What has happened to the community of Bose since April of last year?
As of January 30, 2022, after the general council, the monastic community of Bose has elected a new prior, Sabino Chialà, who has been with the community since 1989. Br. Chialà is a scholar of Hebrew and Syriac and a specialist of the Christian orient of the first centuries and of the Desert Fathers, and is the author of numerous articles and conference papers. In a recent interview, the new prior—only the second prior, following the founder, Br. Enzo Bianchi—when asked what he thinks of contemporary monasticism, religious life in general, and the rapidly shrinking number of religious, responded:
Often, we talk about the “crisis” of monasticism or of religious life, and we think of the decreasing numbers. Instead, I believe, that the real crisis is that of identity.
This invites the question: Will the new prior bring a new identity to Bose and be in line with the millennia-old Catholic monastic tradition? The crisis of Bose is indeed a crisis of identity. Will the new prior bring peace and unity to this experimental mixed monastic community? Will the election of the new prior end the two-year-long turmoil which has put the community and its founder Bianchi on the spot?
Bose’s founder, Bianchi, who was ordered by a Pontifical Decree (May 13, 2020) to permanently leave the community of Bose, has purchased and is now renovating a farmhouse and a large piece of land in Albiano of Ivrea, in the province of Turin, about eight miles from Bose. The house is of considerable size and monetary value; it has eighteen rooms, a courtyard, and seven hectares of land, and it is easily accessible from the highway so that the founder of Bose can continue to serve all who need hospitality, as Bianchi writes in a recent tweet while displaying his freshly baked stuffed peppers: “Come and have lunch you will find tasty dishes and we will converse in peace.”
There is no information as to who will be living with Bianchi in the restructured farmhouse. Is this a new Bose, a new community? Will Albiano be a refuge for all those brothers and sisters who might leave Bose? And where is the money for such an investment is coming from? Bose’s Rule (22) on Poverty prescribes:
You [brothers and sisters] will know poverty, [in the] first place, by placing your possessions and the remunerations of your work in total communion with others. You will hand over your salary/earnings to the brother appointed by the council, and so the earnings will no longer be yours, but the community’s. The Gospel is harsh and demanding on this point: sharing of goods, including the mantle is a prime and rudimentary requirement to follow Jesus.
Bianchi has not explained the financial sources of this new and substantial investment. One of Bianchi’s supporters and a former Bose member explains that monies have been provided:
It was done [purchased] thanks to the help of many friends, seeding the good and helping in his/her turn thousands of people for over fifty years.
Could this new investment cause a fresh scandal for Bianchi and Bose? Potentially.
Sabino Chialà is the new prior—not abbot—of Bose. St. Benedict in his rule uses prior several times. Prior is definitively a contentious position for St. Benedict, especially relating to those priors who think of themselves to be second abbot and exempt from the authority of the abbot, thus causing conflict in the community. St. Benedict uses strong language against priors; for St. Benedict, having a prior is not a good idea as all community members should obey the abba-father/abbot as adopted sons.
However, Bose does not have an abbot because it is not an authentic monastic community. Instead, it has a prior, who is:
…not greater than the others, neither a chief nor a father, neither a teacher nor a director as all these titles and functions belong to Christ alone (rule 29)
Benedict’s abbot is a father, which in Hebrew means generator, and a teacher of right doctrine; his teaching never deviates from the Lord’s instructions. Everything that he teaches is like leaven of divine justice, and like a father he bears the blame for his children. The role of prior is under that of abbot; the prior is elected by the community but has more practical, day-to-day tasks, including the economic and organizational management of a monastery. Several large abbeys still have both an abbot and a prior, with the abbot having priority.
“Monastery” Bose is a novel, post-Vatican II interpretation of monasticism which is very far from the monastic ideals of classic monasticism. Over fifty years, Bose’s has turned into a confused form of monasticism with no true monastic identity, let alone Catholic identity. Bose has contributed to post-Vatican II confusion and novel interpretations of the council’s documents. Over the years, it became a proponent of “discontinuity” and rupture with tradition; for Bose, Church tradition started with Vatican II, which gave impetus to a new Church. Bianchi, even after the two-year turmoil, is still a member of the Administrative Council of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Sciences (Bologna School) founded by Giuseppe Alberigo, listed as:
professor emeritus of San Raffaele University of Milan, founder and former prior of the monastery of Bose and a life member of the Board of Directors.
Bianchi and Bose continued to differentiate between the ecumenical councils and the general councils, indicating that Vatican II was the start of the new Church. Bose and Bianchi became loud and popular followers of the Bologna School and of the hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture.
The confusion and danger is serious. According to Pope Benedict XVI’s December 22, 2005 address to the Roman Curia:
[The hermeneutic of discontinuity] risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council.
In Bose the Eucharist is not celebrated daily; the Eucharistic species are not in the tabernacle—for fear of offending the non-Catholic members of the community. The same with Eucharistic Adoration, which is absent in Bose. The same goes for the Church’s teaching about Original Sin, which is absent in Bianchi’s thinking. Catholic doctrine, according to Bianchi, does not teach or mention Original Sin. In contrast, the statements of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (390) on Original Sin are clear and precise. It sayhs that although the Fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, Genesis affirms:
a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parent
Because of these problems and others, one wonder how Bianchi and Bose continue to spread non-truth, pontificating with full support of the media machine and Roman pontiffs, from John Paul II to Benedict XVI to Pope Francis? Bianchi’s mastery of using the slogans of the day, along with his charisma, has camouflaged his secular theology, making him mostly untouchable for fifty years.
But is there any hope for Bose? As the newly elected prior has said, we must look to the concept of identity, returning to the roots of authentic monasticism. Monks must start being monks, under the structures of the Church. Authentic monasticism, as it has done in the past, has the potential to assist the Church to come out of profound crisis. If the monks return to being monks, they will illuminate the present Church with the vitality of the Church in the first millennium where the Church was strong.
Meanwhile, more than twenty brothers and sisters have left Bose since the scandal of the founder. But numbers are secondary. It is authenticity and Catholicity that matters, as Father Joseph Ratzinger prophesied in 1968: “From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.”
Authenticity, credibility, and faith are most significant in building and fortifying the Church of tomorrow. For now, Bose is lacking in all counts.
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