On Clericalism

The pejorative notion of clericalism has a number of different meanings. For many Protestants and secularists, this term simply means that the clergy have, and exercise, too much authority in the Catholic Church. Just how that’s their business is a mystery, unless they assume that the Church is somehow subject to their ideas and should conform to them.

For Catholics, clericalism usually refers to a kind of dominance of laity by clergy outside of their rightful spiritual authority. Pope Francis often speaks of this form of clericalism, in the way that clergy behave either in their regular daily pastoral work or in the political sphere.

St. Jose Maria Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, identified another kind of clericalism in those who try to turn the laity into pseudo-clerics – and identify the truly “committed” layperson as someone who directly serves the Church, rather than someone who is immersed as a Christian in social and political life.

But there is yet another form of clericalism that seems just as widespread today. This is the clericalism that assumes that many of the laity are simply incapable of really understanding the Church’s teachings or are incapable of  living up to them when the demands are high. This is the kind of subtle but deadly clericalism Pope Paul VI hinted at in Humanae vitae. – from The Catholic Thing, 1/5/17