Posts Tagged Association of U.S. Catholic Priests
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!
By Gene Scapanski, S.T.D. Vice President and Professor (retired), University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota
**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.
Clergy & laypeople collaborate to confront clericalism / Association of U.S. Catholic Priests & Voice of the Faithful
Joint News Release from Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and Voice of the Faithful
For Immediate Release, Aug. 15, 2019
Pope Francis condemns clericalism, repeatedly. Catholic commentators decry it. Theologians and church historians examine its roots. Now, in a significant collaboration, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and Voice of the Faithful have examined the ways clericalism emerges from the clerical culture, generating complex problems facing the Roman Catholic Church today, and they suggest ways to combat it.
Their document, “Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism,” was approved at the AUSCP June 2019 Assembly, where guest speaker Dr. Richard Gaillardetz called it “very informative, even visionary.” Keynote speaker Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, noting the real-life examples reported, said it was “nothing less than a catalogue of horrors chronicling imperial pronouncements, put-downs, claims of privileges, entitlements and exemptions from accountability, but also a culture so pervasive that, sadly, many of the laity have come to accept it as normal and yes, even have cooperated in maintaining it.”
Real-life examples are central to the report and a significant contribution to the study of clericalism today. As the writers note, “We typically encounter clericalism as an experience. Using only scholarly definitions and explanations when discussing clericalism cannot communicate this lived experience of clericalism in the Church. To fully understand clericalism, we also must hear the voices of those who experience abuse of power.”
One experience describes a confrontation between a laywoman and a visiting priest in Boston during a 2003 meeting. “We must fix this [sex abuse] because we are the Church,” the laywoman said. The visiting priest replied, “YOU are not the Church,” and pointing to his Roman collar, declared, “WE are the Church.”
In another example, a new pastor announced that he would personally choose pastoral council members and no one would be allowed to disagree with him. In yet another, a seminarian criticized the pastor for his monthly blessing service because it differed from what the seminary practiced.
If these examples seem to focus blame on the clergy or an insulated hierarchy or any group or faction within the universal church, the document will not allow such a conclusion. Clericalism is not simply a problem of clerics, and the authors cite experiences where lay people enable such behavior.
Clericalism is toxic to all the baptized, they note. When lay people encounter clericalism: “They find another parish; they leave the Church; they never speak up again in meetings with priests; they abdicate all decision-making to the priest; they become audiences rather that participants in the parish’s life and sideline observers within the Church. Or all of the above. They abdicate their baptismal responsibilities.”
Priests may suffer, too, from unrealistic expectations stifling their human development. It is manifested in “overwork, isolation, loneliness, unrelieved stress, the expectation that he and he alone will handle all the parish business and be responsible for all the parish problems.”
The document delves into the culture of the diocesan priesthood and characteristics that help incubate clericalism: the hierarchical and patriarchal structure of the church, its requirements for celibacy, an ordination that is said to confer an ontological change, an education separated from the daily lives of laypeople, distinctive clothing and liturgical dress. Clerics also receive privileges of lifestyle and compensation not available to the people to whom they minister. The final section of the paper describes options for confronting clericalism.
“Our aim,” the AUSCP and VOTF writers say, “has been to raise the consciousness
of readers to the expressions of clericalism and its problems. Clericalism betrays the teachings of the scriptures and ignores the best practices of the first three centuries of Christian faith and life. Both clerics and lay persons can be afflicted with the disease. Both are often unaware that their mode and manner, their self-understanding, and their sense of ministry have wandered far from the example of Jesus … [We]” hope that our words help us all rise to the challenge of today in confronting and ultimately removing as many vestiges as possible of the clericalism that harms us all.”
Cardinal Cupich emphasized a similar conclusion: “Clericalism can only be confronted by reclaiming the authenticity of the conversion we are called to in Baptism.”
The team preparing the report worked with input from clergy and laypeople across the United States, modeling the synodality Pope Francis urges as one way to address clericalism’s damage. Following its completion, the white paper also was endorsed by FutureChurch, another organization that includes both priests and lay people.
Lead writers for “Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism” were Rev. Kevin Clinton, AUSCP Past Chair of the Leadership Team, retired pastor, Archdiocese of St. Paul–Minneapolis; and Ms. Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director, Voice of the Faithful, member of Paulist Center Community, Archdiocese of Boston.
Contributors on the Working Group under the auspices of AUSCP were Rev. Gerry Bechard, AUSCP, pastor of Sts. Simon and Jude Parish, Archdiocese of Detroit; Ms. Alvera Bell, parishioner of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, Diocese of Youngstown; Mr. David Bell, parishioner of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, Diocese of Youngstown; Rev. Bernard R. Bonnot, AUSCP Executive Director, retired pastor in the Diocese of Youngstown; and Rev. Tom Ogg, AUSCP, retired pastor, Diocese of Cheyenne, Worldwide Marriage Encounter―U.S. Ecclesial Priest.
N.B. “Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism” can be read and downloaded at http://www.votf.org/AUSCP-Projects/Systemic%20Dysfunction%20Clericalism.pdf. Strategies for addressing clericalism in local faith communities can be found in “The BridgeDialogues: Laity & Clergy Reimaging the Church” at http://www.votf.org/content/priest-and-lay-reform-organizations-take-clerical-culture, which is a collaborative effort of AUSCP, FutureChurch and VOTF.
Contact: Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in reforming administrative structures that have failed. VOTF’s mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. More information is at votf.org.
Association of U.S. Catholic Priests: AUSCP serves the People of God in parishes and other ministries. We seek to add a priest’s voice to the public conversation within our pilgrim church, among bishops and lay persons, vowed religious, ordained deacons and others. Our concerns are your concerns: good liturgy, social justice, the role of women in our church, immigration policies that reflect Gospel values, the dignity of all human lives, and a Church that welcomes all the People of God. Our mission is to be an association of U.S. Catholic priests offering mutual support and a collegial voice through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action on issues affecting Church and society. Our vision is to be a Priest’s Voice of Hope and Joy within our Pilgrim Church. More information is at uscatholicpriests.org.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called out the clerical culture’s danger to the Catholic Church and its faithful, for example, calling clericalism “our ugliest perversion.” Now a nationwide Catholic priests’ organization and two international lay reform groups have developed the BridgeDialogues: Laity & Clergy re-Imagining Church Together to show Catholics what they can do to recognize and prevent this perversion which blocks the laity from achieving their full potential in the Church.
Clericalism has been defined in various ways. In a 2011 report criticizing the Church’s “Study of the Causes and Context of the Sexual Abuse Crisis,” VOTF defined clericalism as “an overriding set of beliefs and behaviors in which the clergy view themselves as different, separate, and exempt from the norms, rules and consequences that apply to everyone else in society.” As the Pope has said, “Clerics feel they are superior, they are far from the people,” and clericalism “can be fostered by priests or by lay people” where the laity show clergy excessive deference because they assume the clergy are morally superior.
- prompts for opening up discussions addressing clericalism, including topics such as the subtle ways that language and pastoral relationships can feed clericalism;
- examples of how you experience clericalism barriers and what you can do about them;
- tips for how you can guard against clericalism in your own behaviors, while removing the barriers others may use to hold you on “your side” of the lay/clergy divide.
The BridgeDialogues’ many resources are available online at bridgedialogues.org.
Deborah Rose-Milavec, FutureChurch executive director, said, “Although some form of clerical culture will always be with us as long as we make distinctions between priests and laity, we can all work together to reduce its deleterious effects. The BridgeDialogues provides the resources to begin a dialogue in your parish or community to look at the subtle ways that language and pastoral relationships can feed clericalism and how all Catholics experience those barriers.”
Donna B. Doucette, VOTF executive director, added, “We must make ourselves, priests and laity, aware of a clerical culture that has so many damaging consequences. Many Catholics are unaware of how embedded those effects are. Priests typically live aside and apart from the people they should serve—they are culturally and often physically far removed from the realities of the communities that surround them. Yet instead of trying to bridge the separation, too often lay people contribute to it. And some priests, of course, often don’t realize it should be bridged.”
Said AUSCP member Louis Arceneaux, a priest of the Congregation of the Mission living in New Orleans, “For our wounded Church to grow, we need organizations of women and men, of laity and clergy, to minister together. As an AUSCP member, I am delighted to be working with FutureChurch and Voice of the Faithful in promoting the BridgeDialogues, which affords me personally and our association a wonderful opportunity to be part of an important priests/laity collaboration.”
Association of U.S. Catholic Priests
(Contact: Louis Arceneaux, email@example.com)
AUSCP serves the People of God in parishes and other ministries. We seek to add a priest’s voice to the public conversation within our pilgrim church, among bishops and lay persons, vowed religious, ordained deacons and others. Our concerns are your concerns: good liturgy, social justice, the role of women in our church, immigration policies that reflect Gospel values, the dignity of all human lives, and a Church that welcomes all the People of God. Our mission is to be an association of U.S. Catholic priests offering mutual support and a collegial voice through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action on issues affecting Church and society. Our vision is to be a Priest’s Voice of Hope and Joy within our Pilgrim Church. More information is at uscatholicpriests.org.
(Contact: Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org)
FutureChurch’s mission is to seek changes that will provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life, ministry, and governance. FutureChurch works for just, open and collaborative structures for Catholic worship, organization and governance; a return to the Church’s early tradition of both married and celibate priests; a return to the Church’s earliest tradition, modeled on the inclusive practice of Jesus, of recognizing both female and male leaders of faith communities; and regular access to the Eucharist, the center of Catholic life and worship, for all Catholics. FutureChurch’s activities grow from a spirituality based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Eucharist, the Spirit-filled beliefs of the faithful, and the teachings of Vatican II. More information is at futurechurch.org.
Voice of the Faithful®
(Contact: Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director, email@example.com)
Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in reforming administrative structures that have failed. VOTF’s mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. More information is at votf.org.
BOSTON, Mass., Apr. 11, 2018 – Voice of the Faithful, a movement of Roman Catholics whose major goals include supporting priests, endorses the recent statement made by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests that calls for revisions in the training of men for ordination to the priesthood to ensure greater adherence to the tenets of the Second Vatican Council and teachings of Pope Francis.
The impetus for AUSCP’s statement stems from the 2016 mandate of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy that each bishop’s conference update its Program for Priestly Formation.
“Our study and reflection persuade us that a new Program of Priestly Formation needs more than minimal editing … It needs in-depth revisions,” the priests said in a letter to Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who leads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Consecrated Life and Vocations. “Our comments are made in response to the significant challenges facing the Church in the United States.”
The priests include among these challenges fewer Catholics actively participating in the Church, fewer priests and candidates for the priesthood, fewer converts, fewer Church weddings, fewer baptisms, fewer parishes, and more people identifying themselves as “spiritual” rather than “religious.”
The AUSCP statement, “Preparing the Sixth Edition of the Program of Priestly Formation,” points to six overriding concerns: faithfulness to Vatican II, call to service, pastoral model of priestly formation, psychosexual development and celibacy, discernment processes, and faculty formation. As stated in their letter, these thoughts are “grounded” in Vatican II, in the writings, statements, and actions of Pope Francis, and in their own experiences. In their statement, the priests make recommendations to help address each of these concerns. Use this link to read the AUSCP’s entire letter and statement.
In endorsing this statement, VOTF points out it has long sought greater emphasis on Vatican II values, including less “clerical,” more pastoral priests, who place service as their highest calling. VOTF also sees as immensely valuable a greater emphasis on psychosexual training for the priesthood, which may have helped avert or at least ameliorate the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
The priests conclude their statement by pointing out that the “current seminary model was established nearly 500 years ago.” As its motto, “Keep the faith, change the Church,” suggests, VOTF would agree that time for change is here.
Voice of the Faithful Statement, Apr. 11, 2018
Contact: Nick Ingala, firstname.lastname@example.org, 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity, and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, FutureChurch, and Voice of the Faithful are launching a new initiative to foster education and conversation on women deacons.
DeaconChat, brings Catholics―both lay and ordained―into dialogue.
On May 12, 2016, Pope Francis―responding to a question posed by members of the International Union of Superiors General―said that he would establish a commission to study the question of ordaining women deacons in the Roman Catholic Church. That commission was formally announced in August 2016 and began its work in November 2016.
“Already in 2013, AUSCP called for consideration of ordaining women deacons. As the papal commission continues its work, it is important that Catholics―lay and ordained―undergo their own study and discernment of the history and present possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate,” said Fr. Bob Bonnot, Chair of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. “DeaconChat provides that opportunity.”
“This initiative is designed to foster educational efforts to enrich dialogue on women deacons,” said Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director of Voice of the Faithful. “The program has three important components: learning, sharing, and connecting.”
“The initiative includes important educational materials, a link to purchase Phyllis Zagano’s book Women Deacons: Past, Present and Future, and guides for inviting clergy to dialogue,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director of FutureChurch. “We hope Catholics in the United States and around the world will be inspired to start a conversation in their parish.”
Go to http://www.CatholicWomenDeacons.org/support/deaconchat to download the DeaconChat materials.
Fr. Bob Bonnot, Chair, Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, 330-397-1257, email@example.com
Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director, FutureChurch, 513.673.1401, firstname.lastname@example.org
Donna Doucette, Executive Director, Voice of the Faithful, 1-781-559-3360, email@example.com
An association of nearly 1,200 U.S. priests is in the final development stages of issuing an urgent ‘plea’ to the U.S. bishops to ‘formulate a plan now to meet this emerging crisis’ of parish closings and consolidations.
“In a working draft it calls a ‘Proposal for Pastoral Care In & Thru Priestless Parishes,’ the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests exhorts the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and ‘dioceses nationwide’ to quickly address the issue.
“Core to the plan is ‘new and more specific exploration’ of lay ecclesial ministers to oversee non-sacramental aspects of parish life and administration, according to a proposed plan cover letter contained in an email to NCR.”
By Dan Morris-Young, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.