The Pervasive Clericalism of the Modern Church

Peter Denying Christ – Painting by Peter Janssen, 1869

You may have heard of it, or you may have not, but last month there were some terrible sex abuse scandals to hit the news. It feels as if there is a never-ending onslaught of such stories; indeed, of scandal in general. How could the Church continue to fail, time and time again, to protect the vulnerable and to bring justice to those in its ranks who commit such grave evils? We know that the Vatican has the power to bring about punishment and justice. After all, the Vatican has proven to be capable of removing bishops on a whim and is perfectly willing to laicize a priest who crossed the line in a certain direction, while turning a blind eye to abusers and unorthodox schismatics.

Our Supreme Pontiff even goes so far as to declare Cardinal Wuerl, who resigned due to his covering up of McCarrick’s abuse, as having “nobility.”

The so-called “Synod on Synodality,” too, is a complete disaster. It in no way represents the actual thoughts of the lay faithful and, in fact, is a complete fraud. As it turns out, all the “data” coming to the Church is actually just the arbitrary thoughts and takeaways of those responsible for “synthesizing” the surveys and listening sessions. The synthesis on the parish level is then synthesized on the diocesan level, then the national level. And what ends up happening? “The power to decide the sensus fidei instead lies with the interpreters at every stage, from the parish all the way to Frascati. In other words, the DCS is about as likely to convey the sensus fidei as it was originally conveyed as children are to successfully repeat phrases while playing ‘the telephone game.’” This is obvious when you look at the documents being produced at the various levels. The Pillar Catholic published an article which shows the differences in the various documents based on the prevalence of words at each level. What they found was astonishing.

Ah yes, important terms for our Church today! “Continental”, “space”, “enlarge”, “dialogue”, “consultations”, and “reports.” Just look at the difference between the diocesan reports and the USCCB and Working Document. The Diocesan level seems to have produced something of value, talking about holiness and the mass, young people and Jesus. But these important ideas seem to completely disappear as the documents go up. What happened? Who knows. All I know is that when I attended the listening session, barely anyone showed up and all the questions were softball questions to puff up the Church. Nothing of note happened and I suspect that at the end of all this, nothing will change for the better.

And don’t get me started on the Swiss Church and the German Church, hotbeds of heresy and unorthodox behavior which cannot be called in any way “Catholic.”

What is a Catholic to think of all this? Can we blame anyone, whether they’re a Christmas and Easter mass goer or a staunch Latin Mass Catholic, for being downright pushed away from the faith by this pathetic behavior and these convoluted processes? It seems as if our Church is more concerned with documents and “enlarging the tent” than it is with actually preaching the important and difficult message it was commanded by Christ to preach.

The truth of the matter is that there are evil, immoral, unrighteous, downright anti-Christian clergy in our Church, from the top to the bottom. This has always been the case, even since the times of St. Paul and the fledgling Christian Church of the first century. Christ warned us of wolves in sheep’s clothing, and we know that positions of power can often attract the worst kinds of people. But make no mistake: these failings cannot just be written off as inevitable. They have taken place because they have been allowed to take place. People within the Catholic hierarchy, oftentimes clerics, have enabled abusers and heretics (if they are not one themselves), and they continue to do so. This is the sick clericalism that pervades our Church.

Sometimes it can seem like the laity is totally powerless against this true clericalism. But I am here to tell you that we can take action. We can demand better from our leaders. We are obliged to. Our priests, our bishops, our pope, they are not “above us” when it comes to morality. They are not exempt from correction, nor are they held to different standards. Actually, they are held to higher standards given their place. As lay-people, we must be very vocal and very insistent that we will not tolerate abuse and we will not tolerate cover-ups. We will not tolerate priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes who refuse to take action against bad actors, or who themselves are bad actors. We will not tolerate clerics who bully laity, who bully their orthodox brethren, and who cater instead to the abortionists, the sexual deviants, the abusers, and the communists.

Some will call what I say disobedient and out of line. Is this so? We are sometimes told, often by the “moderates” or the expressly leftist, that we must be good little boys and girls and show unfaltering loyalty to those above us. We must never question their judgements! We must never call them out on their hypocrisy. After all, they know better than us, and even if they are wrong, we should just ignore it and follow along anyways (except, of course, if the authority in question is a conservative, at which point it is perfectly acceptable to rail against them. Just ask Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI).

I reject this! I reject such complacency!

There is a difference between faithful obedience and dangerous complacency with error. Laity must cultivate the ability to discern when to obey and assent, and when to push back.

The laity must also strive to live holy lives. We are called to holiness as much as any person who has taken vows or been ordained. We must pray often. We must fast. We must do good works. We must deepen our knowledge of the faith and of the Church. We can show the world what it really is to be a Catholic by living the life we are called to live. Perhaps it will cause a scandalized brother or sister to stay in the Church rather than leave. It will also strike a sharp contrast, as it highlights the difference between the life Christ called us to live and the lives some of our leaders in the Church are living. More than anything though, it is our Christian duty to strive for holiness, for excellence. The Church today needs saints more than ever. It needs brave and holy men and women, like St. Catherine of Siena, who are capable of calling out our popes and our bishops when they our out of line. It needs groups of Christians who stand firm amid the chaos of the world and of the Church, as St. Benedict and his early monasteries did. We have been called to live a life apart from the world; we must respond to it accordingly. We must stay the course, fight the good fight, and be good soldiers of Christ.

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