Wednesday, May 11, 2005

RB 2:6

"Not only his teaching but also his disciples' obedience will come under scrutiny."

We noted yesterday that St. Benedict has a very exalted role for the abbot, holding the place of Christ in the community. At times, this imagery has resulted in abbots being beyond all criticism. We should recall that St. Benedict also added an entire chapter (ch. 3 On calling the brothers for counsel) that deals with the necessity of seeking advice from the community. "Do everything with counsel and you will not be sorry afterward." (Sirach 32:24)

Unfortunately, the abbot can short-circuit this check on his decision making by cultivating a climate in the monastery in which dialogue is not welcome. He can do this by indications that there will be a price to pay for speaking honestly if the word is not welcome. Or this can be done by not taking the opinions of others seriously, not paying attention.

Indeed, the brothers have a duty to point out to the abbot potential problems, at the right time and in the right manner. The abbot's identification with Christ within the monastery means that whatever advice he gets, when the abbot makes a decision, the brothers can be confident that following it will be for their spiritual good. Indeed, being willing to offer one's own opinion and then carry out a different plan is a great sign of detachment and a potential sign of real holiness. Simply following orders is not necessarily praiseworthy.

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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