Benedictine values are not political playthings

Jacob Halterman, Crier staff

As someone who attends a Benedictine school, is good friends with several Benedictine monks, prays daily using Benedictine rites, has read the Rule of Saint Benedict cover-to-cover several times, is taking a class about the Benedictine Order (taught by a Benedictine), has had the privilege of serving at the altar with Benedictine priests, and has spent numerous evenings dining with and working alongside monks as a guest in their monastery, I feel as though I have at least a rudimentary understanding of the Benedictine way of life and the values these men hold near and dear.

While I am not a Benedictine monk, it is because of my emotional proximity to their Order that I have become incredibly offended recently by the way some members of the St. A’s community have misrepresented Benedictine ideals and have improperly utilized them as ammunition for political campaigns and partisan rhetoric.

In a similar vein, it seems from recent public comments that some newer members of our Hilltop community – and indeed, many people who have been here a bit longer – do not fully understand the monastery’s essential role on campus.

As Fr. Mathias put it so eloquently in his homily for the Freshman Orientation Mass, “Some would have the Benedictines pushed aside, but that will not happen! We will not betray the founders of this special and holy place by a few who cannot understand what it truly means to be Anselmian.”

I do not wish to get bogged down by specific accusations or petty squabbles, as I am far more interested in the overall point. That being said, our Anselmian tradition, informed by Benedictine values that have guided men and women for 1,500 years, cannot and will not be weaponized to support modern political agendas.

You cannot separate the Catholic Church from the Benedictine tradition and any attempt to do so is an affront to everything the Benedictines stand for.

Allow me to be even clearer. You cannot justify whatever political position you hold by haphazardly “tracing” it back to your interpretation of a Benedictine value.

Benedictine hallmarks are not feel-good bumper sticker slogans that suddenly grant your opinion moral authority. These are serious theological concepts that govern the way men and women live their lives.

For example, no matter how you twist the words of the Rule around, the Order of Saint Benedict does not approve of abortion; nor does it support any law that permits such a “procedure” from taking place.

Similarly, in accordance with Catholic teaching, the Order does not accept the use of contraception in sexual relationships as appropriate or good. As a further example, the Order, again in-line with the Church, respects the rights and dignity of immigrants and asylum-seekers fleeing difficult situations.

We are not embodying the Benedictine value of obedience by supporting unjust laws, especially laws that directly contradict the teaching of the Church, nor are we being hospitable to our neighbors by encouraging them to live in a state of sin because it “makes them feel good.”

The vows that Benedictines take, and the Anselmian virtues we derive from them, exist to bring people closer to God.

There are excellent reasons for all of these positions, and if you desire to know why the Church teaches what it does, there is a plethora of information available to you. However, like it or not, these principles cannot be shifted on a whim, especially by someone who does not fully understand them.

The monastery and the men who are a part of it are not political playthings. These are men who have dedicated their lives to the service of God and to the mental and spiritual formation of their students.

You and I don’t get to decide what their vows mean – especially not when we are here for four years and they are here for life. They have sacrificed everything – their property, their potential spouses and families, their lives – to continue an institution that we chose to attend; the least we can do is respect their values and refrain from using them for our own selfish purposes.