Nuns of the old orders without solemn vows

Since the French Revolution, various answers of the Holy See have gradually made it clear that neither in Belgium nor in France are there any longer monasteries of women subject to papal enclosure, or bound by solemn vows. (Cf. for France the reply of the Penitentiary of 23 December, 1835; for Belgium the declaration of the Apostolic visitor Corselis of 1836; Bizzarri, “Collectanea, 1st ed., p. 504, note; Bouix, “De regularibus”, vol. 2, 123 sq.).

Simple VowsAfter long deliberation, the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars decided (cf. letter of 2 September, 1864, to the Archbishop of Baltimore) that in the United States nuns were under simple vows only, except the Visitandines of Georgetown, Mobile, Kaskaskia, St. Louis, and Baltimore, who made solemn profession by virtue of special rescripts.

It added that without special indult the vows should be simple in all convents erected in the future. Since then the monastery of Kaskaskia has been suppressed. The Holy See permitted the erection of a monastery of Visitandines with solemn vows at Springfield (Missouri). According to the same letter, the Visitandines with solemn vows must pass five years of simple vowsbefore proceeding to solemn profession (Bizzarri, “Collectanea”, 1st ed., 778-91). Except in the case of a pontifical indult placing them in subjection to a first order these nuns are bound by the following rules:

  • (a) The bishop has full jurisdiction over them; he may dispense from all constitutions not reserved to the Holy See, and from particular impediments to admission, but may not modify the constitutions.The vows are reserved to the Holy See, but the French bishops have received power to dispense from all vows except that of chastity. The bishop presides and confirms all elections, and has the right to require an account of the temporal administration.
  • (b) The superior retains such power as is adapted to the vows and the necessities of community life.
  • (c) The obligation of the Divine Office is such as imposed by the rule; the enclosure is of episcopal law.
  • (d) The vow of poverty does not prevent the possession of property. As a rule, disposition of property “inter vivos” and by will cannot be licitly made without the consent of the superior or the bishop. Unless forbidden by the bishop, the superior may permit the execution of such instruments as are necessary for the purpose.
  • (e)Indulgences and spiritual privileges (among which may be reckoned the use of a special calendar) remain intact.
  • (f) In principle, the prelate of the First Order is without authority over the nuns.