Maria Monk, Jesuitical trickery, Opus Dei, the Templars . . . why don’t the Cistercians get any conspiracy theories? So asks Br. Stephen Treat:

Yeah, the Templars had a good run and went down in spectacular flames, but doesn’t that setback suggest that maybe they weren’t such great masterminds? Could there have been another group actually pulling the strings? Perhaps the group that got the Templars rolling? A group that was also running around the Holy Land with its own banking system, ships, and a network that counts more than 700 sites in Europe? A group that also founded the Knights of Calatrava? One that not only had the ear of the papacy but could put one of its own on the throne of Peter? An order that mysteriously developed the first commercial foundry in the Middle Ages? One that faced not only the Saracens but also acted as the inquisitors against the Cathars and went on to play cloak and dagger with the Jacobins, Josephists, Nazis, and Communists? Doesn’t anyone who writes thrillers remember that you should always suspect the quiet ones?

It really doesn’t seem fair. The Templars were a 175-year flash in the pan but you can fill a library with books peddling crackpot theories about them. Opus Dei is still practically in diapers and they get to have albino assassin monks. We’ve got 900 years of material to work with and all we get are academic monographs.

I think Merton ruined our chances for conspiracy glory. Granted that’s a different order, but not many folks seem to catch the distinction. Now when people think of Cistercians, it’s all peace and love. Of course maybe that’s just what we wanted . . . .

So if you see a flash of black and white rounding the corner on a dark and stormy night, don’t think it’s all peace and love. You know who’s brewing trouble. Unless it’s actually those sinister Dominicans .

Articles by Nathaniel Peters

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