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This is an abbreviated version of a chapter in Countercultural Catholic, forthcoming book on building a Catholic culture in a post-Christian world written by Phil Lawler who is Director of Catholic Culture/Editor, CWNIn June 2013, Pope Francis said that he longed for a Church “without a life of its own.” He explained that curious remark by saying that ideally the Church should live only the life of Christ. The Church, he said, should be “the mysterium lunae which has light from her Bridegroom and diminishes herself so that He may grow.”To attain that ideal, the Holy Father continued, the members of the Church must subordinate their own wishes to the will of Christ, and adopt the attitude of St. John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30)Just a few days later, in an address to Latin American bishops, Pope Francis used similar language as he explained what happens when Church officials take the opposite attitude: The Church then claims to have a light of her own, and she stops being that mysterium lunae of which the Church Fathers spoke. She becomes increasingly self-referential and loses her need to be missionary. From an institution she becomes an enterprise. She stops being a bride and ends up being an administrator; from being a servant, she becomes an inspector.The attitude that the Pope describes here is clericalism: the perverse tendency to use the Church, to profit from the Church, to satisfy one’s own goals by means of the Church, rather than to serve the Church. Clericalism is born of the temptation to see the Church as an organization rather than an organism, and to believe that the needs of the Church are identical with the needs (or wishes) of those who work for the Church.The disease of clericalism—or spiritual worldliness, if you prefer—manifests itself in a variety of different ways. The secular world looks upon the Church as an organization, and nothing more; even faithful Catholics may occasionally catch themselves thinking along the same lines. The tendency to think of the Church as a large multinational organization, with headquarters in Rome and branch offices in the world’s dioceses, creeps constantly into discussions of Catholicism. The perception of the Church as a multinational corporation, with bishops (and ultimately the Pope) wielding executive control, encourages secular critics to argue that the hierarchy should tailor dogmas to match popular styles. Even the notion that doctrines should be established by public opinion reflects the clericalist mentality. It derives from the assumption that the Church is our possession, operating under our guidance.The truth, which bears constant repetition, is that the Church belongs to Christ, and is guided by the Holy Spirit. Bishops are not executives for a corporate enterprise; they are fathers to a large spiritual family. The Roman Pontiff himself does not have the authority to alter the teachings of the Church.When bishops fall into the error of thinking of themselves as branch managers of an international enterprise, they soon develop unhealthy habits. They look to the national bishops’ conference for guidance on important issues, rather than taking initiative themselves—and thereby reinforce the mistaken public perception that the episcopal conference has more authority than the individual bishop. They pass off responsibility for unpopular Church teachings, saying that they are following the policies set by the Vatican, rather than taking their proper responsibility as teachers and explaining those teachings. When he says that he is looking forward to the decentralization of Church leadership, Pope Francis surely means that he hopes to root out these errors and make bishops clearly responsible for teaching, preaching, and setting policies in their own dioceses.Priests who regard themselves as the proprietors of the Church may be tempted to “give away” the moral teachings of Catholicism. If he thinks of himself as the sole arbiter of what constitutes the true faith, a priest may tell his parishioners that they need not worry about belief in the Real Presence, or about a divorce and remarriage, or about a bit of false testimony in a court case. If the pastor operates on the belief that he “owns” the Church, he can make his own rules. If he makes his own rules, his parishioners will be all the more likely to lapse into the same error, believing that they can be justified by the unilateral decision of their priest rather than by the universal sacrifice of Christ.The remedy for clericalism, as Pope Francis never tires of reminding us, is a clear recognition that the Church belongs to Christ. The life of the Church is the life of Christ, and any other signs of institutional life must be viewed with suspicion. Bishops and priests, religious and laity, are not working for themselves, nor serving any merely human institution; we are working for Christ.Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus arose in the late 17th century, especially in France, partially in response to the undue rigors of Jansenism that afflicted the Church there. Stern Jansenist priests sometimes refused to administer the last rites to parishioners they deemed unworthy. Notice the influence of clericalism: these heartless priests had decided that they could judge souls, and they would determine which members of the faithful qualified for God’s mercy. Today an opposite force is at work. Some priests tell the children of dying elderly parishioners that it is not important to arrange for their final confession and final absolution, because their parents are good people, assured of salvation. Although the reasoning is quite different, the result is the same: a denial of access to the sacraments. The fundamental motivation is the same, too: the priest’s certainty that he can set the rules—that his own personal judgment counts for more than the wisdom of the Church and the grace of the sacraments. The clericalism of the Jansenists is long gone, but the clericalism of the indifferentists has taken its place.
12/15/2014 Huffington Post article byCharles J. Reid, Jr. Professor of Law, University of St. ThomasThere is a growing crisis haunting the Catholic Church. And it is a crisis larger than the events that have so greatly afflicted the American Catholic Church. The pedophilia scandals are a horrifying element of this crisis. So, too, are the bishops who covered up and excused these outrages. And so, also, the more general loss of confidence Catholics have in a hierarchy that seems oddly concerned with rank and privilege and with fighting yesterday's culture wars. Yes, these are all elements of the crisis, but the crisis is larger than this.And that something larger is both sad and profound: a loss of faith in the institutions of the Church. Pope Francis, in his remarkable interview with La nacion, published the weekend of December 6 and 7, made it clear that he recognized the gravity of the moment. He was asked why so many people were leaving the Church. As posed, the question addressed Latin America. By implication, it looked to the world.Pope Francis could have directed his answer at factors external to the Church. Indeed, one can imagine his predecessors alternatively blaming culture, or relativism, or the forces of secularism. Pope Francis, however, is different. His was a more introspective answer. We must look within, he advised, to what Catholics are themselves doing wrong.At the root of the crisis, he proposed, was the problem of clericalism. Clericalism is strangling true Christianity. Pope Francis has spoken often about clericalism during his brief pontificate. It was the reason, early in his tenure, that he ceased granting applications by priests to be raised to the rank of monsignor. Being called monsignor adds little to a priest's life. But the quest for this title led, in Francis's judgment, to careerism and a preoccupation with title and honor that had little to do with the Gospels.Well, it seems that in taking this step, Pope Francis was merely warming up. In recent speeches, he began to explore how deep the crisis of clericalism extends. It has poisoned the relationship between priests and lay Catholics. It can serve, for the laity, as heedless abdication of responsibility, and on the part of the clergy a dangerous concentration of power.Thus Pope Francis declared in March, 2014: "Clericalism is one of the evils of the Church. ... Priests take pleasure in the temptation to clericalize the laity, but many of the laity are on their knees asking to be clericalized, because it is more comfortable! ... This is a double sin!"So how should lay and clergy interact? The Pope sees a wide latitude here. It is an intersection that must be governed principally by a respect for the power of prophecy. The prophet, Pope Francis has stated, is someone with a sense of the historical moment. The prophet must appreciate the confluence of "past, present, and future." The prophet knows the past promise of God's word, but knows how to interpret this word in her or his life and "to speak a word [to others] that will lift them up."Again, what is noticeable is what is omitted. The prophet is not someone who listens patiently for instructions from others, or is someone who is fond of restating that perennial objection to growth and development -- "but we've done anything like that before!" No, the prophet is someone who sees things fresh, in context, and knows how to take creative action appropriate to the moment.The clergy must come to terms with this dimension of the lay vocation and be supportive of it. "The priest's suggestion is immediately to clericalize," the Pope warns. This temptation must be resisted. The priest has a spiritual role, a pastoral role, and a sacramental role, but the priest must not subsume the role of the laity. Harmony between the two orders is what Catholics should strive for. It should never become a situation in which "the big fish swallows the little one."Pope Francis, in other words, expects an active and engaged laity, a laity that can think for itself, and is not fearful of its own independence. But how shall this Church, of harmonious yet different orders, address the Catholic crisis?It must not preach. It must not proselytize. It must not condemn, or throw tantrums, or engage in theatrics. Rather, the Church -- the People of God, lay and clergy alike -- must set a good example. They must know that the world is filled with human suffering and that they are called to go about relieving in some small quantum this great misery in ways adapted to need and circumstance.Only a leader with a great sense of faith could propose such a radical agenda for the Church. And Pope Francis' interview with La nacion makes plain his great faith. Only a confident and faithful leader would have opened the Synod on the Family to the kind of free discussions that occurred last October. Other popes have hosted synods on the family. They were entirely forgettable affairs. The script was written well in advance, everyone recited their assigned lines, and nothing of significance occurred. Pope Francis, on the other hand, opened the Synod up to prophecy, and a consideration of the needs of the moment.It is fair to describe Pope Francis's summons as a call to Christian adulthood, but not in some superficial or trite sense. Rather he expects all Catholics to show a spirit of leadership, independence, and good judgment. The Church, he has warned, must not be obsessed with the self-referential. It must instead do as Jesus did -- minister to the afflicted and the marginal. It is truly a bold vision of renewal.
“a policy of maintaining or increasing the power of a religious hierarchy”
First, let me say that there is a good clericalism and a bad. FROM Fr. Z's Blog... The worst clericalism that we see is of pandemic proportions among the liberal Left. They blur the distinction between lay and cleric and say, “I’ll let you do something I am supposed to do.” The subtle message: “You are not good enough with your baptismal dignity: I have to raise you up.” This condescending liberal arrogance is the worst form of clericalism we see in the Church. Want to see true clericalism? Scratch one of them and see what happens.On the other hand, there is a more sound, healthy “clericalism” which consists in a clear sense of priestly identity that sets the priest apart from the people on account of his ministry at the altar. Furthermore, this can and should lead to a clerical culture in the Church, among clerics, who need to support each other. This doesn’t mean excluding lay people from every facet of their lives. It does mean, however, priests withdrawing from lay people on occasion, into their own company (and even with steak dinners, good wine and cigars). Clericalism, in the good sense, is concerned with offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass and the identity and holiness of the priest. The way Father says Mass and hears confessions and the way he perceives himself will have a beneficial knock-on effect among the people for whom he is priest.The outward “trappings” of the priest’s office are part and parcel of his beneficial ministry to people. They are not for the individual priest’s glorification. They are about the priest’s proper role.God’s People tended and pampered the spotless lamb, their sacrificial victim, setting it apart and making much of it… right up to the point when they slashed its neck apart and bleed it out with a scream. Similarly, we put fine vestments on our priests and show him respect during the sacred liturgy because, at the altar of sacrifice, he is not just the priest, he too is the victim, not in the bloody sense, but the sacramental sense: he is alter Christus at the altar of sacrifice and in the confessional.The fine elements of reverent liturgy are not about the priest, they are about the perfect spotless only Holy One, Christ the High Priest/Victim at the altar.Yes, there is a good clericalism which, for the sake of the laity, we should foster. We must reject attacks on priestly identity and all those helpful ways in which our priests can be men and mediators.There is more to be said, but let’s get on with the piece I referred to above. Young Priests and the False Charge of Clericalism There is a smear campaign currently underway against many young priests in the Catholic Church. However, this attack is not coming from the secular media or from dissenting advocacy groups. Instead, it is an attack from within the Church itself, even from fellow priests. What is the false charge being leveled against many of our younger priests? Clericalism. That legitimate instances of clericalism should be of concern is evident from recent statements by Pope Francis, including his recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Indeed, from the earliest days of his pontificate, the Holy Father has spoken out against careerism and ambition among some of the clergy, particularly within the Curia. Playing the Clericalism Card However, what is equally troubling is the opportunistic way in which the Catholic left has recently played the “clericalism card” against a new generation of priests, many of whom were ordained during Pope Benedict’s papacy. Far from being an issue of young priests lording their authority over the faithful, this is nothing more than an anti-traditionalist strategy by those opposing the ongoing “reform of the reform”. A recent example of this mindset was presented in the Jesuit magazine America, by columnist Daniel P. Horan O.F.M. In his piece entitled, “Lead Us Not Into Clericalism” Fr. Horan makes the following observation: [… BLAH BLAH BLAH…] Reverence is Not Clericalism As I have written about before, many of our new priests are rediscovering the beauty and depth of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. As was anticipated, some of the tradition and disciplines of the Vetus Ordo have been introduced by many priests into the Novus Ordo. This then is the hermeneutic of continuity being actualized. This is the recovery of the sacred within the liturgy of the Roman rite. Indeed, what we find with these young priests today is exactly what Pope Benedict XVI called for in his June 2009 Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests. In referencing Saint John Mary Vianney, Pope Benedict observed: “This way of educating the faithful to the Eucharistic presence and to communion proved most effective when they saw him celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…He was convinced that the fervour of a priest’s life depended entirely upon the Mass: “The reason why a priest is lax is that he does not pay attention to the Mass! My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine!”. It is absolutely essential that we support these young priests as they are thrown to the wolves. Those who have invested decades into diminishing the priesthood and “ordaining” the laity will not go without a fight. For most of the laity, who suffer not from an anticlerical agenda, but rather from poor formation, it will simply take time. In the meantime, let us hope that people who should know better, like fellow priests, seek to catechize the faithful instead of scandalizing them with false charges of clericalism. Fr. Z stands in support of these young priests.
POPE FRANCIS QUOTES ON CLERICALISM...Associated Press are reporting:““I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!” he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. “I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!” Apparently realizing the radicalness of his message, he apologized in advance to the bishops at home.Vatican Radio are reporting:“I would like to tell you what my expectations are regarding this World Youth Day” said Pope Francis “I would like us to make noise, I would like those inside the Dioceses to go out into the open; I want the Church to be in the streets; I want us to defend ourselves against all that is worldliness, comfort, being closed and turned within – Parishes, colleges and institutions must get out otherwise they risk becoming NGOs, and the Church is not a Non-Governmental Organization”.[Clericalism is] “one of the ills of the Church. But it is a sin of complicity, as priests are subject to the temptation to clericalise the laity, while many laypersons ask on their knees to be clericalised, because it is convenient. … So this is a sin committed by two hands. We must resist this temptation. The layperson must be a layperson, baptized and with the strength that comes from baptism. A servant, but with a lay vocation, and this cannot be sold, bargained for, and one is not complicit with the other, because it is a question of identity. … Is the deacon or the priest more important than the layperson? No! … The function of the layperson cannot be exercised by the priest, and the Holy Spirit is free; sometimes it inspires a priest to do something, and at other times it inspires a layperson.”-- Audience with members of the “Corallo” Association, a network of local Catholic-inspired broadcasters from all regions of Italy, March 22, 2014Pope Francis kept up his own running commentary on the issue of clericalism when he spoke to 120 superiors of religious orders during a closed-door meeting on Nov. 29. The Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica published a report of the three-hour, informal question and answer session on the Friday after Christmas.The pope cautioned that seminary formation must be “a work of art, not a police action” where seminarians “grit their teeth, try not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told ‘Good, you have finished formation.”For Pope Francis, “this is hypocrisy that is the result of clericalism, which is one of the worst evils.” He was even more emphatic when he noted that priestly formation "must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mold the people of God. This really gives me goose bumps.” “You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy…. when I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical.” Pope Francis, in his interview with La Repubblica, published today.(2013) “May our prayer in these days, in these during which we prepare for the Birth of the Lord, be: ‘Lord, let there not be a lack of prophets among your people!’” on Dec. 16.“Lord, free your people from a spirit of clericalism and aid them with a spirit of prophecy,” Pope Francis prayed. In the gospel, those who met Christ with a spirit of prophecy welcomed him as the Messiah, but without it, “the void that is left is occupied by clericalism: and it is this clericalism that asks Jesus, ‘By what authority do you do these things? By what law?’” In such demands, “the memory of the promise and the hope of going forward are reduced only to this: neither the past, nor the hopeful future” but merely to the question of whether the present “is legal?” The Pharisees who question the authority of Christ “did not understand the prophecies. They had forgotten the promise! They did not know how to read the signs of the times, they had neither penetrating sight nor hearing of the Word of God: they only had authority!” he exclaimed.A prophet is one who “has in his heart the promise of God,” explained the Pontiff. “He lives it, he remembers it, (and) he repeats it.” “The Lord has always safeguarded his people with the prophets, in difficult moments, in moments in which the people were discouraged or destroyed, when the Temple was not there, when Jerusalem was under the power of the enemy, when the people wondered to themselves, ‘But Lord, you promised us this! Now what happens?’” In the heart of a prophet are three different times, “the promise of the past, contemplation of the present, and courage to show the way towards the future.” In carrying the promise of God throughout these moments, a prophet reminds the people of God to move beyond a spirit of legality.Pope Francis closed his homily with a prayer, “Lord, let us not forget your promise! Let us not grow tired of going forward! Let us not close ourselves in with legality!”