If so inclined, you might offer a prayer for my quail hatch. Due
today and they don't seem to be in any hurry.... God's will is best,
even for quail! Thanks! NRN JL
February 29, June 30, October 30
Chapter 23: On Excommunication for Faults
If a brother is found to be obstinate,
or disobedient, or proud, or murmuring,
or habitually transgressing the Holy Rule in any point
and contemptuous of the orders of his seniors,
the latter shall admonish him secretly a first and a second time,
as Our Lord commands (Matt. 18:15).
If he fails to amend,
let him be given a public rebuke in front of the whole community.
But if even then he does not reform,
let him be placed under excommunication,
provided that he understands the seriousness of that penalty;
if he is perverse, however,
let him undergo corporal punishment.
Calm down, folks! Nobody uses corporal punishment any more, though I
can tell you that its use in certain cases has often been a
daydreaming temptation! It's worth noting that, for most people, such
daydreams always chuckle at the thought of someone ELSE getting
corporal punishment, not themselves! Sigh... Me included.
While some today may chafe at these chapters, known as the penal code
of the Holy Rule, believe me, the modern problem is NOT that they are
too stringently enforced. Quite the opposite. The Benedictine
atmosphere of gentle moderation can cloak and empower a lot of
timidity and cowardice, too. Neither are very loving, they're just
useful means of avoidance.
Not all love is tough love, but all love IS tough. When a parent or
boss or superior chooses their own comfort by avoiding confrontation
with a problem member, everyone suffers. Those in authority are
called to love, and love leaves no stone unturned, not even those
that are horribly difficult to lift.
At another house, I know of one priest, now dead, whose alcoholism
went untreated under two abbots. (I'm not even sure that it was
detected, there was so much denial going on...) A third took office
and told him to pack a bag and go into treatment immediately. By
then, it was a very late case of alcoholic decline. I don't know how
things ultimately came out, but I did hear that the treatment center
had awful problems trying to help him.
Unfortunately, what preceded the intervention in this case was years
of very free rein, life on the fringes of the community and a job
that enabled tons of travel with an expense account. Maybe some
confrontation was avoided by that, but the cost to the monk himself
was horrendous: he used all that free rein to nearly kill himself.
Meanwhile, the community was demoralized by the whole affair.
Frankly, though it may not have seemed so to them at the time, even
those in authority lost big-time. They had loved comfort more than
him, more than the community, too.
That's an extreme case, but most of us can think of far too many
examples of similar failures in families and workplaces. One probably
cannot change the people in charge that effect such negligence. One
ought to bravely try, but it often doesn't work. One can moan a lot
about it, but that gets to murmuring in no time and is also counter-
The message here for all of us is "Look at your own choir stall",
which is a Benedictine way of saying "Mind your own business and
examine your conscience." If you are in authority, or get there
someday, don't be a flop or an unloving wimp. If you are not in
charge, don't make yourself one of the problems. It is terribly hard
for rank and file to ignore what ought not to be ignored, but
sometimes we simply have to do so or leave. That is one of the VERY
great ascetic disciplines of common life. Believe me, fasting pales
to nothing beside this one. I'd rather fast any day!
I have known monastics (and employees and managers and parents!) who
forced more than one person out by their unchecked behavior. To
assume that the offenders were ALWAYS the instruments of God's will
in such cases, that the person was supposed to leave or "just
couldn't take it," is blatantly false and pathetically stupid. It
would be tantamount to saying that child abuse was just an instrument
of God's will. It isn't.
God's will has to work around and in spite of human frailty, but
human frailty can and does often put huge obstacles in the way.
Meanness and abusiveness can destroy others' vocations as well as
one's own. So can cowardice and inactivity in the name of false
Over the years I have heard excuses close to whining from people in
all areas of authority: political, ecclesiastical, parental, monastic
and administrative. "Nothing can be done about so-and-so. My hands
are tied." I hate to say that I remain unable to completely buy that,
largely because sometimes I've been around long enough to see a
successor (or the juvenile courts!) DO something about so-and-so.
I have also been in charge enough times to realize that often
something CAN be done. It is not palatable or easy, but it is
possible. One of the things that strengthened me as listowner was the
memory of weak superiors and ineffectual bosses and the tension of
living in the chaotic messes they enabled by abdicating their
Monastics come to the Holy Rule for the benefit of discipline and
growth and guidance toward holiness. We have a right to same, and no
one should have to know that only for child abuse will he or she get
it. There are many, many abuses that involve neither sex, nor
children, nor outsiders that require equal attention.
If we take an firm hand in one area only (an area which, it must be
noted, is financially very dangerous...) we will look rather foolish
in priding ourselves that we are left with a community that can keep
its hands off children. There's more to it than that. Much more.
Love and prayers,
St. Mary's Monastery