Monday, June 02, 2008

How Big a Problem is Clericalism in the Church Today?

Over at Inside Catholic, I participated in a symposium titled "Ending Clericalism". Prominent Catholics such as Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Bill Donohue, Mark Shea, and others contributed their thoughts, so I am honored to be among such company.

Some, such as Leon Suprenant, commented on the problem of clericalization of the laity, the idea that the laity being "involved" in the Church means they must be engaged in some public ministry:
Today, clericalism often manifests itself in a radically different way, through what is sometimes called the clericalization of the laity, which involves lay people's aspiring to roles normally reserved to priests in order to feel as though they're an important part of the Church. This mindset is seen in the proliferation of liturgical ministers, but perhaps most clearly in the demand for the ordination of women, married men, and openly homosexual men.

I focused on the confusion of vocations that has occured in the post-Vatican II period. Among other things, I wrote:
While I have no doubt that in some places the old-fashioned "my-way-or-the-highway" autocratic clericalism still exists, I have found that what is far more prevalent is the confusion of vocations and roles described by Mark Shea and others here at Inside Catholic.

I also wrote:
Both of these abuses [of authority] involve those with legitimate authority in one sphere attempting to usurp authority in another sphere, not properly theirs. And whether it's priests or laypeople doing it, it's destructive.

My piece is here. But do read the whole thing - there's a lot of food for thought here!