WHO "ESCAPE" FROM THE MONASTERY
The growth of monastic life in the Catholic
Church has NOT been without opposition. Early in 1854, a society was formed
called Anti-convent Society. Its spokesman in Parliament, Mr.
Chambers, endeavored to have Parliament inquire into monastic
life. However, Lord John Russel, in a debate which ensued,
declared that he did not believe the cock and bull stories which had been
related to support the measure. Majority rejected the measure.
In the following August, another attempt
was made to create an investigating committee. The House of Commons
rejected the proposal 99 to 1.
Some years later, the issue was again
revived in Parliament by eccentrics, Wholley and Newdegate. Their speeches
merely amused the House. Since that time, no regular attempt was made
to harass the inmates of convents and monasteries.
This work of harassing monastic life
developed from individuals who, from time to time, secured the services of
an "escaped nun" or "escaped monk" to reveal "awful
mysteries and fearful disclosures" happening inside the
monastery. The ravings of these individuals and their
"escaped" accomplices do no harm whatever to the cause they
assail; it merely causes annoyance and irritation towards the detractors.
When a poor creature describes prisons and
poisons and cruelties and nameless sins within the monastery, it does not
affect the sane, though it tickles the prurient. So long as it pays
the play "the escaped" or "rescued monk or nun", there
will always be found one here or there to play the role.
The mystery is why any monk or nun needs to
"escape." Why do they have to be rescued? Everyone
knows it is difficult to enter a monastery. There are stringent
requirements, like a stable mind, that one is absolutely free. The
training during postulancy, novitiate and so on, weeds out the
incompetent. And more than half usually are rejected for the life.
If, however, after profession, the monk or
nun should discover that he or she has made a mistake, or if, the first
fervour having cooled, they desire to return to the world, there is really
not the least trouble or difficulty; there is a simple process by which they
may be set free from their obligation and restored to the liberty which
willingly they renounced on entering. To such, the way out is made
broad and smooth.
As a defense for the monks and nuns inside,
they need no defense. Their lives give the answer to their
calumniator. In their silent defense, they may be suspected by the
ignorant and reviled by the malicious. But to those who know them and
their work and who have an acquaintance on how the monastic system works,
there is nothing but praises. Knowledge of monastic life may not be
possessed by those who devote their time, money and energy encouraging the
faithless ones to say lies about the faithful ones.
What a contemptible sight. . .to see a
former monk or nun standing on a platform and shamelessly lying against
those who for years were their sisters and brothers; and now they revile
them because they who have remained are faithful while they who have escaped
are faithless. Such sorrowful sight is the ultimate degradation of
Monks and monasteries. . .we need their
shining example upon this sinful world; we need their self-denial in these
days of self-will; we need their chastity where brazen shame parades our
streets; we need their loyalty where faithlessness in domestic life flows
ceaselessly into the sink of divorce courts; we need their love of poverty
in an age that craves for the material.
Monks and nuns. . .these are the ones who,
by their godly lives, draw down blessings on our country.
Fr. Canon Forum.
Delivered at the Catholic Truth
Conference held in Portsmouth, September, 1893.
The Catholic Truth Society was
established n England to answer all the lies hurled at the Catholic Church.