Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Clericalism. . .

So the Pope went off script.  Again.  No surprise.  Nor was what he said that much of a surprise.
Setting aside his prepared text, Pope Francis warned against the danger of what he termed as “clericalizing the laity”. Sometimes, he said, permanent deacons, who are to be the custodians of service in dioceses, soon find themselves “looking at the altar” and end up as “wannabe priests”.
But the Pope apparently does not know what clericalism means.  Clericalism is NOT having those who have offices fulfill those offices.  Clericalism is not wearing vestments.  Clericalism is not wearing a collar.  Clericalism is not doing what you have been set aside to do.  Clericalism is when only one vocation counts (holy orders) and other vocations do not.  Clericalism is when you need to be a priest/pastor/minister in order to have worth or value or legitimacy.  Clericalism is NOT when those to whom offices have been conferred exercise the authority of those offices on behalf of others.
And if he is looking in the mirror, clericalism is when the Pope veers off script of doctrine and catechism and invents things that must be believed and deviates from tradition and calls it orthodox and hires and fires his lieutenants because they are not supporting him in his inventions.

But the Pope is not the only one who has gotten it wrong.  And, by the way, somebody needs to give the Pope a history lesson because his reference to deacons is just plain fantasy and invention.  The deacons were not simply social service providers but always had a connection to the altar, a tie to the bishop, and were the servants of the bishop from the altar.  But that is the subject of another day.

There was a time in Missouri when everyone a minister was the drumbeat.  When Ephesians meant equipping the saints (laity) to do the work and so the work of the pastor was not minister but trainer of ministers.  When in order to be equal (men, women, all ages, types, etc.), everyone had to have the ability and authority to do anything and everything anyone else (translate that ordained) did.  When the priesthood of all believers meant the individual priesthood could have one with the right and authority to fulfill all the functions of the pastoral office but merely set this aside this right for good order.  When the election of the Church and the public conferral of that authority (ordination) could be set aside from the functions (the responsibility and authority itself) and others could temporarily or even permanently be recognized as ministers.  When our confusion over the office could lead us to suspend Augustana XIV by a vote of a convention.

This is NOT equality or egalitarianism but the worst kind of clericalism.  It basically says that unless you are a pastor, who you are and what you do does not count.  Isn't this the problem with vocation the Reformers inherited from Rome and corrected?  From that flows the equally pernicious idea that unless you can do everything a man can do or a woman can do you are not really equal.  Or the faulty conclusion that only those who are like those being served can legitimately serve them. So women must serve women and men serve men.  You get the idea.  This is clericalism at its worst.  There is no clericalism in pastors doing what they have been trained, elected, and ordained to do.  There is no clericalism in laity doing what they have been given to do.  There is no clericalism in the Church setting up offices not in competition with the pastoral office but to complement the work of the pastor and assist him (deaconess, for example).  Clericalism is when everyone is a pastor and must be free to be one in order to be of value and have worth and when the work of the pastoral office is the only work called a vocation.

The Pope and some Missourians have the same faulty lens through which they see things.  They think that to have priests or pastors do what they are supposed to do is clericalism.  How goofy is that?  The police have been trained and given authority to do their jobs.  So the firefighters, medical personnel, and a host of other particular vocations.  Is it exclusive to have them do what they have been trained and given authority to do?  Of course not.  Neither is it clericalism to have those who have been set aside for an office fulfill that office.  Much less confusing clericalism with the wearing of a black shirt and white collar or vestments.  How goofy is that?

The Pope says we need to do this in order to make the faithful feel “as brothers” but there is nothing fraternal in disparaging the clergy or minimizing what happens at the altar.  It is the very betrayal of the divine and apostolic order to suggest that serving where one is given to serve is not sufficient.  And there is nothing more patronizing that to be concerned about people feeling second class (especially when your definition of holy orders pretty much presumes it).

If you are Lutheran, that Lutheran somebody needs to read the Table of Duties from the Catechism.  If you are Roman Catholic, somebody needs to tell the Pope he does not know what he is talking about.  Clericalizing the laity does not happen by pastor and people fulfilling their vocations -- vocations which are, by the way, not in competition with each other.  Clericalization is sitting on a chair in Rome and presuming because you sit on the chair you can say whatever you want and people are supposed to pay attention and obey.

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