Chapter 69 of the Rule seems odd at first glance, but as with other parts of the Rule, we find wisdom at work if we look more closely.
Who would not want to come to the defense of another? If we have love in our hearts, it’s a natural tendency. So, what can be wrong with it? Well….according to Benedict….at least two things.
First, we don’t know what may have given rise to the disciplining of the person. So, we might unknowingly short circuit a disciplinary process that’s already underway between the abbot and the monk. Our first task is to insure that our perceptions are correct; to be certain that our defense-reaction is not the product of rumor.
And second, the public domain is not the field upon which to play out the defense. The defense should be made in private. It’s not a matter of spectacle for everyone. It’s a matter of insuring that justice is done between the censured monk and the larger community.
Chapter 69 is not a prohibition against defense when it’s obvious that wrong is being done toward another member of the community. Rather, it is a call to exercise great care in seeing to it that the defense is made properly and without taking something that’s already bad, and making it worse.