Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Decree on the Dissolution of Religious Orders of 1782

The Gaming Kartause today
The following is an article about the closing of monasteries under the liberal Joseph II. In the 1990's I was blessed to visit the beautiful former Carthusian Monastery in Gaming, Austria, closed by the imperial decree in the 1790's. From Eduard Habsburg at First Things:
Some readers may have never been guests in a contemplative monastery or convent. Today, genuine contemplation can be hard to find. Several times in recent months I have had the privilege of being a guest in such a place. This enclosed and protected environment, with its total concentration on prayer, sacrifice, spirituality, great simplicity, purity, and the contagious cheerfulness of the sisters behind their grilles—all this is infinitely valuable and easily damaged. It is something that every town, every country should thank God for; the contemplative life bears the most precious spiritual fruit. It is something for which, if it were threatened, one would give life and limb.

We must imagine this kind of life and world—innocent, vulnerable, full of the most profound trust in state and Church, where everything is ordered for the sake of prayer and community life—that suddenly was overtaken by an unprovoked and undeserved apocalypse of destruction, simply because an emperor decided that it was “useless.”

The storm began to wreak havoc at the beginning of 1782, although it was brewing in the time of the Empress Maria Theresia, and that of her father, Charles VI. For decades there had been talk of reforming the religious houses. At the end of 1781, however, problems had arisen at the Carthusian house of Mauerbach, and Emperor Joseph II's anger grew. This is what he wrote on December 6, 1781:
There is longstanding evidence that those Orders that are of no practical use to their neighbors are not pleasing to God: accordingly I have commanded the Chancellery to send Commissioners to list those Orders (of men and of women) in all crown lands that neither maintain schools nor care for the sick, nor are prominent in other useful activities: their inmates shall be ejected and given their liberty. Those who are not so numerous may leave our lands without a pension, or else they may apply to the local authorities to be dispensed from their vows... These Orders I understand to include all the Carthusians, Camaldolese and Hermits, and also all the women Carmelites, Poor Clares, Capuchin Sisters, and the like, who neither educate the young nor maintain schools, nor take care of the sick, but, whether men or women, merely lead a contemplative life.
On January 12, 1782, judgment was served on places of “uselessness.” One hundred and forty contemplative houses were closed in the first wave: This meant that around 1,500 religious sisters and brothers had to leave. Just imagine: All the contemplative monasteries and convents that could not be turned into schools and hospitals were shut—thereby putting a definitive end to their “enclosure.” In certain cases, members of the Orders were settled in other, non-contemplative houses, but in most cases they were simply “sent home.” Only a small number managed to make the change into a “life of usefulness.” Joseph II did not stop here, however. He began closing non-contemplative monasteries and convents also, with the result that in this first wave (1782–83), 400 religious houses were closed.

In 1782, Pope Pius VI made a fruitless journey to Vienna to discuss the matter with the emperor. This visit achieved nothing. Dissolutions continued and even increased. A second wave, beginning in 1783, engulfed another 800 houses in Austria and the crown lands. In 1791 Emperor Joseph II had envisaged a third wave of 450 closures; only his death prevented them from being carried out. In the end, two-thirds of all religious houses were closed, and not a single contemplative Order was left. (Read more.)
The Gaming Charterhouse before its closing


No comments: