Pope Benedict XVI is not typically regarded as a stern disciplinarian, despite a fearsome reputation as head of CDF when he was a Cardinal. However, the past few weeks or so has seen an Australian bishop sacked, and now this:

Vatican suppresses Cistercian abbey in Rome

The abbey of Santa Croce in Jerusalem, associated with the Roman basilica of the same name, was formally suppressed in March, by a decree from the Congregation for Religious, signed by the prefect, Archbishop Joao Braz de Aziz. The Cistercian monks living in the monastery were given two months to relocate to another abbey. …

There had been reports of liturgical and doctrinal abuses at the Cistercian abbey…

Looks like the Pope is starting to get serious on any number of issues. This isn’t just an abbey – these guys ran one of the Vatican basilicas. Yowza.

Rorate has a sourced version of the story.

[Note: Much of this thread has been transplanted from a private Facebook conversation]

17 Replies to “Suppressed!”

  1. It’s interesting that some of the comments on the original link speak of suppressing the Jesuits next. I’ve never had a problem with the Jesuits, and frankly the Jesuit priests I’ve met have been some of the most spiritually motivated priests I’ve ever known.

    • The Jesuits I know fall neatly into two camps, one orthodox the other… no so much. One of the holiest men I ever met is a Jesuit, and then again, some others… no so much.

      The Jesuits are very good at reforming themselves, and if needed they will do so again no doubt.

      • I hope so. Personally I’d hate to see the order suppressed. Maybe they need a little tightening up of the belt so to speak, but outright suppression is a bit much.

        • I know they’re working through a sort of “self-examination” mandated by their own Superior-General, so I’m thinking they’re aware of the issues and working on them.

  2. As it happens I’ve done a good bit of reading on the Cistercians because they will be heavily involved in Book 2 of Methuselah’s Daughter (a novel I wrote with a my co-author). The order has a very long and turbulent history. The first thing to understand about them is this: they are very much a lay order. It is not in any way expected that your average Cistercian is even considering the priesthood, and historically not in the least bit unusual to find Cistercian houses which don’t have a single priest living there, let alone any Bishop. Nor are they generally required to check with the local Bishop much. If a member wishes to become a priest, there are some rules about it, and rather than being a sort of “yeah, that’s great, go go go!” it’s more of a “Well, if you really want to, OK, but here’s all the rules we need you to follow if you’re even going to think about that.”

    Furthermore, they have long been a rather shockingly democratic order; from their founding in 1098, the practice has been that each house or monastery will be autonomous and self-sufficient, and furthermore, that its abbot/abbess will be elected by the house’s members, NOT appointed by the order or any Bishop per se. If you and I are Cistercians, we literally get to vote as to who our Abbot will be (I presume I can count on your support in the next elections?)

    Because each house is autonomous with an elected leader, and ordained clergy (with all its strict requirements) are unusual rather than the norm, you would expect there to be periodic turbulence. Some orders, such as the Trappists, are pretty much breakaway groups who left the mainline Cistercians because they felt the order had grown dissolute, and there are recorded cases throughout history of there having been crackdowns on various Cistercian houses for doing things like allowing marriages, dropping their dress codes, and even hijinx like monasteries where one guy pretty much takes over the joint because everyone else has left, so he’s got the keys and official control over the monastery’s resources because he’s the only one left.

    While none of this is meant as an insult to the venerable Cistercians, it should not be too surprising to find that throughout history (and history includes today, obviously) various Cistercian houses have found themselves at odds with this or that Bishop, or occasionally even the Vatican.

    And, because each house is autonomous, this action should probably not be seen as against “the” Cistercians, it is against THOSE Cistercians. While the other Cistercian houses are likely to have an interest in these goings-on, as I said, each house is autonomous–so ultimately this is the Vatican having issues with that Abbot and that group of Cistercians, and not the order as a whole. Most likely, anyway.

    • Aren’t the Cistercians themselves a breakaway of the Benedictines? The organizational schema you describe is identical to the Benedictine Order. The Rule of Saint Benedict provides for the election of the Abbot, though of course the local Bishop would often get involved if only unofficially.

      Except during the period of the Clunaic Reform, each Benedictine Abbey was autonomous, though some had smaller daughter houses, priories and the like.

      In the past century, the various Benedictine Houses have chosen an Abbot Primate, though his authority is pretty murky.

      • From what I remember, they were sort of a ‘return to the original’ flavor of Benedictines. They wanted a more strict and rigid adherence to the rule than the Benedictines of the time did. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the guys who helped create the Rule of the Knights Templar! ūüôā

        • Yes, they were a breakaway from the original Benedictines, and who they originally felt had become somewhat dissolute and not strictly observant enough. Thus the irony of further breakaways from the Cistercians for the same reasons. This appears to be a bit of a running theme with Benedictine orders, and I would say this is probably in large part for the same reasons mentioned above: rather democratic, not actually tied strictly to the Church hierarchy, etc. Although I understand they’re now all loosely affiliated in something called the Benedictine Confederation–a loose confederation of loose confederations, apparently. ūüėČ

          • Benedictine monasteries are all still pretty much discrete units, with the Abbot enjoying many of the prerogatives of a bishop.

            This was a pretty good survival strategy during the fall of the Roman Empire, but in other periods it became a liability as local lords arranged for relatives to become Abbots.

            The Benedictines have spawned new reforming movements every few centuries. I imagine it will continue the same way.

  3. You may enjoy this bit from James Burke’s classic “Connections” series, which is at times rather glib and cutesy about these things, but, the Cistercians feature heavily in this short segment and everything in it matches everything I studied independently and everything we’ve said here:

    • I love James Burke. “Connections” is one of the reasons I became fascinated with history.

      That and “The Day the Universe Changed”.

      Not sure why the embed didn’t work.

      • It’s hard not to love Burke. He certainly helped instill a greater love of history in me as well. I cringe now once in a while with how glib and silly he gets, but of course that’s part of his success as a popularizer, and there’s not a damned thing wrong with popularizing history. God knows anything to make people more interested in real history, genuine history, is probably a good thing.

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