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July 1

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  • russophile2002
    +PAX March 1, July 1, October 31 Chapter 24: What the Measure of Excommunication Should Be The measure of excommunication or of chastisement should correspond
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2003

      March 1, July 1, October 31
      Chapter 24: What the Measure of Excommunication Should Be

      The measure of excommunication or of chastisement
      should correspond to the degree of fault,
      which degree is estimated by the judgment of the Abbess.

      If a sister is found guilty of lighter faults,
      let her be excluded from the common table.
      Now the program for one deprived of the company of the table
      shall be as follows:
      In the oratory she shall intone neither Psalm nor antiphon
      nor shall she recite a lesson
      until she has made satisfaction;
      in the refectory she shall take her food alone
      after the community meal,
      so that if they eat at the sixth hour, for instance,
      that sister shall eat at the ninth,
      while if they eat at the ninth hour
      she shall eat in the evening,
      until by a suitable satisfaction she obtains pardon.


      Ever run over something unintentionally with a lawnmower? Most of us
      have, and if you personally have never done such a thing, it would be
      far less upsetting to me if you never said so... LOL! Think about it.
      Who, in their right mind, would deliberately take a mower that is
      costly to repair or replace and aim for an obstacle in the grass?
      Face it, while there could be malevolence here, it is very unlikely.
      Headline: "Yet Another Wave of Lawnmower Vandalism Cuts Through
      Suburbia: Authorities Alerted to Suspects By Mowers' Noisy Sound."
      Real sneaky one there!

      Yet the only case of this lighter excommunication of which I have
      personal knowledge was just this dumb. In the mid-1960's, a junior
      monk I knew ran over a water sprinkler while mowing in the Grotto at
      Saint Leo. (I have been visiting St. Leo since 1957, the Grotto is
      one of my favorite places and I STILL could not tell you where all
      the water sprinklers are. It is a wooded and confusing area.) The guy
      didn't mean to do it and, as far as I know, admitted his guilt,
      turned himself in. Sigh... he got this light excommunication for a
      while as punishment.

      That was one of the problems with "excommunication" (which, by the
      way, refers only to communal life, not to the Church or its
      Sacraments.) It was often used for silly, innocent mistakes,
      unintentional accidents. In cases like the one I noted, it often
      stressed the material above the personal. Obviously, the greatest
      treasure of the monastery was the monastic, not the water sprinkler!
      It could, as such, lack mercy and fall far short of the Gospel,
      something the Holy Rule, rightly interpreted, will never call us to
      do. Also, since it can be quite irrational punishment, it is hardly
      constructive of healthy family bonds!

      As so often happens, we abandon one lunacy only to flee madly to its
      opposite extreme. We went from too much to too little, sometimes
      nothing at all. In the last 35 years or so, I have heard of only one
      threat of excommunication and it did not have to be carried out,
      thank heavens. Still, we have abandoned the good that was in the
      practice: a clear, codified way to let someone know they were out of
      line, that something was wrong, that they needed help or reform or

      We replaced this (allegedly,) with talking to the individual, a sane
      enough response, except that some superiors find this hard, almost
      impossible to do well. That's not surprising, given the monastic
      aversion to conflict and confrontation. But it is CONFLICT we should
      avoid, not confrontation. We're called to a lot of the latter. It is
      the stuff of which reform and conversion is often generated. The
      Rule's system, for all its faults, gave a "language" and idiom to a
      superior who may not have been able to "say" it any other way. It
      eased the road for the timid.

      Take that away, and you have no means of correction in some settings.
      Both these extremes are founded on the same false assumption. Both
      ascribe to offenders more control over their actions than may
      actually be the case. Small wonder neither extreme works terribly

      Just talking to someone is fine as an alternative, but one HAS to
      actually do it. Some problems in people will neither identify nor
      repair themselves. It is folly to think that they will, to presume
      that all people have a level of clairvoyance or maturity that many,
      in fact, do not. Not only that, but as the Rule itself points out,
      some people cannot understand or "hear" a verbal correction. Things
      have not changed as much in the intervening 15 centuries as we might
      like to think they have. Some still can't hear. We still need a
      humane middle point between nothing and something very extreme.

      Parents take warning. Embrace either of these extremes and your
      children will be talking about you many, many years later, to
      therapists or in bars, or both! Ditto bosses and superiors. Your job
      is the exact and complete opposite of ignoring major flaws, of
      letting things like that go. If your head is in the sand on any
      significant count, everyone in the family suffers including,
      eventually, yourself.

      Love and prayers,
      Jerome, OSB
      jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery
      Petersham, MA
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