clerical bullies…what to do?

Bullies have been on my mind lately. The issue of bullying in schools and among young people is finally getting much deserved attention. Bullies are present in academia, the work-place, cyber-space, governments and (sadly) in our churches.

It’s time for pro-action. We need to identify and name the bully for who and what they are. And, we need to do something about it.

Among the ordained, bullying too often goes hand in hand with clericalism. A culture that claims and promotes a sense of entitlement, exclusivity, and superiority needs to be carefully defended. As with most insecurities, the sense of self is protected by keeping others “in their place”. The paradigm of hierarchy is clung to as an absolute truth. Centralized authority and demands for obedience feed the beast.

We experienced this clerical bullying first-hand many years ago. I wish I could let it go…but I can’t. This experience, in many ways, formed the woman I am today. I’m saddened and maddened at every church news story of priests and bishops who reflect an aggressiveness or abusiveness that belies the gospel message they are preaching.

It breaks my heart to hear that so many have experienced clerical bullying first hand. Some learned from the experience, digging deep to embrace the core of their faith. Others experienced such hurt that they left their faith behind, locked up with the bad memories.

Yes, I have many friends who are priests of integrity. They are good and faithful men, who have chosen a life that is becoming harder and harder to defend. The dysfunctional clerical culture has hurt them too.

What do we do? I really do not know. All I have is my own experience and the lessons learned from it. We need an open discussion and sharing on this issue. I wrote an NCR Today blog post on this topic. The discussion boards produced some thought-provoking responses.

I hope the discussion continues….