Tensions between different forms of relationships exist in every organizational setting, and there is often a potential conflict involved when personal relationships develop beside the organized relationship between members. Catholic monasteries, as archetypical examples of voluntary total and greedy institutions, are strategic cases of inquiry for understanding relational conflicts because of the significance they assign to exclusively fraternal relations, resulting in an explicit tension with personal forms of relationships. Simultaneously, this makes them fruitful cases for conceptualizing fraternal relationships, and how they differ from friendship, in an organizational context.

Variants of fraternal relations exist in many arenas, but fraternal relationships have only been fragmentarily explored in the research literature, and the conceptualization remains unclear. In this presentation, I will present a new conceptualization of fraternal relations in order to discuss how tensions between fraternal relationships and friendship are manifested and what practices of friendship that are possible to emerge and persist in the monastic setting. This is based on a qualitative, multi-sited case study of French monk and nun monasteries within the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance (aka Trappists), one of the strictest contemplative orders in the Catholic Church.