Power Play in the Norbertine Order and the Roman Curia: J. Nouwens O.Praem., Cardinal van Rossum, and the modernization of Vatican bureaucracy 1910-1922

Erik Sengers, Vefie Poels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In the first decades of the twentieth century, the Roman curia tried to strengthen its hold on the increasing number of religious. Uniformization and centralization of orders and congregations simplified Roman control. Regulations of the Congregation of Religious (1908) and the Codex Iuris Canonici (1917) helped to reach this goal. At the same time, religious institutes tried to pursue their own
policies. As a matter of fact, the relationship between religious institutes and the
Vatican was not always without strains. As an illustration, in this case study, we focus on the quite mysterious removal from Rome of J. Nouwens O.Praem., the procurator generalis or representative of the Norbertine Order at the Roman curia. Recent investigations in several archives show that the Dutch Cardinal
W.M. van Rossum C.Ss.R., cardinal protector of the Norbertines, was involved in the career of Nouwens. The two men worked close together, until Nouwens was condemned by the Holy Office in January 1920 and was dismissed as procurator. Since Nouwens’s behaviour became a liability to Van Rossum’s position at the Roman curia, the cardinal made every effort to get Nouwens removed from the Norbertine order. At last, in September 1922, Nouwens requested for dispensation of his solemn vows and for dismissal from the priesthood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-216
JournalTrajecta. Religie, cultuur en samenleving in de Nederlanden / Religion, culture and society in the Low Countries
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Cite this