Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates For The States Of Perfection
And Sacred Orders (S. C. Rel., 2 Feb., 1961).
An Instruction, Religiosorum institutio, to the Superiors of Religious
Communities, Societies without vows, and Secular Institutes on the careful
selection and training of candidates for the states of perfection and Sacred
Orders is as follows.
Purpose, Binding Force, And Extent Of This Instruction
1. The Instruction Quantum Religiones
The training of religious and of others pursuing perfection and aspiring to
the ranks of the clergy in the states of perfection has always been particularly
close to the heart of the Sacred Congregation for Religious. Thus, in the
Instruction Quantum Religiones, of 1 December, 1931, the Sacred
Congregation instructed the superiors general of religious communities and
clerical societies on the proper religious and clerical training of their
subjects, and on the investigation to be carried out before profession and the
reception of Sacred Orders.1
The main purpose of this Instruction was, in so far as human frailty may
permit, to forestall serious cases of defection not only from the religious
state but likewise from the sacred ranks in which religious had been enrolled
through the reception of Orders.
2. The Purpose Of This Instruction And Its Binding Force
Now, however, without any change in the chief directives and criteria
contained in the aforesaid Instruction, this Sacred Congregation proposes to
take up this same question again and to treat it anew (can. 22), especially as
regards the selection and training of candidates and the investigation to be
made prior to professions and Sacred Orders in order that the aforesaid
Instruction may be in complete harmony with subsequent developments and with
later pertinent pontifical documents.
3. The Principal Sources Of This Instruction
In the Jubilee Year of 1950 there was held at Rome an International Congress
of the States of Perfection, in which specialists summoned from all over the
world on the basis of their knowledge and experience, spoke and wrote on the
selection, nurturing, and perfecting of religious and clerical vocations. These
discussions were published in the four-volume Acta et Documenta of the Congress.
Later, congresses were held in various nations and in them the same topics were
During this same period other documents of the utmost importance appeared.
These were the encyclical letter of Pope Pius XI, of immortal memory, Ad
Catholici Sacerdotii, of 20 December, 1935,2
and various others published by Pope Pius XII, of venerable memory, to whom the
states of perfection are so indebted, such as his Exhortation to the Clergy, Menti Nostrae,
of 23 September, 1950,3
his encyclical letter, Sacra Virginitas, of 25 March, 1954,4
his allocution, Sollemnis Conventus, of 24 June, 1939, to all clerical
students and their superiors,5
his allocution, Haud Mediocri, of 11 February, 1958, to the superiors
general of religious orders and congregations resident in Rome.6
and especially the Apostolic Constitution, Sedes Sapientiae,
of 31 May, 1956, on religious, clerical and apostolic training of clerics in the
states of perfection.7
Nor of any lesser value are those documents which the Sovereign Pontiff, John
XXIII, happily reigning, has issued on the priesthood and priestly formation,
both in his solemn allocution on the occasion of the first Roman Synod and
likewise in the Synodal Constitutions.8
There was also published a reserved Circular Letter of the Sacred Congregation
of the Sacraments on 27 December, 1955,8a
addressed to local Ordinaries for secular clerics, imposing an investigation of
candidates before their promotion to Orders.
Certainly it was most opportune for, and even the duty of, this Sacred
Congregation to incorporate the fruits of this longstanding and rich experience
and evolution into a new Instruction, which would likewise serve as a
particularized commentary on the Apostolic Constitution, Sedes Sapientiae (cf.
n. 40 and the Statuta Generalia, art. 17).
4. To Whom This Instruction Is Addressed
This Instruction is addressed to the superiors of religious communities,
societies living the common life, and secular institutes, especially as far as
the last are concerned, if their members are incorporated into the institute as
clerics. Therefore, although frequently, for the sake of convenience, only
religious will be mentioned, the norms and criteria set forth in this
Instruction are also applicable to the members of the other states of perfection
(cf. Stat. Gen., art. 16, §§ 1-2).
Likewise, although the Instruction refers especially to candidates for the
clerical state, nevertheless those points which by their very nature deal with
the selection and training of candidates for the states of perfection are, with
due adaptations, to be applied also to lay religious, including religious women
(Ibid., §3, 2°).
I. The More Common Causes Of Defection
5. An Inquiry Into The Causes Of Defections
It is necessary at the very outset to set down the most frequent grounds
alleged for defections and to lay before superiors the reasons which religious
priests claim to be the causes why they lose interest in the life they have
embraced and ask the Holy See for secularization or even for "laicization,"
i.e., reduction to the lay state. Attention must be drawn also to the pretexts
under which these same religious priests presume to leave the religious life and
return to the world on their own initiative, or even make so bold as to question
before the Apostolic Dicasteries their clerical obligations, especially
celibacy. Once the causes of defections are known, superiors will be able to
exercise more experienced care and vigilance either in examining the divine
vocation of candidates or in strengthening and preserving it by their devoted
In general, the aforesaid religious claim either that they entered on this
way of life and continued in it without a genuine divine vocation, or that they
lost the genuine divine vocation during the period of their formation or in the
early years of their ministerial life.
6. Undue Family Influence
Frequently such religious claim undue influence from parents and members of
their family, inasmuch as they were born into a large or poor family and thus
were advised either by their parents or by other relatives to leave the paternal
home and go to the seminary as a happy solution of family difficulties and were
even at times pressured by request, persuasion, or even disguised threats, into
embracing the life of perfection and the priestly life and continuing in it. As
a result, they allege that their repugnance or reluctance to accept the
religious clerical state, for which they had an aversion, was broken down.
7. Undue Influence Of Superiors And Directors
There were also those who lay at the door of their religious superiors and
their spiritual directors the responsibility for their most difficult situation,
claiming that these latter, although they had noticed in them no happiness in
the religious clerical life, no spirit of piety, and no zeal as they grew older,
nevertheless did not hesitate to urge them on, either because they hoped the
subjects would do better in the future or because they were more interested in
the number than in the quality of vocations, or because, blinded by a false
sense of kindness toward the candidates, they threatened them with the danger of
loss of eternal salvation if they left the religious clerical state.
8. Ignorance Of Obligations And Lack Of Liberty In Accepting Them
Not infrequently religious priests plead insufficient knowledge of religious
and clerical obligations, especially celibacy, or uncertain will in advancing to
perpetual profession or Sacred Orders. If they entered a religious seminary as
young boys or in their early adolescent years with only a confused knowledge of
the religious and ecclesiastical vocation or with a very uncertain will, these
unfortunate religious and priests claim that they never got over this state of
mind, once they had completed their studies and their years of formation.
Nevertheless, they did not withdraw from the path on which they had entered
either because they heedlessly followed their companions according to custom, or
because, being bashful and incapable of any serious decision, they unwillingly
went along with the urgings and counsels of their superiors. Hence they affirm
that in making profession or receiving Orders they were not sufficiently aware
of the obligations of the priestly life or did not accept them with full
9. Fear Of An Uncertain Future
At times such candidates, on the verge of Sacred Orders or perpetual
profession and somewhat mature in age, finding themselves without academic
degrees and untrained in any art or liberal profession, were afraid to leave the
religious life, feeling deep down in their hearts that if they returned to the
world, they could not make an upright living unless by manual labor, or would be
obliged to make difficult and uncertain efforts to acquire a liberal profession.
Therefore they regarded the decision to continue in the religious clerical life
as a lesser evil.
10. Difficulty With Chastity
Sometimes these religious priests affirm that it is now impossible for them
to observe chastity, first because of bad habits contracted in youth, which were
sometimes corrected but still never completely eradicated, and secondly because
of sexual tendencies of a pathological nature, which they feel cannot be brought
under control either by ordinary or extraordinary means, even those of a
spiritual order, in such a way that they frequently fall into the solitary sin.
11. Loss Of The Religious Spirit
Lastly, not infrequently there is adduced as a cause the loss of the
religious spirit either because, under the insidious impact of present-day
naturalism, these priests become incapable of discipline and religious
observance, or because, living in religious houses an indolent and unproductive
life, deceived by the desire of life outside and ill-regulated pseudo-apostolic
activism and neglecting the interior life, they fall victims to dangers of all
kinds, which they do not avoid and do not even recognize.
12. Weakness And Subjective Character Of Such Arguments
Unfortunate religious priests bring forth these and other similar arguments,
at times even attempting to make the Church responsible for their deplorable
condition, as though the Church, through her ministers, had admitted them to the
religious and priestly life without the necessary qualifications, or did not
know how to train and protect them once they had been called unto the portion of
the Lord. But, as the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments states in the
above-mentioned Circular Letter: "it cannot be denied that these charges
made by the priests during the trials have only a shadowy appearance of truth,
for often the only proof is the statement made by the plaintiff alone, a very
interested party, and not by witnesses or documents proved in court."8b
Nor is this surprising since these unfortunate
religious priests not infrequently take their present state of mind and psychic
crisis, which has gradually evolved over a period of years, and unconsciously
transfer it to the time of their profession and ordination, being unaware of the
inner change which has taken place within themselves.
13. Removal Of All Appearance Of Justification For These Claims;
Superiors' Obligation In Conscience
And yet the honor of the Church, the welfare of religious communities and the
edification of the faithful demand of superiors most accurate diligence and
untiring zeal in order not to provide even a vestige of foundation for priests
advancing such claims.
Superiors should see to it that they be not responsible for the mistakes or
errors of those in charge of selecting and training young men. This will be the
case if they are culpably uninformed of the norms laid down by the Church, or
ignore them, or apply them carelessly; if, ignoring the necessary discernment of
spirits, they admit into religious life and allow to remain therein those who
have not been called by God, or if they neglect to give proper formation to
those who are evidently called and to safeguard them in their divine vocation.
Therefore, this Sacred Congregation regards it as its duty to exhort superiors
most earnestly always to keep before their eyes the norms herein set forth,
being mindful of the grave warning of this Sacred Congregation in its
Instruction, Illud Saepius, of 18 August, 1915: "When a religious
leaves his order, the superior of that same order, if he has diligently examined
his conscience before God, will very frequently be well aware that he himself is
not without fault and has failed in his duty. This neglect of duty is often
verified either in the admission of candidates or in training them to the
religious life, or, after they have made vows, in keeping watch over them."9
II. The Care To Be Taken In The Selection Of Candidates For The
State Of Perfection And The Clerical State
A) General Warnings
14. Quality Before Quantity
First of all, although vocations to the state of evangelical perfection and
to the priesthood are to be promoted by every means (Stat. Gen., art.
32), still care must be taken lest an immoderate desire to increase numbers
should interfere with quality and selection. Let all be convinced that, unless
great zeal for an abundance of students is closely bound up with proper care for
their formation, such zeal does not produce the desired effects, and even does
just the contrary. For just as it is evident that, with the help of God's grace,
nothing contributes more to inspiring vocations than the exemplary life of those
who have been properly formed, in the same way nothing is more conducive to
impeding the growth of vocations or to suffocating them than the example of
mistakes which are unfortunately beheld in those who are without proper solid
formation. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice and all these
things will be added unto you. We can say, and all superiors should repeat: Let
us seek out quality first of all, because then, if we may use such an
expression, quantity will automatically be present by itself. This will be the
concern of Divine Providence. It is not our task to look for numbers, since it
is not given to us to inspire vocations in souls. In this truth there is
contained the whole of the theology of a vocation: it comes from God and only
God can give it. It is our task to nurture this vocation, to enrich it, and to
adorn it . . . This is the guarantee and promise of your future
a matter of fact, experience teaches us that God favors with an abundance of
vocations those religious communities which flourish with the rigor of
discipline and carry out their own proper role in the Mystical Body of Christ,
and that, on the contrary, those communities suffer a lack of candidates, whose
members do not comply faithfully with His divine counsels. Wherefore, those who
are suffering from a shortage of vocations and anxiously devote themselves to
collecting them, using at times methods and procedures which are certainly not
to be recommended, would do well to exert the greatest care in training in the
best way possible the candidates who spontaneously come to them or are drawn to
them by prudent means and are already entrusted to them by the Church and Divine
Providence. For the rest, let us not be unmindful of the teaching of Holy
Scripture, which the Sovereign Pontiff recalls to us in such timely fashion:
"Gedeon, who had at his disposal an immense multitude of men apparently
ready and prepared to fight all battles and conquer all difficulties, heard the
voice of the Lord declaring that to accomplish hard and difficult tasks, rather
than large numbers, the courage of a few was sufficient."11
15. Positive Signs Of A Vocation
It will be helpful to recall, then, that only those candidates can be
admitted who are free of any canonical impediment and who, at the same time,
show positive signs of a divine vocation, conformably to the prescriptions of
the Apostolic Constitution, Sedes Sapientiae, and the Statuta Generalia,
art. 31, § 2, 1°, 2°. Let this be the first and absolute principle in
selecting vocations. For, as we are clearly admonished by the same Apostolic
Sedes Sapientiae: "A call from God to enter the religious or the
sacerdotal state is so necessary that, if this is lacking, the very foundation
on which the whole edifice rests is wanting. For whom God has not called, His
grace does not move nor assist."12
The canonical fitness of the candidate for bearing the obligations of the
institute (can. 538; Stat. Gen., art. 31, § 1) must be evinced by positive
arguments (can. 973, §3), and it must consist in all the requirements and,
according to differences in age, all the physical, intellectual and moral
qualities, either of nature or of grace, whereby a young man is rightly prepared
for the worthy acceptance and performance of religious and priestly obligations
(Stat. Gen., art. 33).
16. Moral Certainty Of The Fitness Of Candidates
Candidates should not be admitted to religious seminaries except after
careful investigation and the securing of detailed information on each
individual. In seminaries and novitiates the necessary proofs and investigations
are to be repeated with faithful observance of the General Statutes of the
Apostolic Constitution Sedes Sapientiae, art. 31-34. Doubtful fitness is
not enough but "as often as there still remains some prudent doubt as to
the fitness of a candidate, it is wrong to permit him to contract obligations
(can. 571, § 2), especially if they be definitive, (can. 575, § 1; 637).13
Still greater care must be exercised in this regard
if there be question of Sacred Orders.14
The period of trial is to be continued as provided for in canon law, and all
possible means must be employed which may be useful in acquiring this moral
certitude" (can. 571, § 2; 574, § 2; Stat. Gen., art. 34, § 2, 1°, 2°,
3°). Appropriately, therefore, all due proportion being guarded as to the
different degrees of probation and selection, should superiors and all those
engaged in deciding vocations apply to themselves the canonical prescriptions
whereby the bishop is warned "that he should confer Sacred Orders on no one
unless he is morally certain, by positive arguments, of the candidate's
canonical fitness; otherwise, he not only sins most grievously himself but
exposes himself to the danger of sharing in the sins of others" (can. 973,
§ 3). For the selection and training of a religious candidate is a step toward
sacred ordination and in the ordination of religious, as Pius XI wisely warns,
the Bishop "always places full confidence in the judgment of their
Consequently, in case of doubt as to fitness, it is certainly unlawful to
proceed further for there is involved something on which the welfare of the
Church and the salvation of souls depend in a special manner, and in which
consequently, the safer opinion must always be followed. "This safer
opinion in the question now before us, does more to protect the best interests
of ecclesiastical candidates since it turns them aside from a road on which they
might be led on to eternal ruin."16
17. The Responsibility Of The Internal And External Forum; Both Should Use
The Same Principles
In this most important task the chief responsibility lies with major
superiors. It is their work to organize and direct this entire activity, to be
acquainted thoroughly with the norms set down by the Apostolic See, and to make
sure they are faithfully carried out. On them, consequently, in this matter lies
the greatest burden of responsibility (Stat. Gen., art. 27, § 1). But
major superiors need the helpful cooperation of all who are in charge of
selecting and training candidates, whether they be superiors and directors in
the external forum or confessors and spiritual prefects, each within the limits
of his office. For some of the signs of a divine vocation or lack of it, by
their very nature, come to the knowledge of superiors in the external forum,
while others, since they belong rather to the intimate realm of mind and
conscience, can oftentimes be known only by confessors and spiritual directors.
All these individuals accept a burden in conscience in the choice of priests and
religious and in their admission to profession and to ordination, and through
their ignorance or negligence they may have a share in the sins of others.
Nevertheless, they must use different methods in discharging their duties.
Directors in the external forum must do their duty exteriorly according to the
norms of common and particular law. The case is different with confessors who
are bound by "the inviolable sacramental seal," and with spiritual
directors in the stricter sense (cf. Stat. Gen., art. 28, § 2, 9°),
who are likewise bound to secrecy "by virtue of the religious office they
have accepted." Confessors and spiritual directors should strive, but only
in the internal forum, to see that those who either are not called by God or who
have become unworthy should not go farther. But although the procedure in the
internal and the external forum is different, it is of the utmost importance
that "all should use the same principles in testing vocations and taking
appropriate precautions to the end that young men may be prudently admitted to
profession and to Orders."17
18. The Role Of The Confessor And The Spiritual Director
Confessors have the grave duty of warning, urging, and ordering unfit
subjects, privately and in conscience, with no regard for human respect, to
withdraw from the religious and clerical life. Although they may appear to have
all the dispositions required for sacramental absolution, they are,
nevertheless, not for that reason to be regarded as worthy of profession or
ordination. The principles governing the sacramental forum, especially those
pertinent to the absolution of sins, are different from the criteria whereby,
according to the mind of the Church, judgment is formed on fitness for the
priesthood and the religious life. Consequently, penitents who are certainly
unworthy of profession and ordination can be absolved if they show proof of true
sorrow for their sins and seriously promise to drop the idea of going on to the
religious or clerical state, but they must be effectively barred from profession
and ordination. Likewise spiritual directors are under obligation in the
non-sacramental internal forum, to judge of the divine vocation of those
entrusted to them and are also under the obligation to warn and privately urge
those who are unfit, to withdraw voluntarily from the life they have embraced.
19. The Careful Choice Of Confessors And Spiritual Directors
Lastly, using this occasion, this Sacred Congregation earnestly stresses for
superiors both the importance and the necessity of carefully choosing as
confessors and spiritual directors in religious seminaries men properly trained
and gifted with great prudence and perspicacity in understanding the minds of
the young (Stat. Gen., art. 24, § 2). Superiors themselves must encourage a
watchful and uniform policy among all those dedicated to the formation of the
young lest they allow unqualified candidates to ascend to Orders.
20. The Cooperation Of Candidates; Recommendation Of Sincerity And
Finally, candidates should be prudently urged to cooperate in the formation
of a correct judgment on their vocation, for to them this is of the utmost
importance. They should understand correctly that leaving the religious life and
the ranks of the clergy is not always and for everyone an evil. It is not an
evil but is actually something good for those who are not called or are not
properly disposed. Indeed, infidelity resulting in the loss of a divine vocation
is certainly dangerous, but the situation would be still more serious if those
who are not called or who are unworthy were blindly to take on religious and
clerical obligations. Therefore, they are especially urged to practice
simplicity and sincerity in opening their hearts, and docility and perfect
obedience to the counsels and precepts of their confessors, directors, and
superiors: "According as young men will be known for their integrity and
sincerity, all the more effectively can they be assisted by their superiors,
when the time comes to decide if they are divinely called to enter upon the way
of perfection and to receive Sacred Orders."18
Consequently, all candidates should be well aware of the mind of the Church
on the manifestation of conscience as set forth in canon 530, § 2, and as
explained in the Statuta Generalia. 19
21. The Time For Definitive Selection
As for the time when the definitive selection is to be made, every means
should be diligently employed to insure that this selection takes place within
the time limits determined by law. Superiors shall bear well in mind that only
rarely should a further extension of probation be requested (cf. Stat. Gen.,
art. 34, §3). The excellent norm laid down in the encyclical letter, Ad
Catholici Sacerdotii, should be observed: "And although it is better
not to postpone this selection unduly, since in this matter delay usually leads
to error and causes harm, nevertheless, whatever may have been the motive for
the delay, just as soon as it is evident that there has been a deviation from
the right path, then, with no trace of human respect, the remedy must be
B) The Required Freedom
22. Freedom: A Sign Of A Divine Vocation
Among the requisites for a genuine divine vocation there is rightly listed
the free will of the candidates or a choice free of all moral pressure along
with perfect knowledge of the obligations of their state. Full freedom is
prescribed by ecclesiastical law for the reception of Orders and for the
validity of the novitiate and profession21
and, in virtue of art. 32, § 3 of the Statuta Generalia, in the
recruitment of vocations everything must be avoided which could diminish the
freedom of the candidates or improperly affect it. Particularly in the free
acceptance of this counsel there is discerned the special call from God or the
movement of the Holy Spirit, who interiorly enlightens and inspires a person,
who has the other qualifications, to pursue the evangelical counsels or to
embrace the priesthood. For the divine inspiration required by St. Pius X22
in a true vocation, or that marked attraction for sacred duties mentioned by
Pius XI in his encyclical letter, Ad
is discerned in their right propensity and intention of mind or the choice of
their free will (cf. can. 538), rather than in an inner urging of conscience and
sensible attraction which may be lacking.
23. Superiors Should Seek Out Supernatural Motives
Since it is the task of superiors to pass judgment on the vocation of their
candidates, they should the more carefully examine the spontaneous response of
these candidates or the decision of their free will. Let them examine very
frequently into the supernatural motives of vocations in their students,
especially if they come from poor families, or are without the means of leading
an upright life in the world, or are lacking academic degrees, or if they are
known for narrow-mindedness, anxiety or ambivalence, worried by scruples, or
completely incapable of facing up to anything important. To provide fuller
knowledge of candidates, they can request of them an "historical
sketch" of their vocation in so far as this may be possible. Thus they can
be brought face to face with genuine personal reflection on their own vocation.
24. Fatherly Help For Those Who Suffer Interior Or Exterior Trials
Superiors should not fail to remind candidates in a fatherly way that if any
one, as the result of undue influence from parents or relatives, or because of
financial difficulties, feels himself being forced into profession or ordination
against his will, he should confidently make the situation known to his
superiors or confessor. These latter should show themselves ready to provide
assistance to enable the candidate to escape this danger unscathed, providing
ways and means, if possible, to help him conveniently obtain a respectable
livelihood in the world.24
25. Acquiescence To The Judgment Of Directors Of The Forum
When any student, on the advice of his confessor or spiritual director,
informs his superiors that he does not have the qualifications for the
priesthood, then the superior should accept this statement and make no further
investigation. If the candidate in question is a subdeacon or deacon, then, with
his consent, the superior should take up with the Apostolic See his reduction to
the lay state.25
26. How To Handle The Hesitant
In the case of candidates who are undecided and apprehensive and who cannot
make up their minds either to accept or leave the religious life or to receive
or decline Orders, superiors should dismiss those whom they recognize as
unworthy. Those whom they deem qualified should be exhorted to make vows or to
agree to be ordained. Nevertheless, they should refrain from forcing profession
or ordination on them and should leave the final decision to their own free
will, avoiding all undue influence which could give the impression of drawing
them on to profession or ordination by coaxing or by threatening spiritual
disaster and the pains of hell which they would incur if they withdrew from
profession or ordination.26
C) Necessary Knowledge Of The Obligations
27. Candidates Should Be Taught The Obligations To Be Assumed
Candidates Must make vows and receive Orders deliberately; otherwise they
would not be free. Superiors are seriously obliged in conscience to make sure
that aspirants and novices as well as students throughout the entire period of
their studies be carefully instructed on the duties and obligations of the
religious and clerical life. The duties and obligations of the religious and
clerical life should be discussed frequently by novice masters and spiritual
prefects, each in his own field, by means of timely warnings and the usual
instructions and exhortations. Preachers should likewise take up this subject in
retreats before perpetual profession and sacred ordinations. Lastly, in their
explanation of the tract on Orders, professors of moral theology should provide
lectures on clerical duties and obligations, and candidates for Orders should be
questioned on these points in their examinations.
28. Denunciation Of Temerity In Embracing The Religious And Clerical Life
It is commendable to keep the sanctity of the religious life and the dignity
and excellence of the priesthood frequently placed before candidates from the
very beginning and throughout the whole period of their formation, and defection
from a genuine divine vocation is justly censured. But similarly, and even more
severely, should rashness in embracing the religious and priestly state be
denounced and its manifold dangers pointed out for those who either were not
called by God or have become unworthy of a divine vocation, but who venture to
make vows or to receive Sacred Orders. Superiors should form the conscience of
candidates, carefully avoiding all error and confusion in their teaching on the
religious and priestly vocation, and on virginity and Christian marriage. Let
all be firmly convinced that the time for sounding out a vocation does not lapse
completely with the first admission of the candidate, but continues on to
perpetual profession and ordination to the priesthood.27
D) The Required Chastity
29. Importance Of This Point; Young Persons Are To Be Properly Instructed
And Warned Of Its Dangers
Among the proofs and signs of a divine vocation the virtue of chastity is
regarded as absolutely necessary "because it is largely for this reason
that candidates for the ranks of the clergy choose this type of life for
themselves and persevere in it." Consequently:
a) "Watchful and diligent care is to be taken that candidates for
the clergy should have a high esteem and love for chastity, and should safeguard
it in their souls.
b) "Not only, therefore, are clerics to be informed in due time
on the nature of priestly celibacy, the chastity which they are to observe (cf.
can. 132), and the demands of this obligation, but they are likewise to be
warned of the dangers into which they can fall on this account. Consequently,
candidates for Sacred Orders are to be exhorted to protect themselves from
dangers from their earliest years."28
c) Although virginity embraced for the kingdom of heaven is more
excellent than matrimony, nevertheless, candidates for Sacred Orders should not
be unaware of the nobility of married life as exemplified in Christian marriage
established by the plan of God. Therefore, let them be so instructed that, with
a clear understanding of the advantages of Christian matrimony, they may
deliberately and freely embrace the greater good of priestly and religious
d) But should superiors find a candidate unable to observe
ecclesiastical celibacy and practice priestly chastity, then, completely
ignoring any other outstanding qualities, they should bar him from the religious
life and the priesthood (cf. Stat. Gen., art. 34, § 2, 4°), conforming to the
following directives and using all prudence and discretion in the application of
the same, namely:
30. Those To Be Excluded; Practical Directives
1. A candidate who shows himself certainly unable to observe religious and
priestly chastity, either because of frequent sins against chastity or because
of a sexual bent of mind or excessive weakness of will, is not to be admitted to
the minor seminary and, much less, to the novitiate or to profession. If he has
already been accepted but is not yet perpetually professed, then he should be
sent away immediately or advised to withdraw, according to individual cases, no
matter what point in his formation he has already reached. Should he be
perpetually professed, he is to be barred absolutely and permanently from
tonsure and the reception of any Order, especially Sacred Orders. If
circumstances should so demand, he shall be dismissed from the community, with
due observance of the prescriptions of canon law.
2. Consequently, any candidate who has a habit of solitary sins and who has
not given well-founded hope that he can break this habit within a period of time
to be determined prudently, is not to be admitted to the novitiate. Nor can a
candidate be admitted to first profession or to renewal of vows unless he has
really amended his ways. But if a novice or a temporarily professed religious
gives evidence of a firm purpose of amendment with good grounds for hope of
success, his probation can be extended as provided for in canon law (canons 571,
§2; 574, §2; 973, § 3; Stat. Gen., art. 34, § 2, 3°).
Well-grounded hope of amendment can be provided by those youths who are
physically and psychically normal or endowed with good bodily and mental health,
who are noted for solid piety and the other virtues intimately connected with
chastity, and who sincerely desire the religious and priestly life.
3. A much stricter policy must be followed in admission to perpetual
profession and advancement to Sacred Orders. No one should be admitted to
perpetual vows or promoted to Sacred Orders unless he has acquired a firm habit
of continency and has given in every case consistent proof of habitual chastity
over a period of at least one year. If within this year prior to perpetual
profession or ordination to Sacred Orders doubt should arise because of new
falls, the candidate is to be barred from perpetual profession or Sacred Orders
(cf. above, no. 16) unless, as far as profession is concerned, time is available
either by common law or by special indult to extend the period for testing
chastity and there be question of a candidate who, as was stated above (no. 30,
2) affords good prospects of amendment.
4. If a student in a minor seminary has sinned gravely against the sixth
commandment with a person of the same or the other sex, or has been the occasion
of grave scandal in the matter of chastity, he is to be dismissed immediately as
stipulated in canon 1371, except if prudent consideration of the act and of the
situation of the student by the superiors or confessors should counsel a
different policy in an individual case, sc., in the case of a boy who has been
seduced and who is gifted with excellent qualities and is truly penitent, or
when the sin was an objectively imperfect act.
If a novice or a professed religious who has not yet made perpetual vows
should be guilty of the same offense, he is to be sent away from the community
or, should the circumstances so demand, he is to be dismissed with due
observance of canon 647, § 2, 1°. If a perpetually professed religious is
found guilty of any such sin, he is to be perpetually excluded from tonsure and
the reception of any further Order. If the case belongs to the external forum,
he is to receive a canonical warning unless, as provided for in canons 653 and
668, there be grounds for sending him back to the world (cf. Stat. Gen., art.
34, § 2, 4°).
Lastly, should he be a subdeacon or deacon, then, without prejudice to the
above-mentioned directives and if the case should so demand, the superiors
should take up with the Holy See the question of his reduction to the lay state.
For these reasons, clerics who in their diocese or religious who in another
community have sinned gravely against chastity with another person are not to be
admitted with a view to the priesthood, even on a trial basis, unless there be
clear evidence of excusing causes or of circumstances which can at least notably
diminish responsibility in conscience (Circular Letter of S. C. of the
Sacraments, n. 16; Canon Law Digest, 4, p. 314).
Advancement to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who
are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them
the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers.
5. Very special investigation is needed for those students who, although they
have hitherto been free of formal sins against chastity, nevertheless suffer
from morbid or abnormal sexuality, especially sexual hyperesthesia or an erotic
bent of nature, to whom religious celibacy would be a continual act of heroism
and a trying martyrdom. For chastity, in so far as it implies abstinence from
sexual pleasure, not only becomes very difficult for many people but the very
state of celibacy and the consequent loneliness and separation from one's family
becomes so difficult for certain individuals gifted with excessive sensitivity
and tenderness, that they are not fit subjects for the religious life. This
question should perhaps receive more careful attention from novice masters and
superiors of scholasticates than from confessors since such natural tendencies
do not come out so clearly in confession as in the common life and daily
31. Care Of Psychopathic Cases
In addition, special attention must be paid to those who give evidence of
neuropsychosis and who are described by psychiatrists as neurotics or
psychopaths, especially those who are scrupulous, abulic, hysterical, or who
suffer from some form of mental disease (schizophrenia, paranoia, etc.). The
same is true of those who have a delicate constitution or, particularly, those
who suffer from weakness of the nervous system or from protracted psychic
melancholia, anxiety or epilepsy (can. 984, 3°), or who are afflicted with
obsessions. Similarly, precautions are needed in examining the children of
alcoholics or those tainted with some hereditary weakness, especially in the
mental order (cf. Stat. Gen., art. 33; 34, § 1). Finally, those young men are
in need of special attention who manifest exaggerated attachment to the comforts
of life and worldly pleasures. Superiors should carefully examine all these
types and subject them to a thorough examination by a prudent and expert
Catholic psychiatrist who, after repeated examinations, will be in a position to
determine whether or not they will be able to shoulder, with honor to that
state, the burden of religious and priestly life, especially celibacy.
III. Care In Training And Strengthening Vocations
32. Experienced Directors Should Be Appointed And Sought Out Wherever They
After the accurate selection of vocations, superiors should have as their
second principle the task of appointing excellent and experienced directors for
the education of young religious conformably to art. 24 of the Statuta
Generalia. "To these religious houses," advises Pius XI,
"assign priests adorned with excellent virtue, and do not be afraid to take
them away from other tasks which may be apparently more important but which
cannot match this work of capital importance, which can be replaced by no other.
Look for them also in other fields, wherever you find men capable and fit for
this most noble task."29
Only if this advice is heeded will this Instruction produce any real fruit; if
this counsel is not heeded, then the entire Instruction will be to no purpose.
33. The Qualities And Appointment Of Those In Charge Of Formation
Let all superiors, each one within his own jurisdiction, exactly carry out
all the pertinent prescriptions of the Apostolic Constitution, Sedes
articles 24 and 25. Two points call for special emphasis in this Instruction:
1. Responsibility for formation should not be entrusted to younger religious.
It should be observed, first of all, that it is extremely dangerous to turn over
to younger priests the very difficult work of religious and priestly formation
and especially the task of training minds, since these younger religious have
not yet fully completed their own personal formation nor achieved the maturity
of age required by canon 559, § 1, nor acquired any measure of experience in
2. Nor should they be assigned without preparation. Secondly, superiors
should beware of directors who are chosen haphazardly or who are unprepared. A
natural disposition is not enough but, presupposing all the natural and
supernatural gifts needed for this difficult task, they usually have a real need
to study ecclesiastical pedagogy because, in this sacred discipline, those in
charge of formation learn the principles, criteria, and the practical norms of
clerical and religious training according to the words and the mind of the
Church. On the other hand, ignorance of these principles gives rise to many
34. Avoiding False Humanism
The Apostolic Constitution, Sedes Sapientiae, with the accompanying Statuta
Generalia, deals with religious, clerical, and apostolic formation. Nothing
needs to be added to this Constitution lest we fall into unnecessary
repetitions, but some points having a particular bearing on our purpose need to
be mentioned. In the first place, those charged with the training of youth
should never lose sight of the warning of Pius XII, formulated in the Apostolic
Constitution, Sedes Sapientiae, n. 23 (Canon Law Digest, 4, p. 176), where he
states: "Nevertheless, though all should make much of the human and natural
training of the religious cleric, the supernatural sanctification of the soul
undoubtedly has the first place in the entire course of his development."
Therefore, the religious life must be defended against any appearance of
false humanism or naturalism, and its supernatural character and sanctity must
be safeguarded by all available means. "This is necessary particularly
today, if at any time, when so-called naturalism has worked its way into the
minds and souls of men."31
35. Natural Considerations Are Not To Be Made Light Of But Supernatural
Ones Are To Be Preferred
Consequently, supernatural reasons for embracing religious vows and the
priestly life should be stressed and they should be preferred to the natural
virtues in the training of young religious. For rightly, in this matter, does
Leo XIII warn: "It is truly difficult to understand how those imbued with
Christian wisdom can prefer natural to supernatural virtues and attribute to the
former greater efficacy and fecundity. Will nature, with the help of grace, be
weaker than if left to its own powers? Did those most holy men whom the Church
admires and openly honors show themselves weak and incompetent in the order of
nature because they were outstanding for Christian virtue?"32
And Pius XII in the Apostolic Constitution, Sedes Sapientiae, teaches
as follows: "With regard to the resources and methods of education, those
which nature itself supplies and those which are offered by the human ingenuity
of the present age, if they are good, are clearly not to be neglected, but to be
highly esteemed and wisely employed. However, there is no more fatal mistake
than to rely exclusively or excessively on these natural means and to relegate
supernatural aids and resources to a secondary place or in any way to neglect
them. Because in order to attain religious and clerical perfection and apostolic
results, the supernatural means, the sacraments, prayer, mortification, and the
like, are not merely necessary but altogether primary and essential."33
36. Training In Obedience And Self-Sacrifice
On more than one occasion in these modern times the Roman Pontiffs have
spoken on religious obedience and abnegation of the will, and they have
enlightened us on their supernatural nature, the diligence and perfection with
which religious should practice them, on dangerous doctrines on these subjects
and, in particular, on the false concept of personality and a certain popular or
democratic spirit which is making its way into men's minds and which makes
obedience as taught and practiced by Christ our Lord altogether void of meaning.
Attention should be called to the pernicious effects on the religious life of
that practical "system" which, ignoring more or less the obligations
of the religious life, gives in to all the inclinations and pleasures of nature,
which are not only not regarded as unlawful but are even looked upon as a
postulate of our times and as a perfecting of human nature and, as a result, as
something owed to nature or at least altogether permitted. Whence, upon the
pretext of progress, bodily comforts and pleasures of all kinds are sought out
as well as freedom for the internal and external senses, the satisfaction of
one's faculties, and the indiscriminate indulgence of curiosity in regard to
books, newspapers, radio, movies, television,34
profane worldly spectacles, and, lastly, a life without subjection, with ample
free play for one's will and activity. All these endanger even the essential
obligations of the religious life since they preclude any spirit of humility,
self-sacrifice, and mortification which, on the contrary, according to the words
of Christ, "If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and
take up his cross and follow me," (Matt. 16:24), must be taken as the
foundation of the entire Christian life35
and which can be achieved only through crucifixion to the world (Gal. 6:14).
"He who is half-hearted or slothful," the Sovereign Pontiff exhorts,
"who wishes to loll around in the comforts of this life, who burns with
excessive thirst for human things and human knowledge, and who wants to
experience all that earth can give, can neither be nor be called a true soldier
of the kingdom of God. Beloved sons, take careful note of this, namely, that the
secret and fruitful power of your future apostolate lies particularly in the
necessary right detachment of soul from the things of earth." "The man
who, shying away from the austerity of religious discipline, would want to live
in a religious community just as if he were a man of the world, who seeks out
according to his own will whatever seems to be to his own advantage, whatever
pleases and satisfies him — would that man be worthy of Christ his Head?"36
Consequently, superiors have a grave obligation to implant the following rule of
the life of perfection in the souls of their young subjects: religious may use
these comforts and pleasures of life only in so far as they contribute to the
pursuit of evangelical perfection and the proper exercise of the apostolate
according to one's own constitutions. This norm differs not a little from the
one used as a standard for the common state of the Christian life.
However, this does not prevent the acceptance of today's fine, useful
discoveries when they are regarded as aids to a fuller formation, or as helps in
multiplying apostolic activities and advancing perfection, carefully shunning
all the extras which please and satisfy nature but which are not at all
necessary for the achieving of the scope of the religious life and the
apostolate. Wherefore, buildings intended for seminaries should be built and
furnished according to the norms of religious simplicity and poverty, which
demand that these houses be so organized that the minds of the students will be
imbued with that spirit of austerity and self-sacrifice which, by its very
nature, is required both by the state of the evangelical counsels and likewise
by their future apostolic life.
37. Students Should Be Trained For The Apostolate, But Especially For A
Spiritual And Deeply Religious And Priestly Life
Lastly, it is an all too clear fact that many young men at the present time
are more interested in the external activity of the apostolate, which falls in
well with their particular bent of mind, than in the religious perfection of
their own souls, of which they have only vague ideas and little esteem. Because
of this, after some years in the active life, they are bored by religious
practices whose real value they do not understand, or which they regard as
hindrances to the apostolate. Then they want to be free of these observances and
wish to enter the secular clergy. In order to forestall this danger, superiors,
in training their students, should take very special care that the life of
evangelical perfection is kept before them and explained in its various phases
that they may be attracted to the religious life and be strengthened in
perseverance therein, not merely out of the desire of engaging in the
apostolate, but particularly from a sincere determination to pursue evangelical
perfection unwaveringly through the observance of the evangelical counsels and
their own constitutions (can. 593) out of an intense love of God in imitation of
Jesus Christ and a supernatural desire of sanctifying their souls, because, as
Pius XII notes, "the priest is by his very office an instrument for the
sanctification of others, so much so that the salvation of souls and the growth
of the Kingdom of God depend in a considerable degree upon his holiness."37
IV. Declarations And Investigations Required Before Profession Or
Incorporation, And Before Orders
38. Attestation Of One's Own Vocation To Sacred Orders In The Religious
Since in the acceptance of religious or clerical obligations it is most
important to safeguard and foster the liberty and spontaneous freedom of the
candidates and to avoid completely the weakness which may be called the
"follow-the-crowd" attitude, and since it is altogether proper that in
serious decisions in matters affecting their own life they form the habit of
thinking for themselves, the following directives shall henceforth be observed
by all superiors of clerical Religious Communities, Societies and Secular
Before temporary profession, which absolutely must precede promotion to
tonsure and Minor Orders, novices are to present to their superiors a written
declaration in which they attest explicitly to their vocation to the state of
perfection and the clerical state, and at the same time declare their firm
intention to bind themselves forever to the ranks of the clergy in the state of
declaration can again be demanded of temporarily professed candidates before
perpetual profession. These petitions and attestations are to be preserved in
the archives. Lest the students sign approved printed formulas mechanically,
they should write out these declarations in their own hand and, before they sign
their name, should carefully consider, in consultation with their spiritual
director, each and every one of the points contained therein.
39. Above All, The Fitness Of The Candidate Is To Be Established Clearly
Superiors should not allow any one to be advanced to Orders, even only Minor
Orders, without clear evidence, secured through careful examination, regarding
his conduct, piety, modesty, chastity, inclinations for the clerical state,
progress in ecclesiastical studies, and religious discipline.39
To obtain this with greater certainty, superiors
should get the opinion of the spiritual prefect, if he is directly responsible
for the training of the students, and that of others who, because of their
special association with the students, may be in a position to have a thorough
knowledge of their life and conduct.40
These opinions should not be accepted lightly but
should be carefully weighed, with all due consideration of the prudence,
sincerity, and maturity of judgment of those who have given them.
An authentic report of these investigations and of the outcome of these
inquiries should be drawn up and kept in the archives.
Finally, the superiors, either personally or through some other experienced
and prudent priest likely to win the confidence of the students, should question
them carefully in order to acquire still greater certainty that they are
aspiring to Orders in the religious state freely, deliberately, and for
40. The Best Time For Conferring Sacred Orders; Major Orders Should Not Be
Conferred Before Perpetual Or Definitive Profession
As regards ordination itself, this Sacred Congregation adopts the timely
directives formulated by the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments in no. 14 of
its Circular Letter, namely: For the more careful and immediate preparation of
candidates for Orders, especially Sacred Orders, provision should be made that
sacred ordinations be had at the time more fit for them, at a date well known
ahead of time and never unexpectedly. As a result, it seems very appropriate to
exclude the time immediately preceding or following the end of the scholastic
year. At this time, as a rule, the students, tired by work and preoccupied in
mind because of the examinations recently taken in sacred studies or because of
those soon to be taken, lack the necessary peace of mind for being properly able
to ponder the very serious business of their ordination.
As for the reception of Major Orders, superiors of the states of perfection
should bear in mind that they may not promote their students to these orders
before perpetual profession or incorporation (can. 964, 3°, 4°). In those
states of perfection which do not have perpetual obligations or vows, superiors
are likewise forbidden to promote their candidates to Sacred Orders before these
vows or obligations have become definitive.41
41. New Inquiry Before Subdeaconate
Before candidates are admitted to the subdeaconate, superiors must make a new
inquiry on the above-mentioned points (n. 39). To this end, the records of the
investigation already made and preserved in the archives are to be examined anew
and further testimony on the conduct and spiritual qualities of the student is
to be compared with previous reports in order to see clearly what progress these
young men have made since their first profession both in religious discipline
and in clerical studies. After all this, if the candidates are found worthy and
fit, and if there is no canonical reason for withholding them from the reception
of Orders, the superiors may issue dimissorial or testimonial letters for their
ordination, with due observance of the prescriptions of canon law and their own
42. Oath To Be Signed Before The Subdeaconate
In all the states of perfection, before presenting candidates for the
subdeaconate, superiors must, in view of the sacred ordination which is to
follow in proper time and in addition to the inquiry prescribed above, demand an
attestation written personally by the candidates and confirmed under oath before
the superior in the following terms:
"I, the undersigned, . . . a member of the (Order, Congregation,
Society, Institute of . . . ), in presenting this petition to Superiors for the
reception of the Order of the Subdeaconate, after having carefully considered
the matter before God, do hereby testify under oath: 1) that in the reception of
the said Sacred Order I am moved by no coercion, compulsion, or fear, but am
seeking it of my own accord, and do of my own full and free will desire to
embrace it together with the obligations that are attached to it. 2) I
acknowledge that I am fully informed of all the obligations that flow from the
aforesaid Sacred Order, and I freely embrace them, and resolve with the help of
God to keep them faithfully during my entire life. 3) I declare that I clearly
understand all that the vow of chastity and the law of celibacy prescribe, and I
firmly resolve with the help of God to observe these obligations faithfully
until the end of my life. 4) Finally, I sincerely promise that I will always,
according to the sacred canons, most respectfully obey in all things which are
commanded me by my Superiors according to the discipline of the Church, and am
prepared to give good example both in work and in word, so that in the reception
of this great office I may be worthy to receive the reward which God has
promised. To all this I testify and swear upon these sacred Gospels which I
touch with my hand.
This_____day of___ 19__43
43. Before Deaconate Or Priesthood Superiors Should Carefully Inquire Into
The Fitness Of Candidates
Although for the Order of deaconate and priesthood it is not necessary
to gather such detailed information and to require new testimonials,
nevertheless, superiors should be watchful and determine whether, in the
interval between the conferral of one sacred ordination and the next, any new
factors may have emerged which might raise doubts on their vocation to the
priesthood or show they have no vocation. In this case, after a most careful
investigation and after seeking the advice of prudent men, superiors should
strictly forbid the reception of any new Order and should refer the case to this
Sacred Congregation, which, according to the requirements of individual cases,
will decide what seems most opportune in the Lord.44
44. In General, Dispensations Are Not To Be Requested
Superiors should bear in mind the prescription of the Statuta Generalia, art.
34, § 3, 2°, 3°, namely: "Only in individual cases and for causes which
are proportionately really serious should superiors venture to ask for
dispensations concerning: . . . 2° age and the other requirements for Orders,
especially Sacred Orders; 3° the organized course of studies, either as regards
the individual disciplines, attendance at class, or passing examinations."
Superiors of religious orders who have the faculty of anticipating sacred
ordinations beyond the limits laid down by common law should, in the use of this
privilege, as long as it remains in force, follow the same restrictive criterion
as that formulated in art. 34. In addition, as is proper in the use of other
privileges, they should comply with the practice and rules customarily observed
by the S. Congregation for Religious in granting similar indults to those
subject to common law.
When there is question of age, superiors should lean more toward postponing
rather than anticipating ordination.
45. Superiors' Obligation In Conscience In Issuing Dimissorial Or
As regards the ordination of religious, in virtue of canon law major
superiors either issue dimissorial letters to the ordaining Bishops (can. 964, 2°,
3°; 966, § 1) or at least they present their candidates for ordination with
testimonial letters (can. 993, 5°). By these testimonial letters the religious
superior not only testifies that the candidates belong to his community but also
certifies that they have completed the prescribed studies, have taken the oath,
and have complied with the other requirements of law (can. 995, § 1). Hence it
is clear that the very serious obligation, which binds Bishops to train, test,
and choose their secular candidates who wish to receive Sacred Orders, likewise
extends to religious superiors to whom it pertains to permit their subjects to
advance to Sacred Orders. And although, as canon law provides (can. 997, § 2),
Bishops are free to disregard the declarations of superiors and to examine
religious ordinands personally, nevertheless, they are not bound to do so but,
before God and the Church, they may accept the testimony of superiors and throw
back on them the full responsibility in conscience for the training and the
worthiness of their candidates (can. 970; 995, § 2).
V. The Care Of Newly Ordained Priests
46. Precautions To Be Taken In The First Years Of The Priesthood; The
Dangers Of Inexperience
After they have completed their course of studies and the pastoral year and
have received Sacred Orders, young priests should start their ministry with all
due precautions, aware of the very special dangers confronting them in the first
years of their priesthood, during which, not infrequently, as Pius XII observed
in his exhortation to the clergy, the great hopes entertained for young priests
have apparently faded away.45
At the outset of their ministry, both because of the passions besetting their
youth and because of their more frequent contacts with the world, many serious
difficulties usually arise along with new kinds of temptations. And since new
priests experience a certain sense of independence and feel that they must do
their work in their own way in the ministry entrusted to them, they easily tend
to shake off all restraint and, because of their inexperience, can fall into
numerous errors and failings which may rightly be feared to lead to deplorable
defections. This is why young priests sometimes think they must act on their own
and introduce many reforms, disregarding the methods and systems of older
priests. Lastly, they frequently are either left without any fruitful occupation
or else are overloaded with self-assigned work or work which has been given to
them by their superiors, not without danger to their spiritual life.
47. The Danger Of The "Heresy Of Action"
On this spiritual danger Pope Pius XII, of venerable memory, has warned us in
the following most serious words: "We cannot refrain from expressing Our
concern and Our anxiety for those who, because of special circumstances of our
day and age, have too frequently so engulfed themselves in a whirl of external
activity as to neglect the first duty of priests, that is to say, procuring
their own personal sanctification. We have already publicly stated (cf. A.A.S.,
36  — 239, Letter Cum proxime exeat) that 'those men must be
recalled to the right path who rashly hold that man can be saved by what is
rightly and deservedly called the "heresy of action," that kind of
action, We say, which is not based on the assistance of Divine Grace and does
not make constant use of the necessary means for the pursuit of sanctity
provided by Jesus Christ.' "46
48. The Danger Of Imitating Worldly Conduct
It happens that the sacred ministry, which should be an instrument for
personal sanctification, at times becomes for some people, through their own
fault, an occasion for relaxation of discipline and harm to their religious
spirit. Not rarely in the exercise of this ministry religious priests adopt the
habits of people in the world in speech, conduct, and comportment; they violate
poverty through uncontrolled use of material things; they lose esteem for
regular discipline and the exercises of piety through prolonged absence from
their religious house. Such priests quickly go seeking outside their religious
house activities, which provide stable and permanent work in order to have a
pretext for withdrawing from religious discipline.
49. Young Priests Should Be Introduced Into The Ministry Gradually Under
The Direction Of An Experienced Guide
Superiors will forestall these difficulties if, in the first place, they
effectively put into practice the excellent advice, based on experience, of the
Statuta Generalia, art. 51, namely: that "the young priest should not
be regarded as definitively formed and put to the test in his religious and
apostolic life until, after the completion of about his thirtieth year and
through personal contact with the ministry," he has rounded out his
formation. In the meantime, according to the directives contained in the
aforementioned exhortation of Pope Pius XII,47
young priests should be introduced gradually into the apostolic ministry,
safeguarded with wise and watchful care, and paternally directed in their
activities. For this reason, contact with the world should not be either abrupt,
frequent, or awkward; rather it should be moderate, humble, and gracious while
the young priests devote themselves to study and prayer under the direction of a
skilled spiritual director and, as far as possible, the guidance of some other
experienced priest assigned to assist them. For "just as long periods of
time are necessary for oak trees to put down solid roots, in the same way
long-standing patience is always required for the formation of a man of God.
Consequently, restraints should be placed on the generous self-assurance of
youth whereby they would be plunged into activity before their time, since undue
haste in activity scatters rather than builds, and is both for him who indulges
in it and for the apostolic ministry itself a source of harm."48
50. Young Priests Should Not Be Assigned To Small Houses; Interest In
Those Who Are Absent
As a general rule, young priests should not be assigned to small houses but
should rather be assigned where religious discipline is easily reconciled with
moderate exercise of the apostolate and where the prescriptions of the preceding
article can be conveniently complied with.
In addition, superiors should see to it that the aforesaid priests do not
spend unduly long periods away from their religious house and, in every case,
that they return to the community for the monthly day of recollection and for
Finally, they shall exercise special vigilance over those who are absent from
the religious house in what concerns their life, conduct, comportment, and the
use and administration of temporal goods.49
51. Vacations With Relatives, At Spas And Other Worldly Centers
Superiors should not allow religious priests to spend long periods with
relatives or friends for vacation or rest since this practice causes surprise to
people of the world and becomes a source of criticism among their
fellow-religious. Nor for purposes of health should they be permitted to make
frequent visits to the homes of relatives nor given easy access to spas and
other public places, which are indeed places for convalescence but are likewise
centers of unrestrained and worldly satisfactions, contrary to religious decorum
and spirit. If there be question of sojourns at beaches or if religious must
spend time outside their house at warm springs, "they should carefully
conform to the prescriptions laid down by local Ordinaries."50
For the rest, the directives enumerated by this
Sacred Congregation for Religious for superiors general51
on the frequentation of spas are confirmed and once again it is recommended that
religious houses be located in healthful climates where those in need of rest
and treatment may occupy themselves and at the same time live their religious
The Reading Of This Instruction
52. It is of the greatest importance for the Church that the criteria and
directives here set down should, first of all, be known and that they should be
kept in mind and constantly put into practice. It is no less important that
there should be a uniform policy in all the states of perfection and,
especially, that within the same institute there should be concerted action on
the part of all those dedicated to the training of youth.
Wherefore, let superiors see to it that at the beginning of each school year,
in place of the Instruction Quantum Religiones, this Instruction be read or at
least summarized before the superiors, masters, spiritual prefects and their
assistants, confessors, and professors, as well as in monastic, general, and
At the same time there should be read or made known to the young candidates
the prescriptions which touch them directly, such as those referring to freedom
and the conditions to be complied with in embracing the religious and clerical
life, the sworn declaration mentioned in n. 42, and other similar provisions.
By the faithful observance of all these directives, the task of investigating
the canonical fitness of candidates for the state of perfection and Sacred
Orders will meet with success; those who are not fit will be barred in time and
at the very outset, and only those worthy and fit will be admitted to Sacred
Orders. These, in turn, properly instructed and trained, will effectively
promote the glory of God and the salvation of souls to the honor of the Church
and the state of evangelical perfection.
In the audience graciously granted on 23 January, 1961, to the undersigned
Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Religious, our Holy Father, Pope
John XXIII, deigned to approve this Instruction and ordered that it be
communicated to superiors of institutes of evangelical perfection.
Rome, the 2nd day of February, feast of the Purification of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, in the year 1961.
S.C. Rel., 2 Feb., 1961; translated from the original Latin text; references
to English versions were, of course, entered by us.
[Note: Although this Instruction was not published in AAS or any other public
form but was privately circulated, it is, nevertheless, referred to by the S. C.
Rel. itself as "a matter of public law" (cf. below: S. C. Rel., 28
1. AAS 24 (1932) -74 -81; Enchiridion de Statibus Prefectionis, Rome,
1949, n. 363, pp. 471-479. Cf. also the Instruction Illud saepius, De
Qualitatibus recipiendorum, 15 August, 1915, in Enchiridion de Stat. Perf., n.
286, pp. 340-344. English version of Quantum Religiones in Canon Law
2. AAS 28 (1936)-5-533; Ench. de Stat. Perf., n. 367, 481-521.
3. AAS 42 (1950)-657-702.
4. AAS 46 (1954)-161-191.
5. AAS 31 (1939)-245-251; Ench. de Stat. Perf., n 373, pp. 530-537; Canon
Law Digest, 2, pp. 427-433.
6. AAS 50 (1958) 153-161; Canon Law Digest, 5, pp.
7. Cf. the doctrinal section in AAS 48 (1956) 354-365. The Statuta
Generalia appended to this same Apostolic Constitution were printed and
promulgated separately from the AAS. The references in the Instruction are to
the second edition published under the direction of the Sacred Congregation for
Religious. English version of doctrinal section in Canon Law Digest, 4, pp.
169-182; English version of the Statuta is available from the Catholic
University of America Press.
8. These documents of Pope John XXIII can be consulted in AAS 52
(1960)-179-309, and in the Prima Romana Synodus, A.D. 1960, Vatican Press.
8a. English version in Canon Law Digest, 4, pp.
8b. Canon Law Digest, 4, p. 308.
9. Ench. de Stat. Perf., n. 286, p. 341.
10. Allocution of Pius XI to the General Chapter of the Oblates of Mary
Immaculate, 14 September, 1932. Allocution of Pius XII to the superiors General,
11 February, 1958, in AAS 50 (1958)-160; Canon Law Digest, 5, p. 373.
11. John XXIII, allocution of 28 January, 1960, to the clerical students
of the Diocese of Rome or residing in Rome, in AAS 52 (1960)-263; English
version in The Pope Speaks, 6 (1960)-364. Prima Romana Synodus, p. 436. Cf. Pius
XI, encyclical Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, AAS 28 (1936)-44; Ench. de Stat. Perf.,
n. 367, p. 513.
12. Apostolic Const. Sedes Sapientiae, nn. 12-13; Canon Law
Digest, 4, P.
13. Stat. Gen., art. 34, § 2, 1°.
14. Ibid., n. 2°.
15. Pius XI, Encyclical Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, AAS 28 (1936) Ench. de
Stat. Perf., n. 367, p. 513.
16. Pius XI, ibid., AAS 28 (1936)-41; Ench. de Stat. Perf., n. 367; p.
511. Cf. also the Encyclical Sacra Virginitas, AAS 46 (1954)-180-181.
17. Prima Romana Synodus, 484, § 3.
18. Cf. Prima Romana Synodus, 477.
19. Cf. Stat. Gen., art. 28, § 3, 1°.
20. Pius XI, Encyc. Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, AAS 28 (1936)-39; Ench. de
Stat. Perf., n. 367, pp. 509-510.
21. Cf. canons 971; 542, 1°; 572, § 1, 4°; 2352.
22. St. Pius X, Apostolic letter, Cum primum, 4 Aug., 1913, in AAS, 5
(1913)-388; Ench. de Stat. Perf., n. 279, p. 331.
23. Pius XI, Encyc. Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, 28 (1936)-39; Ench. de
Stat. Perf., n. 367, p. 510.
24. Circular Letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments, n. 5;
Canon Law Digest, 4, p. 311.
25. Ibid., n. 6; Canon Law Digest, loc. Cit.
26. Stat. Gen., art. 32, §3. Cf. Prima Romana Synodus, 467, §2.
Letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments, n. 7; Canon Law
27. Cf. Stat. Gen., art. 39, §1, 1°.
28. Pius XII, Exhort. Menti Nostrae, AAS 42 (1950)-690-691; cf. Encyc.
Sacra virginitas, AAS 46 (1954)-164, 170, 174, 179, 182.
29. Pius XI, Encyc. Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, AAS 28 (1936)-37;
Stat. Perf., n. 367, p. 508.
30. Cf. Stat. Gen., art. 5l.
31. Pius XII, Exhort. Menti Nostrae, AAS 42 (1950)-673.
32. Leo XIII, Letter Testem benevolentiae, 12 Jan., 1899, in Acta Leonis
XIII, vol. XIX, pp. 15-16.
33. Pius XII, Apost. Const. Sedes Sapientiae, n. 21; cf. also Pius XII,
Alloc. Haud Mediocri, 11 Feb., 1958, to superiors general resident in Rome, AAS
50 (1958)-153 ff. Cf. respectively Canon Law Digest, 4, pp. 175-176; 5, pp. 365
34. Cf. Sacred Congregation for Religious, Letter to the Superiors General
of the Institutes of Perfection on the use of radio and television, 6 August,
1957; Canon Law Digest, 4, pp. 206-209.
35. Cf. Alloc. of Pius XII, Haud Mediocri, as quoted above in note 33;
Alloc. to the Superiors General, 11 Feb., 1958, in AAS 50 (1958)-156; Canon Law
Digest, 5, p. 368.
36. Quotations from John XXIII and Pius XII respectively: John XXIII,
Alloc. to the ecclesiastical students in Rome, AAS 52 (1960)-264; The Pope
Speaks, 6 (1960)-364; Prima Romana Synodus, p. 437; Pius XII, Alloc. to the
Society of Jesus assembled in General Congregation, 10 Sept., 1957, in AAS 49
(1957)-808; The Pope Speaks, 4 (1957-58)-449.
37. Pius XII, Apost. Const. Sedes Sapientiae, n. 23; Canon Law
p. 176; also his Allocution to Superiors General, 11 Feb., 1958, in AAS 50
(1958)-157; Canon Law Digest, 5, p. 370. Cf. Stat. Gen., art. 37; 40, §2, 1°,
38. Cf. can. 973, § 1; Sacred Congregation for Religious, Instruction
Quantum Religiones, 1 Dec., 1931, in AAS 24 (1932)-79; Ench. de Stat. Perf; n.
363, p. 477; Canon Law Digest, 1, pp. 479-80.
39. Cf. can. 973, § 1 and can. 1357, § 2.
40. Cf. Stat. Gen., art 28, § 2, 3°, 9°, 10°, and the Instruction
Quantum Religiones, n. 14, as quoted above in note 38.
41. Cf. Stat. Gen., art. 8, § 1, 2°; Sacred Congregation for Religious,
Instruction Quantum Religiones, n. 15, in AAS 24 (1932)-80; Ench. de Stat. Perf.,
n. 363, p. 478; Canon Law Digest, 1, p. 480.
42. Sacred Congregation for Religious, Instruction Quantum Religiones, n.
16; Canon Law Digest, 1, pp. 480-481.
43. Ibid., n. 17; Canon Law Digest, 1, p. 481.
44. Ibid., n. 20; Canon Law Digest, 1, p. 482.
45. Pius XII, Exhort. Menti Nostrae, AAS 42 (1950)-692. Cf. also the
Instruction Quantum Religiones, n. 10; Canon Law Digest, 1, p. 478.
46. Pius XII, Exhort. Menti Nostrae, AAS 42 (1950)-677.
47. Ibid., p. 692.
48. Pius XII, Alloc. Quamvis Inquieti, 17 Sept., 1946, in AAS 38 (1946)
-383; Ench. de Stat. Perf., n. 385, p. 574.
49. Cf. the Instruction of the Sacred Congregation for Religious on
religious military chaplains, in AAS 47 (1955)-93-97, and the decree on
religious in military service, especially articles IV and V, 30 July, 1957, in
AAS 49 (1957)-871-874. For these documents respectively, see Canon Law Digest,
4, pp. 152-157; 90-93.
50. Cf. Prima Romana Synodus, 87.
51. Sacred Congregation for Religious, Circular Letter of 15 July, 1926;
Canon Law Digest, 3, p. 216.
Bouscaren, T. Lincoln S.J. and James O'Connor, S.J.. The Canon Law Digest, Vol. V (1961),
"Canon 973" [1917 Code
of Canon Law], 452-486.