Because an increasing number of Catholic women apparently want to hitch themselves to Jesus, the Vatican issued fresh instructions earlier this month regarding ‘Brides of Christ’ – and in doing so has shocked the US Association of Consecrated Virgins.
Why? Because the Vatican document – Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago – suggests that literal virginity is not a prerequisite for their consecration.
According to the Guardian, the association of virgins said in a statement that the document is:
Deeply disappointing in its denial of integral virginity as the essential and natural foundation of the vocation. It is shocking to hear from Mother Church that physical virginity may no longer be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity.
The association, which claims that there are 235 consecrated virgins in the US, had just staged the 2018 United States Convocation of Consecrated Virgins. Participants – 28 of them – ranged in age from late 20s to late 70s and represented 16 states and six countries, including Australia, Austria, El Salvador, Germany, Goa, and the US. Four of the women were from Florida, including three from the Archdiocese of Miami.
One of them, Kathleen Danes, who was the first woman to become a consecrated virgin in the archdiocese in 2003, said:
To be a consecrated virgin, you’re going to want to have the best lover you could ever have, and that is the Lord. That’s why we do it, to marry the Lord.
Theresa Jordan, who was consecrated along with two other women in Detroit last June, said:
It’s a promise that we make to be faithful to Christ all our life. [We] make him a promise of our virginity as a gift back to him.
Consecrated virgins are unmarried women who offer their physical virginity as a gift to Christ, and devote time to penance, works of mercy and prayer. Unlike nuns, they do not live in enclosed communities or wear special clothing. Most have jobs, and they provide for their own needs.
The 39-page Vatican document offers detailed guidance on the vocation, including advising up to two years’ preparation before consecration.
It says consecrated virgins:
Are dedicated to the Lord Jesus in virginity … They experience the spiritual fertility of an intimate relationship with him.?
But the clause that has shocked some says actual virginity is not essential for a woman to become a consecrated virgin.
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.
• The photo used to illustrate this report is of Jennifer Lynn Settle, of Pennsylvania, who was declared a consecrated virgin at the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul in 2017 by Archbishop Charles J Chaput.
Hat tip: AgentCormac