Was Benedict XVI Just Being Polite or Did He Really Mean to ‘Debunk’ Clericalism During His Trip to Latin America

National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen writes today in his article, Benedict’s Gentle Debunk of Clericalismthat during his trip to Mexico and Cuba earlier this week “the pope offered a gentle, yet unmistakable, debunking of clericalism.”

Allen’s article goes on to state that expressions of “clericalism include:

  • Clergy see themselves as political powerbrokers, playing a direct role in affairs of state.
  • The church projects an image of power and privilege, with its preferred spiritual imagery emphasizing God as a cosmic monarch.
  • The role of the laity is conceived in largely passive terms — “pay, pray and obey.”
  • Little premium is placed on evangelization or faith formation, with pastoral care understood largely in terms of administering the sacraments.”

Voice of the Faithful similarly defines clericalism as the attitude on the part of the clergy that they are different than, separate from and above others and therefore exempt from rules and consequences that apply to everyone else in society. VOTF has stated that clericalism lies at the heart of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

In October of last year, after an internal committee study, VOTF trustees released the committee’s conclusions on the John Jay College Report on the causes and context of the Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal. In “The John Jay Report: Right Context, Wrong Conclusions,” VOTF trustees faulted the John Jay Report most especially for describing but not naming clericalism as a major contributor to clergy sexual abuse.

Whether the Vatican makes a similar connection between clericalism and the abuse scandal, we can only guess, but we can see they know clericalism exists and is not a positive influence in the Church.

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