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Institute of consecrated life

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Title: Institute of consecrated life  
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Collection: Institutes of Consecrated Life, Organisation of Catholic Religious Orders
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Institute of consecrated life

Institutes of consecrated life are canonically erected institutes in the Roman Catholic Church whose members profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience by vows or other sacred bonds.[1] They are defined in the Code of Canon Law under canons 573–730.

The more numerous form of these are religious institutes, which are characterized by the public profession of vows, life in common as brothers or sisters, and separation from the world.[2] They are defined in the Code of Canon Law under canons 607–709. The other form is that of secular institutes, in which the members live in the world, and work for the sanctification of the world from within.[3]

Institutes of consecrated life need the written approval of a bishop to operate within his diocese, and a diocesan Bishop can erect an institute of consecrated life in his own territory, after consulting the Apostolic See.[4]

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has ecclesial oversight of institutes of consecrated life.


  • Terms 1
  • Historical-juridical list in the Annuario Pontificio 2
  • Catholic institutes of consecrated life 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Some canonical terms associated with consecrated life are frequently misused in common speech.

  • Institutes of consecrated life are canonically erected by competent church authority to enable men or women who publicly profess the evangelical counsels by religious vows or other sacred bonds, "through the charity to which these counsels lead to be joined to the Church and its mystery in a special way" (cf. canon 573 §2 of the Code of Canon Law), without this making them members of the Church hierarchy.
  • Although the state of consecrated life is neither clerical nor lay, institutes of consecrated life are clerical if, with recognition from the Church, they are directed by clerics and exercise sacred orders, and they are lay if recognized by the Church as not exercising sacred orders.[5] For instance, the Order of Friars Preachers (O.P.) is a clerical institute of consecrated life, and the Sisters of Charity a lay institute of consecrated life.
  • A religious institute is an institute of consecrated life whose members take public vows, lead a life in common and are in some way separated from the world.[6] A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life whose members living in the world, striving for the perfection of charity and seeking to help to sanctify the world, especially from within.[7] The current Code of Canon Law has not maintained the distinction that the earlier Code (1917) made between orders (religious institutes in which the members took solemn vows) and congregations (those in which simple vows were taken).[8]
  • A monk (Greek: monachos, Latin: monachus) is a person that leads the "monastic life" in a "monastery". Nowadays it tends to be wrongly assumed that it signifies someone living in community. From early Church times there has been a lively discussion of the meaning of this term (Greek: monos alone), namely whether it denotes someone living alone/away from the rest of society, or someone celibate/focused on God alone. St Benedict understood it as meaning the latter, namely a celibate dedicated to God, as becomes clear from his consideration of a hermit to be a kind of monk (Rule of St Benedict, ch. 1).
  • A monastery (Greek: monasterion) is a place where a monk lives and works, and may be home to any number of monks, one or many. Often a monastery of one is, however, called a "hermitage", and the person living there, a "hermit". "Convent" is the generic term for the community house of other religious, male or female. "Friary", "priory" and the like are other terms in use.
  • Priests in vows retain their usual title of "Father", and "Reverend Father". With a few exceptions, all men in vows who are not priests and would therefore not be addressed as "Father" are addressed as "Brother". That is to say, all monks are brothers, but not all brothers are "fathers".
  • Women religious are addressed as "Sister". The 1917 Code of Canon Law reserved the term "nun" (Latin: monialis) for women religious who took solemn vows or who, while being allowed in some places to take simple vows, belonged to institutes whose vows were normally solemn.[9] It used the word "sister" (Latin: soror) exclusively for members of institutes for women that it classified as "congregations"; and for "nuns" and "sisters" jointly it used the Latin word religiosae (women religious). The current Code of Canon Law has dropped those distinctions. Some women superiors are properly addressed as "Mother" or "Reverend Mother". Benedictines have traditionally used the form of address "Dom" for men and "Dame" for solemnly professed nuns.

Historical-juridical list in the Annuario Pontificio

The Annuario Pontificio lists for both men and women the institutes of consecrated life and the like that are "of pontifical right" (those that the Holy See has erected or approved by formal decree).[10] For the men, it gives what it now calls the Historical-Juridical List of Precedence.[11] The arrangement of the institutes for men of Latin Rite in this list dates back many decades. It is found, for instance, in the 1964 edition of the Annuario Pontificio, pp. 807-870, where the heading is "States of Perfection (of pontifical right for men)". In the 1969 edition the heading has become "Religious and Secular Institutes of Pontifical Right for Men", a form it kept until 1975 inclusive. Since 1976, when work was already advanced on revising the Code of Canon Law, the list has been qualified as "historical-juridical" and still distinguishes "orders" from "congregations" in the case of Latin-Rite men, while not separating out "orders" and "congregations" in the case of the Eastern Catholic Churches and Latin-Rite women.

It arranges the institutes for men as follows:

A. Institutes of consecrated life
a. Religious institutes
I. Orders
1. Canons regular
2. Monks
3. Mendicant orders
4. Clerks regular
II. Clerical religious congregations
III. Lay religious congregations
IV. Eastern orders, religious congregations and societies of apostolic life
b. Secular institutes
I. Clerical secular institutes
II. Lay secular institutes
B. Societies of apostolic life

The institutes for women are arranged alphabetically in the following categories:

A. Institutes of consecrated life
a. Religious institutes
I. Orders and institutes with autonomous houses
II. Centralized institutes
B. Societies of apostolic life

These lists are followed by a list of 6 institutes under the heading "Other Institutes of Consecrated Life", a reference to new forms of consecrated life established in accordance with canons 604 §2 and 605 of the Code of Canon Law. Some of these have both male and female members, and one is open to married couples.

Catholic institutes of consecrated life

List of some religious institutes (Catholic) provides a dynamic list of a selection of Catholic religious institutes. Catholic secular institutes are less numerous.


  1. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 573
  2. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 709
  3. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 710
  4. ^ Code of Canon Law, canons 312, 609–612, 679, 715
  5. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 588
  6. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 607
  7. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 710
  8. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 488
  9. ^ Code of Canon Law of 1917, canon 488
  10. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 589
  11. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2012 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2012 ISBN 978-88-209-8722-0), pp. 1411-1480

External links

  • Code of Canon Law regulating Institutes of Consecrated Life
  • Institutes of Consecrated Life -
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