Dio”, allowing “altre attività collaterali di studio e di apostolato, pur nei limiti consentiti della vita monastica.” Apostolate outside the monastery is to be allowed only as an exceptional emergency.[46]

On the matter of “apostolates of religious”, the Second Vatican Council went beyond CIC 1917 and PA. In its decree on the renewal of religious life this council expressed its appreciation of religious institutes dedicated to apostolate as gifts of ministry granted by the Holy Spirit to the Church without distinction of East or West. The council asked the religious institutes to adapt their lifestyle to the demands of their apostolate (PC 8-9). [47]

Minisci, the Relator of Coetus V of the codification was eager to present monasticism as the model for all other later forms of consecrated life. It may be presumed that his preoccupation with reviving monastic life in the Eastern Churches was not challenged by other members of the coetus by ascribing due importance to the apostolates of active religious institutes in the Oriental Churches. Moreover, Minisci and the coetus sidelined the work already done by the Latin Church and went ahead with the zealous attitude of non-Latinization in the codification of the norms on de religiosis. From the work of the PCCICOR, we understand that Coetus V also had the opportunity of obtaining the assistance of experts in religious canon law from the Latin Church. But at present, we cannot conclude whether any such active deliberation, discussion, and debate took place in the formulation of the norms contained in CCEO Title XII. From the issues of Nuntia already quoted we find only very scanty references to the discussions in the formulation of the canons on Title XII. George Nedungatt examined the dynamism involved in Coetus V under the leadership of Hieromonk Theodore Minisci and how the concept of ‘apostolate’ recedes in Title XII:

But at the time of the codification of CCEO, Eastern Catholic monasticism was represented only by two or three monasteries. Minisci minimized the role of monks in the various forms of the apostolate they had engaged in historically. And giving priority to monks over other religious he and his study group entitled CCEO Titulus XII “De monachis ceterisque religiosis et de sodalibus aliorum institutorum vitae consecratae.” This long and cumbersome title, which was chosen to emphasize the pre-eminence of monasticism in the Eastern tradition, replaced “De religiosis,” which had been used in PA. Lamenting the disappearance of the glorious past of Eastern monasticism…, the study group V set out as it were on a crusade to redeem the lost monastic heredity. It is difficult to say whether this was a premonition or a methodological error. Surely it is not the task of legislation to launch crusades but to order with norms an existing reality. CCEO has instead exalted nostalgically monasticism giving it separate and prior treatment and making it a kind of “summum analogatum” (or analogatum princeps) contrary to the very declared policy of Study Group V itself. Thus, it has come about that CCEO prescribes monastic formation also to religious orders and congregations, while it has practically no norms about their proper apostolate. Although Title XII of CCEO is indexed in a detailed manner under 24 headings (Nuntia 31/1991, 52-56), there is no entry on the apostolate of religious. [48]

Prof. Clemente Pujol’s reaction to the draft which became CCEO Title XII was on the whole negative, but his written vote submitted to the Eastern Code Commission is not yet accessible for consultation. [49]

8.What are the Weak Areas of Title XII which Need Correction?

(i) It is clear that the apostolate of religious is common to the Eastern Catholic Churches. As such, it should have been regulated in the common Code CCEO, according to the first draft of the ten guidelines for the revision of the Eastern Code.[50]

(ii) CCEO has no parallel section to CIC and says almost nothing about the apostolate of monks and other religious. This is not an oversight but a consequence of the idealization of monasticism as fuga mundi.[51]

(iii) The codification work of CCEO was completed by 1989, when Communism fell in countries like Ukraine. Study group V drafted canons for the situation in which, as Minisci wrote, “la vita monastica tradizionale è scomparsa nella maggior parte di quelle Chiese, avendo gli antichi istituti religiosi optato per un ordinamento ad instar degli Ordini latini.”[52]

(iv) The radical call of CCEO to revitalize monastic life through the oriental religious institutes presents certain problems today. First of all, although monastic life seems to be well exposed in CCEO as a major form of consecrated life – certainly like its origin and as a specimen of other forms -, it seems that there are at present only a few monasteries, as exposed in the Code itself. It is to be noted that the prevailing monastic orders at the time of promulgation of PA in 1952, were nearly all declared non-monastic in 1955. To the extent that all of them changed their organization in accordance with one of the types of religious institute of the Latin Church – i.e. monastery, order, congregation, society without vows – whose apostolate they wished to emulate within their own Churches. They are dedicated, namely, to the works of the apostolate. This is confirmed by the Holy See’s own declaration (Annuario Pontificio (1991) pp. 1362, 1365-1368). Though orders and congregations are of Latin origin, they belong to the treasures of the universal Church just as monasteries of the Oriental Churches are part and parcel of the patrimony of the universal Church. In the modern era, apostolic religious institutes have served and continue to serve the needs of the Oriental Churches in accomplishing their apostolates. In order to revitalize the monastic values of Eastern religious life, it will be impossible to bring about radical changes in the legal structure of the religious institutes like orders and congregations prevailing today in Oriental Churches without destroying their specific charism and related apostolates.[53]

(v) We do not find any specific norms in CCEO regarding the formation of the religious who are not monks. Some of these norms may be suitable for monks but not for other religious. Between the first profession (temporary) and the final (perpetual) profession in orders and congregations, CCEO can. 526 §2 allows a maximum time span of six years (“numquam ad tempus quod … sexennio longius est”). This may not work out well with the religious institutes which are constitutionally oriented toward various kinds of apostolate.[54]

(vi) To be in the framework of fuga mundi, cannot be a helpful norm for the manifold apostolate of other religious. Its basic error is to have made monasticism the analogatum principes of religious life. Religious institutes especially of women which undertake manifold works of charity and social services today have to form their temporarily professed sisters in various apostolates. While the sisters often get their professional training in the same specialized institutions, the Latin sisters are allowed enough time for their formation by CIC can. 657 §2 up to a maximum of nine years: “iuxta ius proprium, prorogari potest, ita tamen ut totum tempus, quo sodalis votis temporariis adstringitur, non superet novennium.” Thus, the Latin religious can acquire professional and religious training during nine years before their final (perpetual) profession. The Orientals, however, are constrained by a six-year deadline set by CCEO can 526 §2: “complexive numquam ad tempus, quod triennio brevius vel sexennio longius est, extendatur.” This restriction appears strange especially since no restriction is set by CCEO on the time span before perpetual profession in monasteries.[55]

(vii) Regrettably, CCEO does not allow Oriental religious dedicated to apostolate sufficient time to devote themselves to professional formation. The law forces them to interrupt or rush through their training in order to evade this “sword of Damocles”, with the final profession at times made in haste or with little or no preparation during the vacation. Alternatively, recourse is had to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches for dispensation. The large number of these recourses is evidence that the law is badly made… Certain Superiors General seem to have got tired of making recourses and have resorted to evasive measures. Quite often this has negatively affected the genuine religious formation of the candidates when the preparation for the perpetual profession had to be rushed through. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches, too, seems to have got tired of handling these numerous recourses: in response to a recent recourse, the Congregation authorized the Superior General to herself grant the dispensation to the religious concerned. Surely, a law requiring frequent recourses or dispensations is a bad law and is in need of revision.[56]

(viii) Even for secular institutes, the rule of six years is prescribed for making the final profession after the first vow or bond (CCEO c. 526 §2, cf. Caritas Secular Institute, Kottayam, Kerala, Constitutions n. 88, 39 [57] ). This provision of CCEO totally contradicts the spirit of freedom granted to secular institutes in the Church. Secular institutes are a typology of consecrated life both in CCEO and CIC. CIC has made provision for extending time, after the first profession, up to nine years, if it seems advisable, taking into account the time needed for formation and education for the sake of a specific ministry (CIC c. 656, §2). Whatever is prescribed in CIC for religious institutes is also applicable to secular institutes. But in CCEO what is prescribed for monks who do not have an apostolate and who are leading a cloistered life, namely six years, is also made binding on secular institutes. According to the conciliar and post-conciliar teachings of Vatican II, secular institutes are allowed to have the freedom to remain in the world and act as its leaven. Essential to the tradition of most secular institutes “is the conviction that the members are to exercise the apostolates in many ways and carry out manifold ministerial tasks which are related to their own professional lives”. [58] Therefore, they need more time for preparing themselves for taking up apostolates. They are also not required to make public vows. Their consecration is private only and it may be expressed in terms of bonds, oaths or promises, or semi-public vows. This shows that they have the right in the Church to be freer and more flexible. This flexibility and freedom is blocked by CCEO by asking them to make their final incorporation within six years after their initial act of incorporation in the secular institute. This pinpoints the defect of CCEO which needs correction.

(ix) In the final draft of CCEO, the societies of apostolic life [59] were missing typology in CCEO. Only at the last moment when the draft [60] was submitted to Pope John Paul II, a single canon (CCEO can. 572) was added [61] to it and the rest of the legal provision due to this typology is left to the discretion of the particular law of each Church sui iuris. It also highlights another weakness of CCEO and a lacuna in it whereby a typology of the societies of apostolic life lacks a common referral point in the common Code of the Eastern Churches. It shows that the coetus on Title XII of CCEO did not pay comprehensive attention to the different typologies existing in the Oriental Catholic Churches. Maybe the preoccupation for bringing back the monastic trends of the Oriental Churches to its pristine glory may have sidetracked the other typologies in the formulation of CCEO. We did not get access to the substantial reports regarding the dynamism of coetus on Title XII of the PCCICOR in this regard.

In the same context, CIC provides a comprehensive picture regarding the typology of the societies of apostolic life. It is true that societies of apostolic life are not a form of consecrated life, but merely an appropriation of it. At the same time, in the context of the apostolate, they play a vital role in a Church sui iuris. This typology should be given substantial importance especially when we envisage the missionary thrust of our remnant Oriental Catholic Churches. The best example is the Missionary Society of St. Thomas (MST), a society of apostolic life of the Syro-Malabar Church. It is a vibrant society performing exemplary evangelization apostolate in the mission areas of the Syro-Malabar Church. It is often said that it is left to the discretion of the particular law of a Church sui iuris to enact further norms on it. However, this is not a correct methodology. This is because a typology with its full-fledged details in CCEO can provide a model or a referral point to enact Particular Law consonant with the ethos of each Oriental Catholic Church. This is lacking in CCEO. If this lacuna is not corrected in the common Code, each Church sui iuris may lack the detailed reference point in CCEO to enact Particular Laws on the societies of apostolic life. For example, in the Particular Code of the Syro- Malabar Church, the particular statutes of the MST are being copied verbatim for the typology of societies of apostolic life. Then, if MST changes its statutes in their general synaxis, would this section on the societies of apostolic life in the particular law of the Syro-Malabar Church also have to change ipso iure? [62] Thus, it becomes a defect of the particular law. Therefore, it is another lacuna of Title XII of CCEO which calls for correction.

(x) Title XII of CCEO is ‘Monks and Other Religious as well as Members of Other Institutes of Consecrated Life’ and is unwieldy and lengthy. There should have been a canon which should have knitted together the different typologies envisaged in the title. Instead, it begins directly with chapter one entitled ‘Monks and other Religious’, while the addressing canon of Title XII is can. 410. Logically it should have been a canon linking all these typologies that are dealt with under the long title and at the same time connecting harmoniously chapters one, two, three, and four. Such a canon is lacking in CCEO and this needs correction.

9.A Critical Appraisal of the Sub-title ‘Dependence of Religious on the Eparchial Bishop, the Patriarch and the Apostolic See’ (CCEO, Title XII, Chapter I, Art. I, n. 1º)

Since CCEO has completed twenty-five years since its promulgation, we have the opportunity to analyze and understand the legal issues that face us in bringing about a harmonious relationship between eparchial Bishops and major superiors of religious institutes in all the Oriental Churches. It is said that a law is well received by the community when the values proposed by the law-giver blend harmoniously with the needs of the community in tune with the signs of time. In 1978, the Congregation for the Bishops and the Congregation for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life together produced a document called ‘Mutuae Relationes’ to improve the relationship between eparchial Bishops and superiors of religious institutes. Even today the provisions laid down in this document remain unrealized in bettering the mutual relationship between eparchial Bishops and religious institutes. CCEO falls short of bringing out this note of harmony between the eparchial bishops and the superiors of religious institutes which are receiving apostolic thrusts. Let us make a textual analysis of the initiatory canons of Title XII of CCEO to understand the lacuna of CCEO requiring correction.

Sub-title [63] number one of Article One of Chapter I of Title XII of CCEO seeks to describe exactly the clearly circumscribed nature and consequent limitations of such “dependence” [64] of religious (having various apostolates) on the Hierarchy. It is put together in an organic section of five long canons, i.e., CCEO cann. 412-416, in which the relations with the eparchial Bishop, the Patriarch, and the Apostolic See are treated one by one. We know that there is no absolute autonomy in the Catholic Church. Religious institutes enjoy rightful autonomy, but they are externally restricted by the authority of the Apostolic See, the Patriarch, or the eparchial Bishop. However, exercise of the external power is not absolute either, since it is also limited by the lawful autonomy of each institute. [65] Expressing the ‘charismatic’ dimension of the Church with respect to religious, it draws out a principle of “dependence” to express the relation between the religious and the hierarchy. The Latin word dependentia is derived from the Latin verb dependeo and it has meanings, such as ‘to hang from, to hang down, to be governed by, to be dependent on, be derived from’ [66] etc. Can this expression bring out the charismatic dimension of religious life and convey the complex relationship between the religious and the hierarchy of the Oriental Churches?[67]

CCCEO can. 412 deals with the submission of all religious to the Roman Pontiff and of exemption. It is a new version of cann. 23 and 24 of PA. Although the first part of the present canon did not appear in the 1980 Schema, in the session of December 1981, the study group of the PCCICOR agreed to indicate that each and every religious is bound to obey the Supreme Pontiff by virtue of his/her vow of obedience [68] . Ten organs of consultation endorsed the proposition, even though in different formulations, but strongly requested it to be included in the canon.[69]

CCEO can. 412 §2, is the exact reproduction of Lumen Gentium no. 45. The difference is that Lumen Gentium speaks of papal and patriarchal exemptions, while the exemption of can. 412 §2 is referred to as papal and other ecclesiastical authorities. Therefore, the canon takes note of the papal, patriarchal, and major archiepiscopal exemptions of religious institutes. Noteworthy is a comment made by D.J. Andrés on the development of this canon: “it powerfully draws our attention to the appearance at the last hour of c. 412 in the CCEO, which was not even present in the Schema of 1980… sometimes it has been said that it was a final solution not very agreeable to some Orientals; somehow, this argumentation has no basis, because, if there is a Primacy, it should be applicable for all; and exemption is a good that comes from the Primacy; those who are exempted remain so in regard to patriarchs and bishops.”[70]

CCEO’s understanding of exemption based on Lumen Gentium n° 45 does not specify any institute to be exempt in law – by virtue of CCEO can. 5, those who are already exempt remain so, of course -, but establishes the possibility of the Roman Pontiff granting this exemption to religious institutes when required for the common good. It would be correct to say that the concept and the content of exemption have undergone considerable change compared to PA. Formerly it was the centrepiece of canon law on religious. Thus, Pujol in commenting on exemption in PA lists four degrees of dependence of institutes on the local hierarch. [71] In current legislation, exemption is mainly restricted to the area of internal governance.

CCEO can. 413 attempts to clarify how subtle the subtitle “dependence” is. It reads: “Religious institutes are subject, with respect to internal rule and religious discipline unless the law provides otherwise, directly and exclusively to the Apostolic See if they are of pontifical right; if they are of patriarchal or eparchial right, they are directly subject to the patriarch or eparchial bishop, with due regard for c. 418 §2.” [72] The canon distinguishes among pontifical, patriarchal, and eparchial institutes. Regarding internal governance and discipline, all religious institutes are made equal. Therefore, it grants rightful autonomy to all religious institutes whether of pontifical, patriarchal, or eparchial right. In this sense, the canon is an innovation compared to PA.

CCEO can. 418 §2 clarifies who are not the internal superiors in a religious institute: “Under the designation of superior of monks and other religious do not come either the local hierarch or the patriarch, without prejudice to the canons which assign power over them to the patriarch or to the local hierarch.” [73] The reference to CCEO can. 418 §2 is controlling the interpretations of CCEO can. 413 regarding subjection to the Patriarch and to the eparchial Bishop on the part of these institutes and it is imitative [74] . This means that they are never the internal superiors of these institutes. Their authority over these institutes is external, a supervisory power, rather than an ordinary administration. It is to be noted that the study group explicitly expresses for the first time, in their discussion, [75] the necessary autonomy for the oriental religious in their proper internal discipline. It suggests that the principle of rightful autonomy of the oriental religious institutes is a principle that is already taken for granted in the discussion of the study group of PCCICOR.

CCEO can. 413 puts a limit on “dependence” on the part of (a) pontifical institutes, in affirming that, in everything concerning their internal governance and religious discipline, they “are not dependent” upon either Patriarch or eparchial Bishop but immediately and exclusively” upon the Apostolic See; (b) institutes of patriarchal law are not dependent upon the eparchial Bishop, but instead, are immediately subject to the Patriarch. Moreover, the precise nature and the extent of the subjection [76] of certain religious to the Patriarch and the eparchial Bishop can never be such as to set them up as ‘internal superiors’ of the religious. [77] Their authority, therefore, over religious is that of a supervisory power, rather than one of ordinary administration.[78]

CCEO can. 414 specifies the areas in which the authority is exercised by the eparchial Bishop with respect to eparchial religious institutes. It gives a detailed list of the areas of dependence of eparchial institutes on the hierarchy. They: approve the typicon of monasteries and the statutes of congregations (c. 414 §1,1), granting dispensations that exceed the power of the superiors from the same typicon or statutes (c. 414 §1, 2), and making a visitation to monasteries or houses of congregations (c. 414 §1, 3). These rights pertain to the Patriarch with respect to orders and congregations of patriarchal rights (c. 414 §2). However, changes in the statutes of eparchial congregations that have spread to other eparchies may be effected only after consulting the respective eparchial Bishops (c. 414 §4). These powers to verify and supervise the eparchial institutes are meant to preserve and safeguard the gift of religious life proper to each institute.

CCEO can. 415 concerns exclusively the pastoral jurisdiction of Bishops over the religious. It is an entirely different matter of dependence than that of religious over the local Hierarch, namely, in all things involving “public celebration of divine worship, the preaching of the word of God to the people, the religious and moral education of the Christian faithful, especially of children, catechetical and liturgical instruction and of what becomes the clerical state, as well as various works of the apostolate” (can. 415 §1). It is the right and duty of the eparchial Bishop to make a visitation of each monastery and of houses of orders and congregations in his territory with respect to the matters mentioned in §1 (can. 415 §2). The eparchial bishop can entrust an apostolic work or duties pertaining to the eparchy to religious only with the consent of the competent superiors (can. 415 §3). Any religious that has committed a delict outside their house and have not been punished by their proper superior and who have been warned by the local Hierarch can be punished by that Hierarch (can. 415 §4).

To coordinate and maintain harmony in the apostolate in the patriarchate or in the eparchy, Patriarchs and local Hierarchs are advised to foster meetings with the religious superiors (can. 416). It is the duty of the local Hierarchs to report to the authority concerned to which an institute is immediately subjected, any abuses that may have crept into the religious institute, and if the religious superior has failed to act even after the warning given by the local Hierarch (can. 417).

All religious are dependent on the eparchial Bishop whenever they take up any sort of pastoral care. This is because it is the direct responsibility of the pastor or eparchial Bishop to take care of souls. Apart from that, the role of the hierarchy in respect of the religious is that of regulation and supervision. This supervision is for supporting and preserving the religious institutes in all their God-given genuineness and integrity. Moreover, the religious institutes are the specific gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church as a repository (vessel) and depository on behalf of the Church. This ‘givenness’ of religious institutes in the Church calls for its own essential laws and for its rightful autonomy in the charismatically and institutionally structured Church [79] .

From our brief analysis of the sub-title “Dependence of religious on the Eparchial Bishop, the Patriarch, and the Apostolic See it seems that the term ‘dependence’ is not a comprehensive expression to describe the intricate and subtle relationship between religious and the hierarchy in the Oriental Churches. It sounds as if there is a curious omission. The omission is, that in the same context where the general norms applicable to all religious institutes are articulated, CIC recognizes with great care and prolonged discussion the rightful autonomy of life and especially of governance for all institutes (CIC can. 586). The word autonomy’ and its acknowledgment have been carefully avoided in the identical context of CCEO [80] . However, CCEO indirectly accepts and suggests this rightful autonomy for religious institutes in can. 413 saying that the religious institutes are subjected to the hierarchy taking into account their “internal rule and religious discipline” [81] and asserting that “under the designation of superior of monks and other religious do not come either the local Hierarch or the Patriarch” (CCEO can. 418 § 2). It seems that this indirect suggestion lacks the force and the clarity of CIC can. 586 §1.

The analysis of the canons dealt with in the Sub-title may reveal that this Sub-title is not to be understood so simplistically. We must not forget the explicit intentions of the working group of PCCICOR. Religious life is a more complex reality than can be expressed in juridical terms because it is part of the mystical dimension of the Church. Thus, from the very beginning, the working group of Title XII had observed that the very nature of Eastern monasticism highlighted the charismatic aspect of the call of the Holy Spirit. The working group proceeded to explain that the Church’s hierarchy had the right of discerning and regulating the charism of religious life. At the same time, the hierarchy had the responsibility to respect the proper nature of that charism and its various manifestations, allowing each institute to express its own “personality” within the wider communion of the Church. [82] Therefore, these and similar considerations might have led the working group to take “as directive principles in its work, that of limiting only to a necessary level, the common laws which every institute must accept, and leaving ample space to the particular law, applying there the principle of subsidiarity.”[83]

10. Can the Particular Law be a Substitute for the Common Law?

According to CCEO can. 1493 §1, the expression common law (ius commune) designates not only the laws (leges) and the legitimate customs that are common to the Eastern Churches but also the laws and legitimate customs that are common to the entire Church. It is then distinguished from particular law (ius particulare). Under the name particular law come all laws, legitimate customs, statutes, and other norms of law, which are neither common to the entire Church nor to all the Eastern Churches. [84] From this canon “it is evident that the term ius particulare applies to all those laws that are not applicable to all Oriental Churches, much less to the entire Catholic Church, but to a ‘part’ of it: to one sui iuris Church, whether a patriarchal Church or a metropolitan Church or remainder Churches.” [85] In relation to common law the definition of particular law can be as follows: particular law (ius particulare) is all law (ius) in force in the Eastern Catholic Churches excepting their common law. [86] It means that “particular law is the law applicable either to a particular Church or Church sui iuris as a whole, or only a section thereof such as an eparchy or an association or a religious institute.”[87]

The apostolate of religious pertains to the whole Church. It is not correct to say that the works of charity, i.e. the apostolates of religious, are neither common to the entire Church nor to all the Eastern Churches. On the contrary, the apostolate of religious of the East and the West is positively appreciated by the second Vatican Council. The second Vatican Council teaches to the religious of the East and the West without any distinction that: “Religious should try hard to ensure that through them the Church more effectively shows forth the real Christ – to believers and unbelievers – in prayer on the mountain, or announcing the kingdom of God to the crowds, or healing the sick and the wounded and turning sinners to a better life, or blessing children and doing good to everybody, always, however, in obedience to the will of the Father who sent Him.”[88]

The lacuna of CCEO on apostolates “cannot be justified by appealing to the principle of subsidiarity and by arguing that particular law can fill the void common to all the Eastern Churches. The provision for ius particulare is made in CCEO mainly to safeguard and promote the special patrimony of a Church sui iuris in liturgy, theology, spirituality, discipline, customs and traditions etc.” [89] The apostolate of religious is not a patrimony of a Church sui iuris. It is the common mandate given to the entire Church. Moreover, particular law cannot be a substitute for common law but it is a supplement to it.

11. Case Study of the Multifarious Apostolates Undertaken by Three Indigenous Religious Institutes of the Syro- Malabar Church sui iuris

The apostolic activity of religious institutes is an ecclesial activity carried out in the name of the Church and under the mandate of the religious and ecclesiastical authority (CD n° 35; CIC cann. 675 §3, 678). This apostolic activity has to do with the very nature and purpose of religious life and is an essential dimension of their vocation (PC n° 8; CIC can. 675 §1). [90] It is interesting to study the involvement of a few active religious institutes in the apostolates of a Church sui iuris. For this case study, it seems that it is good to take up three major indigenous religious institutes of the Syro-Malabar Church sui iuris, namely the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC) and the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) and show their numerical strength and the multifarious apostolates they are involved in. They were founded in the 19 th century, namely, CMI (1831), CMC (1866) and FCC (1888) and all of them are of pontifical right. The statistics given below are provided by the general curia of CMI, CMC and FCC.

Where do these religious institutes get the legal footing in CCEO for their multifarious apostolates carried out in the name of the Church and for spreading the Kingdom of God? It is wanting in CCEO. Therefore, this lacuna is to be rectified. From the praxis of at least one Church sui iuris, because of the overemphasis on monastic life in CCEO and the lack of legal provisions on the apostolate of other religious in CCEO, an unintentional disharmony has been created between eparchial Bishops and religious institutes. In an inter-ecclesial context, the provision in the common Code must be made by the Supreme Authority of the Church. The apostolate of religious is to be duly coordinated by the competent authorities, namely the diocesan Bishop and the religious superior concerned. This matter is clearly lacking in CCEO compared to CIC. It has given “rise to strained mutual relations between the local Bishop and a religious institute in some of the Eastern Churches.” [91] Jobe Abbas says that in a future revision of the Eastern legislation regarding religious life, it might be advantageous to consider establishing some general norms on the apostolate. Certainly, a norm that clearly defines the limits of a religious institute’s participation in the apostolate would be helpful in a revised Eastern Code. He writes:

Given the power of the local hierarch in CCEO c. 415 §1, for example, how is that power to be understood vis-à-vis the right of a religious house according to CCEO c. 437 § 1, to have a church and perform sacred ministries there? [92] In the hypothetical case of an erected religious house, whose institute is known for its devotion to the Sacred Heart, can the faithful continue to celebrate mass on Sundays there despite the insistence of the local hierarch that they attend their own parishes? Is the power of the local Hierarch also absolute vis-à-vis the right of the Christian faithful described in CCEO c. 17? Accordingly, the Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions of their own Church sui iuris and to follow their own form of spiritual life in accord with the teaching of the Church. Whether or not the local hierarch can stop such a religious house from celebrating Sunday mass for the faithful is currently a hotly debated issue among some religious institutes.[93]


Title XII of CCEO is particularly deficient as regards the formation and the apostolate of religious (ceteri religiosi) who are not called to monastic life but who are members of apostolic religious institutes, which constitutionally engage in various kinds of apostolate. There is, however, hardly any norm in CCEO regarding their apostolate or their specific formation. Indeed, they need and devote themselves to specialized formation just like the religious of the Latin rite. Whereas CIC can. 657 §2 provides for a maximum period of nine years of formation between the first profession and the final profession, the corresponding norm in CCEO can. 526 §2 restricts this period to a maximum of six years. A six-year period is very suitable for monks called to divine praises (laudes divinae, choir) but not other religious (ceteri religiosi) who have to be formed in various forms of modern apostolate. It is desirable, indeed necessary, that these religious also have the same nine-year period of formation without having to get a dispensation from a norm that suits monks, but not them.

All religious are not monastic or contemplative. When CCEO considers monks and monasteries as a prototype of all other later forms of consecrated life, historically this is correct but Church history and the evolution of religious institutes cannot be corrected by setting the clock back. In other words, we cannot correct time past. Therefore, contemplative religious, monks and nuns, should be spared from active apostolate, while active religious institutes should be provided with norms for carrying out their formation in line with their apostolate. It is a fundamental right of the Christian faithful to make their own choice of state of life (CCEO can. 22; CIC can. 219). If an oriental Christian faithful has not voluntarily chosen contemplative life but rather an active religious institute, he/she cannot be obliged to conform to the demands of a contemplative monastic institute. Justice demands that there be respect for the basic freedom of the human person and it would be unjust to force a member to embrace a way of life he/she did not originally opt for. With regard to apostolates, monasteries and other religious institutes are impregnated with a diversity of orientations. [94] Therefore, CCEO has to provide guidelines for the active religious institutes to carry out their apostolate effectively. CCEO has given the impression that dependence of religious on the eparchial Bishop is the distinguishing note of oriental religious institutes and that the apostolate of religious is of no relevance. This is wrong and therefore requires a balanced approach.

As regards the exercise of apostolate, whereas CIC has codified the conciliar and post-conciliar norms which are binding on religious irrespective of their rite whether Latin or Eastern, CCEO has failed to do so, opting instead to promote monastic life through its Title XII. It is necessary for these norms also to be included in CCEO, thus filling a serious lacuna and providing for the iusta autonomia of religious on the one hand and their due submission to the local hierarch on the other. This would seem to be a balanced approach. Therefore, one should propose that CIC cann. 673-683 on the apostolate of religious and CIC can. 586 on rightful autonomy – which due to common sources are also binding on Eastern rite religious – be duly incorporated in CCEO Title XII without changing the present order of the canons of this Code.[95]


[1]Cf. UR 15.

[2] The word ‘eremitic’ comes from the Greek word ‘eremos’ meaning solitary, desolate, and lonely. It also denotes a person who retires from society and lives in solitude. Cf. HARIS & ALLEN, Webster’s New International Dictionary, London, 1957, 1009.

[3]The word ‘cenobitical’ derives from a combination of two Greek terms, namely, koinos (common) and bios (life), conveying the meaning of common life. Cf. HARIS & ALLEN, Webster’s New International Dictionary, 355.

[4] Two important sources of information on eremitical life are The Life of St Antony written by St. Athanasius in 357 and Apophthegmata Patrum or sayings of illustrious hermits. Cf. L. BOUYER, A History of Christian Spirituality, vol. I: The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers, Kent, 1986, 305- 317.

[5] The institution of Lauras was the connecting link between the hermitage and monastery. Laura was a kind of village of separate homes – a small house for each monk-hermit – with all the monks however, subject to the same superior. In the Latin Church, they are still represented by the Camaldoli Benedictines and the Carthusians. Cf. I. G. SMITH, Christian Monasticism from the Fourth to the Ninth Centuries of the Christian Era, London, 1982, 38.

[6] J. AUMANN, Christian Spirituality in the Christian Tradition, London, 1985, 42.

[7] 7 PG., 31, 889 – 1052. The Regulae fusius tractatae discusses under fifty-five heads the principles of monastic life; Cf. J. QUASTEN, Patrology, vol. III, Westminster, 1992, 212.

[8] PG., 31, 1080 – 1305. The Regulae brevius tractatae discusses under 313 heads, monastic rules applicable to the day-to-day life of a cloistered community; Cf., J. QUASTEN, Patrology III, 212.

[9] L. BOUYER, A History, 335.

[10] BASIL, Ascetica, M. M. WAGNER (tr.), St. Basil, Ascetical Works, Washington D C. 1950, viii.

[11] BOUYER, A History, 422.

[12] GRIBOMONT, “Monasticism”, 1041.

[13] “The words he spoke are what we now call the Sermon on the Mount. It is the most luminous, most quoted, most analysed, most contested, and most influential moral and religious discourse in all of human history. This may sound like overstatement, but it is not. Jesus told the old story in his new way on many occasions. But on this mountain in Palestine, he gave it its most sequential and most systematic expression. It was his Fifth Symphony, his Mona Lisa, his masterpiece.” Harvey Cox When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today, Boston: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (August 16, 2006), p. 121.

[14] But since there are some who don the monastic habit and meddle with the churches and civil matters, and circulate indiscriminately in the cities and even are involved in founding monasteries for themselves, it has been decided that no one is to build or found a monastery or oratory anywhere against the will of the local bishop; and that monks of each city and region are to be subject to the bishop, are to foster peace and quiet, and attend solely to fasting and prayer, staying set apart in their places. They are not to abandon their own monasteries and interfere, or take part in ecclesiastical or secular business unless they are perhaps assigned to do so by the local bishop because of some urgent necessity… We have decreed that anyone who transgresses this decision of ours is to be excommunicated, lest God’s name be blasphemed. However, it is for the local bishop to exercise the care and attention that the monasteries need’.

[15] The Council in Trullo is not counted as one of the ecumenical councils by the West. But for the East, especially for the Greek Church it is of great importance. For further details on the Council in Trullo, cf. GEORGE NEDUNGATT & MICHAEL FEATHERSTONE (eds.), The Council in Trullo Revisited (Kanonika 6) Roma, PIO, 1995. We cite here only the canons that pertain to the organization of monasteries in the East. Cf., H.R. PERCIVAL (ed.), A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, vol. 14, The Seven Ecumenical Councils, Edinburgh, 1991, 383-388; D. SALACHAS, “La Normativa del Concilio Trullano,” Oriente Cristiano 31 (1991) 82-89.

[16] GRIBOMONT,”Monasticism” 101.

[17] The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea II (787) was convoked in order to correct iconoclastic heretics. Out of the twenty-two canons decreed by the council, ten canons were specifically addressed to the monks and monasteries of that period. Cf., TANNER, Decrees I, 132-156.

[18] GRIBOMONT, “Monasticism,” 1043. As a manifestation of the close alignment between the Church and the State which arose after the fourth century, a particular form of legislation, nomocanon (a combination of two Greek terms, namely, nomos meaning law and kanon meaning rule) began to evolve in the Eastern Empire. Nomocanon is a collection of both secular and ecclesiastical law, which arose because the civil authorities in addition to their secular power assumed the position of guardians of the Church and disposed of matters which were essentially ecclesiastical in nature. Cf. J. D. FARIS, The Eastern Catholic Churches: Constitution and Governance, New York, 1992, 68.

[19] T. ŠPIDLIK, “Monasticism,” New Catholic Encyclopaedia vol. 9, New York, 1967, 1043-1048.

[20] RONALD ROBERSON, The Eastern Christian Churches (first Indian edition), Bangalore, 2004, 162.

[21] CLEMENTE PUJOL, La vita religiosa orientale, Roma, PIO, 1994, 27. Professor CLEMENTE PUJOL SJ was an expert in law on religious life and taught “De Religiosis” for many years at PIO, Rome. He is the author of the title De religiosis orientalibus ad normam vigentis iuris, Rome, PIO, 1957. His ponderous commentary in Latin on PA is greatly valued among scholars.

[22] CLEMENTE PUJOL, La vita religiosa orientale, 27-39.

[23] RICHARD A. HILL, “The Apostolate of Institutes”, in JORDAN HITE & OTHERS (eds.), A Handbook on Canons 573-746, Minnesota, 1985, 197.

[24] Cf. PA c. 154.

[25] GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision,” Ius Ecclesiae XXIV/2 (2012) 383.

[26] Cf. Evangelii nuntiandi 68.

[27] RICHARD A. HILL, “The Apostolate of Institutes,” 198.

[28] VIRGINIA BARTOLAC, “Recognition and Protection of Rights in Consecrated Life”, CLSA Proceedings of the Fifty-Third Annual Convention, San Antonio, Texas (1991)187-189.

[29] The omission of the use of the term autonomia in CCEO perhaps hints at the diffidence towards the term by the PCCICOR (Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Oriental Code). Sometimes it may be said that an abstract principle of autonomy can hardly be applied in juridical interpretations, but the concrete norm helps to determine the autonomy of religious institutes. However, in CCEO, the canons dealing with religious institutes and their dependence on the hierarchy are clearly earmarked by the phrase ‘respecting the internal rule and religious discipline’. Cf. VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, Rightful Autonomy of Religious Institutes: A Comparative Study based on the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches and the Code of Canon Law, Bangalore, Dharmaram Canonical Studies-3, 2014 (third revised edition), 180, 207.

[30] GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision,” 389.

[31] Nuntia 16 (1983) 3-108.

[32] Nuntia 4 (1977) 3-15.


[34] Nuntia 4 (1977) 6.

[35] Nuntia 6 (1978) 47-48.

[36] Nuntia 8 (1979) 30-67.

[37] Nuntia 11 (1980) 3-53.

[38] Nuntia 16 (1983) 3-108.

[39] PCCICOR, SCICO 1986, in Nuntia 24-25 (1987) 270-271.

[40] Nuntia 23 (1986) 109.

[41] Cf. Nuntia 28 (1989) 3-138.

[42] Nuntia 29 (1989) 3-77.

[43] Cf. VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, Rightful Autonomy, 181-182.

[44] VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, Rightful Autonomy, 180-182.

[45] Nuntia 1 (1975) 15.

[46] GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision”, 385.

[47] GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision”, 384.

[48] GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision”, 385-386.

[49] GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision”, 388.

[50] Nuntia 3 (1976) 3-18.

[51] Cf. GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision”, 389.

[52] Cf. Nuntia 4 (1977) 4.

[53] Cf. VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, Rightful Autonomy, 209-210.

[54] Cf. GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision”, 390.

[55] GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision”, 390-91.

[56] GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision”, 391.

[57] SOLY MATHEW, “Consecration and Secular Character of Secular Institutes in CCEO and CIC with Special Reference to the Constitutions of the Caritas Secular Institute” (Unpublished LOCL Thesis, Bangalore: Institute of Oriental Canon Law, Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore, 2017, 119.)

[58] DAVID F. O’ CONNOR, Witness and Service, New York/Mahwah, N J: Paulist Press, 1990, 21.

[59] The Missionaries of St. Thomas are a vibrant society of apostolic life in the Syro-Malabar Church with the thrust of apostolic and missionary zeal, by which new evangelization is taking place in the context of India.

[60] There was no corresponding canon in the 1986 Draft of Codex Iuris Canonici Orientalis, Sebastian Vadakkel, now bishop of Ujjain, North India, noted in his doctoral dissertation on the statutes of the Missionary Society of St. Thomas (MST). The practical difficulty created for MST, destined to work mostly in areas under Latin jurisdiction, was that the Oriental Code contained no norm at all which MST could invoke. It had to rely simply on the particular law of the Syro-Malabar Church (SMC). Prof. George Nedungatt SJ advised its Superior General to have recourse to the Pope. The Pope ordered the insertion of a canon. As cited in VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, “Code of Particular Law of the Syro-Malabar Church”, Kanon XXIII (2014) 120.

[61] BOBY KOCHUPARAMBIL, “Societies of Apostolic Life in CCEO and CIC and Societies of Common Life according to the Manner of Religious of CCEO,” (Unpublished LOCL Thesis, Institute of Oriental Canon Law, DVK), Bangalore, 2013, 35.

[62] VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, “Code of Particular Law of the Syro-Malabar Church”, 121.

[63] Cf. VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, Rightful Autonomy, 112-127.

[64] D. M. A. JAEGER, “Observations on Religious in the Oriental Code,” in J. CHIRAMEL & K. BHARANIKULANGARA (eds.), The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches: A Study and Interpretation, Alwaye, 1992, 167.

[65] E. CAPIROS – M. THERIAULT – J. THORN (eds.), Code of Canon Law Annotated, Montreal, 1993, 415.

[66] C. T. LEWIS, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford, 1991, 549.

[67] Cf. VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, Rightful Autonomy, 112.

[68] “etiam ratione sacri vinculi oboedientiae”, Nuntia 16 (1983) 11.

[69] Nuntia 16 (1983) 11: After a profound discussion and re-checking of the work of the earlier “Coetus de Monachis”, the study group by 8- 1-1 votes reintroduced ad litteram c. 23 of PA entirely substituting the text of c. 3 of the schema, it being the opinion of the majority (with two consultors dissenting). Even though in an indirect style, it was decided to affirm that not only each and every member but also every religious institute was subject in a peculiar way to the Roman Pontiff69. At the session of 25 February 1982, c. 591 of the new CIC, which was already well-known to the study group, was included in c. 3, as its second paragraph. It was brought into effect after revision of the schema of norms concerning exemption and their elimination from the schema, while §2 of this canon, at present, follows Lumen Gentium n° 45.

[70] D. J. ANDRÉS, “Introductio ad CCEO: Observaciones Introductioras,” CpR 72 (1991) 368.

[71] PUJOL, De Religiosis, 113-114: (1) exempt religious institutes of men (exempt monastery, order of men, clerical congregation); (2) exempt order of men: although the exemption is upheld, the dependence of such an institute from the local hierarch is greater because of the internal superiors lack of jurisdiction; (3) non-exempt institutes: in these institutes the principle of general dependence on the local hierarch holds good, and non-subjection is rather to be proved than to be assumed; (4) orders of women not subject to a superior of male religious, and monasteries of nuns: they are subject to a larger extent to the local hierarch (c. 163, §1). The same is true of a congregation of women of eparchial right.

[72] CCEO can. 413: Ad regimen internum et disciplinam religiosam quod attinet, instituta religiosa, nisi aliter iure cavetur, si sunt juris pontificii, immediate et exclusive Sedi Apostolicae subiecta sunt; si vero sunt iuris patriarchalis vel eparchialis, immediate subiecta sunt Patriarchae vel Episcopo eparchiali firmo c. 418, §2.

[73] CCEO can. 418 §2: Nomine Superioris monachorum ceterorumque religiosorum non venit Hierarcha loci nec Patriarcha firmis canonibus, qui Patriarchae vel Hierarchae loci potestatem in ipsos tribuunt.

[73] JAEGER, “Observations on Religious,” 167.

[74] Nuntia 16 (1983) 18. Canon 9 §2 approved by PCCICOR was received into the 1986 Schema as c. 416 §2 and during

[75] The counsel of living under obedience means that religious obey their internal superiors (religious obedience). In addition, as in the case of all other members of the Church, as individual members and their institutes, they owe obedience also to the hierarchy of the Church (canonical obedience), which is defined and limited by the canons. As to external or hierarchical superiors, all religious have to obey the Roman Pontiff, as their supreme superior by virtue of the vow of obedience. Then, the Patriarch (Major Archbishop) has authority over all institutes of patriarchal (major archiepiscopal) rights, who have to obey him as their external superior. Lastly, the eparchial Bishop or Exarch has power over all eparchial institutes, such as monasteries and congregations and they have to obey him as their external superior but not as their internal superior. Cf. V. J. POSPISHIL, Eastern Catholic Church Law according to the Canons of the Eastern Churches, New York, 1993, 239-240.

[76] The same is not true of course of the Roman Pontiff who is rather the supreme “internal” superior, as evidenced by CCEO in can. 412 §1 and CIC can. 590. The latter would extend this quality – at least in some sense – also to the college of bishops, by virtue of being according to CIC can. 336 the Church’s supreme authority. To what extent other organs of the Apostolic See may share in being internal superiors may be discussed, although their being essentially “vicars” of the Roman Pontiff may well be a decisive factor in answering this question. Cf. PUJOL, De Religiosis, 100-103.

[78] JAEGER, “Observations on Religious,” 168.

[78] G. GHIRLANDA, “Iusta Autonomia et Exemptio Institutorum Religiosorum: Fundamenta et Extensio,” Periodica 78 (1989) 141. The A. summarises well the ultimate foundation of the rightful autonomy of religious institutes when he qualifies it as ius nativum which is grounded in the very essence of the charismatically – institutionally structured – Church to which consecrated life belongs by divine law.

[80] ANDRÉS, “Introductio, 370.

[81] Ad regimen internum et disciplinam religiosam,” CCEO can. 413.

[82] Cf. VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, Rightful Autonomy, 112-113.

[83] A. T. MINISCI, “I Canoni De Monachis,” Nuntia 4 (1977) 3.

[84] CCEO can. 1493 § 2.

[85] K. BHARANIKULANGARA, “Particular Law of the Oriental Catholic Churches,” Journal of St. Thomas Christians 23, nn. 2-4 (April-Dec. 2012) 87.

[86] GEORGE NEDUNGATT, The Spirit of the Eastern Code, Bangalore, 1993, 204.

[87] VELASIO DE PAOLIS, “Laws, Customs, Administrative Acts,” in G NEDUNGATT (ed.), A Guide to the Eastern Code (Kanonika 10), Rome, 2002, 816.

[88] LG n° 46.

[89] VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, “Code of Particular Law of the Syro-Malabar Church,” 111.

[90] DAVID F. O’ CONNOR, Witness and Service, 21-22.

[91] Cf. GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Eastern Code on the Apostolate of Religious Needs Revision,” 390.

[92] By virtue of CCEO can. 509 §2, can. 437 §1 also applies to orders and congregations. CCEO can. 509 §2 states that “which is stated in can. 437 is also valid regarding houses of orders and congregations.” As cited in JOBE ABBASS, “Revising the Eastern Canons on the Consecrated Life,” Justitia 3 (2012:1)108.

[93] JOBE ABBASS, “ Revising the Eastern Canons,” 108-109.

[94] VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, Rightful Autonomy, 210.

[95]The author also subscribes to the suggestions contained in the articles of GEORGE NEDUNGATT, “The Apostolate of Religious in the Eastern Code Needs Revision,” Ius Ecclesiae 24 (2012) 381-400; VARGHESE KOLUTHARA, “Dependence and Rightful Autonomy of Religious Institutes in the Code of Oriental Churches,” Justitia 2 (2011:1) 7-38 and JOBE ABBASS, “Revising the Eastern Canons on the Consecrated Life,” Justitia 3(2012:1) 99-124.