NEWS:  August 10, 2018
donate Books CDs HOME updates search contact

Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães
ORDO VIRGINUM: A TRICKY CHANGEABLE NOTION – In my first article I started to analyze the Vatican document dealing with consecrated virgins called Ecclesiae sponsae imago and released on July 4, 2018, by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life. In it I noted that two concepts are being used as bait to attract these virgins and then make them dependent on Bishops: first, the concept of consecration, already studied, and, second, the notion of Ordo virginum (Order of virgins). Now, let me take a look at this second expression.

Filhas de Maria

The Daughters of Mary, top, & the Marian Congregates, bottom, (c. 1930 , Brazil), made promises of virginity, but enjoyed the liberty of laypeople

The notion of Ordo virginum used in the Vatican document is very elastic. It can be understood in a general way: all the virgins who exist in the world as part of one spiritual family, the order of virgins, just as all the violinists in the world can be said to be part of a generic and non-binding reality: the order of violinists. That is, all violinists share the same profession or hobby – playing the violin – love music and perform their art as a means to express their personality.

So also, all these persons who are virgins – men and women – have the same ideal: They want to follow that evangelical counsel of Our Lord, glorify God and save their souls. To be part of this order no one needs to have the approval of a local Bishop. He or she can make a private promise and go ahead. If one needs the orientation of a confessor, it is fine, provided the confessor is good.

Now, waving this generic, non-binding banner, the Conciliar Church lures virgins with a beautiful ceremony in a church performed by the local Bishop – the already analyzed consecration. But, in order to qualify for the ceremony, the diocesan staff has a list of demands: a long period of preparation, a background check into the past life of the candidate, unreserved acceptance of a progressivist doctrinal agenda, and a commitment to always obey the Bishop and his delegates, and not just in this stage of preparation. After the ceremony, a more rigorous obedience is enforced.

So, the notion of Ordo virginum that started by appearing as nothing more than general guidelines ends by being a strict juridical control over the smallest details. In reality it is a kind of diocesan religious order much more binding than the normal confraternities (brotherhoods) or pious institutions composed of lay persons. Thus, without stating it explicitly, a consecrated virgin is subtly transshipped from her initial intent to be a free laywoman to actually being a religious woman who bears the yoke of many of the commitments of this type of life.

What I want to stress is the almost unconscious aspect of this maneuver.

A woman is fed up with the moral filth of the modern world: Wherever she goes, she is confronted by immorality, pornography and outright sexual aggression. She reacts to this impure world, saying: “I want to remove myself from this filth and remain a virgin. But I want to continue to be a laywoman; I do not want to enter a convent.”

She asks the advice of her confessor, who suggests: “Why don’t you become a consecrated virgin? Others have found themselves in this same situation and this is what they did.” She responds: “Eureka!”

Then, she takes steps to look for groups of consecrated virgins and begins by believing that they enjoy liberty like that of the laywoman. She is totally wrong. She will be submitted to a sort of KGB control, as I shall prove in the next article.

Pious associations

Pious lay brotherhoods practice good customs but are not closely controlled by the Bishops – from the top, the statue-holders of Spain, the devotees of St. Anthony & St. Michael in Brazil

I believe it is dishonest to attract women who do not want to be religious to enter a purposely vague Ordo virginum that ends by being even more coactive than a religious order.

The vague character of the Ordo virginum is the second bait used to attract women into this religious trap.

Having analyzed the two baits – the consecration and the term Ordo virginum – let me list several other points that seemed strange as I read Ecclesiae sponsae imago.

Contradictions

I will focus on some contradictions I found in the document that seemed to undermine the ideal of virginity itself.

My presupposition here is that a woman who decides to remain a virgin is fed up with the immorality of the modern world and does not want to marry.
  • The first blatant contradiction was already noted and protested by the consecrated virgins themselves in different press reports. That is, in one of its passages the document affirms that the condition of being a virgin is no longer required to enter the Ordo virginum. It states:

    In this context it should be kept in mind that the call to give witness to the Church’s virginal, spousal and fruitful love for Christ is not reducible to the symbol of physical integrity. Thus to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practiced the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to the discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.” (n. 88b)

    How can an organization of virgins accept non-virgins and continue to be called an order of virgins? It is a mystery to me. It seems more a means to destroy the order of virgins than anything else.

  • In another passage we find the same tendency of downplaying the need for physical virginity when the document comments on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians:

    “He characterizes it as a state of life that permits greater dedication to the Lord (1 Cor 7:32-35), a witness that Christians do not belong to this world, a sign of the Church straining towards its final goal, and an anticipation of the resurrected state (1 Cor 7:29, 31). The accent is not on the physical state, but on the total dedication of the person to Christ and to service for the Kingdom.” (n. 16a)

  • It also seems contradictory that, for a woman who wants to remove herself from a world infected with immorality and is not interested in marriage, the document demands of her the following:

    The capacity to establish healthy, serene and generous relationships with men and women, together with a correct understanding of the value of marriage and motherhood;” and “the capacity to integrate her sexuality with her personal identity and to direct her affective energies in a way that expresses her own femininity through a chaste life that is open to a wider spiritual fruitfulness.” (n. 87b, c)

    Why should a virgin need to be capable of having relationships with men? This seems to me inconsistent with her primary concern. Why should she be required to have an understanding of marriage and motherhood when she has decided not to be a spouse and mother? Also, why this obsession over “integrating her sexuality” when she has chosen a state of life that is meant to be removed from any sexuality?

    Progressivist Card. Braz de Aviz obliges virgins to accept non-virgins in their group

    These are points that seem incongruous to me with the ideal of virginity. I can well understand that a virgin should be polite and urbane when she needs to deal with men, but to place these particular conditions as requirements for virgins seems unnecessary and contradictory to me.

  • Another point that seems to sabotage the ideal of virginity is to officially state that, humanly speaking, virginity cannot be understood. I disagree with this. Virginity is perfectly understood as a personal decision to remove oneself from the impurity of the century. A person is weary of the world and wants to retreat from it. He becomes a hermit. A virgin is disgusted with the filth of the modern world that threatens her purity, so she takes flight from it and makes a promise or a vow of virginity. Nothing is easier to understand.

    It is so easy that nature itself offers models of this desire for purity, such as the ermine, that small animal with pristine white fur that prefers death to sullying its coat. What is so difficult to understand? Can’t it easily be explained with the logic of reason? Yes, it can. Nonetheless, the Vatican document imagines that virginity can only be understood within the framework of marriage. It affirms:

    “Consecrated virginity is therefore placed in a spousal framework, which is not theogamic (meaning: of marriage with the divinity), but theologal, that is, baptismal, because it concerns the spousal love of Christ for the Church (cf. Eph 5:25-26). It concerns a supernatural salvific reality, not just a human one, that cannot be explained with the logic of reason but with faith, because, as the scriptures call to mind, Your husband is your creator (Is 54:5). This is one of the great works of the new order inaugurated with Christ’s Passover and the outpouring of the Spirit, an experience difficult for carnal humanity to understand and comprehensible only by those who let themselves be taught by the Spirit of God (cf. 1 Cor 2:12-13).” (n. 17b, cf. 21)
I would say that, instead of encouraging the consecrated virgins to naturally grow in their specific vocation, this document seems aimed to complicate their lives by placing contradictory demands on them and sabotaging what is proper to virginity.

In the next article I plan to analyze the despotic system established by this document, entangling the virgins in a type of KGB-controlled system that is the very opposite of an organic life of virtue free from unnecessary curbs and restraints, as was always proper to the lives of the laity.

Continued