Pope Francis continues to make daily head-lines that excite this liberal heart. Here’s one from yesterday, written by NCR’s Joshua J. McElwee,
On the one hand, it’s sad that this announcement makes head line news. Shouldn’t it be obvious that the Holy Spirit isn’t an exclusive gift to priests, bishops and popes? And, yet, how many times have we been led to believe that those with the sacred oils of ordination have a direct line to the Divine while we, the great unwashed in the pews, are wallowing in ignorance?
Ongoing Vatican reports on Pope Francis, like the one above, provide a path-way to a deeper understanding of Amoris Laetitia. As much as I have would have loved Francis to single-handedly sweep away all church teachings that have caused women and men to feel excluded from the Body of Christ, I also know that I would not want other popes to have this kind of power.
What Francis is doing is greater than simply changing laws. He is challenging minds and hearts to prepare the way for a more participatory, egalitarian and inclusive church.
Clericalism is the antithesis of a participatory, egalitarian and inclusive spirit. In the NCR story above, Francis called clericalism “one of the greatest deformations that Latin America must confront”. The context was a letter written to Cardinal Marc Ouellet in his role as head of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. The pope is obviously well acquainted with the church in Latin America, and feels strongly about the issues that he is addressing.
Francis speaks often about the evils of clericalism, and the damage it has imposed on the church. In the letter , he writes,
Clericalism, far from giving impulse to diverse contributions and proposals, turns off, little by little, the prophetic fire from which the entire Church is called to give testimony in the heart of its peoples…Clericalism forgets that the visibility and the sacramentality of the Church belongs to all the people of God and not only an elect or illuminated few.
One of the most quoted lines from Amoris Laetitia is,
We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them. AL, 37.
In the letter to Cardinal Ouellet, He writes,
We trust in our people, in their memory and in their ‘sense of smell,’ we trust that the Holy Spirit works in and with them, and that this Spirit is not only the ‘property’ of the ecclesial hierarchy.
The Holy Spirit works in each of us? We might have better knowledge than a priest of what is right and wrong in our own situation? Who would have known!
Clericalism IS at the heart of much that is wrong with our church. Clericalism feeds, supports and shelters the power and control that has been associated with the hierarchy for centuries. Clericalism wraps itself in finery and surrounds itself with symbols of prestige. Clericalism demands to be served rather than to serve.
Francis is nudging the People of God to an adult faith, a faith that sheds an unhealthy and dysfunctional dependence on “Father”. Father does not always know best. Clericalism stifles the independence and freedom needed to be formed into spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually mature women and men.