In the most recent issue of First Things (March 2008 issue), Father Richard John Neuhaus comments at length on clericalism in a piece titled, "Clerical Scandal and the Scandal of Clericalism" (available online to FT subscribers). He begins with comments about a soon-to-be-published book from Ignatius Press:
Russell Shaw admits that some people think he has become a nag on the subject. He has written several books and many more articles on the evils of clericalism. Charmingly titled is his 1993 book, which plays off the answer of an English bishop who was asked about the role of the laity— To Hunt, to Shoot, to Entertain: Clericalism and the Catholic Laity. Now Shaw has a new book coming out from Ignatius Press— Nothing to Hide: Secrecy, Communication, and Communion in the Catholic Church.
Shaw knows whereof he speaks. He was for several years an official spokesman of the United States bishops’ conference and has ample experience with the secretive ways of church leaders who, as the old saw has it, think that the chief and maybe only role of the laity is to pray, pay, and obey. A strength of the new book is that Shaw knows that, both canonically and in pastoral common sense, there is a legitimate and necessary place for confidentiality and secrecy. Shaw is also well aware that the Church is not constituted as a democracy, as he also knows how frequently the observation that the Church is not a democracy is misused to avoid addressing the problem of clericalism.
He is notably faithful to the teaching authority of the Church, and, in fact, it is the authority of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent popes, especially John Paul the Great and Benedict XVI, that he repeatedly invokes in support of his indictment of clericalism. Although his book is not chiefly about the sex-abuse scandal that broke in January 2002, he leaves no doubt that the scandal and the bishops’ response to the scandal are part and parcel of the evils of clericalism.
“By clericalism,” Shaw writes, “I mean an elitist mindset, together with structures and patterns of behavior corresponding to it, which takes it for granted that clerics—in the Catholic context, mainly bishops and priests—are intrinsically superior to the other members of the Church and deserve automatic deference. Passivity and dependence are the laity’s lot. By no means is clericalism confined to clerics themselves. The clericalist mindset is widely shared by Catholic lay people.”
Nothing To Hide: Secrecy, Communication and Communion in the Catholic Church is due out next month. read more about it here.
Related Article and Interviews:
• Please Look Behind the Bishops' Potemkin Village | Russell Shaw
• Can Catholics Be Evangelists? An interview with Russell Shaw
• We Are All Called To Be Evangelizers | Introduction to Good News, Bad News, by Fr. C. John McCloskey, III, and Russell Shaw