In this manner then did Benedictine Monasticism operate for ecclesiastical reform, and Cluny affords another phase of Benedictine work. Nevertheless, in spite of the magnificence and prosperity of the Abbey, there are reasons for not considering it as a typical Benedictine house, not only on account of its abnormal size and grandeur, but also by reason of a much more important feature -- its peculiar system of government.
Among the Cluniac monks, centralization was an essential point. The numerous monasteries throughout Europe were not independent, nor were their members exempt from the immediate jurisdiction of an external superior. This idea ran directly counter to St. Benedict's explicit ruling, for he had realized clearly enough that the family life, on which he set such value, was impossible, unless each monastery was an independent unit with a superior of its own choosing, free from the jurisdiction of any external authority.
Centralization had been tried before. It had been deemed a remedy for certain abuses and weakness in the Benedictine system, but it had failed then, as it failed now in the case of Cluny. The combination of unity and independence, finally secured by the congregational system, had not yet come into being.
OSB Index * General Information * Saint Benedict