Monday, October 21, 2013

A simple response to the charge of clericalism

Is it possible that someone can go overboard and fashion themselves as important and therefore above others because they have clerical status?

Sure it is.  Our Lord made clear in Matthew 20: 24-28

And the ten hearing it, were moved with indignation against the two brethren. 25But Jesus called them to him, and said: You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater, exercise power upon them. 26It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister: 27And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. 28Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many.
 Now the question is why is there a perception within the flock that clericalism has recently taken over?

There seems to be this incessant need to identify anything bespeaking of traditional doctrines or practice as being clericalism.  Wearing cassocks is seen as snooty, as being elitist.  Withholding communion from public unrepentant sinners is seen as being uncharitable and judgmental.  Kissing the ring of a Bishop or even the Pope is now frowned upon as being midevel or lording their beings over the others.

Terry talked about the latter issue in two posts you can find here and here. I cannot even begin to say how it bothers me how Bishops and even the Holy Father today are unsettled by kissing their ring or feet.  People in modernity are so concerned with the perceptions of others that they forget the faith is not about them as a person but about God and that which he gives to his Church, specifically offices.  I myself would have no problem kissing the feet of the Holy Father (as long as they are somewhat clean of course :-P) but modernity cannot fathom a reason for recognizing authority.  We see authority through the eyes of the egalitarian, that no one is more important than the other, and to take advantage of such a situation is lording it over the brethren.

Either Christ established the Church or he didn't.  Either Francis is "My sweet Jesus on Earth"  or he isn't.  But if he established the church and granted to certain people within it authority then why are we so afraid to recognize this authority with mental consent and with physical acts of piety.  I love the pictures of the Pre-concilliar popes riding on the papal throne flanked by fans on either side.  Do we look at the Pope on the personal level and proclaim him important above else because of his humanity?  Of course not, its because of his office that we give doubly the honor to him which St. Paul himself calls on all Christians to give, and this can take different forms, but dont discard something because your comprehension of the action is lack-luster.

I wont take up the issue of granting public sinners communion because it has been talked about so much over the years.  Suffice it to say scandal seems to be more welcome than the charity of correction in today's church.

I was also thinking of writing something about cassocks but I came across a fantastic, let me repeat FANTASTIC sermon that just came out on the importance of religious garb to the faith.  You can find it here.

Are there clerics that think themselves important and above the rest of the fold?  Most definitely and they need to be reminded that authority is for service.  But it is also important to recognize that clericalism is not limited to those with collars to to laymen who in their ignorance or active dissent want to drive every part of the faith down to their own desires, often stripping the faith down, even past its foundations, to create a comfortable faith that doesn't offend our modern sensibilities because after all we are so enlightened unlike the knuckle draggers of years gone by.

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