L’attuale fisionomia canonica dell’esenzione degli Istituti di Vita Consacrata. (storia redazionale del vigente can. 591.),
Antonianum, 81/2 (2006) p. 257-283
Summary: The “exemption” of religious was first instituted in order to protect monasteries from undue interference by the local bishop, especially in economic matters. In the course of time, “exemption” acquired an ever wider application, extending even to the outward apostolate of the exempt religious institutes, to an extent that could on occasion be characterised as improper, or even as an “abuse”. There were authoritative steps taken to correct such undue extensions of “exemption,” which was, however, preserved, and then newly validated by the 1917 Code of Canon Law. The Second Vatican Council also dealt with the apparent tensions between its own high conception of the authority of the Diocesan Bishop – within its own ecclesiology – and the presence in the Church of “exempt” religious. In the end, though not insensible to the claims and possibilities of occasional “abuse,” the Council very clearly chose to maintain “exemption” for the future as well. All of this background received careful attention from the group of experts charged with drafting what were to become the canons on consecrated life of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. This article follows the redactional history of the present canon 591, on “exemption,” for the purpose of establishing the current shape and present purpose of this ancient canonical institution. It will be shown that, while intended to provide for more efficaciously safeguarding the charisms proper to the exempt Institutes, it is also directed to the good of the whole Church, which these Institutes serve - just as it is a necessary consequence and proper expression of the primacy of jurisdiction held by the Roman Pontiff.