The destruction of female Monasteries

A literal or metaphrase (word-for-word) translation by a Hermit of Saint Bruno of the article “La distruzione dei Monasteri femminili” by Veronica Rasponi of Corrispondenza Romana.


monache di clausura
The Clarisse of Terni behind their enclosure.

(by Veronica Rasponi) The destruction of the female Monasteries is under way. Ever since the constitution on the contemplative life Vultum Dei quaerere appeared on 29 June 2016, The Corrispondenza Romana has denounced the program of the “sovietisation” of the Monasteries.

Now a further step have been taken by the Cor Orans instruction on the contemplative life of women, on April 1, 2018, which constitutes an application of the previous document. Few, with the exception of Vatican expert Aldo Maria Valli, who has dedicated three articles to this topic on his blog, have been aware of the gravity of the danger.

It should be remembered that the Church has always encouraged the contemplative life of religious men and women. The separation from the world of religious life constitutes a state of perfect life and is necessary for the Mystical Body of Christ as a manifestation of one’s holiness and as a permanent source of grace.

One of the main characteristics of the monastic communities was their legal configuration. According to the Church’s tradition, female monasteries are sui juris, i.e., autonomous and independent houses in relation to their internal regime.

The only form of dependency that they have is that from the bishop or, in some cases, from the superior of the male branch of the same order. This configuration reflects the proprium of each monastery, which is the separation from profane society. Monaco (monk) means “only”: solitude, and prayer are the pillars on which every monastery lives.

However, the enclosure regime means a separation from the world, not from the society that the nuns support with their prayer and penance. Thus Pius XII in the encyclical Sacra Virginitas of March 25, 1954, explains that the renunciation of the world of nuns, protected by enclosure, is not equivalent to social desertion, but rather allows a wider service given to the Church and society.

The same Pius XII, with the Apostolic Constitution Sponsa Christi of 21 November 1950, foresaw the birth of federations of monasteries, as an instrument to help the life of some monastic communities which, following the war, had found themselves isolated and in material difficulties. The experience did not turn out to be happy and would have suggested the abandonment of these structures, which instead under the pontificate of Pope Francis have multiplied, affecting a mortal blow to the female monasteries.

The new discipline envisaged by Cor Orans wants to suppress any form of legal autonomy, to create macro-communities presented as “structures of communion”. A series of bureaucratic and cumbersome organizations are born, which the Pontifical Instruction punctiliously lists.

We have the Federation of monasteries, because “in the sharing of the same charism the federated monasteries overcome isolation and promote regular observance and contemplative life” (n.7); the Association of monasteries, because “in sharing the same charism, the associated monasteries collaborate with each other” (No. 8); the Conference of monasteries, “in order to promote contemplative life and to foster collaboration among monasteries in particular geographical or linguistic contexts” (No. 9): the Confederation, as a “connecting structure between federations of monasteries for the study of topics related to the contemplative life in relation to the same charism, to give a unitary direction and a certain coordination to the activity of the single Federations »(n.10); the International Commission, as a “centralized body of service and study for the benefit of the nuns of the same Institute, for the study of themes relating to the contemplative life in relation to the same charism” (No. 11). Finally, we have the monastic Congregation, which is a “structure of government among several autonomous monasteries of the same Institute, under the authority of a President who is Superior Superior and of a general chapter which is the highest authority in the monastic Congregation” (No. 12). Missing only the Federal Assembly. Recites n. 133: “The communion that exists between the monasteries becomes visible in the Federal Assembly, a sign of unity in charity that has the primary task of protecting the charismatic patrimony of the Institute among the federated monasteries and promoting an adequate renewal that harmonizes with it. except that no Federation of monasteries of nuns or Confederation of federations represents the entire Institute “.

Membership of these bureaucratic bodies is mandatory. In the final provisions of Cor Orans it is specified that “what is laid down in the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei quaerere for all the monasteries about the obligation to enter a Federation of monasteries also applies to another structure of communion such as the Association of monasteries or the Conference of monasteries”.

With the obligation of having to belong to these structures the monasteries lose, de facto even if not de iure, their autonomy to flow into an anonymous mass of macro-communities within which they organise training courses, debates, refresher meetings, moments of comparison that will see the nuns enter and leave the monasteries to live in a situation of perennial psychological and material instability.

Each community is called to develop a systematic and integral permanent formation program that embraces the whole person’s existence. The sisters need this “ongoing formation” to cultivate “the spiritual, doctrinal and professional capacity, the updating and maturation of the contemplative, so that it can carry out its service to the monastery, to the Church and to the world in an increasingly adequate manner.” (No. 236).

Every nun “is encouraged to take responsibility for her own human, Christian and charismatic growth, through the project of personal life, dialogue with the sisters of the monastic community and in particular with her major Superior” (No. 237).

The responsibility of formation belongs to the Major Superior, “who promotes the ongoing formation of the community through the Conventual Chapter, the days of retreat, the annual spiritual exercises, the sharing of the word of God, periodic revisions of life, recreations in common, days of study, personal dialogue with the sisters, fraternal meetings” (No. 238).

In order to guarantee this formation, the same papal enclosure is in fact abolished, because it also gives permission to enter the monastery to those whose skills are necessary for formation (No. 203), or to create chaos within the community.

The key words are “overcoming isolation” (n.7), “dynamic fidelity to one’s own charism” (n.70), the “undeniable value of communion” (n.86). Where these elements are missing, the monasteries can be suppressed. In those who survive, the atmosphere of peace, recollection and order that has reigned there has to be destroyed. Those who live in monasteries and those who aspire to enter it you have been warned.

At one time the nuns longed for diocesan canonical recognition and then for the pontifical recognition as the supreme guarantee of the stability of their life in common. Today, those who aspire to contemplative life and do not want to lose their vocation will be better oriented towards the establishment of de facto religious associations, independent of ecclesiastical authority, taking care not to ask for that canonical recognition that would mark the end of their spiritual life. (Veronica Rasponi)


Historically the Vatican has already caused its own version of the protestant led dissolution of monasteries.  The Sisters of Auerbach in Germany, the contemplative sisters of Saint John a French Catholic community founded by Fr Marie-Dominique Philippe at Fribourg in Switzerland, and the 15 dissolved cloisters of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Italy. With a Rescriptum ex Audientia: prior consultation with the Holy See for the erection of diocesan institutes, 20.05.2016, which was made public only last May 11th, Pope Francis has revoked the previously sui iuris in church history of the right of a diocesan bishops to recognise a new religious community. The approval of the Holy See was given on June 1. With this Rescript, Francis noted that the establishment of an order by a diocesan bishop without the prior consent of Rome will be considered as null and void. [Editor]