Ad Universalis Ecclesiae
A papal constitution dealing with the conditions for admission to religious orders issued by Pius IX, 7 February, 1862
Ad Universalis Ecclesiae, a papal constitution dealing with the conditions for admission to religious orders of men in which solemn vows are prescribed. It was issued by Pius IX, February 7, 1862. This Pope had issued from time to time various decrees: v.g. “Romani Pontifices” (January 25, 1848), “Regulari Disciplinae” (for Italy and adjacent isles, January 25, 1848), and “Neminem Latet” (March 19, 1857). These three decrees found their completion and perfection in the constitution, “Ad Universalis Ecclesiae”. It marks a distinct departure from the Tridentine law, both as to the necessary age and other requirements for admission of men to solemn vows in orders, congregations, and institutes, old and new, in which solemn vows are prescribed. The immediate occasion of its promulgation was the settlement, once and forever, of doubts which had arisen and been presented to the Holy See about the validity of solemn vows made without due observance of the decree, “Neminem Latet”, i.e. without the three years’ profession of simple vows. It gives the reason of the “Neminem Latet” regulation, which was to safeguard the religious orders, congregations, and institutes from losing their genuine spirit and former excellence by hastily and imprudently admitting youths having no true vocation or of whose lives, morals, bodily and mental endowments, no proper investigation had been made and no testimonial to the aforesaid had been requested of, or received from, the bishop of their native place, or of the places where they had sojourned for the year immediately preceding their admission to the house of postulants. This the “Neminem Latet” accomplished by decreeing that novices after the completion of their probation and novitiate and, if clerics, of the sixteenth year of their age (prescribed by the Council of Trent), or of a more advanced age, if the rule of their order approved by the Holy See required it, if lay brothers, the age fixed by Pope Clement VIII (in Suprema), should make profession of simple vows for the term of three full years; and after the completion of said term, to be computed from day of profession to the last hour of the third year, if found worthy, they were to be admitted to solemn profession, unless their superiors, for just and reasonable cause, postponed the solemn profession; such postponement being prohibited beyond the twenty-fifth year of age, except in the orders and countries where a longer term of simple profession was conceded by special indult of the Holy See. The Pope says that, nevertheless, novices had been admitted to solemn profession without the three years’ simple vows, thereby giving great cause for doubt concerning the validity of said solemn profession; and a decision upon that matter was requested from the Holy See. As the “Neminem Latet” said not a word about the nullity of solemn profession made in opposition to its regulation, the solemn profession made without the prescribed three years of simple vows was valid, though illicit. This was decided later (S. Congo on State of Regulars, August 16, 1866).
“We, therefore,” declares Pius IX in this constitution, “in a matter of such great importance, desiring to remove all occasion of future doubt, of Our own motion and certain knowledge, and in the plenitude of Our Apostolic power as regards the religious communities of men of whatever order, congregation, or institution in which solemn vows are made, do determine and decree to be null and void and of no value the profession of solemn vows, knowingly, or ignorantly, in any manner, color or pretext, made by novices or lay brothers, who, although they had completed the Tridentine probation and novitiate, had not previously made profession of simple vows and remained in that profession for the entire three years, even though the superiors, or they, or both respectively, had the intention of admitting to, or making, solemn vows, and had used all the ceremonies prescribed for solemn profession.”
Women were not included in this law. They, unless where special indults were granted, as in Austria (Bizzarri, 158); and Bavaria (Bizzarri, 463), followed the Tridentine regulation until Leo XIII (May 3, 1902, Decretum II Perpensis”, S. C. Epp. et Regul.) enjoined on them the same profession of simple vows for three years prior to the solemn profession, under penalty of nullity.
P. M. J. ROCK