Catholics for a Changing Church

"To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often" - Bl. John Henry Newman


by Colin Stockford

Clericalism is sometimes thought of simply as the way of doing things with clerks (the educated) in charge. However, the basic origin of the word is the Greek "kleros". This has two meanings; take your pick.

Kleros(1). "A mischievous insect in beehives". Unless you have known clerics who could be so described in a parish, diocese, or Vatican dicastery, move to the second definition.

Kleros(2). "One's lot (as in drawing lots), then one's allotment or piece of land or estate." Thus in church usage it might be considered one's allotted task, duty, power, privilege, or form of service. Therein lies the rub.

A community needs some form of order, according to its nature. When a cleric is seen to serve, that service is valued by the members and strengthens their unity. When service becomes power, privilege and even domination, it is resented and fractures the community. While acknowledging the humble true "service" given by many a cleric to the parish or diocese, it is the sad experience of too many Catholics that it has been distorted into the self-serving power of an elite. Sadly one is not surprised to hear of examples such as these:-

A new PP spends parish funds to change recently fitted carpets to his own preferred pattern.

A bishop moves a priest quietly to another parish when accused of child molestation.

A bishop does nothing when asked to sort out a problem between PP and parishioner.

A PP changes parish Mass times without discussion with the parishioners.

Clerical governors put an inexperienced priest as Head of a new school, over experienced and qualified lay applicants.

At its best clerics have seen their "lot" as the privilege and duty of humbly serving the Christian community; others have seen it (and still do) as the right of an exclusive and self-preserving elite to rule.

We look for the day when the word "clericalism" brings to mind only the disinterested service of "clergy", and when all the baptised are treated as full members of the church.

Colin Stockford

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