The Capuchin order is exercising increasing influence in Catholicism, and it is hoping to offer its innovations and ideals of community life and participatory leadership to the wider church, according to the National Catholic Reporter (Nov. 14).
The Capuchins broke away from the Franciscan order in the 16th century as they sought to recover the movement’s original ideals of poverty and simplicity. Although traditionally existing in the shadow of the Franciscans, today they are showing new growth, reversing a 30-year downward trend, and expanding in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.
The recent canonization of Capuchin mystic Padre Pio and the appointment of the monk Sean O’Malley as Archbishop of Boston (to replace Cardinal Bernard Law after the sex abuse scandal) have given the order a new visibility.
With now about 85 Capuchin bishops worldwide (including Denver’s influential and conservative Charles Chaput) as well as many parishes and schools in its orbit, the order is aiming for wide influence. The order’s recent reorganization to recapture its ideal of fraternity–sharing a life with a minimum of three brothers under the same roof — has meant the closing of some parishes, schools and social services. But this paring down is seen as offering the wider church an alternative model of organization. A renewed emphasis on participatory leadership–with no decisions being made by one person — and “transparency” regarding the disclosure of financial matters are key elements in such a model, writes John Allen.
(National Catholic Reporter, P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141)