Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Dismissal of a Member of a Religious Institute, 1 October 1994 - 20 January 1995.
This case involves a religious who had been a member of a cloistered community for over forty years. When the community voted to relocate the monastery, the sister in question temporarily moved to another community of the same rule, and later returned to live alone. Sister was repeatedly urged by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life to transfer to another monastery, but Sister chose to live outside of the cloister which she had done since 1989. The major superior with her council formally requested Sister’s dismissal. The local ordinary issued a formal decree of dismissal. The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life then replied with a decree, followed by a variation of the decree. The pertinent correspondence follows.
October 1, 1994
The Local Ordinary
Archdiocese of ____________
Please be informed that the prioress and her council met in collegial fashion to weigh the evidence concerning the dismissal of Sister ____________ from our community. By secret vote we decided unanimously to dismiss Sister for the following reason:
According to canon 696, there was habitual neglect of the obligations of consecrated life in her continued refusal to regularize her situation by insisting on remaining outside and not move into a monastery, thus resulting in unlawful absence extending beyond the time limit allowed.
In the spirit of canon 702 §2, the Community recognizes its responsibility to assure that Sister ____________ does not lack those things which are necessary for her decent support. Should the decree of dismissal be upheld, the Community will fulfill its obligations in light of Sister›s genuine needs.
Respectfully in Our Lord,
The following is the decree of dismissal which was issued by the local Ordinary on October 28, 1994:
DECREEIn a letter dated October 1, 1994, Mother Prioress requested the dismissal of Sister ____________. That letter and the documentation submitted with it indicate that the Council of the Community acted in accord with canons 696; 698; and 699. The required canonical warnings were sent to Sister, who accepted the citations.
In accord with my responsibility under canon 699, §2, I have examined the request of the Council. Having concluded that all is in order, I hereby decree Sister ____________ dismissed from the community.
The reasons for this decree are most serious. Sister has consistently neglected her obligations by insisting on remaining outside and not moving into a monastery, thus resulting in unlawful absence extending beyond the time limit allowed.
In accord with canon 700, this decree will be forwarded to the Holy See for confirmation.
Sister ____________ has the right in accord with canon 700 to lodge recourse against this decree within ten days of notification. Such recourse may be lodged before the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for the Societies of Apostolic Life.
Issued on this 28th day of October, in the year of Our Lord, 1994.
In a decree issued on November 24, 1994, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life confirmed the decree of dismissal of the Ordinary. The religious in question, however, did avail herself of recourse against the decree. This resulted in a slight modification of the original decree. This modification was issued on January 20, 1995, and is an English original:
January 20, 1995
This Congregation wrote to you on November 24, 1994, to confirm the decree of dismissal which you had issued against Sister ____________, a solemnly professed member of ____________.
Sister had recourse against the decree, and after a thorough examination of the case, this Congregation recognizes that Your Eminence was fully justified in going ahead with the dismissal procedures, and in issuing the decree. For this reason, we have decided that the recourse should not be accepted.
Nevertheless, the Congregation has power to vary the decree, and in Sister ____________’s case the Congregation wishes to exercise mercy on account of her advanced age. The Congregation has therefore determined that she is not dismissed from the monastery, but instead she is deprived of the right to live in a monastery of the Order of ____________.
We have written to Sister ____________ and also to the Prioress of ____________ to inform them of this decision, and we have also reminded the Prioress of ____________ that the provisions of canon 702, §§1 and 2 apply in Sister ____________’s case.
With all my best wishes, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Eduardo Cardinal Martinez Somalo
RRAO (1996): 6-8.