Clericalism

This subject has come up in a couple of blogs. John Beeler writes this:

Clericalism. I knew some of this. Even in the Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation, “secular” (diocesan) priests’ lives weren’t quite like the 1800s Catholic model we traddies and Anglo-Catholics know and love, “Good, Father, night, Father,” 39-button cassocks, birettas outside of services, and all. Lay clothes and “Mr.” were common. The poor medieval village Mass priest (curate doing the pastoral work — what his job title means, the care of souls — while the absentee rector lived off one or more parishes’ income, which the Anglicans retained) wasn’t much different from his congregation in lifestyle and education (he could read well enough to say Mass). We more resembled Orthodoxy in some ways (monks vs. everybody else; unschooled village priests). The Catholic clerical culture we assume as the norm was really a reaction against “the French Revolution and 1848 revolutions,” rather like the exposition craze among conservative Novus Ordo Catholics reacts against heresy and liturgical abuse (bring back the old Mass; don’t distort our rite; thank you). Also: as Fr. Rutler says, Catholicism is sacerdotalist (the bishop fully sharing in Christ’s priesthood, offering his sacrifice and the grace of absolution, ordaining, confirming, etc.); clericalism is a parody of the faith that some Catholics fall for too. My point here is while liberals are anti-sacerdotalist (“don’t call me Father,” “presider,” etc.), they are the biggest clericalists. It’s why some old Catholic women want to be priests: they DON’T believe the church’s teaching about the Mass, apostolic bishops, etc. POWER. (Feminist cr*p: Freudian envy.) “Fake religion is always about self.” Same as the long-running circus of failed clergy wannabes (except they’re often orthodox on the basics and high-church like us), vagantes. P.S. Unlike in the Roman Rite, I think Byzantine priests have long been “Fr.” to their parishioners and worn a cassock. But “Priest Name Surname” in writing to their bishops. Only the bishop is a reverend father in God in his own right. (Did A-Cs ever claim Prayer Book precedent for “Fr.”?) Their professed monks are “Fr. Name in Religion” whether they’re priests or not. P.P.S. It’s actually traditional for Catholic priests in academia to wear lay clothes.

This is quite something coming from an American! John has always warmed to my anecdotes of life with old French parish priests. One positive thing that has come out of Continuing Anglican fragmentation in previous decades is a greater degree of humility among our bishops and priests. I have always wanted to tone down the clerical side so that the Christ-like character of the priesthood may shine through. Few people understand this, but John obviously does, and it is to his credit.

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6 Responses to Clericalism

  1. Thank you! Please make the second sentence “Even in the Middle Ages…”

    • Done. You show a good understanding in this matter. Remember “We weren’t like they are“, as in old Fr Pecha talking about the traditionalist clergy. The rub is truly finding Catholicism without bullshit!

      • Thanks again. Exactly why I’m very wary of traditionalists outside the official Roman Catholic Church, although I listen to them, even Bishop Williamson. Too often it’s craziness, a cult with the church’s trappings (such as the clerical ones we trads and A-Cs love), not the church. The old French priests you loved were really in and of the church.

      • Unfortunately, you don’t escape human sin by adhering to official churches. Sometimes, we have to make the choice between “marginal” communities or giving up altogether. Do not blow out the flax that is still smouldering… There is no anti-sin guarantee anywhere. We live in a dark and dank world, and the Spirit blows where he/she willeth.

  2. Dale says:

    Personally, I have always found John to be astute; which was why I was upset when he was less than his normal gentlemanly self not too long ago, and I was very happy that he quickly returned to being his real self. I think that both his own blog as well as his contributions to yours, Fr Anthony, are always worth reading.

    Oh, John, I will try to return to posting observations on your own blog, about the only one other than Fr Anthony’s that I follow, but recently the system will not let me post for some odd reason.

  3. Ah, Clericalism… you capital sin of the Irish and American Catholic Church.

    I remember not too long ago when I was in a theological debate on some matter with some attendees of an FSSP parish. One went, “Fr. X has been saying [insert position here] in his catechism class”, as if that would settle the debate.

    My answer, “Well, then Fr. X is wrong”, was greeted with stares as if I had just committed some form of obscene blasphemy. You’d think with all the rotten priests we have endured people would be more wary of clericalism.

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