Clericalism

Betrayal of the Body of Christ

Why Is Clericalism so Bad?

The most lethal consequence of clericalism, I believe, is the deadening it inflicts upon the Body of Christ, His Church ordered and intended for maturity — for holy, fervent, fruitful and glorious life! The clericalist opposes and contradicts Scripture:

And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants. . . . Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ,from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:11–16)

The Aberration of Clericalism

Clericalism is a word heard and read with increasing frequency among us in the Catholic Church today, fortunately, because it really is among us. Clericalism is an important and profoundly harmful reality dwelling within some if not many Catholics today, clergy and laity. We need to see and acknowledge this; we need to recognize the pervasive presence of it, and find the resolve to deeply repent of it. Clericalism is not acceptable: it is an aberration of the true call to deacons, priests, and bishops to follow Christ as ordained ministers — servants — among His people. Clericalism is a contradiction to the life of Christ, an obstacle to the Holy Spirit in and among His people. Clericalism forms a culture of death, a culture of deacons, priests, or bishops (and the laity who enable them) in which they seek to keep the focus and attention on themselves, seeking to be the center of it all, always the most important person in the room, an inappropriate self-centeredness extending even to the celebration of the Holy Mass. And they exercise their authority in such a way as to maintain continuing dependence (“childhood”) in those they rule. Whereas the pastor is called, as St. Paul wrote, to lead his people to holy maturity in Christ, the clericalist would keep them all in spiritual infancy, dependent upon him, his word, his permission, his approval for every move in his kingdom.

Clericalism is a specific kind of a more-general aberration among leaders, paternalism. A simple definition is (from the New Oxford American Dictionary):

paternalism – the policy or practice on the part of people in positions of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates’ supposed best interest.

Supposed best interest” is a telling phrase. The paternalist supposes with little doubt that he knows better than anyone what is best for everyone around him, and not too deep under the surface he realizes his own innate superiority well-expressed in the rule and management of others. Paternalism takes the honor and dignity of paternity, of natural human fatherhood, and distorts it. Clericalism takes and distorts spiritual fatherhood. Clericalism is religious paternalism, clothed in clerical garb and vestments, crowned with ecclesial titles of sanctity, all covering ambitions of self-advancement and excessive control of others.

A bishop in New Zealand, Bishop Charles Drennan of the Diocese of Palmerston North, wrote a most concise and yet meaningful explanation of clericalism:

Clericalism is the appropriation by a clerical caste of what is proper to all the baptized. More simply put, it’s a club mentality which renders the baptized subservient to preening priests.

I loathe clericalism. It makes me shudder. It’s a hangover from tribal forms of priesthood — where castes were set aside for temple service — found in the Old Testament, and which morphed into a culture of “superiority” or entitlement, or as Jesus himself put it: “lording it over others” (see Mt 20:25 and 1 Pt 5:3).

Clericalism isn’t an isolated phenomenon; it has close cousins. Misogyny, sexism, bullying, racism, paternalism, are also pathetic attempts to lord it over others.1

A clericalist expresses an aberration of the office of clergy in the Church. It is an honor to be a faithful member of the clergy of the holy Catholic Church! It is a dishonor to that office to abuse it with clericalism, to be in fact a clericalist. “Bishop Charles,” as his diocesan website consistently refers to him, gathers clericalism into a group of related aberrations including, in particular, paternalism and one Jesus described as lording it over others. The Pope, as we will read below, called it being masters and not servants. Bishop Charles had cited these passages:

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.” (Mt 20:25)

Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. (1 Pet 5:2–3)

This “lording it over others” — by religious leaders, by men called to be shepherds and pastors of the People of God — is especially ugly and shameful. It is an attempt to “manage” the Church of the elect as do the managers in the world of the lost. It is a rejection of the Cross, of the living Body of Christ, of the honor of being minister-servant-shepherd, to instead make it “all about me”: as the bishop put it, to “preen” oneself, to bathe in self-glorification. As Jesus said, in calling out the scribes and Pharisees of His day:

They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries [vestments] broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts [church dinners] and the best seats in the synagogues [the Presidential Chair at the celebrations of Mass], and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi [Father] by men. (Mt 23:5–7)

Jesus warned them,

He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Mt 23:11–12)

It may be pejorative, and is not strictly accurate, to label clericalists of our day as “Pharisees,” but it does seem that the Pharisees of the time of Jesus were the clericalists of that day — though they were in fact laity.

Clericalism Ought Not Be

Pope Francis has rightly cast a strongly critical light on clericalism in the Church today. To cite one example from one occasion, meeting with the bishops of Chile and Peru (Jan 15–22, 2018), the Pope said:

The lack of consciousness of belonging to God’s faithful people as servants, and not masters, can lead us to one of the temptations that is most damaging to the missionary outreach that we are called to promote: clericalism, which ends up as a caricature of the vocation we have received.

A failure to realize that the mission belongs to the entire Church, and not to the individual priest or bishop, limits the horizon, and even worse, stifles all the initiatives that the Spirit may be awakening in our midst. Let us be clear about this. The laypersons are not our peons, or our employees. They don’t have to parrot back whatever we say. “Clericalism, far from giving impetus to various contributions and proposals, gradually extinguishes the prophetic flame to which the entire Church is called to bear witness. Clericalism forgets that the visibility and the sacramentality of the Church belong to all the faithful people of God (cf. Lumen Gentium, 9–14), not only to the few chosen and enlightened”.

Let us be on guard, please, against this temptation, especially in seminaries and throughout the process of formation. I must confess, I am concerned about the formation of seminarians, that they be pastors at the service of the People of God; as a pastor should be, through the means of doctrine, discipline, the sacraments, by being close to the people, through works of charity, but also with the awareness that they are the People of God. Seminaries must stress that future priests be capable of serving God’s holy and faithful people, acknowledging the diversity of cultures and renouncing the temptation to any form of clericalism. The priest is a minister of Jesus Christ: Jesus is the protagonist who makes himself present in the entire people of God.

Tomorrow’s priests must be trained with a view to the future, since their ministry will be carried out in a secularized world. This in turn demands that we pastors discern how best to prepare them for carrying out their mission in these concrete circumstances and not in our “ideal worlds or situations”. Their mission is carried out in fraternal unity with the whole People of God. Side by side, supporting and encouraging the laity in a climate of discernment and synodality, two of the essential features of the priest of tomorrow. Let us say no to clericalism and to ideal worlds that are only part of our thinking, but touch the life of no one.

The Rightful Office of Pastoral Governance

The rightful office of pastoral governance, particularly for the priest, is well-summarized in this portion of an excellent essay previously published in HPR, by (at-that-time) Rev. Mr. Gaurav Shroff:

The office of governance flows from the intimate unity of the ministerial priesthood with Christ, the Head, and is an empowerment in order to act in the person of Christ, the Head (Presbyterorum Ordinis §2), which manifests itself in a concern with the building up of the Church, the Body of Christ. The Council teaches that the office of pastoral governance of bishops is oriented to the “spiritual development of their flock in truth and holiness” (Lumen Gentium §27). It links this with the image of the good shepherd (Latin, pastor bonus), as well as a true father, who unites and molds his flock “into one family” (Christus Dominus §16). The priest shares in the authority of the bishop (Presbyterorum Ordinis §6), and are leaders and guides, who lead the family of God “in Christ, through the Spirit, to God the Father” (Presbyterorum Ordinis §6; cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis §26). This identification of the governing office with the image of Christ, the Good Shepherd, requires priests to have a spirit of humility and self-sacrifice, and a human personality that is not authoritarian, but attractive, acting as a bridge for others to meet Jesus Christ. Pastoral governance is not simply administration of the Church’s goods (whether temporal or spiritual), or of an institution, or simply an attention to the maintenance of the structures of the parish. It is for the sake of the unity of, and the building up of, community.

The author added, concerning rightful pastoral governance: “It is oriented to the full flowering of the vocation of the laity.” He then includes the following quote from Presbyterorum Ordinis, which does describe this orientation “eloquently”:

For this reason, it is the priests’ part as instructors of the people in the faith to see to it, either personally or through others, that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with the Gospel teaching, and to sincere and active charity and the liberty with which Christ has set us free. Very little good will be achieved by ceremonies, however beautiful, or societies, however flourishing, if they are not directed towards educating people to reach Christian maturity (Presbyterorum Ordinis §6; emphases added).2

You Cannot Serve God and Self:
There Can Be Only One King on the Throne Within

The rightful sense of Church leadership is well described in one of the titles of the Pope: “servant of the servants of God.” True, authentic, and heartfelt servanthood is glory in the Kingdom of God. Jesus said to His Twelve, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). In this simple word, servant, the deep chasm separating the ways of God and His Kingdom from the ways of the world and its fatal flaw is illuminated. In His Kingdom, God is King. In the darkness of the world, each man is king in his own heart.

St. Augustine summed up well the distinction between the two cities present in the world since Cain and Abel until now; the earthly city — the City of Man — and the heavenly city — the City of God:

Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience.

The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, “Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” [Ps 3:3] In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” [Ps 18:1]

Citizens of the City of Man are present even, tragically, within His Church! And if they rule, they rule as men not having a servant-heart governed by love, but rather they rule having a heart driven by “the love of ruling.” Citizens of the City of God present in His Holy Church, however, if they rule, rule because of love, selflessly: “the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all.”

The love of ruling in the secular world leads, in a democracy, to career politicians whose major job description is winning re-election and advancing in power, influence, and prestige. Ambition in the world of religion is similar, but minus the election: the bishop (or the pope) and his advisors have the only votes that count. The ladder “up” exists, as in the world, to more prestigious appointments to bigger or more visible parishes, or dioceses, to more power and more money and more distinguished titles. Men can seek and find their own glory inside as well as outside of the Church, to their own detriment — and often to the detriment of those they “serve” in the process of serving themselves. Meanwhile the true, authentic servant-leaders serve quietly, often intentionally keeping “a low profile,” hoping to be unnoticed by the outside world, seeking to honor and please God above all, and to serve — really serve — His people in Truth.

Here, of course, I speak of clericalists on the one hand and holy, humble deacons, priests, and bishops on the other. One serves himself and uses — abuses — as instruments, others. The other serves the One God, and others faithfully, only in Him.

What Can Be Done? What Can I Do?

Pray! And when possible and when led in charity and established in prudence, instruct. A firmly convinced clericalist, however, will be as hardened and resistant as the “scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Mt 23) were in the time of Jesus. They sit “on the seat of Moses”! Who are you to correct them! (Jesus Himself could not correct them!) They love the place of honor — and they have that place. They love the salutations, the honor, and the respect of men, and they have that. They are the “teacher,” they are the “father,” they have the power, for now, and they love it all. Who are you, to trouble the system that they control?

Pray, care, seek the truth of God, and you will be given the way of your Lord: the Cross. You will be given suffering, for the sake of Him who went before us, and you will share in His Cross and in His tears. And in His Glory, in the end.

And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it. (Lk 19:41)

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Lk 13:34)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; . . . And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, . . . and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. . . . He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21:1–5)

  1. Bishop Charles Drennan, “Clericalism & Governance,” Diocese of Palmerston North website, pndiocese.org.nz/bishop/clericalism-governance/.
  2. Rev. Mr. Gaurav Shroff, “The ‘Munus Regendi’ of the Priest and the Vocation of the Laity,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, hprweb.com/2012/12/the-munus-regendi-of-the-priest-and-the-vocation-of-the-laity/.
R. Thomas Richard, PhD About R. Thomas Richard, PhD

R. Thomas Richard, PhD, together with his wife, currently offers parish presentations and adult formation opportunities. He has served as religious formation director for parishes, director of lay ministry and deacon formation at the diocesan level, and retreat director. A former teacher, engineer, Protestant minister, and missionary, he has earned graduate degrees in Catholic theology and ministry, Protestant ministry, and physics. He is the author of several books in Catholic spirituality, which are described on his website, www.renewthechurch.com.

Comments

  1. Malachi 2:7 – “It is the duty of priests to teach the true knowledge of God. People should go to them to learn my will, because they are the messengers of the Lord Almighty.” Reference: Good News Bible (Catholic Study Edition)

    • Avatar Felizardo Zards Perales says:

      Bishops, priests, “they are the messengers of the Lord Almighty.” Messengers who serves, not lording over us like the men of the fallen world.

  2. Avatar Tom McGuire says:

    Refreshing to read an honest reflection about clericalism, which is a kind of crucifixion of the Church of Christ. We are a dying Church, waiting for the surprise of the Resurrection. I would add to what Thomas Richard wrote. We, both bishops, priests, deacons and laity, need to smell like the sheep. Not just be the teachers set apart, living in a comfortable life style–house, car, and the best of food and drink. How about accompaniment with the poor, those living on the street, those who have given up hope and no longer find any consolation in being associated with Church? How about all of us together engaging in making missionary disciples? That would require our becoming communities of believers known for our love for one another, rather than as a communities that stand against, judge and condemn what is evil in those secular people among whom we are forced to live.

    We, as Church, are a long way from living the Paschal mystery. We are still so self absorbed, looking for a personal assurance that God will save me. I want to cry when I hear homilies that sound more like self help admonitions than proclamations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I also know the truth of speaking with those who are steeped in clericalism. I will never give up trying to share what I have come to know in Christ, I also admit my own tendencies to dominate rather than serve. I too live in a world of extreme narcissism, in which the greatest virtue is greed. Fortunately, my loving spouse constantly reminds me of my ego and self absorbed ways of being.

    • Avatar Paul Becke says:

      ‘Refreshing to read an honest reflection about clericalism, which is a kind of crucifixion of the Church of Christ. We are a dying Church, waiting for the surprise of the Resurrection.’

      Yes. I often wonder whether Jesus’ repeated request to Peter to feed his ‘ovines’, starting with his lanbs and then, twice, his sheep is indicative of Jesus’ knowledge that the Church would progressively tend over the two millennia to degenerate, resembling the very order of the Gentile world he had warned against, where their great men lord it over them., Although presumably it was at its worst during periods in the early centuries and then in the middle-ages.

      However, my knowledge of Church history is pretty limited. I do however believe that the Tridentine dispensation, at least in the last few centuries, was shockingly bad.

      Likewise, Peter’s crucifixion, precisely that return of the Church under the Pope’s leadership, to its pristine spiritual values, as yet uncontaminated by the world and its cravings..

    • Those deeply troubling and unsatisfying “self-help” homilies (and other similarly based presentations, retreats and “missions”) betray the infusing (infiltrating) of the world into the Church. In the world, the “self” unashamedly sits on the throne of the hearts of so many! Those so self-enthroned, seated in the pews and/or in the presider’s chair, hold and/or preach only a natural faith pleasing to the self: a faith with no cross. We need – we truly need – to hear the Truth of Christ proclaimed in supernatural faith and power, with authentic flaming zeal, the Truth that pierces to the heart and transforms those hungering to hear and receive it.

      It is not easy to die to self! Tenacious self-love clings and fights in self-defense against any who threatens its dominion. But grace – holy Life – is stronger still.

  3. Avatar Susan Scully says:

    What a beautiful and heart-felt article. I could not stop the tears flowing down my cheeks. I am pretty much a nobody, but I yearn for holy priests who will teach the Word of God at Mass especially. Thank you Dr. Richard for this “shake up”. I hope this article gets read by those who need it most.

    • Hello Susan. True and deep hunger for the Word of God – both in the Eucharist and in the Sacred Scripture – is a precious gift. And Canon Law is on your side, that it ought to be provided to the faithful:

      Can. 528 §1 The parish priest has the obligation of ensuring that the word of God is proclaimed in its entirety to those living in the parish. He is therefore to see to it that the lay members of Christ’s faithful are instructed in the truths of faith, especially by means of the homily on Sundays and holydays of obligation and by catechetical formation. He is to foster works which promote the spirit of the Gospel, including its relevance to social justice. He is to have a special care for the catholic education of children and young people. With the collaboration of the faithful, he is to make every effort to bring the gospel message to those also who have given up religious practice or who do not profess the true faith.

      Can. 767 §1 The most important form of preaching is the homily, which is part of the liturgy, and is reserved to a priest or deacon. In the course of the liturgical year, the mysteries of faith and the rules of christian living are to be expounded in the homily from the sacred text.
      §2 At all Masses on Sundays and holydays of obligation, celebrated with a congregation, there is to be a homily and, except for a grave reason, this may not be omitted.
      §3 It is strongly recommended that, if a sufficient number of people are present, there be a homily at weekday Masses also, especially during Advent and Lent, or on a feast day or an occasion of grief.
      §4 It is the responsibility of the parish priest or the rector of a church to ensure that these provisions are carefully observed.

      • Avatar Susan Scully says:

        Thank you so much for this reply, Dr. Richard. My heart yearns so hear a homily so moving, so full of God’s Truth and Love that I jump for joy. I think if Mass and homilies were like that each week the church buildings could not hold all the faithful. God have mercy on us.

  4. Always good and thought-provoking articles here, Deo Gratias.

  5. Avatar JohnnyVoxx says:

    Today, when our hierarchy decries “clericalism” what they really mean is that they themselves are Ecclesiastical Freemasons, who are trying to destroy what’s left of Holy Mother Church and the “clerics” – such as they are now – who remain at least nominally Catholic. We, the faithful, are no longer fooled by this destructive doubletalk. May God renew His Holy Church and fill it with robust and faithful Bishops, priests and nuns who are unmistakably Catholic and unafraid of the phony charge of “clericalism” in this deceptive age.

  6. anne cherney anne cherney says:

    How good to hear that out loud! God bless you for your courage. These are thoughts I’ve had for years…so good to see them in print! God bless you.

  7. Anne Cherney Anne Cherney says:

    More thoughts. From “presbyteros”, the European languages all got their words for “priest,” which it doesn’t mean at all. It was used in the original Greek New Testament to name those who, in the early Church, had a special service role among their brethren–the elders. When the Latin Vulgate translation came along at the beginning of the fifth century their roles had obviously become more exalted, and perhaps also from the influence of the roman pagan religion around them, they became sometimes called “sacerdos”, Latin for priest. This was especially true in the passages where they were more important, such as where prayer and fasting are asked before choosing them, and where there are sick who need anointing. We can’t blame it on St. Jerome, who translated neither “Acts” nor the epistles. “Unknown Latin writers” did. Other times they are called “seniores”, in true translation. These times made it into the Douai-Rheims as “ancients.” But the word “presbyteros” was still around, and it was becoming applied to the sacerdos.
    A deliberate mistranslation is a lie. This lie produced clericalism.

    • Hello Anne,
      Thank you for your analyses of some of the words relevant to “clericalism.” But I don’t see how you can say that any verbal mistranslations of New Testament writings, deliberate or not, could “produce clericalism.” Clericalism seems clearly present, as I read the NT, in the “priests and elders” who opposed Jesus in His time.

      Clericalism, in other words, predates Christian priesthood. We could revamp our vocabulary from top to bottom, purge it of every ambiguous, misapplied, or even falsely applied word, and we would not have rooted out clericalism. Clericalism, conscious or unconscious, intentional or unintentional, occasional or habitual, will be with us as long as human imperfection and concupiscence exist. And when that day comes, we will be at the threshold of Beatitude. We could, and should. work to minimize it in our Church! But we must remember the parable the Lord gave us:
      Mat 13:27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’
      Mat 13:28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’
      Mat 13:29 But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.
      Mat 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

      Even the weeds have a role to play in God’s work of salvation.

  8. When I see clerics who are absolutely convinced in their self righteousness, I inevitably think of the proud pharisees of old whom Jesus criticized so much. Unfortunately, some cardinals self assumed the role of moral correctors of the pope and of all of us, and of all teaching of God’s Mercy for the poor sinners, so good shown in Divine Mercy devotion…i.e. a correction of all what it is about to be Christian and to believe in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for our sins… Instead of Jesus’ sacrifice to be applied for our sins to be forgiven, those people (few cardinals included) want to sacrifice us, God’s people, on a different altar, the altar of their pride….I’d call it with a different name, not Christianity, not Divine Mercy. it has more to do with the Great Accuser.

    If pope Francis has a fault (and all of us have) it is he is too patient with them. In previous centuries they would have been excommunicated for much less opposition. And we ALL suffer and pay consequences of the mercy shown towards THEM, the modern spiritual persecutors of God’s flock…Isn’t it better to remove them for the sake of survival of God’s people? Or no, the Church should remain 100 mln and all the rest Billion should be made leave the Church one way or another, because of a handful righteous clerics? Where is the sane reason? I appeal to pope Francis to stop being too meek with the wolves inside God’s house! Better they go than the majority to be lost!

    Sorry for my flamboyance, but I can’t stand when someone elected cardinal would publish scandalous books, calling everything holy “judases”, and pretend only he knows how to read the Gospel, and we all, billions, with 5,000 bishops around the world and 120 cardinals, and the holy father pope, just don’t understand it. It is not a spiritual pride, it is a spiritual revolt. Sorry, but that is not my Catholic belief I had from childhood!

    • Daniel A. Nicholls Daniel A. Nicholls says:

      Do you really think everyone in the world except a handful of cardinals think a certain way about the way the Church should follow the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles? If really so, I encourage you to read the comments on any Catholic news or opinion site that has an active combox section. But not too much — it’s bad for the soul, generally.

  9. Avatar Robert Sperry says:

    Been seeing this term “clericalism” batted around a lot lately, but couldn’t get the feel for it until I asked our pastor if he would reinstitute the practise of saying the St. Michael prayer after Mass. He replied that it wasn’t up to him. Wrote the bishop. He never replied. So I became an anticlericalist. Took matters into my own clericalist hands and, after the closing hymn, led the congregation in reciting the St. Michael Prayer. Hey, it’s our church too. If you’re not going to do your job, step aside.

  10. Avatar John Joseph says:

    To the Author, R. Thomas Richard: Is there anything in Canon Law about clericalism with regard to bishops & priests who show partiality & favoritism? I would most definitely like to cite something to our pastor, and the bishop who lives with him who is the one actually controlling the parish. There is blatant partiality and favouritism shown to the bishop’s personal ‘friends’ who are parishioners (they all hold positions of power, are hand-picked for the various councils & ministries, etc.), and you have to fight at every turn for anything spiritual as it has become all about money. Mother Church has become so sick and divided that if you stand up, you are in one heated spiritual warfare battle and they have all their excuses, lies, and enemy lines up for attack. So, just wondering what we have in Canon Law for our defence when we are trying to do God’s Holy Will & allow the Holy Spirit to work???

    • Hello John – Thank you for your comment, even though it is a difficult one to read. I am not a canon-law lawyer, but I doubt that Canon Law would be a help here. Canon Law cannot put into the heart of someone in authority, that which ought to be in his heart by virtue of his Baptism, and Holy Orders. I do recommend to you, though, the excellent essay I cited as reference #2 above, in my essay here on Clericalism: Rev. Mr. Gaurav Shroff, “The ‘Munus Regendi’ of the Priest and the Vocation of the Laity,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review,
      https://www.hprweb.com/2012/12/the-munus-regendi-of-the-priest-and-the-vocation-of-the-laity/.

      The burden placed on the heart of our clergy is a grave one: to help all the faithful toward our common holy calling in Christ – to holiness and to the perfection of charity, to a living, vital participation in the life of Christ as priest, prophet and king. It is indeed the burden of the Cross! A heavy one, calling for the total self-gift of the priest – a burden that some carry and live heroically, but that others, tragically, do not.

  11. Avatar John Laurence says:

    I don’t think clericalism is exclusively the fault of clerics who place themselves on pedestals but rather it is also the fault of lay persons who themselves place the clerics on the pedestal. “Admiration” can be like poison to the recipient and can become a great temptation toward clericalism. I often think about the response that St Clare (of Assisi) had for the pope who reprimanded her because she was fasting “too much” saying to him: “I need you for the sacraments, but I do not need your advice.” (Correct me if I am wrong in the exact wording). Clerics need our love, not our admiration.

  12. Avatar George Iron Crow says:

    My reality check on this issue is the story of the Reluctant Saint,
    Joseph of Cupertino. Also a great old movie! Somewhere I
    remember reading ‘it is when you are weak, that you are strong.’
    Long a victim of the clerical caste system my joy has been being
    shunned by the PC good old boys , and coming full circle to
    understand finally why the “meek shall inherit the earth.”

  13. Avatar Eric Joseph says:

    There is a correlation between “dominance” (which is sought by the highly clerical) and sexual arousal. The scandal in the church that is bringing to public eye the abuse of adolescent boys and girls, nuns, and young seminarians is only one form of abuse. Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a priest’s unbridled anger knows in his or her heart that some degree of arousal is taking place during the priest’s display of domination. This “power play” is simply another form of abuse and it is much more rampant than the overt sexual abuse but no one dares say anything.

  14. Dr Richard did not have the benefit of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s recent letter, which explains clergy abuse, particularly sex abuse as “the absence of God.” There is in the letter no reference to “clericalism”. Sloth, not clericalism, is the main sin of the clergy. This makes sense when one sees the defining element of the priest as ‘he who offers worship.’ Obviously, worship is a form of prayer, and he who cannot prayer cannot worship. Spiritual laziness will be the core vice of the errant priest, and it is included as one of the capital sins.

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