Clericalism

I’m still working on my review of Leon Podles’ book on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Sacrilege. It’s a book of both history and its interpretation. Why did it happen, and why did the bishops cover it up? Why have the bishops and the popes never expressed any anger toward abusers? He sees clericalism and clerical narcissism as key factors, along with a twisted moral theology that is characterized by obedience to authority, and the lack of mature human emotions among priests and bishops, especially the ability to express anger.

For now, I want to just highlight an article that Podles draws attention to as illustrating the clericalist mentality.

Michael Orsi, “Bishops Sacrifice Accommodations, Privileges and Rights: Everybody Loses,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review (2002).

Orsi thinks that the “faithful” may be angry at abuse, but will be even more angry when they see to what extent historic clerical privileges have been sacrificed. He longs for the good old days when the state didn’t bother prosecuting clergy, when it trusted the bishops to deal with them.

It’s a defense of the very clericalism that got the Catholic church into the mess in the first place, Podles would say. These days, such clericalism is rarely expressed so baldly in public.

2 thoughts on “Clericalism

  1. I recently finished the book and also read Lead us not into Temptation by Jason Berry and Vows of Silence by Berry and Gerald Renner. Berry and Renner have a slightly different take on the situation than Podles, but all together, these books make a strong case for the depth of the problems of sexual abuse and clericalism.

    As Greeley reminds us, Lord Acton, when he said, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” was speaking of the Church. I’m afraid that since the media furor has died down, the Church is now feeling way too secure about the situation. And as these books show, history repeats itself because no one was listening the first time.

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