The Madonna House priest writes:
So what is this thing, clericalism? It’s a bit hard to define, although like the judge in the obscenity case, I can say that “I know it when I see it.” Clericalism is not showing respect to priests because they are priests. That is faith in the presence of Christ in the ordained minister. Clericalism is not recognizing and submitting to the proper teaching authority of pope and bishop in defining Catholic doctrine. That too is faith in the guiding presence of the Spirit in the Church Christ founded. Clericalism is not being properly obedient to the pastor in the matters in which he has been given authority by his bishop. That is simply good order, both natural and supernatural.
So what is clericalism? It’s a bit tricky to define it. It is a losing sight of the human being who bears the grace of the priesthood. It is putting the man on a pedestal, a fawning, cringing attitude that places a vast distance between priest and people. It is being scandalized when a priest does wrong—not only grave egregious evils like sexual abuse, but the normal foibles and failures every human being is prone to. It is a certain immaturity that ascribes, or expects, total holiness and perfection from the priest while not expecting very much from oneself and other lay people. From the side of the priest, it is an expectation of being waited on, served, catered to, a use of one’s office to bully or lord over or to insulate oneself from the hard knocks of interpersonal relationships.
The ‘real deal’ is not the priestly ministry and office. The real deal is that which Mary communicates to us, that mysterious thing I have been trying to articulate in these posts. The reception of grace, the cooperation of the human person in freedom and love with the action of the Spirit. It is not who is up at the altar performing the sacred rite. In a sense, it is a question of who is on the altar, offering their lives through, with, and in the Lord Jesus. That’s the real deal of Christianity, not the clerical structures that exist to serve this mystery. Ultimately the real deal of Christianity is Jesus, and our life in Him, received from Him.
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