Monday, January 23, 2017

Linton Hall's Benedictine Tradition: The Shocking Truth

On the web, Linton Hall School describes itself as "a Catholic school in Benedictine Tradition." So what really is this "Benedictine Tradition?" I doubt that most people really know; and I think it likely that most will be shocked to learn the truth.

"Benedictine" refers to Benedict of Nursia (480-547) who founded a dozen monasteries near Rome. He was proclaimed a saint in 1220 and the Order of St. Benedict was named after him.

Just what were Benedict's beliefs, precepts and values? They are found in the Rule of St. Benedict, which he wrote to govern behavior in the monasteries he founded. Although the original was destroyed by fire in 896, various (handwritten) copies remain, the most reliable the one kept in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Benedict saw obedience as a master virtue, and advocated the annihilation of self will. That's right, human beings who are given free will by God should instead obey a "superior" (Benedict, for example.) Alumni of Linton Hall Military School should not be surprised at this.

To justify his Rule, Benedict selectively quotes the Bible. This reminds meme of a quote in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice"-- "The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."

In Chapter 2 of his Rule, Benedict states "the proud, the disobedient and the hard-hearted should be punished with whips, even at the first signs of sin." To justify this, he cites "The fool is not corrected by words" (Proverbs 29:19) and "strike your son with rod and you shall deliver his soul from death" (Proverbs 23:14.) Needless to say, he does not explain what makes Benedict, or any abbot for that matter, qualified to whip others.

Chapter 4 contains a long list of "instruments of good works," or rules, the first seven of which rephrase seven of the ten Commandments. Not content to quote God's words, Benedict must have thought he could do a better job restating them. Some of the gems written by Benedict include #11, "chastise the body," #12, "not love pleasure," #59, "despise one's own will" (presumably this does not apply to Benedict, since he believes his will should be followed by the monks, for #59 states "obey the abbot's commands in all things.)

In Chapter 5 he repeats this, stating "obey any command of a superior as if it were a command of God." This ties in with my blog post of February 17, 2011, "Blind Obedience at Linton Hall." I should point out that in the officer commission I received at Linton Hall Military School, lower-ranking cadets were required to follow only lawful commands. This limit on authority came up as well in conjuction with both the Nuremberg trials and the My Lai Massacre trial.

Benedict further states that "God will not be pleased by the monk who obeys grudgingly" (as you can see, Benedict has appointed himself as God's spokesman) and attempts to justify this statement by quoting 2 Corinthians 9:7 which states that "God loves a cheerful giver" and which clearly refers to something entirely different than Benedict's position. In fact, 2 Corinthians 9:7 states, in its entirety, "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Chapters 24, 25 and 26 advocate shunning as punishment, and the same shunning to anyone who should speak or meet with someone who is the subject of shunning.

If shunning is not enough, Chapter 28 advocates punishment by whipping, and Chapter 30 advocates enforced fasting or flogging of youths.

Chapter 33 speaks of the "vice of private ownership" and states that no one should give, receive or keep anything, not even a book, tablet or pen, and that "all things are to be common to every one," using as justification for his position the fact that the Apostles shared things. Quite a stretch between voluntary sharing and involuntary abolition of private property, it seems. He adds that "monks have neither free will nor free body." Can you get more autocratic than that? And can you get farther away from 2 Corinthians 9:7 cited above, which refers to voluntary giving and goes against both compulsion and against Benedict's contention that monks have no free will.

Benedict wasn't much of a fan of personal hygiene. In Chapter 36 he states that "The sick should be permitted baths as often as necessary but the healthy and especially all young are to bathe rarely." Well, I do suppose that bathing rarely does make a vow of chastity easy to follow!

Though according to Benedict "monks have neither free will nor free body" (in Chaper 33, quoted above) Benedict says that "if one makes a mistake in chanting a psalm ... he must immediately humble himself publicly ... children should be whipped for these mistakes." (Chapter 45.)

Chapter 54 forbids the giving or sending of letters or parcels even to or from one's parents without the abbott's permission, and if any parcels are received the abbott may give them to whomever he decides. Linton Hall Military School alumni will certainly recall the censorship of outgoing (and, less frequently) incoming letters, even between cadets and their parents.

Chapter 69 advocates punishment for those who seek to defend or protect another. In other words, the virtue of compassion is a punishable offense.

In chapter 63, Benedict states that the "abbot, however, since he takes the place of Christ, shall be called Abbot or My Lord."

I believe that Benedict was quite unlike Jesus Christ (Jesus offered mercy and forgiveness) and Benedict was autocratic, self-righteous and arrogant, and does not deserve to be called a saint.

P.S.: This would have made for an interesting book report for Religion class when I attended Linton Hall, don't you think?

Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of Saint Benedict, translated by Anthony C. Meisel and M. L. del Mastro. New York: Image Books / Doubleday, 1975.

Read more in my book, "Linton Hall Military School Memories," over 200 pages, 7x10 inches, only $5.69 at
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