Tuesday, 29 August 2017


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Clericalism: Let’s Talk … Prepared for the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, Assembly

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Clericalism is 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, and the laity defer to that belief.

Clericalism: Clericalism has fueled not just the cover-ups in the clergy sex-abuse scandals but also the other ills we confront today in the Church: from dwindling membership to financial scandals.

“Clericalism, far from giving impetus to various contributions and proposals, gradually extinguishes the prophetic flame to which the entire Church is called to bear witness in the heart of her peoples.

Clericalism forgets that the visibility and sacramentality of the Church belong to all the People of God not only to the few chosen and enlightened.” 

Pope Francis “Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity.” – Pope Francis

“Understanding clericalism and transforming that mentality is the single most urgent priority for the coming Catholic Church … the better our understanding of the meaning of the priesthood and the ways that it is changing, the better the chances of emerging from the dark night of the soul with a renewed church.” – David Gibson.

The Coming Catholic Church [Clericalism is] “fundamentally an attitude found in clergy who have made their status as priests and bishops more important than their status as baptized disciples of Jesus Christ … [It] is the almost inevitable outgrowth of clerical culture … a culture deeply imbedded in the individual and collective unconscious of the clergy, and, by extension, in the unconscious of the laity who unwittingly support the cultures in which they live … One sad, even tragic, effect of this … is the curtailing of honest dialogue and conversation between laity and church authorities.” – Donald Cozzens, Faith That Dares to Speak

We covered some of the subtle ways language and pastoral relationships can feed clericalism. But how do YOU experience such barriers? 

And what can you do about it—how do you 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? 

Use the following questions, and your own, to open up that discussion. 

1. Do you agree that as a priest/pastor you are the “point person” to begin to effect change in clergy/lay relations? What is your greatest challenge in moving people from deferential agreement to honest conversation? 

2. Have you ever thought of your lay sisters and brothers as “priestly”? What might be the impact of treating them that way? 

3. How have you gotten to know the people in your care? Do you provide opportunities for listening and honest feedback? Do they ever share in homily preparation or lead faith-sharing activities? 

4. What do lay people need to STOP doing to help narrow the gulf between the relationship of priests and laity? 

5. What is the most important thing you would like lay people in your care to know about you? Do they? If not, why not … and what can you do about it? Something to Consider Choose one small thing you can do differently in the way you relate to lay people after reflecting on the “take aways” from this gathering. 


First of all, let us make the point that there is a difference between a CLERIC and a PRIEST.

A PRIEST is an ordained person who is called to serve God and God's People.

A CLERIC is a man who according to canon law has a certain office in the institutional church.

For instance, no one can ever stop being a priest. Ordination is permanent. When the Church dismisses a priest from office it is called: DISMISSAL FROM THE CLERICAL STATE.

The word DEFROCK is only meaningful when it means that a cleric is forbidden by canon law to wear clerical dress.

Every paedophile priest who has been dismissed has been dismissed from the clerical state. But he is still a priest and were he to celebrate Mass his celebration would be VALID (but UNLAWFUL).

CLERICALISM is about being a card carrying member of THE CLERICAL CLUB.

It is about thinking that as a priest you are SUPERIOR to the lay man or woman.

It is about being on a pedestal - and enjoying being on a pedestal.

It about having POWER and CONTROL over the laity.

It is about a priest talking about MY PARISH instead of OUR PARISH.

It is like the CASTE STSTEM of India.

It is about regarding lay people as THE LOWEST FORM OF CHURCH LIFE.

Clericalism developed from a number of strands:

1. The medieval development of regarding clerics as "PROFESSIONALS" - members of a "PROFESSION" and bishops as feudal lords, cardinals as PRINCE'S OF THE CHURCH and the pope as A MONARCH.

3. It came about also as a result of celibacy. The priest was better because he gave up something the poor ignorant populace could not give up - sex.(In reality, priests have had better sex than most).

4. It came about because of Church teaching that sex was bad and dirty and the "good priests" abstained from it.

5. It came about because virginity was seen as superior to marriage. That's why Mary SIMPLY HAD TO BE A VIRGIN ALL HER LIFE.

6. It came about because celibacy was seen as superior to marriage.







  1. Where did you unearth that red getup ?
    Was he getting married ?
    Words fail me !!!!!!!!

    1. And so words should.

      This is the expression of priesthood (and high clericalism) that some commentors on the previous blog wish to bring back, with their carping and denunciation of the teaching and the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

    2. That's Cardinal "Mother" Burke wearing his Cappa Magna.

      The train is 45 feet long!

    3. MC, do you think we needs priests at all? Good priests I mean?

      Or would you abolish priesthood completely?

      If so what would you replace it with?

      Genuine questions from me.

    4. Needed for what? Salvation? You know as well as I, Bishop Pat, that this is not so. To answer your question directly, then, ordained priests are not needed at all, since all that is required for our salvation has, already, been accomplished in Christ.

      You may not have realised it, but your question is itself deeply 'clericalist', since it presumes ordained priesthood a requirement for the dispensation and management of grace (a medieval theological teaching from which have historically sprung many abuses).

      The ancient Jews shared a similar belief in the efficacy of human priesthood, the Levites being concerned principally with liturgical ritual for appeasement and worship of God.

      If your inflated view of priesthood were in any way justified, then our 'justification by Christ alone' would not have been necessary.

      Jesus did not make an ordained priesthood the requirement for his instruction, 'Do this in memory of me'. This was a theologically and socially rarified pre-condition imposed by the Church, not by Christ.

    5. Thank you MC for addressing my questions.

      I do know that a priesthood is not necessary for salvation.

      Nor do I believe that God's grace only comes through churches and priesthood.

      However I do believe in God calling people to ministry. I understand that God calls EVERYONE to ministry.

      But is it not clear from Jesus's words that he called some to be "shepherds?

      "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep?

      I know that sheep can be wild and free and be without shepherd's.

      But do you not think the notion of "a good shepherd" is meaningful?

      At 65 I feel my life has been meaningful in trying to be close to God and minister to many.

      Maybe I am fooling myself?

    6. Bishop Pat, I never meant to insinuate that your life and ministry have been unfruitful. If I have given you this impression, then I apologise sincerely for the offence, unintended though it was.

      As far as I am concerned, your ministry has shown itself highly fruitful, devoted and courageous, more expressive of Gospel values than the many priestly ministries I've had the deep misfortune to experience.

      Although I believe and said that ordained priesthood is not needed (and I stand by this), I did not say that it cannot be helpful, but only as a signpost to JESUS' priesthood. (As a point of historical fact, Jesus did not proclaim himself priest...this was theologically projected onto him by the Church, principally, I suspect, as a biblical foundation and justification for Roman Catholic theology of priesthood and priestly hierarchy).

      The biblical notion of 'sheep' and 'shepherd' can, and has been, taken too literally, and too far. We ALL are sheep, and we ALL are shepherd, since there is only one qualified and capable of guidance, Jesus himself.

      When Jesus told Peter to 'feed my lambs' and 'feed my sheep', he was not making Peter his co-equal, or implying anything of the kind: he was, rather, indicating, as he did elsewhere in the Gospel, that he is the one and only shepherd. 'Peter' is as much sheep as shepherd, as indeed are we all. Unfortunately, this biblical balance of... ( I was about to type 'power', but it is not, and should not be, about power, but about self-sacrificing service) human reality before God has been distorted, through conceit and vanity, into papal (and priestly) pre-eminence.

    7. MC, I am not hyper sensitive and I found no negative insinuation whatsoever in your comment :-}

      I was genuinely interested in your thoughts.

      I like your idea of the priest being a "signpost" to Jesus.

      I also regard myself as a "sheep" and I always need ministered to.

    8. Magna Carta seems to have a hatred and loathing for what is human. He should have that looked at.

      Of course, it is Christ Himself who acts in the Mass and the Sacraments. The Sacraments are always ex opere operato - out of the Work done - the Work done and finished forever by Christ Alone.

      That notwithstanding, the Lord has entrusted His work to the hands of human beings. That is how God Himself has chosen to act in the work of salvation. Human agents have been involved by God's own choice. No matter what your theology of ministry is, the human agent of preaching, teaching, serving, leading in worship and prayer, has been put there by God and is not to be despised!

      It is true that there have been many human beings who were/are unworthy ministers of God to say the least.

      But it is also true that there have been - and are - many ministers who did/do signpost people to God in Christ.

      The human is not to be despised because Christ has taken us to Himself as members of His Body. He is the Head and we are His members. Within the Body, there are various roles and ministries to be carried out - each according to his and her appointed role.

      The priest is, therefore, in that sense, necessary because God has instituted the normal way and means that His grace is to be mediated. The priest is not the "only" way but he is a "normal/usual" way.

      By choosing apostles out of the many disciples, Jesus clearly indicated a role of leadership characterised, of course, by service. Whilst some have fallen prey to vanity, conceit and narcissism, it is not the full reality and, thank God, for the many selfless priests and religious who have truly served God and His people faithfully.

    9. 13:54, I have no 'hatred and loathing for what is human' except in that juvenile imagination of yours.

      No, Jesus did not entrust his work to ANY human, much less to a gaggle of them, the Magisterium. You probably don't recall what Jesus reportedly said to Simon Peter: 'You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.' Note the 'I' and the 'my' here. Jesus continues his work alone, since only he can 'build' his congregation. The appearance of a pre-eminent role for Simon Peter is precisely that: an appearance.

      Note, too, Jesus said that he would build his 'ekklesia' ('assembly' or 'congregation'), not the Roman Catholic Church.

      To state that the priest is 'necessary' for the continued work of Christ is to deny the singularity of Christ's redemption, which is blasphemy.

    10. "juvenile imagination"! Are you unable to have a discussion without resorting to insults?

      It is not blasphemy and it does not deny the singularity of Christ's redemption.

      Your view renders Christ's words pointless, without meaning and absurd!

    11. There is nothing more "juvenile" than the snarling truculence of M Carta on this blog.

      The ekklesia of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Church He built which has Peter and his successors as overseer. It is Jesus' Church entrusted to the care of Peter and his successors.

  2. Pat, I like your set of questions very much and they should provoke some soul-searching and some respectful and thoughtful debate.

  3. I think you have defined clericalism a bit too narrowly. I think it is true that clericalism includes attitudes based in power or privilege rather than service. However, I think it is also true that clericalism includes attitudes based in narcissism, where the personality of the priest/bishop become of supreme importance. I think one way that this becomes manifest is in the liturgy where priests/bishops impose their own personality and personal tastes on the liturgy which belongs to the community, not to the individual priest/bishop. I think it also manifests itself when the work being done becomes identified solely with a particular priest/bishop and not within the context of service for the Church community. I personally think narcissism is a more subtle and more widespread form of clericalism than power-based clericalism.

  4. The notion that celebration of Mass by a 'defrocked' priest is 'valid but unlawful' is yet another manifestation of clericalism, because it presupposes that the power transubstantiate rests with the ordained man and not with the one and only 'priest', Christ himself.

    1. MournemanMichael30 August 2017 at 11:15

      Good point Magna. I thought it anomalous myself. But I didn't comment for the very idea of transubstantiation I find preposterous, and view it as a symbolic action.
      I understand its origins lying in the blood sacrifices of many other more ancient religions and as found in pre Christian Judaic writings it became embodied subsequently in writings pertaining to the origins of Christianity.
      Fully accept you, and many others, will disagree.

    2. MMM, I think words like transubstantiation is the result of men theologising and philosophising.

      It's really a mystery in the context of faith.

    3. Pat, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with "men theologising and philosophising". It's part of the search for Truth. Fides quaerens intellectum. Ultimately, we believe in the Real Presence based on the clear words of Jesus; but teachings like Transubstantiation are a useful way of contemplating the wonder of the Mystery.

    4. Just so you know - I believe 100% in the Real Presence.

      I like your term: "contemplating the wonder of the Mystery.

    5. RE /13.42
      God bless, Pat - - and may He reward and deepen your wonderful Faith even more.

    6. I, too, believe in the Real Presence, not because it is a dogma of the Church, but because... (Anyone wish to know why?)

    7. Not really, Magna but thanks anyway.

    8. @18.23 LOL!

  5. What you point out makes sense. Society tends to band together in gangs tribes or clubs. Clericalism just another social phenomenon. Doesn't make it right though

    1. If you google codependency you'll find that a lot of clergy/laity relations can tick that box. Some parishioners can be overly loyal and can be manipulated to think they are serving the church when a lot of the time all they are doing is serving their priest. I know of priests who want everything for nothing and who get women to clean their house and wash their laundry for free, or men to tend their garden and fix the plumbing or electrics gratis or priests who put on their collar in the hope they'll get a discount in a local shop even.I think that's exploitative especially when a parish is quite flush with cash. When a priest falls morally, it's important he and his victim/willing partner receive good solid non-judgmental Christian support, but there seems to be a tendency in some parishioners to go into overdrive and rally around the priest as if he's some kind of hard put upon folk hero. That's an inappropriate response and has all the hallmarks of codependency. Blaming the victim of course is the classic response. Clericalism also can and does align itself with money and privilege. How often do we hear people say that the priest only has time for the well to do in the parish? I think clergy and laity have a lot of soul searching and growing up to do. It's definitely happening but there's still a lot of over the top deference and blind adherence also. Of course it's not just confined to Catholicism. It happens in all denominations but culturally the archetype of the god like priest is hard to shake off. After all, he is a man set apart with you could say super human powers, the power to consecrate bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, even the power to forgive sins. That's a lot of power for any mortal to handle and it can go to the head, even in psychologically healthy well adjusted individuals, often at unconscious levels of unawareness. Maybe that explains how in the past very well rounded priests and bishops would put the needs of the institution above the needs of the victim without batting an eyelid.

    2. MourneManMichael30 August 2017 at 12:34

      Lots of sound social and individual psychological observation in your comment on codependency Anon @ 11:43.
      Thank you.

    3. Anon @ 11.43. I think you are being very disingenuous. As priests we have, in our role, very clear guidelines about boundaries, about how we request the services of parishioners. I know of no priest of my generation ( 50 + age group) who has a fulltime housekeeper. If that is the case, housekeeper must be registered with Revenue as required by law. All priests, if they have such, must pay out of their own salary. (Dublin Diocese). Finances are audited stringently. Also, no priest is ever to accept or request local tradesmen/women to do anything for free. WE WORK UNDER VERY PARTICULAR GUIDELINES. Some priests may be fortunate to have family who support them financially, but mostly we cannot afford to pay the proper salary to any individual. Nowadays, most priests "do their own" domestics! (like Pat!!). In relation to parishioners who are involved in ministry groups - they do so out of a love for their parish and community. I know of no other motive, except in a tiny few incidents, where you may have the usual co-dependency relationship.If you know anything about real parish life, you'll discover that in most parishes, working/collaborative relationships operate on a very wise, sound basis and in keeping with given guidelines. I have never used my collar in a deliberate, exploitative way as you suggest. Nor do the majority of priests I know. In today's society priests know only too we how privilege can be so abused, thus I can vouch for the vast majority of priests who I believe are genuine in their desire to lead by example, as best they can given the imperfections and sinfulness of their own lives. I certainly have learned from the past, awful failings of the Church's approach.

    4. Magna, Magna, Magna - the very name conjures a tortured soul, someone who loathes all that is good, creative and beautiful in humanity.Of course none of us wants any kind of deviant or abusuve person in our midst, but chocolate head Mags, is a deluded, narcissist.

    5. Yes, poster 15.32 - - priest in Dublin Diocese - - you will find that the ingrained notions and clich├ęs still abound re/priest gets free or cheaper tradesmen rates etc etc and they can be tossed at you time and time again by people who do not realise that you are now subject to stringent guidelines on many different aspects of your life.
      If it's any consolation, many other professions are faced with the same frustrating mistaken perceptions. People react as if we're in the 1950s. Things develop and move on.
      Their perceptions stay stuck.

    6. 15.32 You may not act like that, but most priests that I have met do.

    7. MourneManMichael30 August 2017 at 19:19

      Anon @ 15:32, you speak of "very clear guidelines about boundaries". Indeed I can acknowledge that guidelines might indeed exist, that you personally observe them and know some clerical colleagues who are similarly conscientious in their observance.
      As such you can observe on your own practice and personal experience.
      But c'mon, surely in the face of the regular everyday experience of very many parishoners you can't really expect the 'vox populi' to accept any validity to a claim that RC priests observe those 'very particular guidelines' you refer to.
      And here might I also query the RC clergys' observance firstly of the RC church's guidelines on clerical celibacy, and secondly, the boundaries of a professional relationship between an RC cleric and his parishoners?
      I suspect that your claims are generated more from naivity than duplicity.

    8. 17.04: Patently untrue. Another smear in priests. You are LYING....

    9. MMM at 19.17. I think contribution at 15.32 makes valid points. Of course there will be some who will not observe wise and mandatory guudelines but in present society, with a more learned people, it is my experience that priests are mostly cautious and careful in their working/pastoral relationships with parishioners. Life has changed utterly for priests. Some fail abysmally, the majority are intelligent, experienced and wise to behave appropriately & professionally. Yes, events of recent decades have made priests evaluate their roles more carefully.

    10. MourneManMichael30 August 2017 at 23:23

      Thank you Anon @22:09.
      In general terms I tend to agree that life has indeed changed utterly for priests. Knocked from their pedestals by so many revelations, they've had to!
      I leave to others the business of quantifying if a majority or otherwise are, as you say, 'intelligent, experienced and wise to behave appropriately and professionally'. Regrettably for the 'good ones', too many are tarred with the same brush wielded by those that, as you say, 'fail miserably'.
      Human nature: "It were ever so".

    11. @15.32
      If you have never met a priest who routinely and happily ignores those guidelines you are fortunate. My parish priest growing up (and he remains in situ in the same parish since 1978) used to make full use of his collar, and looking back the power dynamic and codependency of that parish were as unhealthy as you could get.

  6. Can you please do a focus on the clericalism within the highly dangerous and heretical NeoCatechumical Movement?
    There is some really scary stuff here: http://www.junglewatch.info/2016/12/the-ncw-insiders-view-from-bosnia-and.html#more

    The Neocats are infiltrating our parishes!

    1. (Sadie on the sofa) I used to have a wee Tom cat - a stray call in here hungry most nights. He was nice and enjoyed fish nugget things. He still comes in at times but has got a bit fatter. Don't mind him coming.

  7. Pat, did you know that Pope Paul's boyfriend, the Italian actor Paul Carlini had unlimited access to the Papal Apartment in the Apostolic Palace?

    1. I had heard that.

      Coincidentally Paul VI was the only pope I ever met.

    2. RE /the Paul Carlini reference... But what on earth has that got to do with Pat?!! It wasn't Pat's fault. Stick to making suitable posts which deal with the debate.

    3. Pat found it sufficiently interesting enough to allow it be published, and he responded.

      PS it's Pat's blog, not yours 14:55 so lay off telling people what they may or may not do.

    4. To 16.23.
      And presumably that advice about "not telling people what they may or may not do" also applies to you, yourself..yes?

    5. 16.23: Are you not just another of Pat's disciples interested only in juicy gossip? If you had a real, intelligent and meaningful life - you'd cop yourself on to the real agenda of this blog! Revelling in distortion, delusion, misinformation, prejudice, bias, hatred of priests, the Church etc....So, you get a life. Perhaps a trip back to school for a start....

  8. Magna we get it, you werr spurned by the Church, now you have an axe to grind. Build a bridge and get over it.

    1. Oh! If only you knew. And you know so very little.

    2. Well tell your story so. Predictably a bitter and standard affair of a reject from a sexually repressed system.

    3. Don't flatter yourself Magna. You're more transparent than you imagine.

  9. This blog is now pretty much just an echo chamber for heretics to endlessly agree with each other. Your solution to clericalism seems to be to continue to clericalise the laity, why not just abolish the holy priesthood altogether and build a church in our your image, right? Not much "thinking" or "catholicism" going on here. No wonder Ireland is in a state, I bet every commentator on this post is over the age of 50. Thanks be to God the youth love tradition and orthodoxy and don't buy into your generation's poison.

    1. Totally agree with you. Bunch of loons, schismatics and rejected seminarians by the sounds of it.

  10. Having read Pa and Magna today I think there is a "love-fest" of sorts going on!! I know what they are both looking for - goody on a saucer, served with delicious creamy caramel!!

    1. What an odd comment!

    2. Not an odd comment when you reflect on the nastiness and horribleness of both species!

  11. Tom Doyle OP is biased in that he is often an open critic of the Church. I notice not one but three YouTube clips that you have included from him on the blog. Maybe we need a bit more balance and fairness in these arguments. As for Magna, I now cope better not reading anymore of his bile when I see his name and I certainly don't feed the troll as it were, that's what makes him thrive.

    1. 16:19, Fr Doyle isn't a 'critic of the Curch', since what he criticises (the mal-behaviour of priests) is most certainly not the Church.

      Psst! Bet you're reading this comment.

  12. For quite some time I have blogged same observations. This blog is neither CATHOLIC nor THINKING. Neither is it SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JESUS. If it was Pat would ensure it wasn't hijacked by wannabies who are illiterate mostly, disgruntled clerics, former priests & seminarians. This blog serves no useful purpose other than allow Pat and his band of malcontents become noisier gongs, with little inspiration. Empty and misleading apart from the odd sincere contrubutor.

  13. 16.33 Noise is a fair point. Thing is how does noise become meaningful communication that elicits a valid response. When and how does theory become legitimate action

  14. Since Jesus' PLAN A from St. Peter up to now has scarcely resulted in anything spiritually idyllic, perhaps He has now given us PLAN B, I.e. Magna Carta to the fore, Bishop Buckley, already episcopally consecrated, MMM, and Sean Page.
    I can see Jesus clap his hands and the Angels of the Lord rejoice.
    Is not this something to look forward to?
    Do not fear, do not depair.
    All will be restored.

    1. Ha ha 18.06
      That was funny!...and presumably God had better not get above Himself or He will be shown the error of His ways by Those Who Know Better.

  15. Pat, Did you know that one of the priests mentioned on the list of Down & Connor changes which you published the other day shares a parish with a relatively youngish priest who is of PP rank and has a foot fetish? I think it's safe to say he will be sorry to see the priest who is leaving leave. Won't get to look at his feet anymore.

  16. To poster 21.46
    Thank you for sharing that worrisome news with us all.
    Presumably the "relatively youngish priest who is of PP rank" may be lucky to to discover that, much to his surprise, the new priest who arrives also has two feet! This may be his sole consolation in the dark days ahead.