Clare and Francis both embraced the proposition of Gregory the Great that we are saved by those we despise.
-from “The Great Catholic Reformers…”, by Dr. C. Colt Anderson, USML
“The idea that God uses people we regard as unimportant or as offensive to save us by teaching us humility, which Gregory saw revealed in Christ’s life and in the stories of the Old Testament saints, had become quite commonplace (by Clare and Francis’ time).
Rather than demanding the recognition of rights, Franciscan reform demanded a willingness to be despised in order to save others…this idea makes Franciscan thought and reform largely inaccessible to people who privilege current categories of thought…Ideas such as inherent rights and modern notions of freedom would not begin to appear until roughly five hundred years later.
Both Clare and Francis subscribed to the idea that the path to peace was poverty. They would not have understood contemporary ideas that there will be no peace until there is justice. Instead, Clare and Francis believed it was necessary to give others more than they deserved to establish peace.
By calling Christians to actively embrace and steadfastly love evil people, Franciscan reform went beyond passive resistance. Based on the belief that the only way to overcome fear is through love,…Francis forbid his brothers from growing angry, from gossiping, from revilement, detraction, judging, and condemning those who were corrupt…
In fact, there is something radically, and Clare said ‘wonderfully’, subversive about Francis & Clare’s desires and actions to give those who are corrupt more respect than they deserve. By giving the corrupt more respect than they deserve, Francis and Clare were imitating the way Christ desires to give to sinners the grace they do not deserve. Franciscan reform hopes to compunct the sinner into reform.
Franciscan reform is absolutely nonsensical to those who do not possess the fear of God. It is the fear of God, the recognition that God is just and that people are not, which moves the sinner to seek reconciliation. Grateful for the gift of salvation, the sinner learns to be gracious with others. Fear of God also allows people to let go of their anger and desire for vengeance. In this sense, the fear of God is a mercy for those who have suffered real oppression or evil. Filled with this gift, the only pious or appropriate response to sinners, even clerical sinners, is to feel pity for them.”