Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae
On-line version ISSN 2412-4265
Print version ISSN 1017-0499
DENIS, Philippe. The suspension and resignation of Franz Pfanner, first abbot of Mariannhill. Studia Hist. Ecc. [online]. 2014, vol.40, n.1, pp.39-56. ISSN 2412-4265.
This article focuses on an episode of the history of the Mariannhill monastery, by far the most successful Catholic missionary enterprise in the late 19,h and early 20* centuries, about which there has long been uncertainty: the suspension and resignation of Franz Pfanner, the founder of the monastery and its first abbot. His downfall was the direct consequence of a visitation conducted by the abbot of Oelenberg, Franciscus Strunk, between January and July 1892. To restore the observances which had been relaxed to enable mission work and to bring down the pride of an abbot who was accused of buying too much land and recruiting too many monks, the visitator asked him to submit to the authority of a Mission Council made up of influential members of the monastery. Convinced that this proposal was not practical, Pfanner continued to make decisions on his own, as prescribed, in fact, by the Benedictine Rule which the Trappists never ceased to follow. He was sanctioned for disregarding the visitator's orders. Suspended for a year, he offered his resignation a few months later, in January or February 1893, and this was accepted by the abbot general of the Trappist Order. For his remaining years he lived the life of an ordinary monk, in relative isolation, at Emaus, a remote mission station in the Drakensberg area. That was not an exile in the proper sense, but until his last day he suffered from a deep sense of injustice.