Sunday, February 07, 2010

Lateran IV, Canon 13


While casually perusing the canons of the Fourth Lateran Council this evening I recalled that this greatest medieval council, besides defining transubstantiation and establishing the Easter obligation, had made a rather interesting disciplinary statement regarding religious orders. Here is Canon 13 from the Fourth Lateran Council:

Lest too great a diversity of religious orders lead to grave confusion in the Church of God, we strictly forbid anyone in the future to found a new order, but whoever should wish to enter an order, let him choose one already approved. Similarly, he who would wish to found a new monastery, must accept a rule already proved. We forbid also anyone to presume to be a monk in different monasteries (that is, belong to different monasteries), or that one abbot preside over several monasteries.

Here we have an ecumenical council, the greatest council of the Middle Ages convened under the greatest medieval pope, Innocent III, declaring that there ought to be no more new religious orders. This was decreed in 1215. The very next year, 1216, the new Pope Honorius III authorized the foundation of the Dominican order, presumably sensing some imprudence or deficiency in the decree of the Council. The Franciscan rule was approved in 1223. and new orders continued to crop up and have done so ever since. Had later popes abided by what was declared at Lateran IV, the Church would have lacked two of its greatest orders, and perhaps one of her greatest thinkers (Aquinas, after all, was a Dominican - would he have exercised his charism the same way in another order?)

How many orders would we be missing had the discipline of Latern IV been stuck with? Oratorians, Redemptorists, the great Society of Jesus, Salesians, Discalced Carmelites and everyone that came after the early 13th century.

Of course, Canon 13 of Lateran IV is not a dogmatic canon and there is no contradiction of Faith in pointing out that various popes, even Innocent's immediate successor, ignored the discipline. The point is that they apparently had no qualms about questioning the prudence of the Council's non-dogmatic decree; it seems that by Honorius III's subsequent actions in establishing two new orders, he must have positively thought the Council's thirteenth canon should not have been promulgated. This is within the authority of a pope to do.

I don't know when this canon was officially revoked, or if it ever was, but it apparently was a dead letter as soon as it was promulgated. But this should not cause anybody scandal - sometimes even a pope as great as Pope Innocent III can make a prudential error, even at so great a council as Lateran IV. The important thing is not that Innocent III made a poor judgment, but that subsequent popes understood it to be so and corrected it by approving future orders as they arose, apparently understanding that no matter how great the authority and learning of Innocent III might have been, his infallibility did not flow over into his prudential judgments of Church governance. How would the Church had fared if future generations of popes and theologians had stubbornly insisted on affirming the prudence of the Lateran Council's disciplinary decree in this matter? In this case, it was a blessing for the Church that later popes, beginning with Honorius III, very quickly started doing the opposite of what the Council had called for in canon 13. Had they not, we might never have gotten some of our greatest orders.

Of course, for the most part Innocent III governed the Church with wisdom and prudence, but, as my history professor in college said, "dropped the ball" when it came to canon 13. Even the greatest of popes drop the ball once in a while.

How different would our Church have turned out without the Dominicans, Franciscans and every order that came after 1215? It is interesting to ponder.

23 comments:

FriendoftheCross said...

Great post! I'll use that argument with my friends.

Fr. Larry said...

In case, you never noticed I have included a link to your site on my website;
romancatholichomilies.blogspot.com

But, be Careful when you start splitting hairs. The same type of argument could be made for many other questions. We believe in marriage, who the parties are is really a disciplinary matter, isn't it? Sure we believe that every act of marriage should be open to the transmission of life, but putting that into practice is a matter of discipline.Be careful of the slippery slope.

BONIFACE said...

Thanks, Fr. Larry. I'm not sure what you mean about marriage partners being a matter of discipline, or how that bears on the discussion. I don't think I'm on a slippery slope...and I'm not really making any argument, just pointing out what was done historically.

samurfer said...

I'm friends with a man whose expertise is in early Dominican and Franciscan history. From what he has told me, this is how it works:

The Dominicans follow the Rule of Augustine, and though the final formation of the Order was in 1216, they already existed under Innocent III, and so was already considered formed by the decree you cite.

Similarly, the original Rule of St. Francis was written in 1209, and received Papal approval prior to Lateran IV.

In both cases, these two Orders were specifically considered as existing by the Fathers of Lateran IV. Since 1215, no new Orders have been formed in the Catholic Church. The *SOCIETY* of Jesus was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyala, the *CONGREGATION* of the Most Holy Redeemer was founded by St Alphonsus Liguori, the *ORATORY* of St. Phillip Neri was founded by the same, the *SOCIETY* of St. Francis de Sales was founded by St. John Bosco, and the Discalced Carmalites are not new as they are a reforming splinter group of a pre-Lateran Order (much like the various Franciscan groups).

But this Canon of the Holy Council is still in full effect, and since that time there has not been a single new Order (as in, with a new regulatory Rule) founded in the Catholic Church.

chiralcapers said...

Canon 13 wasn't entirely a dead letter. St Dominic still had to form his brothers as a group of religious under the Rule of St Augustine, obediently selecting an existing rule rather than creating a new one.

Anthony OPL

Anselm said...

Boniface,

I never realized the two events were so close to each other in time: Lateran IV and the founding of the Dominicans, I mean. There is a lesson for our times here, for sure.

Fr. Larry,

Do I understand you to be hinting that the Church's ban on contraception is a matter of discipline only, and not of moral doctrine? And similarly, that the Church's restriction of marriage to the union between one man and one woman is a mere discipline? Please clarify.

BONIFACE said...

Samurfer-

I think you are drawing too much of a distinction between an "order" and the "society" titles...this is just what the Jesuits wanted to call themselves and doesn't indicate that they are not an order. To suggest that they are not an order is a little out there...Everybody views them as an order - first sentence of the Catholic Encyclopedia on the entry for the Society of Jesus - "The Society of Jesus is a religious order founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola."

BONIFACE said...

Also, the Catholic Encylopedia calls the following "orders" as well in the article on religious life-

Foundation of orders

The misfortunes of Christendom were the cause of the foundation of orders vowed to the most excellent works of mercy, namely, the Redemption of Captives; the Trinitarians (Order of the Most Holy Trinity), and Mercedarians (Order of Our Lady of the Redemption of Captives). Both these date from the thirteenth century, the first being founded by St. John of Malta and St. Felix of Valois, the second by St. Peter Nolasco and St. Raymond of Pennafort. They follow the Rule of St. Augustine and are mendicant orders.

The Trinitarians are specifically called an "order." I think some of these words like "institute" "society" and "order" can be interchangeable - for example, Fr. John Hardon, SJ, in his Catholic Encyclopedia defines a religious order as "men and women of a religious institute who bind themselves by vows or poverty, chastity and obedience." For Fr. Hardon at least, the emphasis in on the vows, not on whether or not the institute adopts an original rule.

samurfer said...

In the vernacular, we don't make a hard and fast distinction between them, but this is a mistake. I am not the one who made the distinction, the Church is.

When I was in RCIA, I made the mistake of calling the Jesuits an Order, and my Medievalist friend (orthodox, Jesuit-educated, former Dominican postulant, at that) corrected me, as above. By law, no new Catholic Orders have been founded since 1215. The Trinitarians are pre-Lateran IV, and so predate the ban on new Orders. Any Order you find is going to be pre-Lateran IV, or a splinter group from a pre-Lateran IV Order, such as the Capuchins.

I know this seems pretty silly, considering the number of Societies, Institutes, Fraternities, etc. that have come about since then. But this canon has not ever been rescinded. No new Orders.

I just point this out to nuance exactly what the role of this canon, still in force, is in the life of the Church.

samurfer said...

In the vernacular, we don't make a hard and fast distinction between them, but this is a mistake. I am not the one who made the distinction, the Church is.

When I was in RCIA, I made the mistake of calling the Jesuits an Order, and my Medievalist friend (orthodox, Jesuit-educated, former Dominican postulant, at that) corrected me, as above. By law, no new Catholic Orders have been founded since 1215. The Trinitarians are pre-Lateran IV, and so predate the ban on new Orders. Any Order you find is going to be pre-Lateran IV, or a splinter group from a pre-Lateran IV Order, such as the Capuchins.

I know this seems pretty silly, considering the number of Societies, Institutes, Fraternities, etc. that have come about since then. But this canon has not ever been rescinded. No new Orders.

I just point this out to nuance exactly what the role of this canon, still in force, is in the life of the Church.

samurfer said...

A good example of the complexities in the situation is the Pauline Order, founded in Hungary in the 1250's: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11587c.htm

"In the same year he proposed and obtained affiliation with the Patach community under the rule prescribed by its founder, and was chosen superior. He received the approbation of Ladislaus, Bishop of Pecs, for the new congregation, but the publication of the decrees of the Lateran Council at this time necessitated a journey to Rome to secure the further sanction of the Holy See."

The Paulines were founded after Lateran IV, but the decrees had not made their way to Hungary within that 40 year span yet, so they had to go an appeal their case to the Pope. Their Order being formed required a special suspension of Canon Law, granted partly because they, too, were allowed to use the Rule of St. Augustine (hence belonging under the rubric of a pre-existing Order). The term "Order" has to do with following an "Ordo", or Rule of life. This ban has been kept more strictly than the sociological set of Orders. No new Rules of religious life have been allowed, with new Institutes and Societies (which are, incidentally, the only two forms of religious life mentioned in current Canon Law) not having distinct Rules of their own.

BONIFACE said...

It is a bit confusing then. An order is one who follows an "ordo", a Rule, and you say no new rules have been approved since Lateran IV. But we have the Institutes of different Society's and Institutes being referred to as "rules" - from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The Redemptorists are essentially and by their specific vocation a missionary society. According to their rule they are "to strive to imitate the virtues and examples of Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer, consecrating themselves especially to the preaching of the word of God to the poor".

And then further down they are called an "Order":

Within ten years of the order's foundation...

Can it not be that "order" is a general name referring to all institutes, societies, etc.? For example, the "Catholic Dictionary" (ed. Donald Attwater, 1962, Imprimatur Georgius L. Craven, Westminster) has the following entry (pay attention to definition three):

Order, Religious

i. Canon law reserves this name to the religious institutes in which the members take solemn vows. They consist principally of all the "old orders" (of canons regular, monks, nuns and friars) and the Jesuits.

ii. Historically, a society of persons united for religious ends, bound by vows, and organized ultimately under the authority of a "superior general." The word Order was first thus used in 1119 in the Charter of Charity. In so far as the Benedictines formerly consisted of entirely independent and atuocephalous monasteries (and still do to a large extent), they did not form and order in this sense; but in both law and fact they are now recognized as the chief of the religious orders.

iii. In common speech, any of the societies which canon law called religious institutes.

(pg. 357)

You see, the definition here says nothing about whether or not they have their own Regula. The emphasis in on the fact that they take vows, and says that anyone who takes these solemn vows (an dthe Jesuits are mentioned by name) is an order - and canonically, anyone referred to as an institute is an order.

Furthermore, the current Code of Canon Law states that Societies are those organizations who "approximate" to religious institutes but "without taking religious vows" (CIC 731). Clearly, the Jesuits cannot be a Society in the canonical sense.

The CIC uses the word "institutes" in a general way to refer to any order, congregation, or whatever that has religious vows. It does not attempt to distinguish between different types other than with vows and without vows (it states this clearly in the footnotes for Title II, Chap. 5 on pg. 459-460).

Furthermore, if as you assert, that canon law's ommission of the word "order" as a category of religious denotes that institutes are somehow separate from orders, then does that mean that there is nothing in Canon Law applicable to Dominicans, Franciscans, etc.? If, as you say, only institutes and societies are mentioned in canon law, and that this excludes orders, then are there simply no canons governing these religious? It is clear that the CIC means "institutes" to refer to all those who have solemn vows, whether they have their own rule or another, whether they call themself "Order" "Society" "Congregation."

To be continued...

BONIFACE said...

If you want final proof that the Jesuits are in fact an order, let's look at the Bull Dominus ac Redemptor of Clement XIV that suppressed the Jesuits in 1773. Here are some excerpts:

"We, therefore, having these and other such examples before our eyes, examples of great weight and high authority—animated, besides, with a lively desire of walking with a safe conscience and a firm step in the deliberations of which we shall speak hereafter—have omitted no care, no pains, in order to arrive at a thorough knowledge of the origin, the progress, and the actual state of that regular order commonly called 'The Company of Jesus.'
In the course these investigations, we have seen that the holy founder of the order did institute it for the salvation of souls, the conversion of heretics and infidels, and, in short, for the greater advancement of piety and religion."


The dissensions among themselves, and with others, grew every day more animated; the accusations against the Society were multiplied without number, and especially with that insatiable avidity of temporal possessions with which it was reproached. Hence the rise not only of those well-known troubles which brought so much care and solicitude upon the Holy See, but also of the resolutions which certain sovereigns took against the said order.

"In vain did [previous popes] endeavour, by salutary constitutions, to restore peace to the Church; as well with respect to secular affairs, with which the Company ought not to have interfered, as with regard to the missions; which gave rise to great disputes and oppositions on the part of the Company with the ordinaries, with other religious orders, about the holy places, and communities of all sorts in Europe, Africa, and America"

"In the present case, we are determining upon the fate of a society classed among the mendicant orders, both by its institute and by its privileges; after a mature deliberation, we do, out of our certain knowledge, and the fulness of our apostolical power"

I could go on and on - it so often referred to as an order that I don't think there can be any argument. The title of the Bull even reads: Brief for the effectual Suppression of the Order of Jesuits.

Fr. Larry said...

Fr. Larry,

Do I understand you to be hinting that the Church's ban on contraception is a matter of discipline only, and not of moral doctrine? And similarly, that the Church's restriction of marriage to the union between one man and one woman is a mere discipline? Please clarify.

Anselm: I was trying to be facetious. I guess it did not work. Contraception is intrinsically evil as are same sex unions, but once we try to split hairs as Boniface was doing with his explanation then we start down a slippery slope. I remember coming across the same question on religious orders and came to the same answer that samurfer did. I also remember studying Christology on my own, reading the Catholic Encyclopedia, when I thought I had solved the question in my mind, I would read a little further and realized that my solution to the Christological question was merely the next heresy to appear. My post was merely meant to elicit caution for establishing an argument that might turn out to have unexpected consequences.

BONIFACE said...

Thanks for the clarification, Fr. Larry. I'm not making any argument based on my observation or setting this up as some kind of thing to get all hung up over; I just thought it was interesting. I also (as you may have seen from the combox) am contesting Samurfer's conclusion.

samurfer said...

Not my conclusion, but that of an expert friend. I trust his expertise over the Catholic Encyclopedia's use of terminology, which seems to be sloppy. No new Orders since 1215 (except for those that were; mmmmm, canon law). The Jesuits might be called an order on occasion, but this is a slapdash use of language. The Discipline of no new Orders was never rescinded, though the examples of Orders-that-are-not-Orders might show that you have a point in the original post, but not that the Church blatantly went against the Council, but worked with it and around it.

samurfer said...

From the Council after Lateran IV, Lyon II

"23. On religious houses, that they are to be subject to the bishop

A general council by a considered prohibition averted the excessive diversity of religious orders, lest it might lead to confusion. Afterwards, however, not only has the troublesome desire of petitioners extorted their multiplication, but also the presumptuous rashness of some has produced an almost unlimited crowd of diverse orders, especially mendicant, which have not yet merited the beginnings of approval. We therefore renew the constitution, and severely prohibit that anyone found henceforth a new order or form of religious life, or assume its habit. We perpetually forbid absolutely all the forms of religious life and the mendicant orders founded after the said council which have not merited confirmation of the apostolic see, and we suppress them in so far as they have spread. As to those orders, however, confirmed by the apostolic see and instituted after the council, whose profession, rule or constitutions forbid them to have revenues or possessions for their fitting support but whose insecure mendicancy usually provides a living through public begging, we decree that they may survive on the following terms. The professed members of these orders may continue in them if they are willing not to admit henceforth anyone to profession, nor to acquire a new house or land, nor to have power to alienate the houses or land they have, without special leave of the apostolic see. We reserve these possessions for the disposal of the apostolic see, to be used for aid to the holy Land or for the poor or to be turned to other pious uses through local ordinaries or others commissioned by the apostolic see. If the above conditions are violated, neither the reception of persons nor the acquisition of houses or land nor the alienation of these or other property is valid, and in addition excommunication is incurred. We also forbid absolutely to members of these orders, in regard to externs, the office of preaching and hearing confessions and the right of burial. Of course we do not allow the present constitution to apply to the orders of Preachers and Minors; their approval bears witness to their evident advantage to the universal church. Furthermore, we grant that the order of Carmelites and that of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, the institution of which preceded the said general council, may remain as they are, until other regulations are made for them. We intend in fact to provide both for them and for the other orders, even the non-mendicants, as we shall see to be for the good of souls and for the good state of the orders. We grant also a general permission to members of orders to which this present constitution applies, to pass to the other approved orders on this condition: no order is to transfer itself wholly to another, no community is to transfer itself and its possessions wholly to another, without special permission from the apostolic see."

http://www.legionofmarytidewater.com/faith/ECUM14.HTM#23

Ben G said...

Boniface,

Is it a problem that Lateran IV quoted from the interpolated text in 1 John 5:7? ("For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father and the Word and the holy Spirit, and these three are one".) Since the council was infallible, how would you deal with this?

BONIFACE said...

Samurfer-

I don't blame you for not trusting entirely the wording of the Encyclopedia, but it seems a little bit of a stretch when Canon Law, Pope Clement XIV, two Catholic Encyclopedias and Fr. Hardon all use the same description of an "order": a group bound by solemn religious vows. It is possible that Clement XIV was being "sloppy" in his terminology, but one generally thinks the Pope knows what an order is and what and order isn't.

As your quote from Lyon II makes clear, it is my contention that, as you yourself also said, the Church didn't blatantly go against the Council, but worked with it and around it. This isn't one of those instances of some irritable Trad trying to point out contradictions in the Church - by no means. I think that the Church, after promulgating this canon, saw that it caused considerable difficulty and modified practice over time to admit new orders. I know it sounds a little odd to say, "No new orders - except the new orders we approve," but that is in fact what I think happened. The quote from Lyon II basically says that the Church is will base her judgments on this matter on what is best for souls and for the orders in general:

Furthermore, we grant that the order of Carmelites and that of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, the institution of which preceded the said general council, may remain as they are, until other regulations are made for them. We intend in fact to provide both for them and for the other orders, even the non-mendicants, as we shall see to be for the good of souls and for the good state of the orders.

I think this was when they were starting to see that there was benefit for souls in the formation of new orders, and so thus began to relax the rule laid down by Lateran IV.

As I said before, I don't think anything really hinges on this - it is more of an argument of historical interest for me, so I'm not going to belabor the point anymore, but I have appreciated all of the commentary.

BONIFACE said...

Ben-

Two issues come to mind:

1) It is my understanding (and it may be wrong) that this verse has never decisively been proven to be an interpolation - some Catholic scholars hold it to be authentic, others don't. Some Fathers do, others don't. So I think it is not that cut and dry.

2) I don't think the sources that a Council cites for its judgments have bearing on the infallibility of the judgments themselves. Supposing the was an interpolation, the Council may have been wrong to cite it in support of whatever it was declaring, but in the end the infallibility rests with the declarations and teachings, not the quotes brought forward to support those teachings.

For example, in the Dies Irae the prophecies of the Sibyl are cited, and as we know, the hymn was sung in the Church's Requiem Masses, which gives it some sort of semi-official value. But we are not bound to admit that the Sibylline oracles are inspired. If I John 5:7 is of a similar nature, I don't think it would pose any real problem to infallibility.

Fr. Larry said...

Distinctions! Distinctions! Distinctions! The Church is very careful in its word of things. The Assumption was defined as "when the course of her earthly life had ceased" to avoid any problem with the two conflicting traditions of whether mary "died." Words are important! My canon law professor made it very clear to us that the Law is in the Latin. The order of the subdiaconate since it was an order, still used in the Eastern Church (as well as the Extraordinary form) was SUPPRESSED not ABOLISHED. Titular Bishops are bishops of suppressed dioceses. This is the way the Church gets around the Canon of one bishop per diocese. Distinctions! Distinctions! Distinctions!

samurfer said...

I agree with Fr. Larry about the importance of distinctions, but I hope I wasn't coming across as hostile above. Like you, for me it is a question of historical interest, I didn't mean to imply that you were a "Trad" or even that it would be a bad thing to be. Sometimes I suffer from "Internet jerk" syndrome, where I come across as being aggressive when I am just pursuing an interesting question. This is probably a symptom of spending too much time around Dominicans. If I came across too strongly, mea culpa.

It's an interesting topic, and I think you are right to point out how the application on the ground of Conciliar decrees has historically been fuzzy.

BONIFACE said...

Samurfer-

No no, you weren't coming across as a jerk - I was just wanting to make clear the reason for the dispute - some wacko Trads make a living trying to prove that the Magisterium has contradicted itself, and I wanted to clarify for those who were watching that it was not anything like that.