Religious orders are essential to the life of the Church. While such orders have no independent life of their own, they are necessary organs within the organism of the Church. This is the case both with regard to historic orders (Augustinians, Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, Salesians) and with regard to recent separated religious orders, for example the Free Methodists (FM) or the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA). While the separation reduces the vitality and confuses the organic connection with the Church, such ecclesial groups are still best viewed as religious orders, albeit separated. My only reason for singling out AMiA and FM is these are two orders to which I have a certain tenuous connection and I don’t mean to imply that they would appreciate being considered religious orders within the Catholic Church nor, for that matter, would many in the Catholic Church consider them to be religious orders at all. Nevertheless, I maintain this is a productive ecclesiological viewpoint.
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