Archive for category Clericalism

The implosion of clericalism dramatized in Leonard Berstein’s ‘Mass’ / National Catholic Reporter

“The Catholic Church is afflicted with a rigged clerical system incapable of monitoring itself. It is tempting to despair of the ‘Catholic’ brand, which many of us were once quite proud to claim. It may be time to own our despair. The clerical system isn’t working anymore. Perhaps it was never meant to work, only we didn’t realize it.” (National Catholic Reporter)

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“I find myself again lamenting the abysmal sinfulness of the Catholic clerical system. The long-anticipated release of the McCarrick report sheds harsh light on the failure of complicit bishops and Pope John Paul II to believe then-Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s victims even after New York Cardinal John O’Connor warned the pope not to make him Cardinal Archbishop of Washington.

“The painful mendacity of the clerical system was also on depressing display at FutureChurch’s 30th anniversary celebration, where theologian Doris Wagner Reisinger received the organization’s Young Catholic Leaders Award. Reisinger spoke about her abuse as a young nun and her efforts to bring a prominent Vatican priest to justice. In her experience, Catholic sisters have too often been entrapped in a conspiracy of silence that protects abusing priests.

“In November 2018, Reisinger and two other survivors shattered that silence. They were helped by NCR’s Joshua McElwee, who reported that Reisinger’s abuser — Fr. Hermann Geissler — still held his high ranking position at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Days after the story ran, Geissler resigned and Pope Francis requested the Vatican’s highest court — the Apostolic Signatura — to investigate the accusations.”

By Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Who’s at fault? New reports on clergy sex abuse offer different views. / Sojourners Magazine

“On the same day last week (Nov. 10), two reports on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church made headlines. The first report, released by the Vatican, is the so-called ‘McCarrick report’ … The second report was released by an independent commission in the U.K … What the reports have in common is long lists of sexual abuse victims and their broken families. The testimonies of survivors are instructive for the quality of their demand for justice and yet, to paraphrase Tolstoy, each unhappy survivor story ‘is unhappy in its own way.’ Each story is unbearable in its details of the physical and psycho-spiritual torture and the chronic wounds that remain.

“Both reports released last week reveal water made toxic by clericalism, or the misuse, overreach, or outright idolatry of clergy’s authority. This leads to abuse of power, which leads to religious violence, sometimes in the form of sexual abuse, but most often in the form of spiritual and moral domination of women, laity, children, and other vulnerable or dependent adults. ‘Clericalism is our ugliest perversion,’ Pope Francis told seminarians in 2018.

“The abuse of power within the Roman Catholic hierarchy has caused many who seek God “to stumble” (see Mark 9:42). Not only is the Church’s moral authority to address key social issues undermined, but individual souls seeking a spiritual anchorage are left adrift — or they reject God altogether.”

By Rose Marie Berger, Senior Editor, Sojourners Magazine, on Sojo.net — Read more …

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The end of clericalism / National Catholic Reporter

“It is the community that brings intimacy with Christ, that brings intimacy with the holy faithful people of God. It is community we need.” (Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter)

As the human race joins the rest of the planet in a struggle for survival, the church is also trying to find its footing.

“Why?

“Clericalism.

“For too long — say, 800 to 1,000 years — the sacramental life of the church has been under priestly lock and key. Around the 10th century, the custom of stipends for Masses arose. Suddenly, the spiritual value of men’s prayers gained over the spiritual value of women’s prayers and women’s abbeys and monasteries failed one after another.

“Coincidentally, the cursus honorum (‘course of honor’) ended the diaconate as a permanent vocation. Unless one was destined for priesthood, he could not be ordained as deacon. Very few men became “permanent” deacons and women deacons — even abbesses — were no longer ordained.

“Which brings us back to clericalism, the attitude that grace is dispensed to the people of God only by a cleric, preferably a priest. Thousands of priests are not like that. But thousands are.

By Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

Dr. Zagano will be a featured speaker at Voice of the Faithful’s 2020 Conference: Visions of a Just Church, Oct. 3, 2020, Boston Marriott Newton Hotel.

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Comments on “Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism”

I have been thinking about the white paper (Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism)*. I really like the format which alternates interviews with commentary, and I found the reflective pieces very effective!

Some further thoughts: Prior to the second Vatican Council the role of the laity (lay apostolate) officially was “to be helpers of the clergy in the mission of the church.” Laity saw what they did in the church as “volunteers,” assisting the pastor with his work.

Vatican II radically changed that identity. Article #33 of The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church says the laity, through their membership in the Christian community, participate directly in the mission of Jesus Christ.

“Through Baptism and Confirmation all are appointed to this apostolate (mission of the Church) by the Lord Himself … Every lay person, through those gifts given to him (sic) is at once the witness and the living instrument of the Church itself.”**

That radically new identity is carried through in other documents. Said various ways, the “proper role” of the laity is advancing the reign of God in the secular sphere. In other words, they are the “first-line” ministers of the Gospel in the world, which, according to Matthew 25 & 28, is the commission of Christ to His church.

The most pernicious effect of clericalism, in my mind, is that it subsumes all roles in the church, making them subordinate to, and derivative of, the priest’s (Laity are “helpers of the clergy in their mission.”). That “second-class” status works against true identity of the baptized as “disciples of Jesus Christ.” A derivative or second-class identity is not compelling. The idea that Christ may be “calling me” then, is hard to perceive. I still hear laity today talking about “volunteering” or “helping-out” in the church.

The hierarchy have an essential role as leaders/servants of the mission. Clergy and lay ecclesial ministers are the “equipping” ministers who prepare and lead the People of God in Christ’s mission. But, as the Church in the Modern World says, it is the laity who are in the world and have the appropriate gifts to transform the secular sphere; they are “apostles,” if you will, to the world.

Is it any wonder that the Church seems to have so little impact on the world? How many full-time “ministers” does the local parish have? One―the pastor? A few―the staff? Or several hundred/thousand―the whole community/People of God? These are two radically different concepts of church.

This question of “identity,” self-perception, controls the behavior of all the baptized, clergy and lay. How can the church expect to have an impact on the world if the mission is left solely to the clergy?

There are lots of evils that flow from a monarchical clericalism; the most serious of these is that it eviscerates the mission of the church.

As I read the paper, this is what came to mind. (I know it is not new to you!)

Blessings on great work!

Gene

By Gene Scapanski, S.T.D. Vice President and Professor (retired), University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota

You also may want to view “Clericalism: Reality & Concerns” on Voice of the Faithful’s website …

**Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism is a joint white paper promulgated by Voice of the Faithful and the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests
**Documents of Vatican II, Austin P. Flannery, Ed.

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Goodbye, climbers! We need to restore servant leadership in the priesthood / National Catholic Reporter

Ambition is one of the worst and most destructive features of clericalism. If we are going to reform the priesthood, we need to tame the demon of ambition and substitute the idea of servant leadership. (National Catholic Reporter)

When I was in the seminary in Rome, we called them ‘Alpiners,’ the ‘climbers’ among our fellow seminarians who were ambitious to climb up the corporate ladder of the church. They had a secret (or not so secret) ambition to be a bishop or a Vatican official. Sometimes it was painfully obvious. One guy was caught with a ‘hope chest’ in his room, full of bishops’ accoutrements like miters, a pectoral cross and a collapsible crozier.

“For the ‘Alpiners,’ their priesthood is a not a call to serve, but to be served. It is the opposite of what Jesus wanted. (See Luke 22:27, John 13:14 and Matthew 23:11-12.) Ambition is one of the worst and most destructive features of clericalism. If we are going to reform the priesthood, we need to tame the demon of ambition and substitute the idea of servant leadership.

“Ambition gives oxygen and energy to the evils of clericalism. It comes from a desire to dominate others. It is a common temptation. In the desert, even Jesus was tempted by the evil one with the power to rule over the kingdoms of the Earth.”

By Fr. Peter Daly, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Editorial: The Lessons of Opus Dei Fr. McCloskey’s Downfall / National Catholic Reporter

It is, indeed, the clergy culture that is at the heart of the church’s problems. It is in dire need of radical reform.

“It is time for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to issue a standard sign to be posted in every chancery office in the country, just outside the bishop’s door, reading:

“IT’S THE CLERICAL CULTURE!

“It is time to be done with the breathless wonderment at whatever new revelations show one more holy and wonderful priest has been, in a hidden life, abusive of children, or women, or seminarians, or just a liar about what he knew or didn’t know, did or didn’t do.

Opus Dei priest Fr. C. John McCloskey III, for whom the prelature paid a $977,000 settlement to a woman who accused him of sexual misconduct, is the latest to cause former associates and friends to go all aflutter with ‘How could he have?’ And ‘How did we not know?’ And ‘Why didn’t those who did know speak up?’ And ‘How could someone like that also do so much good?’

“The answers to the other questions reside primarily in understanding the culture in which all of those actors, McCloskey included, operated: the Catholic clerical culture. It is highly secretive, highly privileged, believed to be distinctive from the rest of human kind, allegedly celibate and, until recently, enjoying from members of the Catholic community as well as from civil authority in this country a level of deference that is normally reserved for the highly privileged.”

By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff — Read more …

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‘Clericalized’ Catholic Church will not survive, says McAleese / The Irish Times

In Ireland ‘our church became an empire. We’re only now seeing the final dismantling of that patriarchal, misogynistic empire. So we’ve actually never seen our church fully flourish in the way that I think Christ intended,’ Ms. (Mary) McAleese said. (The Irish Times)

“The Catholic Church in its current form will not survive, former president Mary McAleese said in Rome on Thursday (Mar. 8).

“‘The clericalized church will not survive and that will be good. Just how long it might take or whether I’ll be around to see, or whether my children will be still Catholics, my grandchildren, that I don’t know.

“‘But frankly I did my best and the people who let me down in the job that I was given, the vocation as a Catholic mother and a Catholic woman, the people who let me down are not very far from here (in the Vatican),’ she said …

“In Ireland ‘our church became an empire. We’re only now seeing the final dismantling of that patriarchal, misogynistic empire. So we’ve actually never seen our church fully flourish in the way that I think Christ intended,’ Ms. McAleese said.”

By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times — Read more …

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North Carolina ‘Church in Exile’ battles restorationists / National Catholic Reporter

“The clericalism has been canonized,” said a religious sister active in parish ministry in the diocese who also did not want to be named for fear of incurring the wrath of the bishop.

It’s a few nights after a January snowstorm, and the mountain pathways around Waynesville are treacherous. Still, some 30 Catholics arrive for a meeting to talk about their parish.

“Or perhaps their former parish. These are the people of St. John the Evangelist Church in Waynesville who, soon after the arrival of Fr. Christopher Riehl as parish administrator in July 2014, formed what they call a Church in Exile.

“They described why they left: Their de facto pastor told the mostly cradle Catholics they had been doing everything all wrong. The liturgy — overwhelmed with popular contemporary hymns and such standbys as “Amazing Grace” — was not deemed Catholic enough. Veteran catechists were told they weren’t teaching traditional Catholicism. A blind parishioner, holding her guide dog with one hand and seeking Communion with the other, was told she lacked proper reverence. The host was stuck into her mouth …

“It is not a unique situation. Across the country, some young pastors, inspired by their seminary training or informal networks with other young priests, are determined to push the clock back before the church’s liturgical and governance practices of the post-Vatican II era. They have what some perceive as a fetish for elaborate liturgical vestments and other externals, such as the routine wearing of cassocks and birettas. Some of these priests call themselves, and sometimes others call them, restorationists.”

By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Pope: Clericalism distances the people from the Church / Vatican Radio

“The evil of clericalism is a very ugly thing! It is a new edition of these people. And the victim is the same: the poor and humble people that awaits the Lord.” (Pope Francis)

The spirit of clericalism is an evil that is present in the Church today, Pope Francis said, and the victim of this spirit is the people, who feel discarded and abused. That was the Pope’s message in the homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

“Among those taking part in the Mass were the members of the Council of cardinals, who are meeting with the Pope this week in Rome.

“In his homily, Pope Francis warned pastors of the dangers of becoming ‘intellectuals of religion’ with a morality far from the Revelation of God.

By Vatican Radio on News.va — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Frank Brennan (Australian Jesuit priest): Breaking confessional seal won’t stop abuse / CathNews.com

“The clericalist mindset of a celibate male clergy compounded the vulnerability of children preyed on by Church personnel.” (Fr. Frank Brennan)

‘”With the seal of confession intact, a pedophile may find a listening ear to assist with the decision to turn himself in. If a law is introduced to say that a priest should reveal a confession, I will disobey the law,’ writes Fr Frank Brennan, SJ.

“‘Like most Australians, I have been appalled and distressed by the revelations before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“‘I hope this five-year royal commission is able to provide solutions so that institutions are made safe places for children. I am one of those Catholics who has been rocked by the disproportionate number of victims whose assailants have been members of my Church in positions of trust.

“‘Of course, the Church ran more schools and orphanages than most other organisations. But that provides no excuse or justification for what went on. Nor does it provide a complete explanation for the horrific statistics.'”

By Fr. Frank Brennan, S.J., human rights lawyer and academic, on CathNews.com — Click here to read the rest of this commentary.

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