The Vatican just announced the papal conclave will convene Tuesday afternoon, March 12. The last cardinal arrived very recently, allowing for four to five days of prayer and group discussions between the participants prior to the actual balloting.
The cardinals will discuss the role of priests in the Church and specific candidates for the papacy who exemplify that role. Many religious orders in the Church traditionally have required their initiates to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The vows and what they impose are ordered by the religious orders (or institutes), and are approved by the Vatican. A vow of poverty usually requires the initiate to forswear all but the most basic personal possessions and lead a simple life. The vows vary from order to order, and parish priests are usually exempted from a strict vow of poverty, but are encouraged to lead a simple existence, so as not to interfere with delivering Christ's message and the message of the Old Testament.
Chastity means a direct personal service to God and to the Church and its mission. As described in the Roman Catholic Catechism, the requirement of chastity is for religious "who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate 'for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.' Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to 'the affairs of the Lord', they give themselves entirely to God and to men."
The Code of Canon Law defines obedience as: "The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in a spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ who was obedient even unto death requires a submission of the will to legitimate superiors, who stand in the place of God when they command according to the proper constitutions." People who seek admittance to religious orders must take these vows to become priests, monks or nuns. People who break any of the vows are disciplined and sometimes excommunicated. Vows are made freely, but are required for initiation into the priesthood or a religious order. Generally speaking, these vows are non-negotiable once made.