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Clericalism: How do we deal with it?

Please join the conversation!

We’ve gotten quite some reaction to the recent distribution of a news release about the Clericalism white paper published by the AUSCP, and to a follow-up email message.

Just as real life experiences are central to the white paper, real life practices may guide us to the next step, how to deal with clericalism in a corrective, constructive way.

The writers of the white paper, from AUSCP and Voice of the Faithful, drew on real life examples from around the United States. The writers understood that scholarly definitions and explanations cannot communicate the lived experience of clericalism in the Church.

After reading our news release, Jesuit Father Thomas Reese commented: “I think you are correct in saying that examples speak louder than theory. Perhaps in dealing with solutions examples may also speak louder than exhortations.”

So, too, as we move from giving examples of clericalism, we most move toward offering solutions. We need examples from you!

Here are some of the ideas submitted: 

• As the presider, sit with the congregation during the first two readings of Scripture.

 • Have the presider drink from the chalice (or one of the chalices) that all people drink from.

 • Do away with the paten that holds only the priest’s altar bread and put it with everyone’s bread. This is in fact the instruction of the GIRM as well as the instruction that all bread be on one plate.

 • Don't feed people from the tabernacle -- bread consecrated at an earlier Mass. A concelebrant must receive from the same Mass, so why not the people? This too is in the GIRM. Image eating your Thanksgiving day meal and going to the pantry for food for the guests.

 • Have extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist at the center aisle. Why should the priest always be center stage at our Communion?

 • Check out the GIRM for the USA about kneeling and standing. The people need to be part of the decision of when and how to implement this. It's a tough one.

 • Have music as prescribed for liturgy, including baptisms. (Maybe at meetings. It binds the group and most sing and may even carry it to Masses). 

 • Have someone ask all to greet each other. All are ministers of hospitality.

 Suggestions were not limited to liturgical practice:

 • Study or go to a Leadership program on how to run a collaborative meeting. We were never trained for this yet it's a big part of our lives. The cleric should step back and have a chairperson run the meeting. Talk about handing over "power". Do this as part of all meetings as you listen and then give comments after. Start all meetings with a contemplative form of prayer such as used at the Conference. Smile at everyone. Look like you want to be there. Practice smiling on your way. It's a muscular exercise.

 Reese also offered two more thoughts, to which we invite your response:

 • Clericalism is an example of a wider phenomenon that afflicts other professions: police, military, doctors, professors, etc. All of them resist challenges to their authority. They also abuse their authority. They also cover up. What can we learn from studies of them?

 • There are growing complaints about clericalism among lay staff in parishes and dioceses. As priests decline in numbers, how do we deal with that?