Thursday, November 29, 2007

Update on the Carthusian Nun thing

Thank you to all of you who left comments under that post, I am deeply grateful. I received an e-mail from a friend on the issue and as well as forwarding it to my friend in Oxford I would like to copy and paste it here.

It seems that the ceremony for establishing "deaconesses" was in many ways similar to the ordination of deacons. According to the 19th canon of the First Council of Nicaea says that they did not receive the imposition of hands and are therefore to be considered laity, albeit that they were sometimes numbered among the clergy. On the other hand, .there was some form of laying on of hands in at least some cases - the 4th century Apostolic Constitutions include a laying on of hands for establishing deaconesses. Of course, laying on hands does not imply the conferral of the sacrament of orders: all manner of liturgical actions include the laying on of hands (including simple blessings). On the whole subject of deaconesses, Aime George Martimort's book is useful.

Anyway, it is noted in the 1917 Catholic encyclopedia that "[t]he only surviving relic of the ordination of deaconesses in the West seems to be the delivery by the bishop of a stole and maniple to Carthusian nuns in the ceremony of their profession." More detail is found in the article on the Carthusian Order:

"The Carthusian nuns have retained the privilege of the consecration of virgins, which they have inherited from the nuns of Prébayon. The consecration, which is given four years after the vows are taken, can only be conferred by the diocesan. The rite differs but slightly from that given in the Pontifical. The nun is invested with a crown, ring, stole and maniple, the last being worn on the right arm. These ornaments the nun only wears again on the day of her monastic jubilee, and after her death on her bier. It is a consecrated nun who sings the Epistle at the conventual Mass, though without wearing the manible. At Matins, if no priest be present, a nun assumes the stole and reads the Gospel. There are also lay sisters, Données, and Saeurs Touricres. Famous among Carthusian nuns have been St. Roseline of Villeneuve and Bl. Beatrix of Ornacieus."

Note that, in this description, they do not customarily vest as deacons and, while they do certain things usually reserved to deacons, they do not do anything that requires the power of orders. They also do not sing the Gospel at Mass.

I have no idea whether these privileges remain in force following the reforms of the 1960s and 1970s. It is entirely possible that they do. Even back in 1917, the writers of the Catholic Encyclopedia could note that these nuns "have never been numerous", I doubt that there are many today.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Very interesting; thank you, so much for this. Fascinating, but like you say, maybe not very useful anymore... :-(

berenike said...

Yes, they do still retain the privileges - though no more maniple :-(

E.g. reading Gospel at Mandatum (which is in chapter, not during Mass)

There are perhaps not many (75 or so, five houses, and a foundation in Korea), but they are unpretentious and very observant. Plug them everywhere you can.