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The monks of Ramsgate have shockingly put on the secular market sacred vessels given by generations of the faithful

I believe this is one example of a failure of witness to the faith by today’s religious

By on Monday, 13 February 2012

This Pugin monstrance is one of the items to be auctioned (Dominic Winter/catholicnews.org.uk)

This Pugin monstrance is one of the items to be auctioned (Dominic Winter/catholicnews.org.uk)

This week’s print edition of The Catholic Herald, in this week’s Charterhouse column, contains a very remarkable article which you will not have seen on this website. It is a stinging critique, by John Gummer (also now confusingly known as Lord Deben), of the actions of the 11 Benedictine monks of Ramsgate Abbey, and in particular of their abbot. The Ramsgate Benedictines have moved into smaller and more manageable premises: and on doing so, they have put up many of their treasures for sale by auction. (For the Herald’s news report, see here.)

“What has shocked many in the Catholic world,” says Lord Deben, was “to put on the secular market the sacred vessels made for the abbey or bequeathed to it by generations of the faithful: chalices used by generations of abbots and inscribed by their donors”:

I went to the viewing to find heartbreaking examples of impiety. Under a table was a cardboard box full of assorted “silver plates and dishes”: the catalogue’s misdescription of patens inscribed in memory of those who loved the abbey and the Faith it had nurtured in them… There were altar candlesticks with the Benedictine insignia, monstrances and reliquaries, incense boats and cruets, higgledy piggledy with games trophies, sports cups and school shields.

Yet most outrageous of all were the chalices and patens. A recusant cup… was pushed in on a shelf of holy vessels displayed as if they were of no more account than a range of golf club tankards. Yet once they had held the blood of the Lamb. Given by the faithful, taken by their shepherds, now left to be bought by whoever, for whatever.

“If the monks felt that they no longer needed what they had been given,” Lord Deben concludes, “they should have given [it] where it could be used and valued”. There is frankly not much more to be said; and many will share his anger and disgust.

How typical of today’s religious is this, in my view, astonishing example of secularity? How is one to know? In the nature of things, lay Catholics know little of what goes on behind the closed doors of a religious community. And yet, there are visible signs that must mean something. In the same edition of the paper, we see (p11) a photograph of Archbishop Vincent Nichols with a group of Sisters representing female religious communities of the Diocese of Westminster. Of 14 sisters, only five (possibly six) are wearing habits: the rest just look like ordinary lay women with handbags (what could be more unambiguously secular than a handbag?) and one is actually wearing trousers and a polo neck sweater.

And yet successive popes have appealed to religious to wear their habits. Pope John Paul II, in his Post-Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (1996) says this about the religious habit of consecrated persons:

§25 … The Church must always seek to make her presence visible in everyday life, especially in contemporary culture, which is often very secularized and yet sensitive to the language of signs. In this regard the Church has a right to expect a significant contribution from consecrated persons, called as they are in every situation to bear clear witness that they belong to Christ.

Since the habit is a sign of consecration, poverty and membership in a particular Religious family, I join the Fathers of the Synod in strongly recommending to men and women religious that they wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place.

True, he also says that “Where valid reasons of their apostolate call for it, Religious, in conformity with the norms of their Institute, may also dress in a simple and modest manner, with an appropriate symbol, in such a way that their consecration is recognisable.” But most of the Westminster ladies in the photograph, even if (which I very much doubt) there are “valid reasons of their apostolate” for them not to be wearing their habit, are wearing no such symbols, nor is their consecration in any way recognisable. The late Fr John Richard Neuhaus wrote that religious should wear their habits, not for tradition’s sake or because the dress matters in itself: what matters “is that the world be confronted by their consecrated lives, by the contrast between their radical devotion and the ways of the world: not to condemn the world but to call ‘the people of the world’ to their own potential for devotion.”

That is what generation after generation of Catholic religious have done: they have presented to the world a sign of contradiction, which lay clothes and handbags cannot do: and nor, in my view, can selling sacred vessels to the general public by the agency of secular auctioneers who describe them as “silver plates and cups”.

In the words of John Paul II in Redemptionis Donum (1984), his apostolic exhortation to religious on their consecration: “The world needs the authentic ‘contradiction’ provided by religious consecration, as an unceasing stimulus of salvific renewal. ‘Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Rm 12:2).”

It is a question of the unambiguous witness which consecration to the religious life should present to the world. I ask simply, are we necessarily always getting that witness from our religious today? Perhaps there are occasions when they should ask that of themselves.

  • Alban

    I think that whilst some monastic houses are worth millions, there are others who are barely surviving either through lack of numbers, disinterest in vocations or, as seems evident in the case of the Benedictines at Ramsgate, a lack of money. Perhaps Ramsgate should have approached the more affluent houses for them to either purchase or offload these wonderful objects. Perish the thought, but many precious metal items are being melted down these days.

  • Joxxer

    This is very upsetting and extremely disturbing. It verges on sacrilege in my book. What evil prompted this absurd and disrespectful (toward all that is holy) act? I do wish they could be stopped.

  • Elizabeth D

    It would be better for sacred vessels, even historic ones, to be melted down, than to be sold for possible impious use or to people who do not know what they are. But, surely there is usually another home for these vessels within the Church, if not locally, then parishes in developing countries would appreciate them. Doesn’t Canon Law regulate the “alienation” of sacred objects such as these? Wow. Whatever financial need the monastery may be in, this was not the right course of action. It is good that Lord Deben spoke up about this!

  • Charles Martel

    For a ‘Catholic’ congregation to auction off a Pugin monstrance is a kind of admission that they have abandoned the household of the Faith. To treat a sacred vessel in this way – and a cultural artifact of huge significance – is a scandal, though there are so many scandals nowadays, such as the SOHO GAY MASSES, that makes this latest sickening act relatively benign in comparison. We have truly come to the end of the road in English Catholicism. What the protestants failed to kill, our liberal modernist superiors have finished off. But let’s make one thing quite clear – you do not represent English Catholics. You are traitors to the Faith. Whatever you wear – habits, dog collars, red hats — you are scoundrels who sell off the treasures that generations of pious faithful have paid for. Shame on you. Shame on the whole damn lot of you.

  • South Saxon

    The Hale Chalice and much of the Pugin bequest were saved from being auctioned, but much still went under the hammer. 
    See Fr. Blake’s blog for the full story under entries for 8th February: http://marymagdalen.blogspot.com/The Benedictines at Ramsgate did not take care of their wonderful heritage at St Augustine’s Abbey and squandered the legacy of Pugin. The former abbey building, once again in the hands of Southwark Archdiocese, stands a better chance of survival now that it is the responsibility of those who appreciate it. The monks are, of course, now at Chilworth where they have bought the former friary. This they are ‘upgrading’ for their use but they have no parochial duties there, unlike the friars who were there before. It is my understanding that they have need of funds for Chilworth, which is, in part, the reason for the shocking sale of these items. The other reason, I believe, their disregard and lack of appreciation for the true legacy of the Faith; the same ignorance that persuades nuns to dress in a manner that suggests they are ashamed of their vocation.

  • Anonymous

    Canon Law is clear that sacred objects owned by a “public ecclesiastical juridic person” such as a parish, diocese or community of monks, can only be sold to another Catholic organisation.

     Can. 1269 If sacred objects are privately owned, private persons can acquire them through
    prescription, but it is not permitted to employ them for profane uses unless they have lost their dedication or blessing; if they belong to a public ecclesiastical juridic person, however, only another public ecclesiastical juridic person can acquire them.

  • Brotherraphael

    Yes this gold is “corban” not to be sold to help the poor.

  • Edmund Burke

    This move by the Benedictines of Ramsgate appears typical of religious orders and dioceses in recent decades, when many have forgotten that morally they hold so much of what they have inherited in trust, rather than as unfettered property. This irresponsibility extends to churches which have been abandoned as quickly as possible, even where alternative courses might have been pursued, as well as educational foundations. The closure of Ushaw College, historic jewel of northern Catholicism is a manifestation of this, as was the recent abandonment by the Capuchins of the hard-won licence of Greyfriars Hall in the University of Oxford, which had been founded by Franciscans in the thirteenth century. Religious orders, like regiments, are modelled on the family, the basic unit of society which links generations profoundly in a web of inheritance and obligations, a universal instinct and process Edmund Burke so vividly described centuries ago. Orders and regiments are links in a chain linking those who are dead, those who are living and those who will follow. The fact that so many members of religious orders behave as atomised individuals with duties neither to the past nor to posterity, but an absolute “entitlement to sell”, demonstrates how far these have lost the most basic natural feeling, let alone their historic duty to the Church. Although such religious bodies often plead that selling off their inheritance is necessary due to rising running costs, in practice they are behaving like the worst of materialistic individualists in the secular world, and are thus providing a very bad example indeed to society at large. Anyone bequeathing money to such bodies should think twice about how they safeguard their bequests against being sold off in the marketplace. Find good solicitors to draw up conditions which prevent such betrayals of trust.

  • http://aromancatholicpaintress.wordpress.com Denita Arnold

    Sad, just sad…

  • Sheila Torr

    Dear God help us!  Please !!!!!!!  If ordinary lay people know the real value in these sacred objects, why on earth do not these monks?  I doubt there is a reasonable answer to such a question.  I am heart sick.

  • OpenmindedThinker

    This whole situation is horrible and telling. If you look at some of the newer, younger religious communities you see a stark contrast to these older communities. Modernity has been cancerous for many of the old communities of religious. This whole attitude is much like the destroying of beautiful churches and altars to make way for ugly abominations.

  • Gabriel Austin

     Why is anyone surprised by the actions of the order which gave us Rembert Weakland as its primate Abbot?

  • EndTimes101

    The disrespect/disregard in this case, and the far more commonplace, of nuns and religious to abandon their public witness/example/habit is but a sign of the times…..the end times! Reminds me of the parable of the foolish virgins…they have fallen asleep at the wrong time and when the master returns they will find they have missed the boat, and forfeited their eternal reward.

  • Edmund Burke

    Too true. The transformation of beautiful churches into ugly Star Trek command centres by aging trendy clergy is part of this baneful development.

  • Edmund Burke

    Well said. It is nothing less than a scandalous betrayal of the dead and the living.

  • Edmund Burke

    Yes, indeed, Charles. Shame on them. They will not be forgiven by posterity.

  • Edmund Burke

    Yes, this is very much part of a wider malaise. Small wonder so many of them were shocked when Benedict XVI was elected Pope. And small wonder they are moving so fast before his authority can be felt.

  • Honeybadger

    How dare they!

  • Nigel

    Now if the monks were selling these treasures to fund work with the poor and needy it might be a different matter, but even so it should not be by public auction.

  • Anonymous

    There aren’t many affluent houses. Downside, Worth and Ampleforth are probably about it.

  • BHG

    then again there was St. Martin de Porres, far more valuable than a chalice or monstrance, who told his superiors to sell him as a slave when they needed money….

  • Lefty048

    i probably missed it .  did the article say what they did with the money.  also did they get the proper amount for it?

  • Jim

    Joxxy old pal,

    It is a sacrilege… in fact, no, in Truth, it is the mortal sin known as simony.

    That means straight to hell if contrition, penance, and reconcilation is not made.

  • Doc Brown

    This is what happens when religion dies. The Benedictine monks of Ramsgate Abbey are no more Catholic, nay, religious, than Christopher Hitchens. Stone. Cold. Dead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Kenny/500505255 Michael Kenny

    Are objects ever sacred? Where is the money going? Why have they done it? All this article seems to quote from is the criticism not the monks and their reasons for doing so. As such I don’t have enough information to make an informed view…. 
    Yes we all like a shiny monstrance and ideally it should be kept in a church … but the community might have had loads of them and maybe no other church or religious community wanted to buy it from them so they have decided to sell it at an auction as an antiquity … 
    … I don’t think we should ever be too concerned about owning gold objects or being wealthy… when I went on retreat once they had a wooden monstrance and it was really amazing … because it was simple and not over the top…. 

  • Alban

     And Buckfast, too.

  • Anonymous

    I am assuming that these monks are Catholic and that, therefore, they have a superior somewhere, perhaps in Rome, and that therefore Rome has the duty and obligation to intervene in this matter.  These sacred objects are, yes, the property of the order but they are also the property of the Church, and the Church should intervene IMMEDIATELY to put a stop to such a horror.

    I am continually amazed at the anarchy that is tolerated by the Church these days.  But since the past half-dozen Popes have taken the soft, gentle, “nice guy” approach rather than the disciplinary approach I suppose this kind of thing is to be expected.

    But it is not too late for Rome to put its foot down on this matter.

  • Anonymous

    Independent monastic houses, even where they belong to loose federated congregations, have no real superior beyond the abbot save the pope himself.

  • Anonymous

    It is too late, the items have been sold – most of them anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Tar all Benedictines with the same brush there, why don’t you.

    The Benedictine order doesn’t even really exist. Each house is independent, and each congregation is a loose federation over which the abbot presidents and ultimately the abbot primate have little authority.

  • theroadmaster

    The true,inestimable value of these sacred objects cannot  be measured on a monetary scale but only rather appreciated in both a religious and aesthetic context.  The blatant disregard shown to  these repositories of Faith, wrought by loving hands, betrays the mindset of people who know the price of everything but the value of nothing.  These wonderful chalices, patens, thuribles and other such works of art, are a wonderful testimony to the dogged persistence of religious belief in the face of state persecution and penalizing legislation.   The henchmen of Henry V111 relished stripping convents, convents and monasteries of their priceless religious objects and furnishings and melting or stripping them down for grubby profit.  Must the present day members of famed religious orders follow the same route, albeit in a less violent and more mundane fashion?
    The selling of precious religious heirlooms are not the only depressing signs of a visible loss of identity on the part of those called to holy orders.  The sight of priests in business suits or nuns in blouses and skirts, without the slightest hint of religious garb, is a common occurrence in the European media.  Although one is loath to judge a person on their mode of dress , it seems to me that the conscious decision of those ordained to serve God to ditch their traditional attire, presents a picture of complacent accommodation with the world, rather than being a sign of contradiction to challenge it.  Maybe one should not read too much into this, but it is difficult not to think otherwise.

  • W Oddie

    I have just learned that Archbishop Smith has now acted to save some of these treasures.

    Here is his Press release:

    Press Release
     For immediate release – 13 February 2012
    Ecclesiastical Treasures Saved
     The Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Rev Peter Smith, and the Abbot of Farnborough Abbey, the Rt Rev Dom Cuthbert Brogan OSB, are delighted to announce that through a private treaty sale a number of key historic items from the former Benedictine Abbey at Ramsgate in Kent are to remain in Catholic hands.  The majority will return to the church of St. Augustine in Ramsgate, the magnificent Grade I church which Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) designed and built next to his own house, The Grange. Pugin designed and fitted out the church in every detail and the items returning to St. Augustine’s church complement the rich collections already there. Equally, the items acquired by Farnborough Abbey complement the Abbey’s important collections of sacred silver. The Archbishop of Southwark and the Abbot of Farnborough would particularly like to thank Abbot Paulinus Greenwood, Abbot of the Benedictine Community formerly based in Ramsgate, and auctioneers Dominic Winter for their full cooperation and support in facilitating this happy outcome. Amongst the historic items returning to St. Augustine’s is a beautiful monstrance of around 1850 which is very similar to one which Pugin designed for his other famous church, St. Gile’s, Cheadle, and a watercolour sketch by Pugin of the interior of St. Augustine’s, Ramsgate. This sketch was a preparatory study for a large drawing which Pugin sent for display at the Royal Academy in 1849. The monks at Benedictine Farnborough Abbey have acquired an important silver recusant chalice dating from 1633. English recusant silver of this early period is extremely rare due to the prohibition on Catholic worship following the Reformation. This chalice is engraved with scenes from the Passion of Christ. It was given to the monks at Ramsgate in the nineteenth century by a member of the Hales family, who were recusants. It had been in the Hale family for generations. The sale of contents from Ramsgate Abbey came about because of the Ramsgate monks’ recent move to smaller premises at Chilworth in Surrey and on account of their need to raise sufficient funds to continue their work and mission. The Archdiocese of Southwark took back responsibility for St. Augustine’s church from the monks in 2010 and has instigated a major programme of repair with generous grant support from English Heritage. An appeal was launched last November in the River Room at the House of Lords, a room also designed by AWN Pugin. The parish priest, Fr Marcus Holden, has established a Friends of St. Augustine’s and patrons of the appeal include the broadcaster, Alistair Stewart, and the architectural writer, Clive Aslet. With the new acquisitions added to the existing collection, the Friends are planning to put on an exhibition. Father Marcus Holden, said, “We have a major programme to bring St. Augustine’s back to as it was in Pugin’s day and the acquisition of these items contributes in a significant way to what we are seeking to achieve here in Ramsgate. Pugin decided to build this church here because St. Augustine had landed nearby in 597AD. We want St. Augustine’s to become a fitting place to commemorate both the towering achievements of Pugin and the coming of Christianity to England which captivated him. As we recall Pugin’s bicentenary on March 1st we will be celebrating not only an iconic national architect but a central figure of the Catholic revival”. Nathan Winter of Dominic Winter Book Auctions said, “We are delighted to have been of assistance to the Archdiocese of Southwark in the retention of a number of key historic objects from St. Augustine’s Abbey in Ramsgate and to know that they will feature in the important restoration project now underway at the wonderful Pugin church there, widely regarded as one of the architect’s greatest achievements”. The Abbot of Farnborough said, “Dominic Winter Book Auctions, the auctioneers, are to be commended for their professionalism and patience in negotiating this sale and for their sensitivity to the concerns of the wider Catholic community. All sacred vessels are important. The recusant chalice communicates with a particular eloquence the hardships suffered by Catholics in what are described in the inscription on the chalice as ‘cruel times’. We are relieved that this chalice will remain in appropriate hands.” ENDS

  • Gabriel Austin

     If the order does not exist, why so they have a primate Abbot? Rembert Weakland was elected by the separate houses. As was his dubious successor.

    They tar themselves.

  • Anonymous

    As someone received into the Church by a Benedictine monk and who is considering entering a house of that order and knows many holy monks I find your blanket slandering the of the whole order highly offensive.

    The Benedictine “order” is a very loose confederation, created at the insistence of Leo XIII over a thousand years after it actually came into being as he wanted a centralised structure to deal with. It’s not a centralised order like the Dominicans or the Jesuits.

    This should explain it better to you.

    http://www.osb.org/intl/confed/confed.html

  • Anonymous

    PREPARE yourself for a shock: from the perspective of canon law there is no such thing as “The Benedictine Order.” Are you surprised? You should be. After all, everyone knows that O.S.B., the letters which Benedictine monastics (sisters, nuns and monks) sign after their names stand for Ordine Sancti Benedicti – the Order of St. Benedict. However, there is no Benedictine “Order.” There were Benedictine monks and nuns long before anyone spoke of religious orders: in fact, for several centuries, Benedictine monasticism was the only form of religious life in the Western Church. Benedictines are thus much older than the concept of a religious order. THE TERM “religious order” usually implies an international structure in which common observance is maintained through submission to a single authority figure, usually a “superior general.” Benedictines have never had such a structure. That is, there has never been a single abbot who could claim jurisdiction over all Benedictine monasteries. Only the Holy Father in Rome can claim that privilege. Benedictine abbeys are fiercely independent. They are required to be financially independent both of their congregations and of the diocese in which they live. They must be capable of “making it on their own.” Therefore, instead of an order, Benedictines are united in a “Confederation of Congregations.” Each of the unique Benedictine congregations has its own constitutions, its own abbot president, and its own approach to living out the Rule of St. Benedict. Each of the Benedictine congregations functions in a real sense a unique “order.” THE DIFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity. IFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity. ERM “religious order” usually implies an international structure in which common observance is maintained through submission to a single authority figure, usually a “superior general.” Benedictines have never had such a structure. That is, there has never been a single abbot who could claim jurisdiction over all Benedictine monasteries. Only the Holy Father in Rome can claim that privilege. Benedictine abbeys are fiercely independent. They are required to be financially independent both of their congregations and of the diocese in which they live. They must be capable of “making it on their own.” Therefore, instead of an order, Benedictines are united in a “Confederation of Congregations.” Each of the unique Benedictine congregations has its own constitutions, its own abbot president, and its own approach to living out the Rule of St. Benedict. Each of the Benedictine congregations functions in a real sense a unique “order.” THE DIFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity. IFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity.
    THE TERM “religious order” usually implies an international structure in which common observance is maintained through submission to a single authority figure, usually a “superior general.” Benedictines have never had such a structure. That is, there has never been a single abbot who could claim jurisdiction over all Benedictine monasteries. Only the Holy Father in Rome can claim that privilege. Benedictine abbeys are fiercely independent. They are required to be financially independent both of their congregations and of the diocese in which they live. They must be capable of “making it on their own.” Therefore, instead of an order, Benedictines are united in a “Confederation of Congregations.” Each of the unique Benedictine congregations has its own constitutions, its own abbot president, and its own approach to living out the Rule of St. Benedict. Each of the Benedictine congregations functions in a real sense a unique “order.” THE DIFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity. IFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity. ERM “religious order” usually implies an international structure in which common observance is maintained through submission to a single authority figure, usually a “superior general.” Benedictines have never had such a structure. That is, there has never been a single abbot who could claim jurisdiction over all Benedictine monasteries. Only the Holy Father in Rome can claim that privilege. Benedictine abbeys are fiercely independent. They are required to be financially independent both of their congregations and of the diocese in which they live. They must be capable of “making it on their own.” Therefore, instead of an order, Benedictines are united in a “Confederation of Congregations.” Each of the unique Benedictine congregations has its own constitutions, its own abbot president, and its own approach to living out the Rule of St. Benedict. Each of the Benedictine congregations functions in a real sense a unique “order.” THE DIFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity. IFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity.
    THE DIFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity. IFFERENT Benedictine congregations are very loosely linked to one another through the Benedictine Confederation, presided over by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, who is elected by the Benedictine abbots of the world for an eight-year term. However, the Abbot Primate is not the head of a religious order. He has no jurisdiction over the abbot presidents of the congregations, and thus no jurisdiction over individual abbeys, (except for a small and rapidly-decreasing number of communities which have not yet joined congregations). His role largely is to facilitate communication between individual Benedictine communities and between the Benedictine congregations. In a very real sense part of his responsibility is to safeguard the autonomy and the unique gifts possessed by the different Benedictine congregations and the abbeys which compose them. The role of the Abbot Primate is to promote harmony while protecting legitimate diversity.

  • Gabriel Austin

    There are sinners in the Church. Does that tar the Church?

    Your following effort to explain the matter simply confuses it. Pius XI complained “that the largely nominal confederation was “an order without order.””. Why then be shocked that a simple layman finds it confusing?

    That there are holy Benedictines is without doubt. Likewise there are holy Jesuits. But the piety of these does not cover misdeeds of so many who give scandal to possible converts. 

  • Clarinet

    So! the “Holy Benedictines” (hitherto from the down-at-heel seaside town of Ramsgate) have already, or are in the near future, in the process of speedily decamping from their former long-standing home in Kent, and, instead, freshly installing themselves at leafy Chilworth in Surrey.  So, what is Ramsgate’s loss is surely Chilworth’s gain – or is it?  The only advice I would care to proffer the R.C.s in the Chilworth area at this juncture is – do not bequeath anything to your new neighbours – and certainly do not give them any sniff of gold or silver, otherwise you know what will eventually happen to it!  Of course, one would ostensibly be giving these precious metals or objects to God, just as The Magi did 2,000 years ago.  But, regrettably, I am afraid that our “Holy Cousins” just do not see that aspect, nowadays.  They have instead, and under (the Vatican II) cover or pretext of Catholics being “a pilgrim people”, somewhat fraudulently substituted the word “itinerant” for “pilgrim”, or, put simply, just go to the parish where you think the money is.  Seemingly, “filthy lucre” is king nowadays in the world of religious orders.  And that is undoubtedly why the “Holy Benedictines” also swiftly departed some years ago, the glorious St. Mary’s Church, Highfield Street, Central-Liverpool.  BUT, apparently, all the religious (orders) are “at it” nowadays.  For example, the “Oblates of Mary Immaculate” were once snugly ensconced (just a stone’s throw away from the aforesaid St. Mary’s) at Holy Cross Church, again in Central-Liverpool.  And, once more, it was the unstinting largesse of local parishioners, and their surviving families, which built these wonderful edificies to God – and not the local religious orders who invariably contributed not one single penny.  Indeed, following the May 1941 Blitz on Liverpool, Holy Cross had to be completely rebuilt.  But this (although large) was a poor inner-city parish, and the funds ran out for a tabernacle.  So the married women of the parish donated their gold wedding rings, and a wonderful golden tabernacle was made.  However, when the aforementioned “Oblates of Mary Immaculate” departed the said church circa 2001, and it was subsequently bulldozed into the ground (and lucrative new flats built on the same spot), the current whereabouts of the all-gold tabernacle is still an unsolved mystery!  BUT, among the religious orders in ENGLAND, undoubtedly the greatest criticism must be reserved for our old friends the Franciscan Friars Minor (N.B. and NOT the Capuchins) of Chilworth fame.  After all, their task in life was/is to emulate the ethos and ethics of their founder, namely, Giovanni “Francesco” Bernardone, who led a life of piety, prayer, and humility, whilst simultaneously helping and associating both himself and his THEN faithful followers with the local poor and destitute.  Unfortunately, the current said crowd of Franciscans do not see the need to directly follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, and so have largely abandoned their missions – especially in the relatively poorer North of England e.g. Everton in Liverpool (1980) and Gorton in Manchester (1990).  But not even St. Anthony of Padua Church at Forest Gate in inner-city London circa 2004, was not immune from their new-found shibboleth of “Relocation!  Relocation!  Relocation!” or “Go where the money is!”  Of course, our mercenary chums in “modern” religious orders would possibly counter by probably saying that “in times of falling vocations, we have to rationalise” – but have you ever noticed it is always to a (potentially) wealthier parish.  And, true to form, the recently dispossessed parishioners have no rights in the subsequent sale (or “alienation” if sold to another religious body) of THEIR church and its associated curtilage.  And when Rome’s attention is eventually drawn to this iniquitous behaviour, they just nonchalantly proclaim in an uninterested manner: “The (local) bishop (or abbot) speaks, they are infallible, and that is the end of the matter”.  Meanwhile, Rome announces with a fanfare: a “Year of this” or a “Year for that” in order to stimulate and promote more Sunday Mass attendance etc. (especially in Europe where numbers are plummeting).  Still, in the fullness of time, we will see if they really do avoid the iceberg!  P.S. Guess which diocese in England has annually had  the worst record for Sunday Mass attendances for the last 15 years or so?  Hint No. 1: It numerically is JUST the largest in England.  Hint No. 2: It is not Westminster.  Hint No 3: For the last 15 years or so in England, it has conducted the greatest number of church sales and/or alienations.  Hint No. 4: It lies well to the north of Watford Gap.  

  • Anonymous

    Sheila, it is called spiritual blindness.

  • Anonymous

    I thank God for this outcome. If only all errors were dealt with so readily. God bless Archbishop Smith and Dom Cuthbert Brogan OSB.