9 U.C.D. L. Rev. 523 (1976)
Catholic Sisters, Irregularly Ordained Women and the Clergy-Penitent Privilege

handle is hein.journals/davlr9 and id is 569 raw text is: Catholic Sisters, Irregularly Ordained
Women And The
Clergy-Penitent Privilege*
I. INTRODUCTION
In the last few years there has been a dramatic expansion of minis-
terial roles within Christian churches. Perhaps one of the most visible
changes has been on the part of Catholic sisters.' Many sisters have
put aside their eighteenth century garb and their protective cloister
to become immersed in ministry to people in various lifestyles. Sis-
ters involved in these new ministries serve many of the same func-
tions as do priests; however, they are not recognized by their church
as members of the clergy.2 On the whole the people whom these
sisters serve do not make the fine ecclesiastical distinctions between
clergy and non-clergy but rather look to the service the sisters per-
form. An individual will often confide in and seek counsel from a
sister when that same individual is reluctant to confide in a priest.
A deep confidential relationship between a sister and an individual
may lead to personal revelations in time of trouble. Should a court
have access to these revelations since a sister is not classified as a
*The author is a member of the Sisters of Social Service, a Roman Catholic
congregation of sisters. As such she has been closely connected with the church
and new forms of pastoral ministry for the past eleven years. Some of the state-
ments in this article are based on her observations during this time.
I Women religious, sisters and nuns all have the same colloquial interpretation.
However, sisters and nuns are actually two types of women religious. CANON
488 N.7 limits the term nun to a religious woman professed of solemn vows
or of simple vows, temporary or perpetual, in a monastery in which solemn vows
are actually or should be taken; and in which at least the minor papal cloister is
observed. In the same canon a religious sister is defined as a religious woman
professed of simple vows, temporary or perpetual, in a religious congregation.
The practical effect ot the two definitions is that nuns are primarily contempla-
tive while religious sisters [hereinafter called sisters] lead an active yet prayerful
life. Ryan, Sisters, Religious, 13 NEW CATHOLIC ENCYC. 261 (1966); Ryan,
Nun, 10 NEW CATHOLIC ENCYC. 575 (1966).
2In the Catholic Church, only those members who have taken a formal, cere-
monial step, called minor orders, in the process of preparation for ordination as
a priest are considered to be members of the clergy. Kelleher, Clerical State
(Canon Law), 3 NEW CATHOLIC ENCYC. 948. Sisters are not in the process of
preparing for ordination and, therefore, are not members of the clergy.
523

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