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Code of Canon Law
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SECTION I: INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE
TITLE I: NORMS COMMON TO ALL INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE (Cann. 573 - 606)
Can.573 §1. The life consecrated through the profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living by
which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God
who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title to His honor, to the building up
of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the
kingdom of God and, having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory.
§2. The Christian faithful freely assume this form of living in institutes of consecrated life canonically erected
by competent authority of the Church. Through vows or other sacred bonds according to the proper laws of the
institutes, they profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience and, through the charity to
which the counsels lead, are joined in a special way to the Church and its mystery.
Can.574 §1. The state of those who profess the evangelical counsels in institutes of this type belongs to the life and
holiness of the Church and must be fostered and promoted by all in the Church.
§2. Certain Christian faithful are specially called by God to this state so that they possess a special gift in the
life of the Church and contribute to its salvific mission, according to the purpose and spirit of the institute.
Can.575 The evangelical counsels, based on the teaching and examples of Christ the Teacher, are a divine gift
which the Church has received from the Lord and preserves always through His grace.
Can.576 It is for the competent authority of the Church to interpret the evangelical counsels, to direct their practice
by laws, and by canonical approbation to establish the stable forms of living deriving from them, and also, for its part,
to take care that the institutes grow and flourish according to the spirit of the founders and sound traditions.
Can.577 In the Church there are a great many institutes of consecrated life which have different gifts according
to the grace which has been given them: they more closely follow Christ who prays, or announces the kingdom of
God, or does good to people, or lives with people in the world, yet who always does the will of the Father.
Can.578 All must observe faithfully the mind and designs of the founders regarding the nature, purpose, spirit, and
character of an institute, which have been sanctioned by competent ecclesiastical authority, and its sound traditions,
all of which constitute the patrimony of the same institute.
Can.579 Diocesan bishops, each in his own territory, can erect institutes of consecrated life by formal decree,
provided that the Apostolic See has been consulted.
Can.580 The aggregation of one institute of consecrated life to another is reserved to the competent authority of
the aggregating institute; the canonical autonomy of the aggregated institute is always to be preserved.
Can.581 To divide an institute into parts, by whatever name they are called, to erect new parts, to join those
erected, or to redefine their boundaries belongs to the competent authority of the institute, according to the norm
of the constitutions.
Can.582 Mergers and unions of institutes of consecrated life are reserved to the Apostolic See only; confederations
and federations are also reserved to it.
Can.583 Changes in institutes of consecrated life affecting those things which had been approved by the Apostolic
See cannot be made without its permission.
Can.584 The suppression of an institute pertains only to the Apostolic See; a decision regarding the temporal goods
of the institute is also reserved to the Apostolic See.
Can.585 It belongs to the competent authority of an institute to suppress its parts.
Can.586 §1. A just autonomy of life, especially of governance, is acknowledged for individual institutes, by which
they possess their own discipline in the Church and are able to preserve their own patrimony intact, as mentioned
in can. 578.
§2. It is for local ordinaries to preserve and safeguard this autonomy.
Can.587 §1. To protect more faithfully the proper vocation and identity of each institute, the fundamental code
or constitutions of every institute must contain, besides those things which are to be observed as stated in can. 578,
fundamental norms regarding governance of the institute, the discipline of members, incorporation and formation
of members, and the proper object of the sacred bonds.
§2. A code of this type is approved by competent authority of the Church and can be changed only with its
§3. In this code spiritual and juridic elements are to be joined together suitably; nevertheless, norms are not
to be multiplied without necessity.
§4. Other norms established by competent authority of an institute are to be collected suitably in other codes
and, moreover, can be reviewed appropriately and adapted according to the needs of places and times.
Can.588 §1. By its very nature, the state of consecrated life is neither clerical nor lay.
§2. That institute is called clerical which, by reason of the purpose or design intended by the founder or by
virtue of legitimate tradition, is under the direction of clerics, assumes the exercise of sacred orders, and is
recognized as such by the authority of the Church.
§3. That institute is called lay which, recognized as such by the authority of the Church, has by virtue of its
nature, character, and purpose a proper function defined by the founder or by legitimate tradition, which does not
include the exercise of sacred orders.
Can.589 An institute of consecrated life is said to be of pontifical right if the Apostolic See has erected it or approved
it through a formal decree. It is said to be of diocesan right, however, if it has been erected by a diocesan bishop but
has not obtained a decree of approval from the Apostolic See.
Can.590 §1. Inasmuch as institutes of consecrated life are dedicated in a special way to the service of God and of
the whole Church, they are subject to the supreme authority of the Church in a special way.
§2. Individual members are also bound to obey the Supreme Pontiff as their highest superior by reason of the
sacred bond of obedience.
Can.591 In order to provide better for the good of institutes and the needs of the apostolate, the Supreme Pontiff,
by reason of his primacy in the universal Church and with a view to common advantage, can exempt institutes of
consecrated life from the governance of local ordinaries and subject them to himself alone or to another
Can.592 §1. In order better to foster the communion of institutes with the Apostolic See, each supreme moderator
is to send a brief report of the state and life of the institute to the Apostolic See, in a manner and at a time
established by the latter.
§2. The moderators of every institute are to promote knowledge of documents of the Holy See which regard
the members entrusted to them and are to take care about their observance.
Can.593 Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 586, institutes of pontifical right are immediately and exclusively
subject to the power of the Apostolic See in regards to internal governance and discipline.
Can.594 Without prejudice to can. 586, an institute of diocesan right remains under the special care of the diocesan
Can.595 §1. It is for the bishop of the principal seat to approve the constitutions and confirm changes legitimately
introduced into them, without prejudice to those things which the Apostolic See has taken in hand, and also to treat
affairs of greater importance affecting the whole institute which exceed the power of internal authority, after he
has consulted the other diocesan bishops, however, if the institute has spread to several dioceses.
§2. A diocesan bishop can grant dispensations from the constitutions in particular cases.
Can.596 §1. Superiors and chapters of institutes possess that power over members which is defined in universal law
and the constitutions.
§2. In clerical religious institutes of pontifical right, however, they also possess ecclesiastical power of
governance for both the external and internal forum.
§3. The prescripts of cann. 131, 133, and 137– 144 apply to the power mentioned in §1.
Can.597 §1. Any Catholic endowed with a right intention who has the qualities required by universal and proper
law and who is not prevented by any impediment can be admitted into an institute of consecrated life.
§2. No one can be admitted without suitable preparation.
Can.598 §1. Each institute, attentive to its own character and purposes, is to define in its constitutions the manner
in which the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience must be observed for its way of living.
§2. Moreover, all members must not only observe the evangelical counsels faithfully and fully but also arrange
their life according to the proper law of the institute and thereby strive for the perfection of their state.
Can.599 The evangelical counsel of chastity assumed for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, which is a sign of the
world to come and a source of more abundant fruitfulness in an undivided heart, entails the obligation of perfect
continence in celibacy.
Can.600 The evangelical counsel of poverty in imitation of Christ who, although he was rich, was made poor for
us, entails, besides a life which is poor in fact and in spirit and is to be led productively in moderation and foreign
to earthly riches, a dependence and limitation in the use and disposition of goods according to the norm of the
proper law of each institute.
Can.601 The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in a spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ
obedient unto death, requires the submission of the will to legitimate superiors, who stand in the place of God, when
they command according to the proper constitutions.
Can.602 The life of brothers or sisters proper to each institute, by which all the members are united together as a
special family in Christ, is to be defined in such a way that it becomes a mutual support for all in fulfilling the
vocation of each. Moreover, by their communion as brothers or sisters rooted and founded in charity, members are
to be an example of universal reconciliation in Christ.
Can.603 §1. In addition to institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by
which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through a stricter
withdrawal from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance.
§2. A hermit is recognized by law as one dedicated to God in consecrated life if he or she publicly professes
in the hands of the diocesan bishop the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond, and
observes a proper program of living under his direction.
Can.604 §1. Similar to these forms of consecrated life is the order of virgins who, expressing the holy resolution of
following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical
rite, are mystically betrothed to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.
§2. In order to observe their own resolution more faithfully and to perform by mutual assistance service to the
Church in harmony with their proper state, virgins can be associated together.
Can.605 The approval of new forms of consecrated life is reserved only to the Apostolic See. Diocesan bishops,
however, are to strive to discern new gifts of consecrated life granted to the Church by the Holy Spirit and are to
assist promoters so that these can express their proposals as well as possible and protect them by appropriate statutes;
the general norms contained in this section are especially to be utilized.
Can.606 Those things which are established for institutes of consecrated life and their members are equally valid
in law for either sex, unless it is otherwise evident from the context of the wording or the nature of the matter.