The Council of Trent
Twenty Fifth Session, Seventh Decree
ON REGULARS AND NUNS (Cont'd)
If a girl, who is more than twelve years of age, wish to take the Regular Habit, she shall be questioned by the Ordinary, and again before Profession.
The holy Synod, having in view the freedom of the profession on the part of virgins who are to be dedicated to God, ordains and decrees, that if a girl, being more than twelve years of age, desire to take the religious habit, she shall not take that habit, neither shall she, nor any other, at a later period, make her profession, until the bishop,-or, if he be absent, or hindered, his vicar, or some one deputed thereunto by them, and at their expense,-has carefully examined into the inclination of the virgin, whether she has been compelled or enticed thereunto, or knows what she is doing; and if her will be found to be pious and free, and she have the qualifications required by the rule of that convent and order; and if also the convent be a suitable one; it shall be free for her to make her profession. And that the bishop may not be in ignorance as to the time of profession, the Superioress of the convent shall be bound to give him notice thereof a month beforehand ; but if she do not acquaint him therewith, she shall be suspended from her office, for as long a period as the bishop shall think fit.
No one shall, except in the cases by law expressed, compel a woman to enter a Monastery; or prevent her, if she desire to enter. The constitutions of the Penitents, or Convertites, shall all be preserved.
The holy Synod places under anathema all and singular those persons, of what quality or condition soever they may be, whether clerics or laymen, Seculars or Regulars, or with whatsoever dignity invested, who shall, in any way whatever, force any virgin, or widow, or any other woman whatsoever, -except in the cases provided for by law,-to enter a convent against her will, or to take the habit of any religious order, or to make her profession ; as also all those who lend their counsel, aid, or countenance thereunto ; and those also who, knowing that she does not enter into the convent voluntarily, or voluntarily take the habit, or make her profession, shall, in any way, interfere in that act, by their presence, or consent, or authority.
It also subjects to a like anathema those who shall, in any way, without a just cause, hinder the holy wish of virgins, or other women, to take the veil, or make their vows. And all and singular those things which ought to be done before profession, or at the profession itself, shall be observed not only in convents subject to the bishop, but also in all others whatsoever. From the above, however, are excepted those women who are called penitents, or convertites ; in whose regard their constitutions shall be observed.
How to proceed in cases of pretended invalidity of profession.
No Regular soever, who shall pretend that he entered into a religious order through compulsion and fear ; or shall even allege that he made his profession before the proper age; or the like; and would fain lay aside his habit, be the cause what it may; or would even withdraw with his habit without the permission of his superior; shall be listened to, unless it be within five years only from the day of his profession, and not then either, unless he has produced before his own superior, and the Ordinary, the reasons which he alleges. But if, before doing this, he has of his own accord laid aside his habit; he shall in no wise be admitted to allege any cause whatever; but shall be compelled to return to his monastery, and be punished as an apostate; and meanwhile he shall not have the benefit of any privilege of his order.
Also, no Regular shall, by virtue of any manner of faculty, be transferred to an order less rigid; nor shall permission be granted to any Regular to wear in secret the habit of his order.
Superiors of orders not subject to bishops shall visit and correct inferior Monasteries, even though held in commendam.
Abbots, who are heads of orders, and the other Superiors of the aforesaid orders, who are not subject to bishops, but have a lawful jurisdiction over other inferior monasteries, or priories, shall, each in his own place and order, visit officially the said monasteries and priories that are subject to them, even though held in commendam: which, for as much as they are subject to the heads of their own orders, the holy Synod declares that they are not to be included in what has been elsewhere decreed relative to the visitation of monasteries held in commendam ; and those who preside over monasteries of the orders aforesaid shall be bound to receive the above-named visitors, and to execute their orders.
Also, those monasteries themselves which are the heads of orders, shaIl be visited conformably to the constitutions of the holy Apostolic See, and of each several order. And so long as the said commendatary monasteries shall continue, there shall be appointed, by the general Chapters, or by the visitors of the said orders, priors claustral, or sub-prior in those priories that are conventual, who shall exercise spiritual authority, and correction. In all other things the privileges and faculties of the above-named orders, as regards the persons, places, and rights thereof, shall remain firm and inviolate.
Over Monasteries, Religious of that same order shall be appointed.
Whereas very many monasteries, even abbeys, priories, and provostries, have suffered no slight injury, both in spirituals and temporals, through the mal-administration of those to whom they have been entrusted, the holy Synod would fain by every means restore them to a discipline suitable to a monastic life. But the present state of the times is so fraught with hindrances and difficulties that a remedy can neither be applied at once to all, nor common to all places, as It could desire; nevertheless, that It may not omit anything which may in time be used in wholesomely providing against the evils aforesaid, It trusts in the first place, that the most holy Roman Pontiff will, of his piety and prudence, make it his care,-as far as he sees that the times will permit,-that over those monasteries which are at present held in commendam, and which are conventual, there be appointed Regulars, expressly professed of the same order, and capable of guiding and of governing the flock. And as to such as shall become vacant hereafter, they shall be conferred solely on Regulars of distinguished virtue and holiness. But as regards those monasteries which are the heads and chiefs of orders, be the filiations thereof called abbeys or priories, those who hold them at present in commendam shall be bound,-unless provision be made for a Regular successor thereunto,-either to make, within six months, a solemn profession of the religious life which is peculiar to the said orders, or to resign; otherwise the places aforesaid held in commendam shall be accounted ipso jure vacant. But, lest any fraud may be used as regards all and singular the aforesaid matters, the holy Synod ordains, that in the appointments to the said monasteries, the quality of each individual be specifically expressed; and any appointment made otherwise shall be accounted surreptitious, and shall not be rendered valid by any subsequent possession, even though extending over three years.
The Decrees touching the Reformation of Regulars shall be carried into execution at once by all.
The holy Synod enjoins, that all and singular the matters contained in the foregoing decrees be observed in all convents and monasteries, colleges, and houses of all monks and religious whatsoever, as also of all religious virgins and widows soever, even though living under the conduct of the military orders, of the order even (of St. John) of Jerusalem, and by what name soever they may be designated, under whatsoever rule or constitutions they may be, or under the care or government of, or in subjection to, union with, or dependence on, any order whatsoever, whether of mendicants, or not mendicants, or of other Regular monks, or canons of whatsoever kind : any privileges whatsoever of all and each of the above-named, under whatsoever form of words expressed, even those called mare magnum, even those obtained at their foundation, as also any constitutions and rules whatsoever, even though sworn to, and any customs, or prescriptions whatsoever, even though immemorial, to the contrary notwithstanding. But, if there be any Regulars, whether men or women, who are living under stricter rule or statutes, the holy Synod does not intend to withdraw them from their institute and observance, except as to the power of possessing real property in common. And forasmuch as the holy Synod desires that all and singular the things aforesaid be put in execution as soon as possible, It enjoins on all bishops that, in the monasteries which are subject to them, as also in all the rest specially committed to them in the preceding decrees; and on all abbots, and generals, and other Superiors of the above-named orders ; that they forthwith put in execution the matters aforesaid, and if there be anything which is not carried into execution, the provincial Councils shall remedy, and punish the negligence of the bishops ; and that of Regulars, their provincial and general Chapters ; and, in default of general Chapters, the provincial Councils shall, by deputing certain persons belonging to the same order, provide herein.
The holy Synod also exhorts all kings, princes, republics, and magistrates, and by virtue of holy obedience commands them, to vouchsafe to interpose, as often as requested, their help and authority in support of the aforesaid bishops, abbots, generals, and other superiors in the execution of the things comprised above, that so they may, without any hindrance, rightly execute the preceding matters to the praise of Almighty God.