The Cathedral Connection 30 September 2018

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Clericalism is the new “bad word” in the Church.  Why?  As more and more accounts emerge of the abuse of trust by clergy and consecrated persons, reaching back over the past century, questions are being asked about the privileged status they have traditionally enjoyed.  People have always regarded priests and religious as “special” and the Sacrament of Holy Orders has certainly marked the priesthood as distinct and separate from others.

While this is a beautiful tribute to the dignity of priesthood, it can easily lead to an “Upper Class” impression with a consequent lack of accountability.  It is obvious that some, even many, have succumbed to the temptation that privilege, power and authority invite.  Trust becomes a sad and tragic casualty.

Pope Francis has targeted clericalism as “an illness in the Church”, and says it arises from a distorted view of authority.  “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism,” he wrote in his letter to all Catholics on August 20.

He states that clericalism can be a sin for both clergy and laity: for clergy if they demand to be treated as superior to the laity; for laity, if they resign themselves to ‘Let Father do everything’ and avoid the responsibilities proper to their own vocation as baptised Christians.

Bishop Vincent Long, speaking to our Priests’ Assembly in Christchurch recently, told us the priesthood has to be “humanised, not pedestalised!”  In today’s environment, the priest cannot be “apart from” the people; he must be “a part of” the people.  This the model we are trying to work from in New Zealand.  Pray that this kind of partnership will bring healing and peace.

Fr James

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