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11 An Infirm Man: Reading Francis of Assisi’s Retirement in the Context of Canon Law

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses Francis's disabilities in the history of his life and Order. It nuances the traditional narrative of Francis's decision to devolve the leadership of his Order onto others, that Francis disliked administering the Order, stepped down and that Francis's desire to lead a humble life of obedience led him to step away from the spotlight of leading an international order. The chapter contends that in accordance with both monastic and ecclesiastical tradition and canon law, Francis stepped down and appointed a vicar or steward to act in his stead when he could no longer adequately perform his duties as leader. While Francis's desire for a simpler life no doubt played a role in his so-called retirement, Francis left the leadership of his order in the hands of others in the years after at least partially because his health failed him and canon law stipulated that he should.

Keywords: canon law; Francis; international order; steward; vicar



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