The Council of Trent
Twenty Fifth Session, Seventh Decree
ON REGULARS AND NUNS
The same sacred and holy Synod, prosecuting the subject of reformation, has thought fit that the things following be ordained.
All ReguIars shall order their lives in accordance with what is prescribed by the rule which they have professed; Superiors shall sedulously provide that this be done.
Forasmuch as the holy Synod is not ignorant how much splendour and utility accrue to the Church of God, from monasteries piously instituted and rightly administered; It has,-to the end that the ancient and regular discipline may be the more easily and promptly restored, where it has fallen away, and may be the more firmly maintained, where it has been preserved,-thought it necessary to enjoin, as by this decree It doth enjoin, that all Regulars, as well men, as women, shall order and regulate their lives in accordance with the requirements of the rule which they have professed; and above all that they shall faithfully observe whatsoever belongs to the perfection of their profession, such as the vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, as also all other vows and precepts that may be peculiar to any rule or order, respectively appertaining to the essential character of each, and which regard the observance of a common mode of living, food, and dress. And all care and diligence shall be used by the Superiors, both in the general and in the provincial Chapters, and in their visitations, which they shall not omit to make in their proper seasons, that these things be not departed from; it being certain, that those things which belong to the substance of a regular life cannot be by them relaxed. For if those things which are the basis and the foundation of all regular discipline be not strictly preserved, the whole edifice must needs fall.
Property is wholly prohibited to Regulars.
For no Regular, therefore, whether man, or woman, shall it be lawful to possess, or hold as his own, or even in the name of the convent, any property moveable or immoveable, of what nature soever it may be, or in what way soever acquired; but the same shall be immediately delivered up to the Superior, and be incorporated with the convent. Nor shall it henceforth be lawful for Superiors to allow any real property to any Regular, not even by way of having the interest, or the use, the administration thereof, or in commendam. But the administration of the property of monasteries, or of convents, shall belong to the officers thereof only, removable at the will of their Superiors.
The Superiors shall allow the use of moveables, in such manner as that the furniture of their body shall be suitable to the state of poverty which they have professed; and there shall be nothing therein superfluous, but at the same time nothing shall be refused which is necessary for them. But should any one be discovered, or be proved, to possess anything in any other manner, he shall be deprived during two years of his active and passive voice, and also be punished in accordance with the constitutions of his own rule and order.
All Monasteries save those herein excepted, shall be able to possess real property: the number of persons therein to be determined by the amount of Income, or of Alms. No Monasteries, to be erected without the Bishop's leave.
The holy Synod permits that henceforth real property may be possessed by all monasteries and houses, both of men and women, and of mendicants, even by those who were forbidden by their constitutions to possess it, or who had not received permission to that effect by apostolic privilege,-with the exception, however, of the houses of the brethren of St. Francis (called) Capuchins, and those called Minor Observants: and if any of the aforesaid places, to which it has been granted by apostolic authority to possess such property, have been stripped thereof, It ordains that the same shall be wholly restored unto them. But, in the aforesaid monasteries amid houses, as well of men as of women, whether they possess, or do not possess, real property, such a number of inmates only shall be fixed upon and be for the future retained, as can be conveniently supported, either out of the proper revenues of those monasteries, or out of the customary alms; nor shall any such places be henceforth erected, without the permission of the bishop, in whose diocese they are to be erected, being first obtained.
A Regular shall not, without the permission of his Superior, either place himself at the service of another, or retire from his Monastery: when sent to a University for study he shall reside in a Monastery.
The holy Synod forbids, that any Regular, under the pretext of preaching, or lecturing, or of any other pious work, place himself at the service of any prelate, prince, university, community, or of any other person, or place, whatsoever, without permission from his own Superior; nor shall any privilege or faculty, obtained from others in regard hereof avail him anything. But should any one act contrary hereto, he shall be punished as disobedient, at the discretion of his Superior. Nor shall it be lawful for Regulars to withdraw from their own convents, even under the pretext of repairing to their own Superiors; unless they have been sent, or summoned, by them. And whoever shall be found to be without the order aforesaid in writing, shall be punished as a deserter from his Institute by the Ordinaries of the places. As to those who are sent to the universities for the sake of their studies, they shall dwell in convents only; otherwise they shall be proceeded against by the Ordinaries.
Provision is made for the enclosure and safety of Nuns.
The holy Synod, renewing the constitution of Boniface VIII., which begins Periculoso, enjoins on all bishops, by the judgment of God to which It appeals, and under pain of eternal malediction, that, by their ordinary authority, in all monasteries subject to them, and in others, by the authority of the Apostolic See, they make it their especial care, that the enclosure of nuns be carefully restored, wheresoever it has been violated, and that it be preserved, wheresoever it has not been violated; repressing, by ecclesiastical censures and other penalties, without regarding any appeal whatsoever, the disobedient and gainsayers, and calling in for this end, if need be, the aid of the Secular arm. The holy Synod exhorts Christian princes to furnish this aid, and enjoins, under pain of excommunication, to be ipso facto incurred, that it be rendered by all civil magistrates. But for no nun, after her profession, shall it be lawful to go out of her convent, even for a brief period, under any pretext whatever, except for some lawful cause, which is to be approved of by the bishop; any indults and privileges whatsoever notwithstanding.
And it shall not be lawful for any one, of whatsoever birth, or condition, sex, or age, to enter within the enclosure of a nunnery, without the permission of the bishop, or of the Superior, obtained in writing, under the pain of excommunication to be ipso facto incurred. But the bishop, or the Superior ought to grant this permission in necessary cases only; nor shall any other person be able by any means to grant it, even by virtue of any faculty, or indult, already granted, or that may hereafter be granted. And forasmuch as those convents of nuns which are established outside the walls of a city or town, are exposed, often without any protection, to the robberies and other crimes of wicked men, the bishops and other Superiors shall, if they think it expedient, make it their care that the nuns be removed from those places to new or old convents within cities or populous towns, calling in even, if need be, the aid of the Secular arm. As to those who hinder them or disobey, they shall by ecclesiastical censures compel them to submit.
Manner of choosing Regular Superiors.
In order that everything may be conducted uprightly and without fraud, in the election of all manner of superiors, temporary abbots, and other officers, and generals, and abbesses, and other superioresses, the holy Synod above all things strictly enjoins, that all the aforesaid ought to be chosen by secret voting, in such wise as that the names of the respective voters shall never be made known. Neither shall it, for the future, be lawful to appoint provincials, abbots, priors, or any other titularies whatsoever, for the purposes of an election that is to take place; nor to supply the place of the voices and suffrages of those who are absent. But should any one be elected contrary to the appointment of this decree, such election shall be invalid; and he who shall have allowed himself, for this object, to be created provincial, abbot, or prior, shall be from that time forth incapable of holding any offices whatsoever in that order; and any faculties that have been granted in this matter shall be looked upon as hereby abrogated; and should any others be granted for the time to come, they shall be regarded as surreptitious.
In what way, and what manner of, persons are to be chosen as Abbesses, or Superioresses by whatsoever other name; no one shall be appointed over two Nunneries.
No one shall be elected as abbess, or prioress,-or by whatsoever other name she who is appointed and placed over the rest, may be called,-who is less than forty years of age, and who has not passed eight of those years in a praiseworthy manner, after having made her profession. But should no one be found in the same convent with these qualifications, one may be elected out of another convent of the same order. But if the superior who presides over the election shall deem even this an inconvenience; with the consent of the bishop, or other superior, there may be one chosen from amongst those, in the same convent, who are beyond their thirtieth year, and who have, since their profession, passed at least five of those years in an upright manner. But no individual shall be set over two convents; and if any one is, in any way, in possession of two or more, she shall, retaining one, be compelled to resign the rest, within six months: but after that period, if she have not resigned, they shall be all ipso jure vacant. And he who presides at the election, whether it be the bishop, or other superior, shall not enter the enclosure of the monastery, but shall listen to, or receive the votes of each, at the little window in the gates. In other particulars, the constitution of each order, or convent, shall be observed.
In what manner the regulation of Monasteries, which have not ordinary Regular visitors, is to be proceeded with.
All monasteries which are not subject to general Chapters, or to bishops, and which have not their own ordinary Regular visitors, but have been accustomed to be governed under the immediate protection and direction of the Apostolic See, shall be bound, within a year from the end of the present Council, and thenceforth every third year, to form themselves into congregations, according to the form of the constitution of Innocent III., beginning In singulis, published in a general Council; and shall there depute certain Regulars to deliberate and ordain as to the mode and order of establishing the congregations aforesaid, and touching the statutes to be therein observed. But should they be negligent in these matters, it shall be lawful for the metropolitan, in whose province the aforesaid monasteries are situated, to convoke them for the above named purposes, as the delegate of the Apostolic See. But if there be not a sufficient number of monasteries, within the limits of one province, for the establishing of such congregation, the monasteries of two or three provinces may form one congregation. And when the said congregations have been established, the general Chapters thereof, and the presidents and visitors elected thereby, shall have the same authority over the monasteries of their own congregation, and over the Regulars dwelling therein, as other presidents and visitors have in other orders; and they shall be bound to visit frequently the monasteries of their own congregation, and to apply themselves to the reformation thereof; and to observe whatsoever things have been decreed in the sacred canons, and in this sacred Council. Also, if, at the instance of the metropolitan, they shall not take measures to execute the above, they shall be subjected to the bishops, in whose dioceses the places aforesaid are situated, as the delegates of the Apostolic See.
Convents of Nuns immediately subject to the Apostolic See shall be governed by the Bishops; but others, by those deputed in the General Chapters, or by other Regulars.
Those convents of nuns which are immediately subject to the Apostolic See, even those which are called by the name of Chapters of St. Peter, or of St. John, or by whatsoever other name they may be designated, shall be governed by the bishops, as the delegates of the Apostolic See; anything to the contrary notwithstanding. But those which are governed, by persons deputed in general Chapters, or by other Regulars, shall be left under their care and conduct.
Nuns shall confess and communicate once a month; an extraordinary Confessor shall be assigned them by the Bishop. The Eucharist shall not be reserved within the enclosure of the Convent.
Bishops and other Superiors of convents of nuns, shall take particular care that the nuns be admonished, in their constitutions, to confess their sins, and to receive the most holy Eucharist, at least once a month, that so they may fortify themselves, by that salutary safeguard, resolutely to overcome all the assaults of the devil. But besides the ordinary confessor, the bishop and other superiors shall, twice or thrice a year, offer them an extraordinary one, whose duty it shall be to hear the confessions of all the nuns. But that the most holy body of Christ be kept within the choir, or the enclosure of the convent, and not in the public church, the holy Synod forbids it; any privilege or indult whatsoever notwithstanding.
In Monasteries, which are charged with the cure of the souls of laymen, they who exercise that cure shall be subject to the Bishop, and be by him previously examined, with certain exceptions.
In monasteries, or houses whether of men, or of women, which are charged with the cure of souls of other Secular persons besides those who belong to the household of those monasteries, or places; the individuals, whether Regulars or Seculars, who exercise that cure, shall be immediately subject, in whatsoever pertains to the said cure and the administration of the sacraments, to the jurisdiction, visitation, and correction of the bishop in whose diocese those places are situated; nor shall any, not even such as are removable at pleasure, be deputed thereunto, save with the consent of the said bishop, and after having been previously examined by him, or by his vicar; the monastery of Cluny with its limits being excepted; and excepting also monasteries, or places, in which abbots, generals, or the heads of orders, have their usual principal residence; as also the other monasteries, or houses, in which the abbots, or other Superiors or Regulars, exercise episcopal and temporary jurisdiction over the parish priests and their parishioners; saving, however, the right of those bishops who exercise a greater jurisdiction over the places, or persons above-named.
Episcopal censures, and festivals appointed in the diocese, shall be observed even by Regulars.
Censures and interdicts,-not only those emanating from the Apostolic See, but also those promulgated by the Ordinaries,-shall, upon the bishop's mandate, be published and observed by Regulars in their churches. The festival days also which the said bishop shall order to be observed in his own diocese, shall be kept by all exempted persons, even though Regulars.
The Bishop shall settle disputes about precedency. Exempted persons, not living in the more strict enclosures, are obliged to attend at public Processions.
All disputes about precedence, which very often, with very great scandal, arise between ecclesiastics, both Secular and Regular, as well at public processions, as at those which take place in burying the dead, or carrying the canopy, and on other such occasions, the bishop shall settle, without regarding any appeal; anything to the contrary notwithstanding. And all exempted persons whatsoever, as well Secular as Regular clerics, and even monks, on being summoned to public processions, shall be obliged to attend; those only being excepted who always live in more strict enclosure.
By whom punishment is to be inflicted on a Regular who sins publicly.
A Regular who, not being subject to the bishop, and residing within the enclosure of a monastery, has out of that enclosure, transgressed so notoriously as to be a scandal to the people, shall, at the instance of the bishop, be severely punished by his own Superior, within such time as the bishop shall appoint; and the Superior shall certify to the bishop that the punishment has been inflicted: otherwise he shall be himself deprived of his office by his own Superior, and the delinquent may be punished by the bishop.
Profession shall not be made except after a year 's probation, and at the age of sixteen years completed.
In no religious order whatever, shall the profession, whether of men or women, be made before the age of sixteen years is completed; nor shall any one be admitted to profession, who has been less than a year under probation from the time of taking the habit. And any profession made sooner than this shall be null; and shall not superinduce any obligation to the observance of any rule, or of any religious body, or order; or entail any other effects whatsoever.
Any renunciation made, or obligation entered into, previous to the two months' nearest Profession, shall be null. The probation ended, the Novices shall either be professed, or dismissed. In the Religious order of Clerks of the Society of Jesus nothing is innovated. No part of the property of a Novice shall be given to a Monastery before Profession.
Further, no renunciation made, or obligation entered into, sooner than this, even though upon oath, or in favour of any pious object whatsoever, shall be valid, unless it be made with permission of the bishop, or of his vicar, within the two months immediately preceding profession; and it shall not otherwise be understood as obtaining effect, unless the profession have followed thereupon: but if made in any other manner, even though with the express renunciation, even upon oath, of this privilege, it shall be invalid and of no effect. When the period of the noviciate is ended, the Superiors shall admit those novices, whom they have found qualified, to profession; or they shall dismiss them from the monastery.
By these things, however, the Synod does not intend to make any innovation, or prohibition, so as to hinder the Religious Order of Clerks of the Society of Jesus from being able to serve God and His church, in accordance with their pious institute, approved of by the holy Apostolic See.
Also, before the profession of a novice, whether male, or female, nothing shall be given to the monastery out of the property of the same, either by parents, relatives, or guardians under any pretext whatever, except for food and clothing, for the time that they are under probation; lest the said novice may be unable to leave on this account,-that the monastery is in possession of the whole, or of the greater part of his substance; and he may not easily be able to recover it, if he should leave. Yea rather the holy Synod enjoins, under the pain of anathema on the givers and receivers, that this be nowise done; and that, to those who leave before their profession, every thing that was theirs be restored to them. And the bishop shall, if need be, enforce by ecclesiastical censures that this be performed in a proper manner.