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Friday, February 15, 2008

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rj

The article and review by Fr. Neuhaus is wonderful, living in a diocese where, to quote a friend, the "priests don't trust the laity," I have seen clericalism and its suffocating effects. I found Shaw to be objective and charitable in every interview or article that he appeared after the scandal.

Arieh

I see a clericalism of the laity more than that of clerics.

Sandra Miesel

Russell Shaw has explored both halves of the problem--the clerical and the lay. Encroachment on each other's place in the Church is part of the sad situation.

rj

Clericalism of the laity is the other side of clericalism, both are about "power" and neither is good for the Church. The fact that the term "minister" is thrown around so much in terms of the laity displays the sad reality that many lay people don't understand the nature of the Sacrament of Baptism.

Roseanne Sullivan

I am very grateful that Ignatius Press Insight e-letter posted a link to Russell Shaw's Catholic World Report article, "Please Look Behind the Bishops' Potemkin Village." I'm posting my thanks here, because I don't know where else to send it.

As Shaw indicates, the adherence of the "educated" (maybe "miscatechised" would be a more-correct term) laity to Catholic core beliefs is not there. The cookie-cutter list of core beliefs of most "educated" Catholics I've met include the errors Shaw listed: "you don't need to go to Mass, you can have sex outside of marriage, use birth control, have an abortion, all religions are equally true, the Bible is a collection of inspired fictions put together by communities that had an agenda to promote and therefore does not have to be followed as a guide to life, the Pope is out of touch with what real Catholics believe, and those old celibate guys in Rome should stay out of our bedrooms with their out of date morality . . .."

I don't draw the same conclusions as Shaw does about clericalism being the cause. I belief there is a hidden heresy at work behind the scenes. One face is shown to the Pope and another is shown to each other about what they really believe. And while honesty about things like clerical sexual abuse would be essential, letting the laity have more control would be deadly in my book. I would dread having the laity I know run the church, for my part.

Mark Brumley

Roseanne, I don't know that Shaw calls for letting the laity run the Church, but he does call for greater openess to the community of the whole Church the clergy was established by God to serve. Nor is laity supplanting the clergy an implication of Shaw's criticism of clericalism. He does not criticize the hierarchical nature of the Church or the existence of clergy. What he criticizes is a pattern of behavior that sees the clergy as the end of the Church rather than as a gift to the Church to facilitate the holiness of all members of the Church, to the glory of God. That pattern of behavior reflects an attitude that looks on the hierarchy (sacred order) as composed of a previleged class of Christians to whom the fundamental norms of Christian conduct and obligations somehow don't apply.

Anon

Mr. Brumley:

I have cross swords with priests who look upon themselves as "a privileged class of Christians to whom the fundamental norms of Christian conduct and obligations somehow don't apply" here in a western diocese, and I want to verify what you say. My experience here has been that the most aggressive, "baptized pagan" type of priest often rises to the top of the administrative ladder and proceeds to abuse and harass the laity and priests on lower rungs while manipulating their bishops through various means, up to and including blackmail (if I am to believe what I've been told by insiders). The frequency and audacity with which laws are broken, both civil and canon, by these power-hungry clerics is nearly unbelievable: if I hadn't experienced it for myself . . .

I am part way through Shaw's "To Hunt, to Shoot . . . " This book should be reprinted and every Catholic should read it. I repeat: the average Catholic's understanding of the role of the clergy needs to be informed by this book. Historical development has created a class that Our Lord never meant to exist--priests, yes, but "uber Christians" who dominate and manipulate the flock and often the shepherds--no. The laity needs to learn to treat priests like people. As it is we often grant uncritical power over our lives to people who are in it for the automatic deference that comes from a trusting flock that needs to stop "enabling" aberrant behavior.

There are many good priests. Let’s have more of them.

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