Emotional Issues – the Role of the Fraternity

A reflection on the emotional maturity of candidates as well as that of the professed friars seems essential, remembering that when it comes to emotional balance, we can take nothing for granted, and nothing as being definitively acquired.

It is, therefore, a question of assisting each friar to become more aware of this vital dimension of our life and developing the habit of dialoguing about these issues with people of trust. This should happen before difficulties arise, so that these healthy helping relationships can be engaged in times of need. In this area, perhaps even more than any other, it is difficult to overcome difficulties on one’s own. The help of someone competent and reliable is needed.

More specific sexual issues do not always have to do with a significant experience of falling in love. In this regard, perhaps a renewed attention to the ascetic dimension and the capacity for renunciation would be helpful — approaches which, although insufficient in themselves, are still necessary in order to live the vow of chastity. In this regard too, a stronger contrast to the culture of “everything is permissible, always” should be encouraged.

In some individual cases (but not always) this discussion can be linked to the broader theme of “addictions”. When we speak about addictions, we mean the psychological and sometimes physical habit of addiction and dependence on substances, habits, or harmful behaviours.

In our fraternities, offers of assistance ought to come from the individual’s confreres, and in particular from the Guardian when the problem becomes evident. But we know that sometimes the friars do not notice a confrere’s dependencies, or if they are aware, justify them as “peculiar habits” or “personal characteristics”. Often, when a friar’s problems lead him to decide to leave the Order, the friars of his fraternity say that they were unaware that anything was the matter. This is true not only in cases of addictions (which less frequently lead to requests to leave the Order) but also in cases of emotional involvement with others.

In each case, both when we do not notice an issue and when we justify the unjustifiable, it seems to trigger a kind of complicity, arising from a mistaken notion of discretion. It appears that friars think “it’s none of my business” or “I must not judge my brother” and therefore avoid addressing the problem. Cain’s question appears in us: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Sometimes even a distorted feeling of solidarity emerges, whereby the activities of the problematic brother are justified, and even defended against superiors or other friars, lashing out at those who raise the issue.

Of course, we are not called to be indiscreet or to be intrusive in dealing with the affairs of others. However, there is a level of fraternal involvement which no member of a fraternity should evade. If I notice a brother’s problem, in addition to talking to the person concerned, it would be useful to speak in a constructive way with the leader of the fraternity itself, not as gossip but as a form of help for the brother who needs it. All this brings us back to the existence of a fraternal climate, something that we must promote and nurture in our communities. (F&PDocument, pp. 36-39)

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