When the Pope said the scandals were not owing to homosexuality or pedophilia, but clericalism, he was half-right and half-wrong.
Most commentators online saw this statement of Pope Francis as totally wrong. I did not, but it has taken me a while to write about it, although I did in one com box early last week.
Why clericalism is absolutely part of the problem and a large part can be explained in a simple manner of a story.
Let us say that Mr. Big, a rich and powerful man, is a daddy of seven kids. One of his kids is rapidly becoming a delinquent and needs to be removed from the family. Rather than calling the police, Mr. Big sends his bad boy to Uncle Tony, who puts the boy to work on his farm. However, the bad boy refuses to change his bad, sinful habits, so Uncle Tony calls his brother in Alaska, Uncle Bob, and the two agree to send the bad boy to that great state. Although the boy does not repent and change, he is out of the range of the family in the lower 48, and his bad ways, even though getting worse, are not as noticed in the wild country.
Plus, Mr. Big, Uncle Tony, and Uncle Bob are all protected by their wealthy friends, and by the money they have to hide the bad boy and his behaviour. They can even bribe the police and the press, and so on.
The hierarchy is the United States has and is acting like Mr. Big and his family. Instead of dealing with a serious problem, they cover up the bad boy’s habits, and lie about his life, not even mentioning his new bad boy friends he has found in Alaska.
Clericalism is excessive loyalty to the established workings of the hierarchy. It is a false idolatry of status. It is a big Old Boy’s Club, which agrees to keep things secret and to stay aloof from the normal workings of a diocese or parish. In the United States, clericalism has been a problem since at least the heresy of Americanism blew up in the mid-19th century, where priests and bishops claimed that the U.S. Catholic Church did not need Rome’s intervention in anything, as Rome did not understand the Catholic Church in the New World.
Soundly corrected, those Americanist bishops were sent away from largely populated dioceses in the East and ended up in the Middle West. Sadly, the heresy thrives there still, in the form of American clericalism, which sees itself in a special position from the clergy of other countries—unique and special.
Clericalism creates a hierarchy which acts like an old aristocracy of corrupt nobility. This is why certain cardinals can lie and cover-up both homosexual activity among priests and pedophilia. These men see themselves above the law of God and country, because of their clerical status. Clericalism also creates networks of bad boys, who can hide, or have until now.
Clericalism creates a barrier between the laity and the clergy. It also attempts to protect status, position, jobs, power. In effect clericalism can happen outside of the Church, as in businesses and universities, anywhere there is a hierarchy of management.
Sadly, clericalism is encouraged by a childish view of the clergy which continually puts priests on false pedestals.
Now, priests are special, each one being anointed for life, and also an alter Christus. However, that real spiritual status should not bring social or economic success.
The lack of humility brings about clericalism, and like a giant monster, it feeds off the good will of the laity.
Clericalism is more obvious and rampant in the States than in Europe, where the members of the hierarchy cannot hide and are more part of daily life. Also, many of the cardinals and bishops belong to politically upper echelon families, which is an ancient custom in Europe, so that people are more aware of their actions. For example, the “luxury bishop” of Germany, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, was removed from his office as bishop by Pope Benedict XVI in 2013 for gross expenditures. That bishop spent 31 million euros on various things, including his own residence. Before that, he has travelled first class with a companion, lied about it and was fined for perjury. He was one of the bad boys, but because the laity followed what he was doing, and because the Vatican had to deal with hundreds of years of scandals in Europe, this issue was solved by the bishop being suspended and then having to resign. This wold have been totally overlooked and never known by the laity in the States because of the separate lives bishops live there.
The problem in the United States is that the hierarchy is too far away and too hidden from public eyes. The Old Boy’s Club can keep on sinning, hiding sins and sinners, without investigation, until now.
The entire system of the Church in the U.S. is blighted by clericalism, which allowed the horrific crimes of pedophilia and homosexual actions, as well as wild spending, and lying, to continue for a long time.
Clericalism protected the four members of my family who were sexually abused for years and years by a boarding school chaplain…and so on.
Clericalism is a type of idolatry, meaning that the hierarchy becomes a little god to itself, making up its own rules and tolerating corruption.
Therefore, Pope Francis is correct in labelling at least part of the problem as clericalism, this “ism” which allowed the sexual deviancy to continue for most likely 100 years or more in the United States.
JMJ, pray for us.
God is good,