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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Looby

The Clericalism Heresy

As the Catholic Church continues to grapple with the issue of priestly clericalism, it's essential to remember the words of Pope Francis, who said that pastors should "smell like the sheep" they serve.

Clericalism, the practice of valuing the power and prestige of the clergy over the laity, is a deviation from the Catholic Church's teachings on the priesthood. The incarnational model of priesthood, as exemplified by Jesus in his earthly ministry, is a call to serve the faithful and to be in solidarity with them.

The problem with clericalism is not limited to ordained priests, it is also present among seminarians who are in formation for the priesthood. This creates a culture within the Church where the focus is on the power and prestige of the clergy, rather than on the service and humility that is at the heart of the priesthood.

One of the most visible manifestations of clericalism is the practice of wearing clerical attire, such as cassocks, which can create a physical and psychological separation between the priest and the people he serves. This can lead to a perception of the priest as someone who is above the laity, rather than in solidarity with them.

The Church must work to overcome this problem of priestly clericalism. It should encourage priests and seminarians to dress in a way that is appropriate to the context and culture in which they are serving. The Church should also provide training and resources to help priests and seminarians understand the importance of being in solidarity with the faithful, and how to overcome the negative effects of clericalism.

In order for the Church to truly be a reflection of the incarnational spirituality it espouses, it must reject clericalism and work towards a more equitable and just distribution of power among all members of the Church.

It is important to remember that the Church is not an organization or NGO, it's the people of God. The Church is not a collection of brilliant people, it's the community of the faithful. The Church is not a business, it's a family.

Let's work together to create a Church where the priests, the seminarians, the bishops, and all the members of the Church, smell like the sheep they serve.

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