Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Clericalism: A Response to Alipius

*Alipius, I apologize for the tardy reply. I was traveling yesterday, and had no opportunity to think about or compose a reply adequate to your comment, until I returned home today.

In my view, your response perfectly illustrates the dynamic I am trying to address--the dynamic of clericalism that is causing intense suffering to many of the people of God.

I do not know you personally, and would never dream of calling you sleazy or pseudo-humble. I can, however, read your profile on blogspot.

From it, I learn you are a cleric studying for the priesthood in Rome.

I, by contrast, am a layperson living far from the "center" of the church and its structures of power.

It seems self-evident to me that you have far more invested than I do in the clerical system that finds its center in Rome. For that reason, I can understand your defensive and ungracious response to what I wrote.

What I do not understand is the inability of those occupying the center--the throne; the halls of power--to see the damage being done to the church today, by our continued investment in clericalism.

From where many of us live on the margins, far from the centers of power, with no real institutional power to change anything, the church definitely is dying. It is suffering tremendously from the clerical sexual abuse crisis, and what that shows us regarding the rottenness of the system of clericalism.

Perhaps you are correct when you say that the church is not dying--but only if "the church" means your church. The church in which the rest of us live, those of us far from the centers of power and privilege, with little ability to effect change, is in serious trouble.

And as that trouble continues to unfold, we find it absolutely incredible that those occupying the centers of power quibble over lace, ermine, and red silk trains--or that those occupying the centers of power would imagine that adopting higher miters and longer trains would presume that these vain shows might distract us from the reality we see plainly in front of us.

It is, after all, our church, too, though we have been reduced to powerlessness by the clerical system. And we speak critically out of love for the church that is being stolen from us, right before our eyes. Longer scarlet trains simply will not do what needs to be done to make the church an effective sacramental presence in the 21st century.

What might help is if those in the center--in Rome, in the clerical state--would listen carefully to the voices from the margins, and would refrain from name-calling when we seek to speak the truth that we see from where we have been placed. Thank you for listening, and for your interest in this blog.

*I have just posted the preceding reply to a blogger who kindly responded to my posting of two days ago--to my first post-World Youth Day letter to Pope Benedict XVI. Since my response to this blog reader clarifies points I have made in the last two days, I have chosen to make my reply to Alipius's comments the theme of today's posting.

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