As we've mentioned before, we created this site to give you the information we wish we had before joining the IVE. We want to give you reasons to be skeptical and to get third party advice rather than take the institute at their word.
One reason we feel you should be skeptical is that the congregation, intentionally or through ignorance, repeatedly misrepresents itself and misleads those considering a vocation. Their recent profession of perpetual vows and the accompanying article on their homepage are unfortunate examples of this. (Incidentally, it's also another example of how they don't even follow their own constitutions as we have previously mentioned here and here - but we will cover that further below.)
The IVE Not Telling the Truth About Temporary Vows
In their own article they get wrong just about every fact related to their time under vows. They even had someone professing perpetual vows with less than 4 years under temporary vows - in violation of their own constitution.
In the IVE's own words:
"(On May 8th, 2013) In a Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., nine IVE brothers committed their lives to God – forever! - by their profession of perpetual vows. This profession comes near the conclusion of an eight-year formation process, and as a result, most of the professed will also receive the order of Deacon later this month."
This for the most part is correct. All have had at least 7 years of formation - though not all with the Institute - and will have an additional year of formation beginning next Fall, making 8 years.
"For the nine brothers, this divine union with the Lord was preceded by a seven year engagement, as in the Institute of the Incarnate Word, each religious spends seven years under vows before making their final profession. First vows occur the year after leaving novitiate, typically the first year of Philosophical studies, and are followed by three professions of temporal vows for one year apiece. One, three-year profession is made after this, corresponding to the first year of Theological studies, after which the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience are taken on forever."
This is where typical IVE strangeness begins to insert itself. You only need to read the preceding paragraph with a critical eye to see the error: From novitiate to ordination there are normally eight years of formation. The first year, the novitiate, is not under vows. The last year is under permanent vows. This means that for eight years of formation one can be under temporary vows for no more than six years. Given that first vows are taken in December of the second year and these final vows are in May of the seventh year, the actual calendar time under temporary vows would be five years and six months. Yet for some reason the article highlights twice that they have been under vows for seven years, which is just not the case.
Compounding the error, not all of them have even been under vows for the full 5.5 years. We know that some in that group have been under temporary vows less than four years.
A Pattern of Misrepresenting Themselves to The Public
So here we have in the IVE's own article (which they've put up on the front page of their multiple websites, posted to Facebook, and tweeted) two very pertinent facts that are incorrect and misrepresented.
This isn't a small detail or a formality. Profession of perpetual vows, as the IVE will tell you, is what makes one a religious - and violating those vows without dispensation comes at the pain of mortal sin. As we said, it's not a detail or formality.
Neither are these isolated incidents. IVE publications are full of misrepresentations and incorrect assertions (we will give more examples in the future.) This is another example in a pattern of misrepresenting information to the public (and potential vocations) in order to put the congregation in a more positive light - the corporate/political terms for this behavior would be "PR" and "Spin."
Another Violation of Their Own Constitution
Giving them the benefit of the doubt - which they don't deserve, but for the sake of argument - let's say the article's errors are just an honest mistake. A typo. Is there still harm here? Yes, there is, because their own constitution requires at least 5 years of temporary vows before being able to profess final vows. Yet they had someone professing final vows with less than four years of temporary vows. (Showing again that their constitution is just for show and that IVE leadership certainly doesn't feel bound by their own governing document.)
This is more of the Institute's "bait and switch" approach. They tell people they operate one way, but once you are in, committed, and under vows, you learn they operate differently. It was illegitimate and a violation of their own constitutions and possibly Canon Law for them to ask a seminarian, who is under a temporary vow of obedience and may consider it sinful to reject their order, to enter perpetual vows when he had been under not only less than five years under temporary vows, but even less than the extreme exception of 4 years 9 months - and not only by a few days but by an entire year. (More on this below.)
We also wonder what his expectations were. Did he assume he'd get 5 years of temporary vows? Did he expect another year or two to decide whether he'd give this group a perpetual vow of obedience? How is violating expectations and constitutions acceptable if things like vocation and vows are supposed to be chosen and accepted with complete freedom?
Not Trustworthy Behavior
This is not a small matter. This organization wants you to trust them with your discernment and vocation. They want you to see them as spiritual fathers. Yet they knowingly facilitate these kind of affronts to prudence, ethics, and even their own constitutions again and again.
The best thing you can do for yourself, and for the IVE's good priests and seminarians is to stay away. If you join not only will you fall victim to the same practices, but you will reinforce, encourage, and thereby be complicit with the leadership that keeps these practices in place.
Canon Law and the IVE Constitution on Temporary Vows
Canon Law says (emphasis ours):
"Temporary profession is to be made for the period defined by the institute's own law. This period may not be less than three years nor longer than six years… If it seems opportune, the period of temporary profession can be extended by the competent Superior in accordance with the institute's own law. The total time during which the member is bound by temporary vows may not, however, extend beyond nine years…. Perpetual profession can for a just reason be anticipated, but not by more than three months."
To summarize, the Institute should define the time for temporary vows. It should be at least three, but not more than six years. The time can be extended up to 9 years if it's prudent and consistent with the Institutes law, but can only be shortened by 3 months in special circumstances.
So how does the Institute of the Incarnate Word define its time for temporary vows? Paragraph 256 of it's own constitution says five years, with an extra year if needed (emphasis ours):
256 After five years of temporary profession, the religious will make the perpetual profession with the admission of the Provincial Superior and the deliberative vote of his Council. If there are doubts about the suitability, or the candidate himself asks for it, there can be an additional waiting time of one year, with temporal vows, during which the final decision is definitively made. At the end of this one- year period, the candidate will be admitted to the perpetual profession or dismissed.
While this contradicts their web article, it is in line with the 5 years 6 months we calculated to be their normal time under vows, above.
It's also something that the institute has stuck with in the past. There were at times members who joined the IVE after time in formation elsewhere (for example, they may have studied all their philosophy and some theology at a different seminary.) They then finished their formation with the IVE and were ready for ordination before they had five years under temporary vows. In these cases, the IVE stuck by their five year rule and ordained them under temporary vows. They then professed perpetual vows only after they finished their five years of temporary vows.
Even if the institute had special circumstances to shorten the vow period by the three-months allowed by Canon Law this would only allow one to be admitted to perpetual vows at 4 years and nine months. They just had a seminarian profess with less 4 years under temporary vows, violating their own constitution yet again - and, although we aren't Canon Lawyers, they don't seem to be in line with Canon Law either.