by Mother Therese Ivers, JCL, JCD(Cand), DHS, OCV
Today’s new rule coming from Pope Francis stating that diocesan bishops must have written authorization from the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life should they desire to create an Association of the Faithful that aims to eventually become an institute of consecrated life or society of apostolic life is long overdue. With this new role undertaken by the Holy See, it is to be hoped that more scrutiny will be given to the content of statutes for these associations based on the theology of consecrated life. With bishops creating public associations of the faithful at times in a questionable way – e.g. creating an “association” of just one individual – it very appropriate for the Vatican with actual experience and knowledge of consecrated life to provide better oversight in the matter. If we are lucky, the internal guidelines for giving written approval to bishops might include criteria for the written approval of the dicastery that would require certain minimal standards to be met by the aspiring association, thus ensuring a greater probability of the proposed institute’s success and growth.
One thing I hope to see – and maybe it will find its way into the internal guidelines – is a requirement that an association of the faithful be required to publicly and prominently display its status in its online presence so that prospective candidates know that they are not joining an institute of consecrated life, a risk that they might not fully understand if they are being recruited to a “religious community” that isn’t actually religious.