Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for August 27, 2009

April 27, August 27, December 27

Chapter 69: That the Monks Presume Not to Defend One Another

Care must be taken that no monk presume on any ground
to defend another monk in the monastery,
or as it were to take him under his protection,
even though they be united by some tie of blood-relationship.
Let not the monks dare to do this in any way whatsoever,
because it may give rise to most serious scandals.
But if anyone breaks this rule,
let him be severely punished.

Some thoughts:

I suppose my reaction to this section of the RB when I first read it
umpty years ago was "not fair!" And that was my reaction for quite a
long time. But since my basic presupposition is that Benedict wrote
what he did for good and important reasons, it was up to me to get out
of the trap of only reading with modern eyes. I say "only" because
certainly we do have to read with our modern eyes. But when we read
only with them, I think we miss out on the intention of the first
author. I have tried as best I could to introduce members of this
list to the historical situation when Benedict wrote the Rule.

Back in the 80s and early 90s I was doing a lot of what was called
recovery work. Along with so many others, I explored the results of
growing up in a family so dysfunctional, it was usually quite toxic.
Some thing I learned about in that recovery work was "triangulation"
and I think it was that dynamic that opened the way for me to get past
my "not fair"!" reaction to today's passage. Triangulation, to over
simplify, is when 2 people talk to each other about a 3rd person,
usually because one or both of them have a problem with the third
person and then have this expectation that the third person will then
live up to whatever it is the 2 people decided. None of whom have
spoken to the third person. Now, I am positive that Benedict is not
talking about triangulation as the concept would have been unknown in
his day and to impose it upon the RB would be an anachronism. We
can't read historical documents and hold them accountable to the
standards of our day.

But the concept opened my eyes to a dynamic that had been going on
around me. How many times in the workplace might we have seen that
person A has a problem with person B and person C takes B's side and
then the smooth functioning of the workplace is damaged by the
alliances that form. The community is broken. The right to do would
have been for A and B to discuss things with the person who has the
authority to do something and that's the boss. Or in Benedict's case,
the Abbot.

Another example is email lists and their flame wars. Person D says
something to which person E takes offense, person F leaps in to defend
person D while person G leaps in to defend person E and before you
know, insults, rants, tirades, judgmentalism rule the day and the list
owner has to take a heavy hand to restore courtesy. F and G wanted to
help instead of minding their own business and allow D and E to work
it out themselves.

Maybe these are lousy examples. But the point I am trying to make is
the point that I think Benedict made and that is the need to mind
one's own business. Now, I don't think Benedict means by this that we
are to be silent in the face of some huge injustice such as the
violation of children or the violence that is poverty. Many
Benedictines have taken stands against injustice. Let us remember
that the RB is the ideal for life in an enclosed community. He is
talking about relationships within the monastery. We can see that
cliques and factions would only disrupt that life and interfere with
listening to God.

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  • At 11:36 AM, Blogger ROBERTA said…

    excellent post - i struggle to keep out of my adult children's triangulation - and a family is an enclosed community - lots to ponder..


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