Posts Tagged clericalism

Report: Catholic clergy’s unquestioned – and uneducated – power spurs abuse / Religion News Service

(Paul J.) Schutz (of Santa Clara University) told Religion News Service that their aim was to understand how ‘structural clericalism operates in the church,’ comparing clericalism to the way structural racism shapes the lives of people of color.

By Alejandra Molina, Religion News Service

“A new report based on interviews with some 300 Catholic priests, nuns and laypeople concludes that clergy aren’t adequately prepared to wield the power they exercise and need more education on questions of sex and gender.

“The report, ‘Beyond Bad Apples: Understanding Clericalism as a Structural Problem & Cultivating Strategies for Change,’ released Monday (Aug. 15), explores the links between clericalism — clergy’s focus on its authority — and clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse. 

“The study’s authors, Julie Hanlon Rubio and Paul J. Schutz, both professors at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution in Northern California, initially intended to survey 600 respondents, drawn proportionally from lay, religious (those who take vows but are not ordained to the priesthood) and priests, but were turned away by five of the six dioceses and diocesan seminaries they approached.”

By Alejandra Molina, Religion News Service — 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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Vatican event on priesthood to explore topic of celibacy / Cruxnow.com

“The event will focus primarily on the common priesthood shared by all the baptized and the roles of individual ministries within that, such as the ordained priesthood, consecrated religious life, and the laity.”

Cruxnow.com

“A top Vatican official in charge of organizing a major symposium on the priesthood next year has said the discussion will touch on several controversial hot-button issues such as priestly celibacy, the women’s diaconate, clericalism, and the clerical sexual abuse crisis.

“Speaking to journalists during the April 12 presentation of the event, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet said, ‘the question of celibacy is important.’

“‘We have all spoken about it, and it will be discussed, but it will not be the central theme of the symposium,’ he said. ‘It is not a symposium on celibacy, like it needs to be taken up deeply. It’s a broader perspective.’

“Head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, which is helping to organize the symposium, Ouellet when asked whether other hot-button issues such as the priestly ordination of viri probati, or “tested” married men, and the women’s diaconate would be addressed, said yes.”

By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com — 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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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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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, dbdoucette@votf.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.

Contact: Kevin Clinton, kevin@kevindome.com, Paul Leingang, prleingang@gmail.com

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.

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