Archive for category Clericalism

Pope Francis wants every Catholic to have a say. Why haven’t US Catholics heard about it? / National Catholic Reporter

Success for bishops not focused on controlling power will be listening and honestly reporting the needs of the people.  

National Catholic Reporter

“Pope Francis’ plan is for ordinary Catholics to have their say. It begins with the coming synod, which opens in Rome on Oct. 9 and in every diocese in the world on Oct. 17.   

“The problem: No one seems to know about it. The bigger problem: U.S. bishops don’t seem to care. 

“It’s called ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.’ While Francis truly wants all Catholics to pray and talk about the needs of today’s church, his plan depends on diocesan participation. As the U.S. bishops fulminate over which Catholic politician can receive Communion, they’ve done little to plan for the worldwide discussion on the needs of the church. They were asked to get organized last May. They haven’t. 

“Here’s how things are supposed to work. Last May, Rome asked every bishop for the name of the person managing his diocesan synodal process. The bishop then is to open his local synod Oct. 17, collect input from parishes, and report to his national episcopal conference.  

By Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service, in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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We’ve come a long way / Commonweal

In the end, the priest warns, if the bishops are to “convert America to the faith,” they must first return to the ancient Christian emphasis on virtuous behavior rather than adherence to ritual formalism. 

John W. Farrell, Commonweal

“Just as many Catholic traditionalists were lamenting Rome’s new restrictions on the Tridentine Mass, I came across a prescient cri de coeur written by a Catholic priest and published anonymously in the pages of the Atlantic back in 1928. To read it is to be reminded that some things never seem to change in the Catholic Church, while other things have changed a great deal, thanks be to God.

“I found the essay in Looking Back at Tomorrow: Twelve Decades of Insights from the Atlantic. Published in 1978, the collection was compiled and edited by the late Louise Desaulniers, who was a senior editor at the Atlantic in the 1970s and ’80s—and also a summertime neighbor of my family’s when I was growing up. I didn’t realize that these anthologies were ‘Atlantic Subscriber editions,’ meaning they were never sold in stores or otherwise made available to anyone besides the magazine’s subscribers. My parents had a copy of Louise’s first anthology for years. I recently remembered it and decided to look for it online, where I discovered she had edited three books all together, the last of which was Looking Back.

“I bought a copy on eBay. I was curious about which articles had been selected from the magazine’s long history. (The Atlantic was founded in 1857). Desaulniers had included early essays by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, and John Muir from the 1800s. W.E.B. DuBois, George R. Harrison and Benjamin DeMott lead the entries from the twentieth century.

“But smack in the middle of the table of contents was a series of four essays titled ‘The Catholic Church and the Modern Mind,’ signed Anonymous. Published in four issues of the Atlantic in 1928, these pieces were written by a Catholic priest and professor ‘at a Catholic college in the West.'”

By John W. Farrell, Commonweal — Read more …

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Women’s Work: The pope makes it harder to keep women out of liturgy / Commonweal

“It (motu proprio, Spiritus Domini) removes a major excuse that men have used to keep women at a distance from the altar of the Lord. But it doesn’t require them to give us anything we don’t already have. Changing canon law in this way doesn’t force ordained men to get used to working with women. At best, it nudges them toward recognizing that they should want to.”

Commonweal (Also Voice of the Faithful webpage “Women’s Roles” — http://votf.org/node/1589)

“It must be difficult for a mainstream journalist covering the Vatican beat on days like January 11, when Pope Francis’s motu proprioSpiritus Domini, was announced. How to convey the significance of a tweak to canon law that clarifies women’s eligibility to be lectors and acolytes at Mass? Aren’t they…already doing those things?

“Pity the reporter who must quickly explain the existence of ‘stable ministries’ in the Church, and the now-obscure practice of formally instituting lay men into those roles. Even the most committed American Catholics were perplexed when the news broke because, as Anthony Ruff, OSB, wrote at the Pray Tell blog, ‘Up until now, females couldn’t be installed in these ministries, but they could do these ministries anyway.’ It’s no wonder so many outlets framed the news in terms of what hadn’t happened: ‘Pope says women can read at Mass, but still can’t be priests’ ran a typical headline.

“‘The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,’ Pope John Paul II declared in 1994 in an attempt to shut down that debate. Francis quoted that pronouncement in a letter accompanying Spiritus Domini, but he also wrote that he hoped the change he was making to canon law would help men preparing for ordination ‘better understand they are participants in a ministry shared with other baptized men and women.’ Francis’s modification to one canon—changing ‘lay men’ to ‘lay persons’—eliminates a long-standing excuse for discrimination against women, although you won’t find him or any other Vatican official putting it in those terms.”

By Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, Commonweal — Read more …

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The people should choose their bishops again / Commonweal

“His (former cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s) appointment (to auxiliary bishop of New York) required no consultation with the body of clergy of New York, and no consultation with the body of the laity, beyond those few apostolic letters. It mostly required Cardinal Cooke’s patronage.”

Commonweal

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“There are a number of conclusions one could draw from reading the Vatican report on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. For example: that the clerical sex-abuse crisis in the Church is worse than we thought and extends to vulnerable adults. Also, that position and influence in our Church are easily bought, and that bishops lie, even to the pope, to protect other bishops. But the conclusion that encompasses all of the above is that the way we choose our bishops is deeply flawed, producing bishops who are, in turn, deeply flawed. How did things get this way, and what can be done about it?

“First, let’s consider a bit of history. Once the office of bishop was clearly established in the early Church as the unitary head of a diocese (a Roman administrative unit), that office was filled by someone chosen by local people and priests, then ratified by the neighboring bishops, as a sign of the unity of the Church. Even the unbaptized were eligible, as we know from the oft-told story of St. Ambrose, whom the clergy and people of Milan chose as their bishop while he was still a catechumen. The first bishop of the United States, John Carroll, was elected by the priests of Maryland and confirmed by the pope. Today, we are so used to the pope choosing our bishops for us that we think it was always that way. It wasn’t. In fact, the right of the pope to choose bishops was only settled with the 1917 Code of Canon Law, a papal document that clearly allocated that power to the holder of the papal office.

“Arguably, there is some limited lay input in the selection of bishops. When a priest is being considered for appointment as bishop, the papal nuncio sends out what are called apostolic letters to a select group, which may include laypeople from the area, asking their opinion of the candidate based on some very specific questions …”

By Nicholas P. Cafardi, Commonweal — Read more …

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McCarrick report shows former cardinal’s character: ambitious, brazen, untouchable / National Catholic Reporter

The content of the Vatican report on McCarrick will burn the varnish off your desk … The most shocking parts (dealing with minors) come in its final 12 pages, but the whole document is nothing short of remarkable. At times, it reads like a novel or a screen play.

National Catholic Reporter

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Seventeen!

“That’s the most shocking number in the Vatican’s 449-page report on ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick appears to have molested 17 ‘postpubescent boys or young men’ over the course of his career (Page 440). Some victims were as young as 12 years old. Some he molested repeatedly. Many were children in families that he knew well and visited frequently. He was trusted as a ‘member of the family.’

“The Vatican report does not reveal names or discuss the individual cases. However, it does lay out his typical pattern of grooming and molesting his victims. He used his power to gain access to their families. He forged strong relationships with their parents. He insisted that the boys call him “Uncle Ted” and he referred to them as his “nephews,” an easily exposed lie since McCarrick was an only child. He plied his victims with gifts, favors, trips and liquor. Then he took them to bed in isolated places where they had no hope of help or recourse, typically his beach house on the Jersey Shore or an apartment at a hospital in New York.

“New lawsuits are still being filed, including one in November in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging repeated “rape” by McCarrick of a boy beginning at the age of 12. The plaintiff is now 47 years old.”

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

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Archdiocese must be held accountable for priest abuse

“After a two-year investigation, the Vatican recently released a 450-plus-page report about now-defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and how the Catholic Church hierarchy failed to stop his predatory sexual behavior. Now, local Catholics are owed a similar in-depth investigation into the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and its complicity in failing to protect children from predatory sexual behaviors of local priests, such as Geoffrey Drew.

“Although the Drew story is a microcosm of McCarrick’s, the system that allowed both men to go unpunished for decades, in spite of countless complaints, exists in every Catholic diocese, including our own. Drew, former pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish, was arraigned on nine counts of rape in July 2019, finally halting his access to children.

Shortly thereafter, Concerned Catholics of Cincinnati was joined by over 1,500 area Catholics in petitioning the Vatican and 80 Catholic leaders to investigate the handling of the Drew case by the Archdiocese. In a well-researched document, our group cited complaints about Drew spanning 30 years, three counties and four parishes. These complaints were both in writing and in personal meetings with then-Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer. Even Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Gmoser warned the Archdiocese to “keep an eye” on Drew, to assign him a monitor and to keep him away from children.”

By Teresa Dinwiddie-Herrmann and Jan Seidel, committee members of Concerned Catholics of Cincinnati; Dan Frondorf, Cincinnati chair of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP); and Kethy Weyer, chair of Cincinnati Voice of the Faithful, in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Cincinnati.com. They can be reached at concernedcatholicsofcincy@gmail.com — Read more …

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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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