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Reviewed by:
  • La Vita Consacrata Nella Chiesa
  • Rose Mcdermott S.S.J.
La Vita Consacrata Nella Chiesa by Velasio De Paolis. Edited, reviewed and amplified under the care of Vincenzo Mosca. Venice: Marcianum Press, 2010.

The text offers a surprise to those canonists familiar with De Paolis' initial commentary on La vita consacrata nella chiesa, (Bologna: Centro Editoriale Dehoniano, 1991).

The current work reflects on the present legislation for life consecrated by the evangelical counsels within the context of post codal papal and dicasterial documents such as Vita consecrata, Potissimum institutioni, Elementi Essenziali, Redemptionis donum, and Il servizio dell' auttorità e l'obbedienza. It is not simply a revision of the former commentary as much as an excellent source of theology on consecrated life made practical through the author's reflection on the norms in Book II, Part III of the Code of Canon Law. With this methodology, De Paolis arrives at a far richer approach to the legislation.

The more than ample work of 771 pages contains: a Foreword on the importance of consecrated life for the third millennium, an Introduction explaining the theological principles on the vocation from Vatican II to the apostolic exhortation of John Paul II, twenty chapters on the norms on consecrated [End Page 289] life in the code, a Conclusion, a detailed Bibliography, and two Indices listing the names of authors and canons cited with appropriate page numbers.

In the Introduction the author explains that conciliar teachings were expounded and explicated in a more profound manner in John Paul II's apostolic exhortation, Vita consecrata. He notes that the conciliar texts raise many issues that demand greater explanation than the conciliar fathers could offer during their limited time frame at the council. The profession of the evangelical counsels has its own special significance in relation to consecration in the sacraments of baptism, crismation and ordination. It involves a transformation of the whole person through a Christ-like witness of life in poverty, chastity and obedience, a more intense imitation of the Son of God. The author raises significant issues which have arisen following the promulgation of the code: 1) the legitimacy of the term consecration used in this way apart from the sacraments; 2) the possibility of married persons as consecrated persons within conjugal life; 3) the place of consecrated life in relation to the hierarchical structure of the Church; 4) consecrated life as a necessary institution; 5) the fact that the laity and clerics in secular institutes retain their status; and 6) the applicability of life consecrated by the evangelical counsels to members of societies of apostolic life without sacred bonds. Having raised the questions, the author addresses them within the twenty chapters in light of conciliar and post conciliar documents and the present legislation.

Chapter one explains the preparatory work that went into the format of this section of the code through reflection on the following of Christ presented in chapter V of Lumen gentium as preparatory to chapter VI on religious and the decree Perfectae caritatis. De Paolis explains the rationale behind the title of this third part of the second book of the code and the four principles that guided the work of the coetus. Chapter two describes this vocation in the Church, a divine gift mediated through the profession of the evangelical counsels in various forms through the centuries. Chapters three and four address public juridic persons, the various forms of consecrated life, the possibilities for new forms, associations joined to them, and the competence of ecclesiastical authorities in fostering and protecting this gift of the Spirit in the Church. Chapter five covers the spiritual patrimony of institutes, their rightful autonomy of life, and an explanation of the power [End Page 290] of governance in clerical institutes of pontifical right and the meaning of "exemption."

Chapter six provides a detailed treatment of the requisite qualities for admission to an institute of consecrated life within the context of Potissimum institutioni. Chapter seven explains the participation of the laity in the charism and mission of an institute of consecrated life and the laity's yearnings for this association today due to the need for prayer and support in light of a...


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