54 Jurist 40 (1994)
The Demise of Religious Exemption

handle is hein.journals/juristcu54 and id is 46 raw text is: THE JURIST 54 (1994) 40-55

THE DEMISE OF RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION
JOHN M. HUELS, O.S.M.*
The 1994 Synod of Bishops for the first time is devoting its triennial
plenary meeting to the topic of institutes of consecrated life and soci-
eties of apostolic life. One of the issues that will be discussed is the
relationship between religious and ecclesiastical authority. I Those bish-
ops and religious whose training in canon law antedated the 1983 Code
of Canon Law may unwittingly look back to the old concept of reli-
gious exemption as a way of explaining their canonical relationship
to each other and to the universal Church. That would be a mistake.
Exemption in the new code has been stripped of its former juridical
effects, and it remains now for the most part a mere theoretical possi-
bility rather than the clearly distinctive mark of privilege and special
rights that it had in the previous law. Moreover, any attempt to resur-
rect the notion of exemption would risk evoking its negative connota-
tions, including elitism, competition and inequality among religious
institutes, clericalism, papal triumphalism, and aloofness from the life
of the local church.2
* J.C.D. (Catholic University of America, 1982). Prior Provincial of the Eastern
Province of Servites, Associate Professor of Canon Law at Catholic Theolo ical Union,
Chicago.
This article is a slightly revised version of a paper prepared for the Forum of the
Conference of Major Superiors of Men (C.M.S.M.).
1 See Synododus Episcoporum LX Coetus Generalis Ordinarium, De vita conse-
crata deque eius munere in Ecclesia et in mundo lineamenta (Vatican City: Libreria
Editrice Vaticana, 1992), nn. 34-40. For an English translation, see The Consecrated
Life and its Role in the Church and in the World: Lineamenta for the 1994 Synod of
Bishops, Origins 22/26 (December 10, 1992) 447-449. See also Jan P. Schotte, The
Consecrated Life in Church and World: Toward the Synod, Review for Religious 53
(1994) 29-42, esp. 37.
2 The Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) issued a statement on the
1994 synod that makes a reference to exemption: We look to the Synod to uphold the
'exempt' character of certain religious Orders .... I believe this sentence was ill
conceived. Rather than speaking of the exempt character of certain orders, it would
have been more in keeping with present canon law, and more reflective of the CMSM
membership itself which includes many non-exempt congregations and societies, had

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