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Code of Canon Law
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Can. 573 §1 Life consecrated through profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living, in which the faithful follow Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, and are totally dedicated to God, who is supremely loved. By a new and special title they are dedicated to seek the perfection of charity in the service of God's Kingdom, for the honour of God, the building up of the Church and the salvation of the world. They are a splendid sign in the Church, as they foretell the heavenly glory.
§2 Christ's faithful freely assume this manner of life in institutes of consecrated life which are canonically established by the competent ecclesiastical authority. By vows or by other sacred bonds, in accordance with the laws of their own institutes, they profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. Because of the charity to which these counsels lead, they are linked in a special way to the Church and its mystery.
Can. 574 §1 The state of persons who profess the evangelical counsels in these institutes belongs to the life and holiness of the Church. It is therefore to be fostered and promoted by everyone in the Church.
§2 Some of Christ's faithful are specially called by God to this state, so that they may benefit from a special gift in the life of the Church and contribute to its saving mission according to the purpose and spirit of each institute.
Can. 576 It is the prerogative of the competent authority in the Church to interpret the evangelical counsels, to legislate for their practice and, by canonical approval, to constitute the stable forms of living which arise from them. The same authority has the responsibility to do what is in its power to ensure that institutes grow and flourish according to the spirit of their founders and to their sound traditions.
Can. 577 In the Church there are many institutes of consecrated life, with gifts that differ according to the graces given them: they more closely follow Christ praying, or Christ proclaiming the Kingdom of God, or Christ doing good to people, or Christ in dialogue with the people of this world, but always Christ doing the will of the Father.
Can. 578 The whole patrimony of an institute must be faithfully preserved by all. This patrimony is comprised of the intentions of the founders, of all that the competent ecclesiastical authority has approved concerning the nature, purpose, spirit and character of the institute, and of its sound traditions.
Can. 580 The aggregation of one institute of consecrated life to another is reserved to the competent authority of the aggregating institute, always safeguarding the canonical autonomy of the other institute.
Can. 581 It is for the competent authority of the institute to divide the institute into parts, by whatever name these may be called, to establish new parts, or to unite or otherwise modify those in existence, in accordance with the constitutions.
Can. 586 §1 A true autonomy of life, especially of governance, is recognised for each institute. This autonomy means that each institute has its own discipline in the Church and can preserve whole and entire the patrimony described in can. 578.
Can. 587 §1 To protect more faithfully the vocation and identity of each institute, the fundamental code or constitutions of the institute are to contain, in addition to those elements which are to be preserved in accordance with can. 578, basic norms about the governance of the institute, the discipline of the members, the admission and formation of members, and the proper object of their sacred bonds.
§4 Other norms which are established by the competent authority of the institute are to be properly collected in other codes, but these can be conveniently reviewed and adapted according to the needs of time and place.
§2 A clerical institute is one which, by reason of the end or purpose intended by the founder, or by reason of lawful tradition, is under the governance of clerics, presupposes the exercise of sacred orders, and is recognised as such by ecclesiastical authority.
§3 A lay institute is one which is recognised as such by ecclesiastical authority because, by its nature, character and purpose, its proper role, defined by its founder or by lawful tradition, does not include the exercise of sacred orders.
Can. 589 An institute of consecrated life is of pontifical right if it has been established by the Apostolic See, or approved by it by means of a formal decree. An institute is of diocesan right if it has been established by the diocesan Bishop and has not obtained a decree of approval from the Apostolic See.
Can. 591 The better to ensure the welfare of institutes and the needs of the apostolate, the Supreme Pontiff, by virtue of his primacy in the universal Church, and with a view to the common good, can withdraw institutes of consecrated life from the governance of local Ordinaries and subject them to himself alone, or to some other ecclesiastical authority.
Can. 592 §1 To promote closer union between institutes and the Apostolic See, each supreme Moderator is to send a brief account of the state and life of the institute to the same Apostolic See, in the manner and at the time it lays down.
Can. 595 §1 It is the Bishop of the principal house who approves the constitutions, and confirms any changes lawfully introduced into them, except for those matters which the Apostolic See has taken in hand. He also deals with major affairs which exceed the power of the internal authority of the institute. If the institute had spread to other dioceses, he is in all these matters to consult with the other diocesan Bishops concerned.
Can. 597 §1 Every catholic with a right intention and the qualities required by universal law and the institute's own law, and who is without impediment, may be admitted to an institute of consecrated life.
Can. 598 §1 Each institute, taking account of its own special character and purposes, is to define in its constitutions the manner in which the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience are to be observed in its way of life.
Can. 599 The evangelical counsel of chastity embraced for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, is a sign of the world to come, and a source of greater fruitfulness in an undivided heart. It involves the obligation of perfect continence observed in celibacy.
Can. 600 The evangelical counsel of poverty in imitation of Christ who for our sake was made poor when he was rich, entails a life which is poor in reality and in spirit, sober and industrious, and a stranger to earthly riches. It also involves dependence and limitation in the use and the disposition of goods, in accordance with each institute's own law.
Can. 601 The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in the spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ, who was obedient even unto death, obliges submission of one's will to lawful Superiors, who act in the place of God when they give commands that are in accordance with each institute's own constitutions.
Can. 602 The fraternal life proper to each institute unites all the members into, as it were, a special family in Christ. It is to be so defined that for all it proves of mutual assistance to fulfil their vocation. The fraternal union of the members, rooted and based in charity, is to be an example of universal reconciliation in Christ.
Can. 603 §1 Besides institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognises the life of hermits or anchorites, in which Christ's faithful withdraw further from the world and devote their lives to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through the silence of solitude and through constant prayer and penance.
§2 Hermits are recognised by law as dedicated to God in consecrated life if, in the hands of the diocesan Bishop, they publicly profess, by a vow or some other sacred bond, the three evangelical counsels, and then lead their particular form of life under the guidance of the diocesan Bishop .
Can. 604 §1 The order of virgins is also to be added to these forms of consecrated life. Through their pledge to follow Christ more closely, virgins are consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan Bishop consecrates them according to the approved liturgical rite.
Can. 605 The approval of new forms of consecrated life is reserved to the Apostolic See. Diocesan Bishops, however, are to endeavour to discern new gifts of consecrated life which the Holy Spirit entrusts to the Church. They are also to assist promotors to express their purposes in the best possible way, and to protect these purposes with suitable statutes, especially by the application of the general norms contained in this part of the Code.
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