“Down with Rigid Narcissistic Pelagian Prelaticism!”

Fr. John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has of late been applying his customary perspicience to matters current over at his fine blog Mutual Enrichment.  

Today he tackles the wifty notions of the libs who yock “Clericalism!” at traditional Catholics at every turn.

Have a look… I’ll cut part out to force you to read over there:

Clericalism? Are the Traddies guilty?

The medieval historian John Bossy used to point out how dominant the laity were in the Church life of the High Middle Ages. Parishes were corporately structured, and dominated by powerful lay Guilds led by pairs of Wardens; for their religious needs they hired and paid clergy, just as, doubtless, for their footwear they employed and remunerated cobblers. Sometimes you can still see the guildswomen or guildsmen pictorially immortalised at the bottoms of the windows they put into their Parish Churches, as at S Neots in Cornwall. There were sacramental things that only the clergy, of course, could do; but it was not the clergy who called the tune. (‘Clericalism’, Dix loved to suggest, is a post-Reformation Presbyterian and Calvinist phenomenon.)

I hope no-one will be offended if I point out that things are rather like the High Middle Ages in Traddiland. [NB] In my experience, the Traditionalist enterprise is forcefully energised and led by well-qualified and determined lay men and women, often if not usually young. For their liturgical needs, they call upon clergy whom they know to be idonei. They are very polite and courteous and grateful and generous; but it always seems clear to me who is in charge. To avoid all misunderstanding, I must make clear that I think this de facto system works extremely well and I am very happy indeed when I am allowed to be part of it. I am not being snide … quite the opposite … and if anybody suggests I am ‘complaining’ I shall strangle them with a printed copy of the Novus Ordo.  [An excellent use for the Novus Ordo that I hadn’t thought of.  For my part, in our Mass Society here in Madison (please make a tax deductible donation TODAY – HERE), of which I am the “prez”, I point in helpful directions but the fantastic lay people get things done.  They have built good relationship with the clergy here and it is a delight to work with them.  They get it.]

It is an amusing paradox that the disorders in the post-Conciliar Church should have led to such a (please forgive my use of this word) empowerment of the traddy Laity. By empowerment I do not refer to anything like the activities of the infantilised laity of the ‘Mainstream Church’. You all know the sort of “lay involvement” that happens there … just before Holy Communion, the celebrant breaks into the sugary mood-music to call out “We’re short of a Eucharistic Minister … can somebody else please come up?” And there is some gruesome little committee which meets weekly with the pp to “arrange the liturgy”. No; I am talking about laity empowered in the sense of possessing adult competence and grown-up self-confidence.  [This is the worst sort of clericalism there is: Father “Just Call Me Bob” smugly allows lays people to do what he can do, in the guise of “empowering” them.  As if they aren’t good enough on their own as baptized Catholics.  No, Father has to give them a veneer of his clerical pulchritude.  Disgusting.]

[… the part I cut to tease you …]

Catholic Traditionalist laity, above all, do not seem to be nearly as scared of bishops as so many Catholic clergy are, the poor trembly things.

Failure to tremble at the knees at the very thought of “The Bishop” or “The Archbishop” or “The Cardinal” is, of course, a healthy feature also of the Anglican Patrimony and so it flourishes also in the Ordinariates. It needs to spread. Down with Clericalism! As the Holy Father would (and probably does) say, Down with Rigid Narcissistic Pelagian Prelaticism!

Do I hear an “Amen!”?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ejcmartin says:

    As our diocesan “Strategic Planning Committee” spearheads a move to having paid “Liturgical Ministers” who will run the parish, conduct “communion services” and a host of other wonders, it occurred to me that many of the laity of a certain age only feel “involved” in the church if they are doing some sort of quasi-priestly role in the sanctuary. The worst sort of clericalism. Pray for our diocese as the powers that be have determined that this is “their moment” and are grabbing for the brass ring to bring in the “new church.”

  2. oldCatholigirl says:

    Father Hunwicke articulates something which I never focused on in all the many years I have attended the TLM in many cities. (Laus Deo, I am lucky enough now to attend a parish with a regular EF on Sunday at noon–and Friday and Saturday mornings !) Thanks for the clarification of the true meaning of “clericalism”. Another word which could use some examination is “rigidity”. Those who have associated it with “Traddies” with it could find it among “liberal” Catholics as well.

  3. ergadia says:

    It is good that the Church is starting to recognize this kind of clericalism. I am newly married (end of November) and as God drew me towards my vocation and my wife I started to realize just how incredibly insulting and degrading the forms of active participation Novus Ordo masses tend to encourage for laity and the message that goes along with it. The idea that I have to read or be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to “actively participate” is quite common and seems egalitarian; however all it really says is that the laity have no value unless they impersonate a priest. It ignores the beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage and at times can distract from matrimony’s purpose. I worry about people who think that this kind of participation is pursuing holiness not realizing that if they neglect their family to while “actively participating” it could actually be sin.

  4. scotus says:

    On a slightly different but connected theme, Karl Keating at Catholic answers suggests:
    “Each parish needs a lively, lay-run evangelization program, one that involves all parishioners regardless of cultural background or language. “

  5. Matt Robare says:

    We should bring back guilds.

  6. lmgilbert says:

    Ergadia writes, “The idea that I have to read or be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to “actively participate” is quite common and seems egalitarian; however all it really says is that the laity have no value unless they impersonate a priest.”

    Frankly, I have never encountered this notion either implicitly or explicitly. I have been a lector for roughly 20 yrs and never had the idea that this was my way of actively participating. No one ever suggested that it was. Active participation above all is a matter of entering into the Mass interiorly.

    My original motive in becoming a lector was so that the laity would hear at least few words of clear, understandable, unstrangled English in the course of a Mass celebrated by priests from Peru, Nigeria, Poland, etc. However, over the years I have found that this ministry has the advantage of getting me into Scripture far more deeply. One cannot just come clod-hopping up to the ambo without preparing the text, and that preparation must necessarily engrave the word of God more deeply on one’s mind and heart.

    Beyond that, I do think there is “sign value” to the congregation that the Mass is not entirely the work of the priest, but that the laity also share in the priesthood of Christ in our own degree. This is bad? As a matter of fact, I think that the involvement of many more men in this ministry would go a long way toward forming a ” laity empowered in the sense of possessing adult competence and grown-up self-confidence” that Fr. Hunwicke desires. This is partly because involvement in this ministry necessarily involves personal contact with priests, something which the ordinary parishioner can easily avoid years on end. Beyond that, even if it is from a script, there is something confidence-making about lifting up one’s voice in the assembly, and moreover, being really and truly an instrument of the word of God.

  7. lmgilbert says:

    Scotus, you quote Karl Keating, “Each parish needs a lively, lay-run evangelization program, one that involves all parishioners regardless of cultural background or language. “

    As someone who headed up the Disciples in Mission program in our parish fifteen year ago, I could not agree more. For my money the program really did not work, and I seriously doubt that any canned program has the possibility of accomplishing very much. My hope had been that as a result of the program the Easter Vigil would see dozens of people brought into the Church, but all that was accomplished was the continuance of several small ‘faith-sharing” groups.

    When it became obvious that nothing much was going to happen, I asked our pastor if we could not simply just go out two by two knocking on doors throughout the town, inviting people to the parish, sharing our faith, answering questions. We were confirmed were we not? Surely the graces of our Confirmation would kick in if we were to step out in faith. He balked, and I understand completely. Surely we should have formation of some kind before doing so, but to tell you the truth in the interval I have gotten a masters on Biblical Theology and doubt very much that I am very much more prepared for stepping out in faith in that fashion than I was fifteen years ago. In any such endeavor the grace of God and inspirations of the Holy Spirit would be decisive. What could be more confidence-making and faith-building than to be an instrument of the Holy Spirit in this fashion, to see hearts and lives and families brought under the grace of God? Would this not of itself create “a laity empowered in the sense of possessing adult competence and grown-up self-confidence.”

    But we are Catholics, and it simply is not done. Meanwhile the Jehovah’s Witness lady that I ride to work with every day goes out “on mission” three hours a week.

  8. Kathleen10 says:

    At our NO Mass, we seem in danger at times of having more EMHC’s than people in the Communion line! We sometimes have about 30 souls, but yet a priest and four laity “helping”.
    Couldn’t hand signals be developed, like catchers give to pitchers, to let them know their services are not needed today? Two fingers and a wave means “we’re all set”, etc. But I guess nobody dares to tell laity they can stay seated after they went to all the trouble of wearing their good shoes.

  9. benedetta says:

    Let’s bring back Guilds! And, more traditional lay associations for women in all stages of life.

  10. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Down with Rigid Narcissistic Pelagian Prelaticism!”

    I agree, totally. Now, FLEXIBLE Narcissistic Pelagian Prelaticism might be worth a closer look.

    [As the other characteristics are nearly ineluctable, that’s the ticket!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  11. un-ionized says:

    benedetta, double yes! my old parish had a women’s club that only met during the week during the day and my new parish has something called a mother’s guild and ladies association or something that seems to be similar only with babies. frankly, i’m bored out of my mind at meetings where they talk about nothing but husbands and children. I get along better with the Knights, for a lot of them are professionals and most are working like me. but i’m sure i will find some kind of mischief to get into! maybe i could help start something eventually. i’m going to be careful though, lest it blow up in my face again. (ow).

  12. Jeannie_C says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Years ago our pastor informed us in his homily that it wasn’t enough to give money. We had to “become involved”. He believed it “built community” and if we chose not to join any of the numerous “ministries” it indicated a reluctance by parishioners to live as a member of the body of Christ. No mention of the fact we were there primarily to worship and receive the Body of Christ in Holy Communion. A decade later in another city our pastor told us we could give through time, talent and treasure. Still the emphasis on taking part in “ministries”. Our new pastor, a traddie minded young man emphasizes the Sacraments, the importance of sacredness in worship. Our EMHC folk are no longer permitted to distribute the Host and some of them are quite put off that their (imagined) ministry is no longer recognized. For my husband and I it is a relief to have an energetic young priest who knows which end is up.

  13. tioedong says:

    I always shru at the theme about the laity running the church.

    This means that they let the busy bodies do it, not the rest of us who have kids, career, or just love Jesus but figure getting up at 2 am to feed the kid (or in my case, to check out the drunk in the ER) is serving Jesus better than taking time out of our busy lives to go to meetings discussing how to make the church “relevant”, which usually doesn’t mean offering the duties of our daily life to serve God, but to support the latest leftist trend of the activist nuns who run the chancery office.

  14. iamlucky13 says:

    ” time, talent and treasure.”

    Time, talent, and treasure speeches are widespread enough I assume they come down from the USCCB. It’s certainly not just your priest saying it. I don’t think it’s about creating new “ministries” as much as trying to be inoffensive about saying, “you have a obligation as Catholics to support the Church” while at the same time not making those in dire circumstances feel simply feel guilty by playing up the time and talent angles.

    That said I can’t see any other way than that a healthy sense of community is invaluable within a parish in numerous practical and spiritual ways. But a pastor can’t expect all his parishioners to be involved in similar ways – not everyone should be pressured to take charge of something – and it’s strange to me that some people feel a need to label and formalize everything as a “ministry” ranging from rosary groups to the folks who cook meals for funeral luncheons to social activities for teens.

    As far as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, I guess if they’re really worried about preserving this ministry according to the true spirit of Vatican II (the one that was actually considered inspired enough to write down), they’ll note that it is specifically entrusted to the ministry of Acolyte. In that case, maybe they’ll consider devoting themselves to preparing to formally being instituted to that ministry (and maybe actually ask their bishop to provide clear guidelines and preparation for it).

  15. kiwiinamerica says:

    “Clericalism” seems like a very black and white term.

    Just remember, people who see things purely in terms of black and white, are mentally ill.

  16. Grant M says:

    I noted this when reading “The Voices of Morebath”,by Eamon Duffy, a history of an English parish from 1530 to 1580. In 1530 the local church is very much the people’s church and the priest is surrounded by a host of lay organizations. By 1580 the Crown has imposed its “Reformation” on the unwilling villagers, the old organizations are long gone, and the priest is left alone to read the Prayer Book to his captive audience.

  17. CaliCatholicGuy says:

    Ergadia – exactly my thoughts. As a not so newlywed blessed with a 3 year old son, I have come to the conclusion that I most successfully live out my vocation as a husband and father by hearing mass with my family and ensuring my son sees going to mass as important.

  18. un-ionized says:

    “time, talent, and treasure” is a phrase invented by the mainstream Protestant sects. It has that cutesy Midwestern Methodist ring to it. I happen to know this is true though because I was a mainstream P when this came about. I wondered when I heard it in Catholic parishes, it seemed out of place because of the differences in church polity, etc.

  19. Ann Malley says:

    @Ergadia and CaliCatholicGuy,

    I’m right there with you. Enforced attitudes such as, “He believed it “built community” and if we chose not to join any of the numerous “ministries” it indicated a reluctance by parishioners to live as a member of the body of Christ,” are indicative, in my view, of an obsessive compulsion to create a flock of Marthas. Quite the opposite of what Christ Himself indicated was the better part.

    The attitude reminds me of those women who shame other women for being wives/mothers and not working outside the home for a salary. As if pulling down money were the only means by which to prove one’s worth. So here we are with female misogyny and the subversive stoking of true clericalism by feigning that doing one’s own duty of state isn’t good enough.

    But contrary to what many are led to believe, God is quite pleased when a parent w/small children stops whatever they’d like to do – including running the parish council – to change a dirty diaper. (That’s what God does with us all the time ;^)

    A wise priest once instructed me to serve God by “keeping my distance” from all such groups as they too often give rise to the wrong spirit and a bustling that leaves no time for prayer and, the kicker, true peace of soul.

  20. un-ionized says:

    Ann Malley, you are right. I am married to my career and my mom stayed home with us kids when she could have had a career as an illustrator. I left my former parish because I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t welcome because I had never married. People just need to understand that God has different things for different people, the circumstances of our lives drive our decisions at each turning point. I’m luckier than most though, the career is one that supports me and helps humanity at large so it’s win win. I wish I could have had kids but there is are nieces and nephews to spoil.

    There is plenty of bustling or as I call it wheel spinning at most parishes nowadays. This is the antithesis of discipleship.

  21. un-ionized says:

    There is are? I need to proofread better.

  22. Joan M says:

    Here in trinidad we have one Catholic newspaper that is produced each Thursday and it prints one joke each week. I usually find it amusing . About 2 weeks ago the joke was. An elderly woman returns home from Sunday Mass. Soon she realizes there is an intruder in her house stealing her valuables. She shouts at the man to stop there and shouts, Acts 2:38. Then she phones the police and tells them what she had done. The police came quickly to her home and handcuffed the intruder, asked him why he had just stood there, since the lady had only quoted scripture at him. The thief immediately told the policeman she told him she had an ax and 2 thirty eights. Well I laughed heartily, and our parish priest who usually starts his homily with a joke, used that one that morning and had the whole congregation laughing. Since then I have told some friends the joke and all found it funny.

  23. Rich says:

    Thank you for drawing attention, Fr. Z., to the real clericalism present in the Church throughout the past few decades which has robbed the laity of its distinct character and charism. The Second Vatican Council stated the that “the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth.” (Lumen Gentium 33). However, one would never guess by the way that Fr. “Just Call Me Bob” treats that laity, especially at Mass, that they have no other character, calling, or dignity as laity besides that they can scrounge up by acting like little priests.

  24. un-ionized says:

    “getting up at 2 am to feed the kid (or in my case, to check out the drunk in the ER) is serving Jesus better than taking time out of our busy lives to go to meetings…” Yes, I have been told by numerous priests that people who are doing things only in the parish have no notion of discipleship. The parish is often just an insular social club. Most bothersome are those involved in 4 or more groups or clubs who get all self-righteous about it, claiming you would love Jesus more and be a better Christian if you would do the same. These are often the same people who want to keep out strangers, as if the Church were an exclusive country club.

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