In this research note I pose the question: Why, as institutional actors, do ecclesial faith communities adopt such an inflexible attitude within the current context of post-secular society with respect to the dynamics, problems, and crises that they meet, an attitude that prevents them from acting with precision and flexibly both within and outside the church context, more specifically in connection with restorative action and effectuating generative justice?
I approach faith communities as independent organisational units or ‘social fields’ that have properties that make autonomous and specific social actions possible. One of these organisational properties that profoundly influences the social actions of faith communities is ‘institutional viscosity’ .
Read more about institutional viscosity via this link.
Looking back on an interesting colloquium ‘Nurturing Leaders: Generative Communities’ at the St. Benedict’s Abbey and Mount St. Scholastica Monastery (Atchison, Kansas). I presented a paper ‘The post-secular: challenges and opportunities for nurturing leadership within religious communities’. With my colleagues James Leachman osb and Daniel McCarthy osb of the Research Unit Pastoral Theology and Empirical Theology (KU Leuven).
Read my article ‘Role and Quality of Monastic Community Life Challenged by Societal Transitions. An Ethnographic Case-Study of the Trappist Community of the Abbey of Sint-Sixtus‘ in Journal Teologic (Vol 15, Nr. 1 (2016): 59-89)
Abstract: The religious landscape of present-day Western-European society is characterized on the one hand by a high level of secularization and on the other by an increased religious plurality (Berger 2000). The values intrinsic to a religiously oriented life in community are often diametrically opposed to the dominant Western-European thinking patterns such as individualism, utilitarianism and scientism. It is in this context not self-evident to consciously choose monastic life and it is moreover difficult to remain committed as a monk or a nun to a life characterized by a quasi-linear continuity and by exceptional obligations and limitations (Merkle 1992).
This article starts out by focusing briefly on an ethnographic study describing the physical and social environment of a specific contemplative Trappist community, the Abbey of Sint-Sixtus in Westvleteren (Belgium), thus contributing to the creation of a more objective image of contemplative orders in today’s society. It concludes with an analysis of the societal transition that challenges the role and the quality of present-day monastic community life.