The Anticlerical Pope | Russell Shaw | CWR blog
Is Pope Francis our first anticlerical pope? Technically speaking, he isn't--his two predecessors also were more or less critical of clericalism--but he is well on his way to being the most outspoken one.
Consider a widely circulated quote from a 2011 interview he gave while he was still Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires. In case you haven't seen it or have forgotten it, the key passage goes like this:
"As I have said before, there is a problem: the temptation to clericalism. We priests tend to clericalize the laity. We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own thing. And the laity--not all but many--ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar boy than the protagonist of a lay path….
"The layman is a layman and has to live as a layman with the strength of his baptism, which enables him to be a leaven of the love of God in society…not from his pulpit but from his everyday life. And the priest--let the priest carry the cross of the priest, since God gave him a broad enough shoulder for this."
These are strong, bracing words. But besides the words, Francis's manner and lifestyle--unpretentious, simple, direct--constitute a kind of living repudiation of certain clericalist conventions. (Lest there be any doubt--many other good priests also speak and live this way.)
The essence of clericalism in the sense in which Pope Francis (and I) use the word is a way of thinking that takes for granted that the clerical vocation and state in life are both superior to and normative for all other Christian vocations and states.