It is time to fight back.
Over at The Liturgy Guy there is a good post about clericalism.
First, let me say that there is a good clericalism and a bad.
The worst clericalism that we see is of pandemic proportions among the liberal Left. They blur the distinction between lay and cleric and say, “I’ll let you do something I am supposed to do.” The subtle message: “You are not good enough with your baptismal dignity: I have to raise you up.” This condescending liberal arrogance is the worst form of clericalism we see in the Church. Want to see true clericalism? Scratch one of them and see what happens.
On the other hand, there is a more sound, healthy “clericalism” which consists in a clear sense of priestly identity that sets the priest apart from the people on account of his ministry at the altar. Furthermore, this can and should lead to a clerical culture in the Church, among clerics, who need to support each other. This doesn’t mean excluding lay people from every facet of their lives. It does mean, however, priests withdrawing from lay people on occasion, into their own company (and even with steak dinners, good wine and cigars). Clericalism, in the good sense, is concerned with offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass and the identity and holiness of the priest. The way Father says Mass and hears confessions and the way he perceives himself will have a beneficial knock-on effect among the people for whom he is priest.
The outward “trappings” of the priest’s office are part and parcel of his beneficial ministry to people. They are not for the individual priest’s glorification. They are about the priest’s proper role.
God’s People tended and pampered the spotless lamb, their sacrificial victim, setting it apart and making much of it… right up to the point when they slashed its neck apart and bleed it out with a scream. Similarly, we put fine vestments on our priests and show him respect during the sacred liturgy because, at the altar of sacrifice, he is not just the priest, he too is the victim, not in the bloody sense, but the sacramental sense: he is alter Christus at the altar of sacrifice and in the confessional.
The fine elements of reverent liturgy are not about the priest, they are about the perfect spotless only Holy One, Christ the High Priest/Victim at the altar.
Yes, there is a good clericalism which, for the sake of the laity, we should foster. We must reject attacks on priestly identity and all those helpful ways in which our priests can be men and mediators.
There is more to be said, but let’s get on with the piece I referred to above.
Young Priests and the False Charge of Clericalism
There is a smear campaign currently underway against many young priests in the Catholic Church. However, this attack is not coming from the secular media or from dissenting advocacy groups. Instead, it is an attack from within the Church itself, even from fellow priests. What is the false charge being leveled against many of our younger priests? Clericalism.
That legitimate instances of clericalism should be of concern is evident from recent statements by Pope Francis, including his recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Indeed, from the earliest days of his pontificate, the Holy Father has spoken out against careerism and ambition among some of the clergy, particularly within the Curia.
Playing the Clericalism Card
However, what is equally troubling is the opportunistic way in which the Catholic left has recently played the “clericalism card” against a new generation of priests, many of whom were ordained during Pope Benedict’s papacy. Far from being an issue of young priests lording their authority over the faithful, this is nothing more than an anti-traditionalist strategy by those opposing the ongoing “reform of the reform”.
A recent example of this mindset was presented in the Jesuit magazine America, by columnist Daniel P. Horan O.F.M. In his piece entitled, “Lead Us Not Into Clericalism” Fr. Horan makes the following observation:
[… BLAH BLAH BLAH…]
Reverence is Not Clericalism
As I have written about before, many of our new priests are rediscovering the beauty and depth of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. As was anticipated, some of the tradition and disciplines of the Vetus Ordo have been introduced by many priests into the Novus Ordo. This then is the hermeneutic of continuity being actualized. This is the recovery of the sacred within the liturgy of the Roman rite.
Indeed, what we find with these young priests today is exactly what Pope Benedict XVI called for in his June 2009 Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests. In referencing Saint John Mary Vianney, Pope Benedict observed:
“This way of educating the faithful to the Eucharistic presence and to communion proved most effective when they saw him celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…He was convinced that the fervour of a priest’s life depended entirely upon the Mass: “The reason why a priest is lax is that he does not pay attention to the Mass! My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine!”.
It is absolutely essential that we support these young priests as they are thrown to the wolves. Those who have invested decades into diminishing the priesthood and “ordaining” the laity will not go without a fight.
For most of the laity, who suffer not from an anticlerical agenda, but rather from poor formation, it will simply take time. In the meantime, let us hope that people who should know better, like fellow priests, seek to catechize the faithful instead of scandalizing them with false charges of clericalism.
Fr. Z stands in support of these young priests.