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The Catholic Historical Review VOL. LXXXVJANUARY, 1999No. 1 MULIERES RELIGIOSAE, STRICTLY SPEAKING: SOME FOURTEENTH-CENTURY CANONICAL OPINIONS BY Elizabeth Makowski* At the start of the fourteenth century, a religious woman was defined by canon law as one who had not only taken the three vows ofpoverty, chastity, and obedience, but who had also made solemn profession in an already existing religious order.1 Additionally, solemn vows committed the mulier religiosa to strict claustration.2 Community life absent *Dr. Makowski is an associate professor of history in Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos. 'The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) forbade the founding of new religious orders and stated that henceforth anyone who wished to become a religious would have to enter one of the already approved orders: Joannes Dominicus Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova etamplissima collectio (Florence, 1759-1798;rtp.Graz, 196l),XX, 1002;an English facing-text of the council's decree can be found in Norman Tanner (ed.), Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (Washington, D.C., 1990), p. 242. The canons of the Second Council of Lyon (1274) repeated the Lateran ban, adding that any new order which had arisen since 1215,without express papal confirmation,was to be suppressed:Tanner,Decrees,p. 326. This decree was incorporated into the collection of canon law known as the Liber Sextus {VI 3.17.1), published in 1 298, and medieval canonists would cite it from this collection . Pope Boniface VIII subsequently removed any ambiguity about the way in which an approved community could admit new members. The candidate for religious life would not only pronounce the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but also make formal profession. The public act of profession, signified by the assumption of a distinctive habit, was considered the action by which the vows of religion were made solemn: VI 3. 1 5- 1 ; the Latin text can be found in the standard modern edition of the body of medieval canon law: Emil Friedberg (ed.), Corpus iuris canonici (Leipzig, 1879; rpt. Graz, 1959), II, 1053. The 1298 Bonifacian constitution Periculoso {VI 3.16.1; Friedberg, Corpus, II, 10531054 ) stipulated that all professed nuns observe cloister regulations. Claustration rules strictly limit the occasions on which outsiders, even members of the clergy, could enter a 2 MUUERES REUGIOSAE, STRICTLY SPEAKING: SOME FOURTEENTH-CENTURY OPINIONS one or more of these characteristics was regarded as semi- or quasireligious , and while this juridical status did not automatically involve ecclesiastical censure (both Franciscan and Dominican tertiaries flourished with papal approval), it could. This was especially true for semi-religious women who, in the absence of formal religious profession , lived in uncloistered communities—the well-known condemnation of the Béguines at the Council ofVienne being a case in point.3 Despite the threat of inquisitorial investigation, however, quasireligious women's groups continued to thrive. In the Southern Low Countries, the Béguines found local patrons and new, unenclosed, female religious orders emerged; Italianpinzochere and uncloistered penitential groups abounded, and in Germany canonesses maintained their venerable, if irregular, community life.4 And while there are many reasons for quasi-religious resilience, one stands out in sharp relief: Alongwomen 's monastery, and they forbade unauthorized exits, save for emergencies. For a detailed study of this decree see: Elizabeth Makowski, Canon Law and Cloistered Women: Periculoso and its Commentators 1298-1545 (Washington D.C., 1997). Although I disagree with Katherine Gill's statement that"Periculoso did not represent either a dramatic turning point or a culmination in the history of women's religious institutions"—general acceptance of a papal ruling being only one measure of its significance—her observation that the decree might actually have encouraged the spread of semi-religious communities is noteworthy. See Katherine Gill, "Scandala: Controversies Concerning Clausura and Women's Religious Communities in Late Medieval Italy," in Christendom and Its Discontents , edd. Scott Waugh and Peter Diehl (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 177-203.»With the publication of the decree Cum de quibusdam by Pope John XXII in 1317, Béguines, whose semi-religious status defied traditional categorization, found themselves forced for nearly a century to defend against charges of hypocrisy, heresy, or both.The decree was published in the last official decretal collection...


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