Comments from The Great Roman™

During The Present Crisis partisans of the loony and often homosexual catholic Left have attempted misdirection of attention away from the root cause – homosexuality – and toward clericalism. Watch: they will also try to connect the Crisis to traditional liturgy.

Some on the sane side of the non=”gay”, sound doctrine Catholic spectrum have been seduced into a least some of the clericalism argument.

Let’s face it: the real problem is homosexuality.

Homosexuality is what cause the vast amount of the abuse of power and victims of all ages.

Is there a bad clericalism which can lead to abuse of power? Sure. But… that produces homosexual abuse and the homosexual subculture that perpetuates itself in the Church?

Is there a connection?

There could certainly be some overlap. But, let’s be honest about this. The one is by orders of galactic magnitude greater and it uses the later, rather than the other way around.

My friend The Great Roman™ sent me a note, which I now share in a slightly edited form. We exchanged some communications about the clericalism angle.

TGR™ regularly helps me to see other aspects and questions.  I had sent him an article I had read about getting rid of outward clerical signs as being helpful in The Present Crisis.


Right on a few things but big time wrong on everything else.

First of all, regardless of the – supposed – simplicity of their garb, sodomy and the abuses that stem from it aren’t unknown among schismatic Easterners. Nor is careerism. On the contrary, they are doing worse on all counts, and have done so for quite some time, and that includes vocations. Easterners boast one of the most glaring symbols of an “imperial Church”: married clergy, which many would have us implement even though although it didn’t help Easterners much when it comes to either vocations or sexual abuse.

All the alleged lack of “imperial” grandeur and of flattery supposedly avoided by the lack of red birettas and such didn’t stop them from things like breaking unity with the Church and submitting to worldly (some would say imperial) powers, from Byzantine emperors to KGB officers, who always had a role in shaping clerical careers by blackmailing them, be it via marriage or homosexual scandals. And I won’t even begin to make examples of shooting wars between Eastern priests, monks or bishops for career reasons, without secular input.

Which is worse, looking imperial to some, or being known to all as the obedient religious arm of an empire?

Are the faithful really put off by ecclesiastical clothing and “exalted” titles? Would they be more indulgent if our clergy dressed like shaggy and pony-tailed black robed schismatic bishops but were still practicing sodomy among themselves and preying on boys and kids?

Give the people a sense that you are doing your best to live up to the call to priesthood and they will die for you, flawed though you might be, because there is nothing on Earth they need and want more than what only you can give them and that is Jesus Christ in His Sacraments. In fact, they will gladly give you all they have to see to it that your service to the Lord is carried out with the best of the best human love and ingenuity can produce.

The titles, the gold, the fine vestments they want to see on you are what they would like to see on their Sweet Savior who was insulted, blasphemed, stripped naked and humiliated in every possible manner usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis to save us. They too, in their own way have to say “quid retribuam?” and that’s how they try to give thanks (εὐχαριστῶ since we’re feeling Eastern) this side of the altar rail.

I insist – Easterners are not immune from “imperial” mentality. They have kept Caesaropapism alive and well while our Roman Church fought tooth and nail throughout its existence and paid a heavy price to preserve its independence from secular powers in keeping with Mk 12,17.  It did so with Supreme Pontiffs, bishops and priests who could be saints or reprobates but steely willed men all. And the grandiose liturgies, paraphernalia and titles of the past did not keep them from repressing sodomy among clergy in ways the bunch of metrosexuals we all are – by comparison – find oh so inhumane. And even those who are said to have had disordered tendencies are not known to have set up a mob-like web of perversion, protecting and reproducing itself within seminaries and chanceries.

It’s not titles or mozzettas that make men lust for other men or boys or whatever. It’s the vice of sodom and its compulsive-obsessive nature, a pathological and particularly devastating subset of that little thing called original sin. If the lust for pectoral crosses and fine garments make you liable to unspeakable vices, you had something wrong with you going in and the system should have been able to filter you out, for the sake of your soul and that of many others … Your Eminence.

And let’s delve into this Imperial mentality business. Should we tear down the triumphal arches in paleochrisitian Churches because they attribute to Christ the tracts of an Emperor? Should we not call the Pope the Supreme Pontiff, because that too was a Roman and – later – an Imperial title? Should we call Sacraments by another name because sacramentum was the oath of fidelity of a legionary recruit? Should we abolish tabernacles since the tabernaculum was the commander’s tent at the center of the encampment? Should we not use the term diocese because that was an administrative unit of the late empire? Should we not call pagans such because that was one of the ways Roman legionaries would call the dwellers of villages (pagi) in recently settled lands, a bit like modern soldier use the world “civilians”? That’s because Christians were so numerous among the legions along the Limes that many words from the military vocabulary were implemented by the early Church.

We are Romans. Get over it. Not by birth or language, but by baptism and choice. We are who we are precisely because the Church operated that marvelous spiritual translatio imperii whereby a worldly power and its legendary City were turned into an army of God casting demons out of our souls.

As Romans, when we see the glorified versions of a senator’s toga or tunica on a cleric at the altar, we don’t recoil in horror. We burst at the seams with legitimate pride! Take that, Devil, you wanted to turn Rome, the mother of the western civilization into the City of the Antichrist and instead the Apostles saved all that was good in it and turned it into tools to save souls and make life better in the process.

And that is “continuity” too, in symbols and facts, because we the Church of Rome “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.”

“Anyone who has ever seen Saint Peter’s Basilica or Square filled with cardinals and bishops in their finery knows that the sight is grand”.

What “finery”? It is a polyester nightmare in there! And didn’t we all grow up in the era of the “just call me Joe” priests?

The reason why the supposed imperial grandiosity of the Roman curia and the hierarchical life of the Church are annoying to many is that it doesn’t seem justified by an apparent and choral effort to bring the King of the Universe to all people.

Privileges are justified by the mission. Kick out those who don’t like the mission and I guarantee you that no Catholic worth their salt will object to privileges of and homages paid to priesthood which are nothing else but love for Christ and acknowledgment of His Kingship, the only legitimate per se.

While no community is untouched by careerism or sodomy, who have been, so far, most of the promoters of the destruction of all the supposedly imperial symbolism in the Church? Where are you more likely to run into the enemies of the “hermeneutic of continuity”, of sound liturgy, theology, religious life? Among the supporters of the allegedly “imperial” aesthetics or among those who want to do away with them along with the core of our faith?

Lastly, certain aesthetics and certain symbols should not me tampered with in a time of crisis, especially a crisis of identity. They can help us rediscover it.

In time, when the effects of a rebuilt identity and a long lasting evangelization will have again shaped culture along with the religious life of both the flock and its clergy, symbols that are no longer effective will be either set aside or reduced in importance as has been the case for over 20 centuries.

Then came the vandals, who thought they knew better, and we don’t know who we are anymore. And these peculiar vandals of our time are only good at two things: destruction and sophistry: for instance destruction of marriage and sophistries about depravity, destruction of liturgy and sophistries about the nature of priesthood.

It all boils down to that, doesn’t it: who is the priest?

Answer that question correctly and you will know why generation after generation of Catholics would kiss the hand of a priest or the ring of a bishop and skip meals if necessary to build the most beautiful churches, to embroider the most precious vestments and to give glory to God through reverence for His ministers.


Thus, The Great Roman.

That question, towards the end struck me: Who is the priest?

My old pastor, looking at the horror show circus that was the local seminary back in the day, and the lavender-farting clown car that was the faculty, vocations office and chancery, used to quip that they couldn’t answer three questions:

Who is Jesus Christ?
Who is the Church?
Who is the priest?

If you can’t answer those three questions in a straight forward way, then you are doomed to make one mistake after another.   If you won’t answer those questions in a way consistent with the Church’s doctrine

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The point about the typical character of the ones who have promoted or turned a blind eye to the abuse scandal is especially strong. Who are the bishops who typically have not resisted the encroachment of homosexualists? They’re the ones who have set aside their distinctive piped cassocks and rings. They’re the ones who “just want to be called Father (or Uncle) Ted”. The others–the ones who have held on to the external symbols–are the ones who have promoted in loudest and clearest terms the orthodox faith, along with the orthodox liturgy and traditional Catholic identity that safeguard it.

    The ones who have done precisely the “unclericalist” things–e.g. not dressing like a bishop (or even like a priest, for that matter), eschewing titles and formality, etc.–are precisely the ones who have allowed this crisis to mount and boil over. We surely do need priests and bishops willing to submit humbly to the great weight of their office. But that has nothing to do with setting aside traditional marks of respect for that office. Indeed, for most Catholics, it is the exterior marks of the office that remind us of the great dignity of that office–dignity that only comes because of the great humility required to be conformed to Christ the High Priest. Priests and bishops who understand that relationship are typically the good ones. Most of the rotten ones, on the other hand, have already laid aside their red piping.

  2. aviva meriam says:

    Thank you for the reminder that, contrary to current public opinion, the Eastern Rite is NOT immune to sodomy, nor is it immune to external political pressures and compromise.
    Running away from the Roman Catholic Church to escape this period of purification is NOT an option.

  3. Gaetano says:

    An interesting inquiry would be the bare number of questions necessary to determine whether a seminary candidate is acceptable.

    My current list is four:

    1. Is Jesus God?

    2. What is the Eucharist?

    3. Can women be priests?

    4. Are all sexual acts outside of those between a married man & woman that are open to procreation sinful?

  4. JonathanTX says:

    Who is Jesus Christ?
    Who is the Church?
    Who is the priest?

    And so how do you answer these questions, Fr. Z?

  5. TonyO says:

    The supposed anti-clericalists of today ask a question: “do you want to return to the 1950’s?” As if that was a stumper question, because anyone who wanted to return to the 1950’s is BAD for that reason.

    I want to pose a few points about the 1940’s and 1950’s. After centuries in America where Catholicism was considered with contempt by the Protestant culture, in the 1940’s and 1950’s the wider American culture no longer did so: it was NOT POSSIBLE in that culture to portray a priest as an evil or unsympathetic character in a movie – made in Hollywood! The culture of that moment in America did not permit it. Was that a bad thing?

    In the 1050’s Bishop Fulton Sheen had a popular TV show in which he taught true Catholicism, and through which he made converts from atheism and Protestantism. This was a show carried on the major networks, broadcast TV, paid by commercial advertising. And it was popular, it got a great audience. Was it not a good thing that the Church and the culture were in such a position that such a TV show could attract the support of a secular broadcast network, have consistently good audience, and perform the good work of evangelization carried out to non-Catholics? Was that a BAD THING?

    In the 1950’s, in my diocese, a priest unfortunately let himself slip into sin with a young person. When the pastor heard about it, he ran to the priest’s room, chewed him out, physically hauled him out to the chancery, and the priest was removed from office. No dithering, no years of counseling, no move to a different parish. Out. Was it a bad thing that the pastor took the accusation seriously? Was it a bad thing that the pastor believed the victim’s family? Was it a bad thing that the pastor acted on the accusation without delay? Was it a bad thing that the bishop acted on the matter without delay? Was it a bad thing that priest never abused anyone again in the garb of a priest? Is the culture in which these could take place A BAD THING?

    I know that not everything was perfect in the 1950’s. I also know that things are not perfect now. But after watching more than one of the Catholic families of our close circle go through break-up and divorce and destroyed childhood of kids, I also know that the culture of the 1950’s that made it socially impossible for my not-perfect parents to break up and divorce, in which they had to work out their problems and figure out how to live with imperfection, was a better thing than what we have now. I know that teachers in the 1950’s were not perfect, but I also know that they were usually good enough so that when the 1960’s and 1970’s rolled around, my parents could tell the difference between slightly odd ways of teaching, and outright heresy, and could pull us out of heretical classrooms and make waves about the balderdash.

    No, I know we cannot return to the 1950’s. But I also know that breathing an atmosphere in which true Catholic teaching, culture and identity is socially normal is not a bad thing but a very good thing, and thus we have lost a very good thing. We have lost the ability to transmit Catholicism to our children by osmosis and letting the ambient Catholic neighborhood and parish (and parish school) do its normal work: now every conscientious parent must be alert for deviancy everywhere, and must fight tooth and nail not only against non-Catholic influences here and there, but must fight against anti-Catholic influences in every TV show, every commercial, every officious school program and history book, and half the pastors and “catholic” school teachers. This state of affairs is NOT A GOOD THING.

  6. Unwilling says:

    It is in recognition of the cleric’s demonstrated devotion to his fundamental core reality as alter Christus that Catholics, lay or ordained (non-Catholics too, for that matter), cut indefinite amounts of slack for the fallen nature that they, clerics, embody too. The arguments that gin up excitement opposing post-VII ragamuffin styles of dress versus the splendid excesses of “T” should be attended as a side issue. Il n’y a qu’une tristesse, c’est de n’être pas des saints.

    A woman contacted me about three months ago seeking re-catechization to return to the Church after a few decades inattention. She cancelled our (third) meeting yesterday, explaining: I feel so utterly in contempt of and saddened by, the church (won’t dignify it with a capital “c”) that I don’t want to think about it.

  7. Amerikaner says:

    This is from 2013 but relevant to today. Great piece that needs to be re-spread in light of the US crisis –

  8. AAJD says:

    With the greatest of respect, dear Fr Z, for all the good you do, especially with regard to the absolutely crucial task of restoring the Latin liturgy and its culture, your Roman friend is understandably unnamed for I should be hugely embarrassed to put my name to this farrago of fatuous rubbish he spins about both East and West, clearly indulging in what Vamik Volkan memorably called a narrative of “chosen glory” (West) over and against one of “chosen trauma” (East). This is especially the case in what is said here about that grossly anachronistic phrase “Caesaropapism,” on which a half-century and more of serious historical scholarship (some of it started by a respected Latin scholar, viz., Francis Dvornik) has been done, debunking this ecumenically offensive and wildly inaccurate phrase as nothing more than crude slander by Western apologists who seem blithely to have accepted that Gibbon was some kind of reliable historian after whom nothing more need be said. There is a long bibliography of studies–here I refer only to those in English–that serious commentators know to read and inwardly digest before presuming to comment on Church-state relations in the East.

    [I’ll take that as a “No” vote.]

  9. Benedict Joseph says:

    Saying the problem is homosexuality is off the mark. It is a symptom of a deeper disorientation which rises from the abandonment of the faith. And that really is what has happened. It is painful to write, to acknowledge, but what we used to frame as “theological disputes” has really grossly decomposed into a shadow play between believers who adhere to the perennial Magisterium and those who mask secular materialism in the vesture of a perverted transcendental notion. This reflection does finally get down to that estimation with the very pertinent questions listed.
    Those addressed, the rest of the picture comes together, either as a the Living Image of the Triune God or and abstract expressionist cut and paste of Hegel, Marx, Darwin and Freud [at best]. The alternative to that gruel is one grade down to personal dispositions, intuitions and feelings — wildly on display in both Church and society.
    Homosexuality is a symptom, not the problem. Somehow, perhaps inaccurately, I think this explains part of Saint Paul’s equivocating it with idolatry.

  10. rosula says:

    Funny timing. One of my Greek Orthodox friends has invited me to coffee this morning. In the past few weeks, she and her husband have invited my husband and I to their Sunday services and dropped off a beautiful Orthodox calendar on fasting and saints. I think they’re trying to convert us.

    We’re not leaving. Christ entrusted the keys to His kingdom to Peter, who denied Him three times. If it’s good enough for our Lord, then it’s good enough for us.

    Besides, help is on the way…
    Prayers for Cardinal Sarah!

  11. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Clericalism, in the negative sense, is just another tool among many that homosexual priests used to maximize their ability to sodomize.

  12. Bellarmino Vianney says:

    There is a great talk published at Lifesitenews on Aug. 22, 2018, entitled, “This prophetic encyclical from Pope Pius XI is an essential manual for spouses today” which partially discusses this topic.

    The speaker makes an important point that cannot be repeated enough: what is currently being uncovered in the Church is likely the result of long-term and internationally coordinated effort. This effort was/is greatly influenced by laypeople, too, by way of their being given too much power and influence within entities like the USCCB as well as in parishes, diocesan offices, during the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, etc.

    Relatedly, one cannot, and should not, automatically assume that certain entities outside of the Church are trustworthy. One should be prudently skeptical of the intelligence community, law enforcement, etc.

    Are there pro-“LGBT” or “LGBT”-sympathizing freemasons, liberals, etc. in the intelligence or law enforcement communities that seek to bring down or change the Church? Probably. And, how would they try change the Church if that was their goal? They probably attempt to do so from the inside – as servors, lectors, cantors, or as employees in parish offices, etc. Would they unite with the homosexual subculture of priests and prelates in the Church? Probably.

    Speaking from the experience of likely being unlawfully surveilled, in my area at least, there appears to be a large number of plain-clothed intelligence-community and likely government employed persons that do attend Mass and go to Adoration Chapels, etc. It is good to be leery of such persons, especially if one follows the Gospel command to rebuke the sinner. Liberals do not take well to being rebuked.



    Do we realize that an email/blog post is NOT a presentation at the Smithsonian with footnotes and bibliography? Are we able to keep our own thin skin from making us miss the main point of an observation?

    I don’t buy anything Gibbons said in his Illuminist prejudice, but to deny the influence of Emperors especially in the East would be ridiculous. It wasn’t always a bad influence: I doubt we’d have had Nicaea without Constantine pressing bishops because he’d had enough of clerics not able to tell him what a Christian was supposed to believe. He felt called to be a kind of “bishop for those outside”, as Eusebius writes that he told the Council Fathers, and there was no way he could protect order and tranquility for all without the Church being at peace within itself.

    Be that as it may, Caesaropapsim (attempted or realized) started when the Eastern schism hadn’t happened yet, so by mentioning its existence one would be hardly speaking of Easterners alone. Do I have to mention the Arian crisis and the role the emperor played in it? All that being said, it is simply undeniable that the Eastern mentality was shaped by a sacralized idea of the Emperor that went well beyond the political theology underpinning our own Holy Roman Empire from Charlemagne onward and the medieval ideal of a Res Publica Christiana. And, it is under pressure from the imperial court that married clergy spread from Byzanthium to the rest of the Eastern Empire where it was previously unknown. It was Pope St. Sergius who refused to sign the canons of the Trullan Council allowing married clergy, stating that being an Easterner himself (Antiochen Syrian) he could not be fooled about Apostolic tradition and its stance on celibacy.

    Was there ever in the East anything comparable to the endless investiture controversy we had in the West? What explains the strictly ethnic identification of most Eastern Churches if not the identification with Holy Mother Russia, or the Byzantine Crown or what have you? Would it be blasphemous to think that the opposition to the Petrine primacy was also widespread among the imperial court and theologians who saw a threat in any power able to resist the emperor as the supereme power on this Earth?

    Am I saying that there were no good arguments from the Eastern side? I’m not saying that. And, we have Eastern Catholics. I mean no disrespect to different traditions and I could write a book on what I would implore Easterners NOT to copy from Roman Catholics, at least where the last 60 years are concerned.

    But my only target was the recurring fascination with a romanticized idea of the East among our own that I think dangerous and naive.

    Will I now have to explain that I am not calling all those who are from or just like the East dangerous and naive?

  14. Nan says:

    I’m not sure why your friend targets the East. Any issues there are irrelevant to the Catholic Church’s current problems. He might as well have brought up public school teachers. [You might reread it.]

    It’s also silly to refer to the East as schismatic, as they can describe us the same way. [I think he explained himself.] Furthermore, Eastern priests wear the garb of Byzantine royalty and follow some Byzantine royal traditions. He also forgets that there are over 20 sui juris Catholic Churches that follow Eastern tradition. [I don’t think he “forgot” anything.]

  15. ex seaxe says:

    Fr Z, you say the real problem is homosexuality. I agree that it is a fundamental problem, but not the only fundamental problem. [WHO SAID IT WAS?!?] Looking at the catastophe in Ireland I see that the scandal of the Magdalen laundries was pivotal. That part of the problem is that in many places the church was a theocracy, in Ireland almost de jure as well as de facto. But elsewhere, when the Church governed your whole social life it was for Catholics almost a parallel state. And the power conferred by that, unhampered by democracy, is corrupting. Obviously the Devil takes advantage of this to encourage those already in thrall to sin to insinuate themselves into positions of power where they can protect themselves.
    NB I am not suggesting the Church should become a democracy, but it does need more transparency, and that goes with a diffusion of power.

  16. veritas vincit says:

    Father Z doesn’t identify the article “The Great Roman” was responding to, but it appears to be this piece in First Things:

    I’ve seen several articles, not obviously from heterodox Catholics, make a similar point. I don’t know who’s right. But it seems part of the issue here is the struggle in us fallen humans between humbly recognizing the honor of an office one holds, like the priesthood or episcopacy, and not so humbly applying those honors to oneself personally

    And I suspect there are noses slightly out of joint on both sides of this issue. I hope I am mistaken in saying that, as this is a legitimate discussion to have.

  17. EC says:

    Thank you to “TGR” for the great explanation of how foolish an idea this is.

    I recall a story about Francis de Sales (though can’t remember all the specifics – maybe someone can help). It went something like this… After he’d become Bishop of Geneva, he of course would visit his parishes to preach. On one occasion, he was berated for wearing vestments that were “too pompous” by someone, albeit I think it was in private. Francis pulled off his vestments to reveal a gnarled hair shirt. He had some comment about Christ being put forth on the outside during the liturgy/preaching.

    Vianney was the same – threadbare cassock (though he did dispense with the usual fascia, and while he’d wear his canon’s mozetta had that famous aversion to it), but only the finest vestments and liturgical appointments would suffice for his parish. The few times he actually left Ars other than for pastoral work was to go to Lyon to buy fine linens…

  18. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Fr. Z,

    Thank you for sharing this. The Great Roman has not lost his rapier wit, his incisive and penetrating analysis, and his flair for getting to the heart of the issues.

    May his tribe increase and may he always be under the protection of Our Lady, “Salus Populi Roman”!!

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