Question: Can a Religious Order or Bishop or Psychologist ask about Sexual Sins?

By Therese Ivers, JCL, OCVflower

Answer:  NO.  Unless the sin(s) are already public knowledge, nobody has the right to inquire into the conscience of another person outside of the confessional.  Men wishing to become priests who helped with the procural of an abortion will have to get a proper dispensation.  Women cannot be asked whether they’ve had abortions or indulged in any sexual activities by anyone for any purpose including vocational screening.  This right to a good reputation is not limited to sexual sins but to all sins.  Nobody is required to reveal any sin outside of confession that is not already a matter of public knowledge.  I wrote in further detail about this and abuses that happen when people violate privacy of conscience in my book on the protections of conscience because the Church took certain abuses so seriously that excommunication was the penalty given for religious superiors who illegally pried into other people’s consciences under the guise of obedience.


Because the protections of patient confidentiality cease under USA law if a person signs a release, candidates to the seminary, orders, or the consecrated life are strongly advised to consult with a canon lawyer on how to best protect their right to privacy prior to allowing a Church official or institution to review any psychological reports.  Candidates should know that the Holy See has norms on the use of psychological evaluations that are not always followed in the USA.

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Response to Sr. Laurel Concerning The Church’s Understanding of Virginity

In a recent post, Sr. Laurel of Stillsong Hermitage has claimed that Sts. Perpetua and Felicity were considered virgins by the early Church.  This is absurd and untrue.  Both saints are honored and venerated as martyrs, but never have they been revered as virgins.  Even in the the Church’s liturgy, the two saints are assigned a memorial for martyrs but the option for virgin martyrs is not given because they were not virgins.  The example of these two martyrs was used to bolster the position that the early Church merely considered women who didn’t sin against chastity as eligible for the consecration of virgins.

The praxis of the Church’s consecration of virgins should always be viewed in a historical and theological light.  From the earliest of times, the Church has required virginity as a prerequisite for her sacred virgins.  When virgins were accused of having fallen, the Church historically used midwives to verify their physical state as documents from the time of the Church Fathers can attest.  For most of Church history, the virgin had to attest to her physical intactness to her bishop in order to validly receive the consecration.  This is because she is the physical sign of the Church’s own being as a virgin.

This is also why Pope St. Leo the Great, who in the 400’s penned the prayer of Consecration used in the Rite, wrote that even women who had been violated against their will by the invading barbarians should refrain from seeking the Consecration of virgins.  Technically, as St. Augustine pointed out, these women did not lose their virginity.  However, they did lose the physical sign of it and this is why St. Leo recommended that they do not receive the consecration.  This is certainly a far cry from the supposed loose teaching on virginity held by the early Christian Church.   St. Leo’s prayer is the very first pontifical consecration prayer extant, and he was Pope only about one and a half to two centuries after the deaths of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, non-virgin martyrs, and many of the virgin martyrs of that period.

The Pontificals, using this version of the Leonine Consecration, often designated an interrogatory by the bishop during the Rite itself concerning the candidate’s state of intactness.  Only in 1970 -not 1983- did the Rite transition into a less intrusive way of ascertaining the virginity of the candidate.  This does not mean that the definition of virginity has changed but that the manner in which the eligibility of the virgin is determined as far as a manifestation of conscience is affected has changed.

Lastly, a comment on what it means for an act of unchastity to be “open” or “public”.  “Public” can mean “known by another person”.  That is what Cardinal Burke’s letter from the Vatican clarifies.  “Public” in canonical parlance, means that an act is in the external forum.  Hence, it need not be “notorious”.  For example, a person could “publicly” renounce the Catholic Faith by a formal letter to (and accepted by) his bishop.  That need not be known to the general populace for this to be a public, external act.  Perhaps only he and his bishop and whoever notates the baptismal record are the only ones who know.  But, the act is still considered to be “public”.  A person could have something on his public record that is not known to anyone except those who dig into court records.  That does not negate the fact that it is publicly “known”.

At the present time, I am working with a professional translator and a respected publishing house in the field to translate and publish a monumental theological and liturgical commentary on the Rite of Consecration of Virgins.  This 1076 page book chock full of citations will eliminate many controversies in the English speaking world because it will give access to theological thought that has been inaccessible to those who only know English.  It is a doctoral dissertation about the Rite, written at the liturgical Pontifical University, the Anselmo, run by Benedictines.  Each detail of the Rite is scrutinized, and previous Rites and commentaries are compared and contrasted.  This undertaking we estimate will cost about $17,500.  If you should feel moved to contribute towards a greater understanding of the vocation of consecrated virginity and wish to donate to this book translation and publication project, please contact me for details.


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St. Kateri Tekakwitha Was NOT a Consecrated Virgin

by Therese Ivers, JCL

For some reason, a lot of people have been listing St. Kateri as a consecrated virgin.  flowerAlthough a virgin, St. Kateri was never a consecrated virgin.  St. Kateri – like many other lay virgin saints – was a laywoman under private vows.  She had wanted to join a convent but the Jesuits did not think that this was appropriate given the cultural influences at the time.  Instead, she is said to have made private vow(s) of virginity, and possibly poverty and obedience.  A private vow does not constitute a woman as a consecrated virgin.  Only the Rite of Consecration of Virgins done by the bishop (or Benedictine Abbot for Benedictine nuns) transforms the woman into a consecrated virgin.  Yes, Kateri was a virgin, but she lived and died as a virgin laywoman, privately dedicated to Christ.

Other famous virgins who were not consecrated virgins include:  St. Gemma Galgani, St. Rose of Lima, St. Maria Goretti, and St. Catherine of Siena.  St. Catherine was a laywoman, and became a Doctor of the Church.  Not one of these beautiful, heroic souls had received the consecration of virgins or been admitted to the consecrated state through vows in religious life.

It should be emphasized that these devout laywomen are models for living out our shared baptismal commitment without receiving the grace of consecration.  We do not know if St. Gemma, St. Rose, and St. Catherine or St. Kateri would have received the consecration of virgins had it been available to them at the time.  St. Maria Goretti is considered a virgin saint because she died as a virgin protecting her purity from an attacker.  We do not know if she would have chosen a life of virginity had she survived.

St. Kateri is a model for the many women who want to completely dedicate their lives to Christ but who for one reason or another, was not called to consecrated life.  Her virtuous life shows how a woman can fully live her baptismal vocation to holiness without adding an additional consecration either of marriage or of consecrated life.  The Church is full of a variety of saints, and St. Kateri is an inspiration for those who desired religious life but could not enter and instead privately dedicate their lives to Christ as laypersons.  We need to recognize St. Kateri for who she was- a privately vowed laywoman who fulfilled the call to holiness in her lay state.  She was not a consecrated virgin and we should not claim that she was one even if her life visibly looked like a consecrated virgin’s.

(c) 2014 by Therese Ivers, JCL

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by Therese Ivers, JCL, OCV

Since this website is all about vocations, it is essential for discerners to know the most fundamental elements of each vocation.  Marriage is a vocation.  Spousal love is a special way of demonstrating love to another person, and it intimately involves the complementary nature of men and women.  It would be remiss not to discuss the role of intercourse in marriage.  To start with, let’s take a look at part of what canon law says marriage is:

Can.  1096 §1. For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties must be at least not ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.

§2. This ignorance is not presumed after puberty.

Why is intercourse so important in marriage?  It is because marriage reflects the union of Christ and His Church.  The crowning glory of human marriage is reserved for the baptized who consummate their marriage, thereby reflecting the Church in her fruitfulness.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of popular misconceptions about the role of intercourse in marriage, and what the Church really believes in with respect to NFP.

Myth #1

It goes against being open to children to have marital relations during an infertile time.

Sterile and infertile people can lawfully have marital relations even though it is unlikely they will conceive.  The Church has a very clear definition of what openness to life really means.  In a nutshell, it means that 1) the act proper to the generation of children is not impeded artificially such that conception deliberately blocked [artificial contraception] 2) that once conceived, the child is not aborted or subject to infanticide after birth 3) that the parents do not deliberately plan to withhold the basic necessities for raising a child once born until they reach emancipation, and 4) intercourse is not limited to infertile days on a consistent and deliberate basis solely to avoid children when a serious reason for avoiding the possibility of conceiving a child is lacking.

Myth #2

It is wrong for a married couple to completely abstain from intercourse because God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply.

There is nothing against a married couple mutually deciding to forgo the conjugal embrace permanently, indefinitely, or even for a limited amount of time to devote themselves to prayer or good works.  The first and most important parenthood each man and woman should foster is spiritual parenthood, spiritual fruitfulness.  Such an agreement to remain continent must be mutual and if one spouse decides after a while that they require the marital embrace, the other must comply (unless there is a serious reason otherwise; a private vow of continence or agreement is not binding nor serious cause to refuse).

Myth #3

I have the right to have children if I get married.

This is incorrect.  Each spouse gives the other spouse the right to “acts proper to the generation of children” (intercourse).  In other words, nobody has the right to have children.  But Sue may ask Joe to render the “marital debt” and he may not refuse without serious reason.  Likewise Joe may require Sue to render the “debt” and she may not refuse without serious reason.  But Sue cannot expect or demand “children” like she can expect and require the conjugal act.  Why?  Because conception is not a spousal right.  The right that is exchanged in marriage is the right to the act that is “apt” for generating children.  This act must be reasonable, free (the opposite of free would be marital rape), and done without artificial contraception, without intention of abortion/infanticide, and without intention of depriving a child from the basic necessities.


The marital act, done freely, reasonably, in a human manner, and without intention of future abortion/infanticide or depriving a potential child of basic necessities is by its nature both unitive and open to life.  Neither sterility nor infertility preclude this basic openness to life.

To be continued.

(c) 2014 by Therese Ivers, JCL, OCV

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Consecrated Virgins

by Therese Ivers, JCL

Some may wonder why it is that I do not participate a lot in the internet discussion on my own vocation to sacred virginity, commonly known as consecrated virginity.   Many people who write about the vocation in English base their reflections on the vocation on the English translation of the Rite, and a small selection of writings available to them online or in a limited number of books or articles.  The problem with this approach is that there is a vast amount of literature written on the vocation or that touches upon key points written over the history of the Church in other languages that is underrepresented, thus leading to otherwise preventable errors on interpretations on the Rite, role, and lifestyle of sacred virgins.  My approach is and will be different.  Let me explain how and why.

To begin, this website is meant to be for people who are discerning their vocations.  It is not meant to be a place for erudite theological discussions on vocations, including sacred virginity.  Nevertheless, everything that is on it is meant to be the fruit of thorough scholarship faithful to the mind of the Church.  Concretely, this means that any statement that is made, is made usually with authoritative sources in hand and/or in mind, even if such sources are never explicitly cited (because this is not a place for erudite scholarship!).  The idea is that people need easily accessible information on vocations.  For example, if I am writing on the priesthood, I will indeed claim that only males can become ordained priests.  I will write about the essential elements of marriage without excessive citations.  I will bring up the fundamental elements of each vocation without citations because anyone can look these essentials up in the catechism or easily accessible Church documents.

While I permit comments and reasonable discussion on this website, it is not the intention for me or others who help run this site to delve in and start “proving” positions with citations.  Why?  Because this website is intentionally written for people who need solid and reliable information that is not littered with citations.  Providing citations for things the Church takes for granted (like male ordinations, the nuptial relationship of sacred virgins, marriage is between a man and a woman, etc.) is unnecessary and inefficient for this purpose.  People who wish to seriously challenge these positions are welcome to do so on their own websites.  I simply have no intention or desire to re-invent the wheel or to prolong discussion on what theologians have settled often centuries ago.

For serious discussions on vocational topics, readers should keep in mind that I have personally invested the equivalent of a house mortgage into my education.  In addition to the financial expenditures with its concurrent loss of opportunity costs for my education, I have spent years of my life researching and studying vocations in depth.  It took two years to get the diploma for the course in the Theology and Law of Consecrated Life that the Vatican hosts for formation directors of religious communities.  Ongoing study requires both a financial and time investment.    In turn, it is only reasonable that this be compensated fairly by people who desire to have greater access to what has taken me years to accumulate.  This means that although I am always open to appropriately assisting people who are in financial straits, I will ordinarily provide the more in-depth scholarly materials to those who purchase them or who exchange services.  These materials and information will be available in different formats, whether they be by paid membership to the Society of American Virgins, books, published articles, lectures, or private one on one consultations.

Another reason my more in-depth treatments about consecrated virginity and other vocational topics of interest do not and will not appear regularly on this website is because many issues require an extensive theological context to properly understand.  What might look like a minor quibble might actually take pages or chapters to truly “get” in context.  For example, it might appear that my insistence that only a bishop is allowed to consecrated a virgin living in the world is a minor detail.  It isn’t.

To truly “get” the picture, the theological context of why only a bishop can consecrated a woman to a life of virginity lived in the world, one must understand how the Church has understood intact virginity (think of the three divisions of women the Fathers repeatedly mention).  Why was primary virginity always a requirement throughout the history of the Church for this Rite up to the present version?  The virgin’s relationship and the bishop’s relationship are also things that must be understood (their roles) to get why only a bishop can veil the virgin.  History must also be investigated.  Why did the earliest Councils and legislative documents of the Church and later ones as well, repeatedly forbid any but the bishop to veil/consecrate virgins?  What was the theological reason the CDF used to absolutely prohibit the publication/promulgation of the new 1970 Rite when the draft allowed for clerics other than bishops to consecrate virgins (yes, the CDF itself forced changes before it allowed the Rite to be promulgated)?  How does the virgin represent the Church and what does this mean for the Rite with respect to episcopal involvement?

This is only a minor sampling of what is involved in the theology of having only a bishop validly impart the consecration to the virgin living in the world.  It’s easy enough for a person to deny it, but it takes true knowledge and ability to adequately demonstrate why such a denial is an error.  And yes, I have actually personally encountered the pseudo “consecrated virgin” who was denied the consecration by her own bishop and went through an invalid Rite with some random priest.  While one could easily point to the Rite and the Ceremonial of Bishops to show that only the bishop-ordinary of the virgin’s (arch)diocese or his (bishop) delegate can impart the consecration, people who have their own agenda will say that any priest can conduct the ceremony.  In doing so, however, they are innocent of a lot of the liturgical, theological, and canonical context for this regulation.

There are so many errors written about the Rite, role, and lifestyle of consecrated virgins, that I have determined that the best way of combating them is not by taking them on, one by one.  Simple blog posts that I have read about my vocation can contain so many errors it is impossible to refute them without writing a mountain of words.  I do not have the time for that.  Why should I defend something that should be straightforward like bishops are the only ministers of the Consecration?  Or that the Rite calls for bridal insignia (which is why nuns like the Benedictines or Carthusians who traditionally separate Final Profession from the Consecration of Virgins give the bridal insignia like the ring in the later ceremony, usually 10 or 25 years after Final Profession respectively).  Yes, more than one person is upset that the Rite itself calls for bridal insignia since they are used to a post-Vatican II paradigm for religious sisters who no longer wear bridal wear that others have over the centuries, including the extremely expensive haute couture wedding gown St. Therese of Lisieux wore and claim that “poverty” somehow requires the absence of bridal wear.

This is why, dear readers, I refuse to citation to death my statements on this website.  I don’t want each thing I say have to be followed by twenty footnotes just because some low information person thinks that they have a strong position based on their private opinions and feelings about the Rite and traditional lifestyle of the sacred virgin on this website.  This website is for straightforward teaching on vocations in line with the Church’s teachings and tradition.

While I will not go in-depth on consecrated virginity on this website because it is outside the scope of the site’s intended purpose, I do intend to write a great deal on the vocation in a holistic manner.  As I have said before, there are so many errors on the internet and in much of the English language material online/offline, that someone has to get some of these issues resolved using a theologically sound approach.  This requires a book or a series of books because of the complexity and depth and beauty of the different vocations, particularly of consecrated virginity.

Also, one reason I’ll be turning to writing books and peer reviewed articles on consecrated virginity is because there is a lot of passion involved.  A sacred virgin shared with me how one prelate who has consecrated a number of virgins commented on how drably the virgins dressed and how he wished they were more cheerfully attired.  Wisely, however, he did not communicate or interfere with their mode of dressing because he knew one thing, which is that women do not take very kindly to being told what to wear!  Interestingly, some of the most contested issues pertaining to both the Rite and lifestyle of consecrated virgins have to do with clothing, and yet, even when some things pertaining to dress can be ascertained by reviewing the Rite and writings of the Fathers and other reliable sources, it is still challenged!  Women have rejected the Rite’s insistence on bridal insignia.  Some deliberately drop the veil, the one consistent element of the Rite in the entire history of the Church!  Others, not content with the ring being the one visible sign of their marriage with Christ, agitate for habits, despite the clear signal from the Church that virgins living in the world are not expected to wear distinctive garb (if the Church intended habits to be worn, She would have retained the blessing of garments that was present over certain centuries in the Ritual).  Again, education here is essential and needs to be thorough in inflammatory matters.

Unfortunately, resources for formation required for thorough treatment on these matters are not readily available in English.  I am blessed to have one of the most extensive personal collections on consecrated virginity written in many languages and from multiple historical periods in my library.  However, having the materials and going through them are not the same thing!  One heavily footnoted modern liturgical commentary devoted to just the Rite is about 1100 + pages in fine print!  I have no idea when I will be able to finish reading it or a number of other studies on the vocation that I turn to when researching a point.

Certainly, my dissertation on diocesan hermits takes precedence!  Hence, my work on vocations must necessarily proceed at a snail’s pace.  I wish there were competent scholars who would like to work on contributing solid materials for English readers to read.  Yes, there is an alluring call beckoning me to open that 16th century (I think) commentary on the Rite of Consecration that looks to be quite informative… but I simply do not have the time for this.  As time goes by, I hope that something can be organized for serious research projects to be initiated by competent scholars.  In the meantime, I will try to get some worthy books published or reprinted in the English language.

The One Bride: The Church and Consecrated Virginity by Sr. M. J. Klimisch, OSB is an example of a reprint project I have undertaken.  It has taken about a year, but this limited edition is now available on Amazon for people who want a Benedictine viewpoint on consecrated virginity for nuns.  I was able to obtain a license for a limited number of copies of this valuable book, and have thus made it possible for English readers to have this fine work available for their own collection on consecrated virginity.  It is rather spendy, but worthwhile.  There is a book I’d like to see translated into English and more readily available to virgins at a significantly discounted rate than its approximate cost of $500 a copy because of its recognized stature in the literature on this vocation.  Projects like these, however, take a lot of time, negotiation, working with translators, and a budget.  It’s hard to tell what the interest is on the part of sacred virgins, however.  The One Bride reprint is an experiment to see if virgins care enough about their ongoing formation in this area to supplement their libraries with good materials.

Whew!  In just one post I have managed to explain why this website is not intended to be chock full of footnotes and citations for my positions on consecrated virginity.  You also now know that I do think it is important enough to warrant a book but that book will have to wait until I have completed my dissertation.  And, if you haven’t guessed it already, these are reasons why I don’t post that often on this site!  What I do provide on this site takes time, expertise, and is quite frankly, a drain on the pocketbook as well because of hosting expenses.  I try to post as often as I am able, because I think it is very important you have access to information that may make a huge difference in your ultimate vocational decision.  Don’t be surprised, though, if it takes another month before I am able to find some time to write up another post.

God bless you!

(c) 2014 by Therese Ivers, JCL




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