chapter  6
28 Pages

The Salt of Caritas: Letter 111 Continued

In the previous chapter, it was argued that the ‘private’ frame to letter 111, Peter’s second ‘open’ communication dealing with Cluniac-Cistercian relations, constitutes both an acknowledgement and a rebuttal of the blocking tactics employed by Bernard in his ep. 228. Bernard can be seen to have rejected Peter’s proposal to engage in dialogue, through reductive rhetoric borrowed from Augustine and Jerome, associating debate with ‘mock-combat’ and ‘palinode’ on the one hand, and pretexting age and infirmity as a justification for ‘honourable discharge’ from spiritual warfare on the other. While Bernard’s subversion of the Augustinian voice to serve Jeromian tactics reads as an attempt to assert control and to impose closure, Peter’s conflation of Augustinian and Jeromian echoes in the epistolary ‘quarrel’ can be seen as abolishing distance and neutralising distinction. Whereas Bernard commends ‘silence’ as the best means of procuring peace, buttressed by a hidden warning that a reopening of the debate would leave the Cluniacs open to a renewal of painful criticism, Peter counters with an analogy which presents silence as a chief weapon in the ‘tyranny’ of Satan. Satan is said to have set up his stronghold in the heart of monasticism.1 Mutual rancour is shown to have replaced mutual charity.2 ‘Joking’ and ‘mockery’, key tools in the reduction of debate to ‘mock-combat’, are transposed through biblical allusion to the prospective victory of Satan.3 In what follows, Peter will illustrate through heavy satire that silent detraction is as damaging as verbal abuse.