Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 28: On Those Who Will Not Amend after Repeated Corrections, November 4, 2016

March 5, July 5, November 4

Chapter 28: On Those Who Will Not Amend after Repeated Corrections

If a sister who has been frequently corrected for some fault,

and even excommunicated,

does not amend,

let a harsher correction be applied,

that is, let the punishment of the rod be administered.

But if she still does not reform

or perhaps (which God forbid)

even rises up in pride and wants to defend her conduct,

then let the Abbess do what a wise physician would do.

Having used applications,

the ointments of exhortation,

the medicines of the Holy Scriptures,

finally the cautery of excommunication

and of the strokes of the rod,

if she sees that her efforts are of no avail,

let her apply a still greater remedy,

her own prayers and those of all the others,

that the Lord, who can do all things

may restore health to the sister who is sick.

But if she is not healed even in this way,

then let the Abbess use the knife of amputation,

according to the Apostle’s words,

“Expel the evil one from your midst” (1 Cor. 5:13),

and again,

“If the faithless one departs, let her depart” (1 Cor. 7:15)

lest one diseased sheep contaminate the whole flock.

Some thoughts
At first glance, this reading seems harsh. First of all, Benedict was a product of his times and in his days, beatings were not considered abusive as they are now, but necessary discipline. After all, that proverb about “spare the rod, spoil the child” is often quoted. Within the context of the Rule, a beating is the second to last option. Since previous chapters tell us of the tender-heartedness of Benedict toward the excommunicate, I can only imagine how ambivalent he must have been about ordering a beating.
In the event that the beating does not dissuade the monastic and if the monastic insists upon doing things as the monastic prefers, this is someone who is disruptive to the entire community life. Benedict has to put the welfare of the community above all other considerations. I can hear how he wishes the person to repent. He lists all the things that have been done to get that person to repent. He repeats it as if to reassure the monastic superior that everything that could be done, has been done.

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