Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Many Catholics, especially post-Catholic progressives, usually my age and older, are bloviating over what clericalism is and trying to rid the priesthood of it.

I contend, though, that many of the recommendations of progressives miss the mark and simply try to make the priest another layperson. It is the old problem that Pope Saint John Paul try to put to rest, the laicization of the priesthood and the clericalization of the laity. Most of what progressives suggest is nostalgia for the time before Pope St. John Paul but in the last few years of Pope St. Paul VI.

Clericalism in my view is most evident among progressive priests who dogmatically instill a version of the “spirit” of Vatican II on their people. They manipulate the Mass by ad libbing or doing things that are against the rubrics or even common sense. In other words they think they are above the law, not only canon law, liturgical law but also civil law.

For example progressive Catholics, usually my age and older, will do some sort of civil disobedience in our diocese either at Kings Bay, a nuclear submarine facility or at Fort Benning in Columbus. When they get arrested for damaging property, they cry crocodile tears if the book is tossed at them and they get a prison sentence. That’s clericalism, my friends.

Conservative clericalism does the same thing. It doesn’t respect canon law or diocesan regulations when it comes to pastoral councils, finance councils and respect for financial accountability as well as accountability when it comes to time away from the parish, extravagant vacations overseas and regularly and going beyond what is allowed for these things in terms of budgets.

But with that said, a progressive aging retired priest of Washington, DC, Father Peter Daley has an article in the National Chismatic Reporter on how to deal with clericalism.

This is an excerpt:

Clerics (bishops and priests) are often trained to think they are set apart from and set above everyone else in the church. Their word is not to be questioned. Their behavior is not to be questioned. Their lifestyle is not be questioned. They rule over the church as if they were feudal lords in a feudal society. That is often how they see themselves — lords of the manor, complete with coats of arms, titles of nobility and all the perks that go with "superiority."
  • Seminarians say they are called to "chalices, not callouses." (In other words, no physical work.)
  • People say, "Nothing is too good for "Father." Or, "Father never picks up the check."
  • Priests and bishops spend huge amounts of parish and diocesan money on themselves, with no controls. E.g., redecorating the rectory, building a new episcopal residence, taking lavish trips at church expense, or giving lavish gifts to each other with church money.
  • When the priest says, "This is my parish. My way or the highway."
  • When 18-year-old college seminarians wear clerical garb to set themselves apart.
  • When parents tell their children, "Never question a priest."
  • When people say that "the priests are 'next to God.' "
  • When bishops prioritize avoiding scandal over protecting victims of abuse by priests.
  • When thriving parishes are closed because there is a shortage of priests when there are deacons and lay people readily available to keep the community going.
It is not just clerics who are clerical. The laity often foster clericalism by always deferring to "Father" and putting "Father" on a pedestal. Clericalism is experienced in thousands of words and deeds that add up to a "culture" or atmosphere. Clericalism shows itself when:
All those things are symptoms of clericalism. The culture of clericalism can have horrific consequences.
My comment: I agree with some in the list above, but not with all when it reduces the legitimate authority of the priest by virtue of his ordination. Obviously legitimate authoirty can be abused, that's called sin, actual sin, which has two types, mortal and venial.

Instead of beating around the bush, why don't we talk about sin, mortal and venial as it concerns the abuse of what priests and bishops are called to do?????????????????????????


Carol H. said...

Eighteen year old college seminarians SHOULD wear clerical garb to set themselves apart. This will let the young ladies looking for Mr. Right know that he is off limits.

It has been my experience that "progressive" priests have the most lavish lifestyle, and take the most trips at parish expense. The most conservative priest I ever met had a mother who lived in France, and SHE would pay for his annual trip to visit her. The "progressive" priests (and DREs) would use parish funds to pay for trips to attend their "progressive" meetings. (Anyone remember Call to Action? There are still many groups out there). The progressive group at the parish that rcg and I attended had a secret bank account to ensure that their agenda would move forward, even if parish support ran short.

The true clericalism is on the liberal side of the spectrum.

Anonymous said...

Carol H - I think it is more than a little shady to claim to have knowledge of priests and others stealing from parish funds unless 1) you have made your accusations known to both church and civil authorities, and 2) you are willing to name names here and attach your full name to those accusations.
This, "I know somebody who knew a girl who dated this guy who once told me that his mother said the priest took parish money for personal trips" is nothing more than scandal mongering.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Most of the list of terribles are straw men.

-- Sure, seminarians (and priests) refer to "chalices not callouses" -- but they are joking. Meanwhile, lots and lots of them come to the seminary with callouses, and they get plenty of them over the summer.

-- Who says, "never question a priest" these days? Really, who?

And, news flash to Father Daly: if there is no priest, there is no Eucharist. You cannot keep a parish going only with deacons and lay people.

Carol H. said...


You are being presumptuous. I tried to report it to discover that the Bishop was a member of the same group. Cardinal Ratzinger knew him very well.

Anonymous said...

Carol H. Here. Post the names, and your own full name here. THIS is where you made the accusation against priests. THIS is where you have an obligation to back it up with facts.

Those facts should include the data about how much parish money was spent on personal vacations, how much money was in the "secret bank account," and examples of the "lavish" lifestyle you claim they enjoyed.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Just google priests convicted of embezzlement and you will find stories like this:

MASON, Mich.) — A Catholic priest accused of embezzling more than $5 million from his central Michigan church spent about $100,000 on an indoor swimming pool and stained glass windows for his six-bedroom, 12-bathroom home, according to a lawsuit seeking to recoup some of the money.

I am wondering if the person harassing Carol H. Isn’t a priest guilty of clericalism because a laywoman dared to call some guilty priests out?

TJM said...

Father McDonald, bingo!

Anonymous said...

Carol H claims to have first-hand knowledge, not of "some guilty priests," but of specific incidences in her own parish.

The claim that these malefactors that she knows personally are "progressives" seems to indicate that no "conservative" priest would ever do such a thing.

If she wants to make a scurrilous claim that indicts all who she might think of as "progressive," she ought to be willing to present the facts that back up such a claim.

I'm wondering if people who live in glass mansions ought not be throwing stones.

TJM said...

Anonymous K,

You are quite the gentleman, aren't you? If you cared to look as Father McDonald has, there are many news stories about priests who steal. Now, I do not know if they all are progressives, although the one at a Catholic parish in Chicago who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, was a progressive. But if you care to look, perhaps you can find a conservative malefactor amongst the lot to make you happy.

Fr Martin Fox said...

About misusing funds...

I am absolutely astonished at this. No, not at the thought that priests can be crooks. What astonishes me is that parishioners don't insist on accountability for how their money is spent.

This is very different from the question of sexual misconduct, because that can happen well out of sight.

But if you are in a parish, you can and should know whether:

- There is a finance council;

- There is a pastoral council;

- These are active bodies;

- The parish observes specific practices about money handling (and can tell you what they are).

These are not hard questions to answer, and those who are handling things in an upright way are GLAD to answer them. Honest administrators WANT folks to know all about the various procedures and protections that are observed.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a lot of my parish's collection in 30327 leaves the parish, maybe 30 percent or more. And then there are those "threatening reminders" that if our parish does not meet the "goal" (which really is a "demand") of the Archbishop's Annual appeal, well, then, he is going to get it anyway from our regular collection. I sent my "gift" in recently, and by all means we are not congregational and have an obligation to support the larger church, especially the Archdiocese. But how much is enough? How much is too much? Maybe like trying to get answers from the Democratic candidates for president who say the rich should "pay their fair share". We never quite hear what percentage that "fair share" is!!!

Carol H. said...

Anon @ 9:58,

I never claimed that anyone stole from parish funds, but that they had a secret account to cover what the parish wouldn't. The account required 2 or 3 signatures from the group to make a withdrawal, so apparently they didn't fully trust each other. I'm not taking them to court, and I am not naming names. One older laywoman is probably deceased by now, and the biological solution will take the rest before too long.

I am not angry, though I probably should be. They were in the crowd that states, "If Rome doesn't allow it, do it anyway, they will catch up eventually- just like we did with the altar girls!" I feel sorry for them, and I pray for their souls, but I am not naming names or taking them to court. I know how they operate, and if I see it in the future elsewhere I know how I will handle it differently.

Have a good day, Anon, and know that you are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Carol H. "It has been my experience that "progressive" priests have the most lavish lifestyle, and take the most trips at parish expense."

Taking money from a parish for lavish living and trips is stealing. If it was their own money in this so-called "secret account" then it was none of your business. If it was parish money....

You can make scandalous, unsubstantiated accusations against anyone you want, but don't think that you won't be called out for it.

I will pray for you as well, that you will stop accusing others without foundation. Have a good one...

Fr Martin Fox said...

Let me also add this.

It is my own experience that lots of people complain about finances in their own parish, but they only barely pay attention and go off half-cocked.

Most of the parishes I have been in have had various funds, and it can, admittedly, be confusing. Let me give you some real examples.

I was pastor of two parishes in one small community; they had lots of activities together, shared employees, shared religious education and a school, etc. As a result, their budgets were necessarily intertwined. Nevertheless, two legally distinct parishes, with distinct budgets, finance councils, etc. Each had its own tax ID and its own bank accounts; yet I was pastor of both, and authorized to spend those funds, in consultation with the pastoral councils, etc.

Both parishes -- as is often the case -- had various groups that liked to handle their own money. That's fine, except that they would claim to be operating under the aegis of the parish, and thus tax-deductible. Except I never saw the accounts, never signed checks, never reviewed anything. I had no oversight. But of course, if anything went wrong, then it was the parish's -- i.e., my, fault.

So I told groups -- delicately -- that either they would have to have their own tax ID numbers, or else the pastor should be the signer on the checks. They would control their checkbook; I never kept it. But if they wanted checks, they brought them to me to sign. There had to be accountability. Of course there would be complaints about me "taking over," but not really; they could get their own tax ID or else not be tax deductible. One by one I dealt with all these ambiguous situations, but the one I got to last, I didn't get to soon enough; we discovered the treasurer had embezzled funds. I felt terrible; but we had had reports reviewed by a finance committee. It turned out the finance committee wasn't looking closely enough.

Meanwhile, in this same parish, we had a fund that had its own tax ID number; yet it had an envelope in the package of church envelopes. It wasn't parish money; I had no authority over it, but I did get periodic information. The fund had its own trustees, and every year they would give money to the parish, or to the nearby Catholic high school, to help lower tuition.

Then there were two funds -- one for (not not "at") each parish -- that had been created years before by a parishioner with his will. The purpose was to help pay for seminarians' needs. The funds were held by a bank, and the funds could be released when I the pastor wrote the Archbishop, who actually requested the money. Some would go to the seminary, some would come back to the parish, to pay for summer jobs for seminarians. All perfectly legal; yet not a penny of this was parish money.

So, it's pretty complicated! When the parishes and the parish school published their annual reports, they reported on the funds directly under their control, all of which had been subject to monthly review by finance committees. Meanwhile, there were these other parish organizations who didn't give much of a report, or none at all. And finally there were the two funds that did not belong to the parishes, yet the parishes knew of them. Occasionally someone on pastoral council or the finance committee would try to get involved, but these weren't parish funds; these groups had no say.

All this was reported as best as you can do. We'd have reports every year, and I'd give a talk from the pulpit, and I'd stay after for questions. Most wouldn't pay much attention, and I imagine that financial statements don't make much sense to a lot of people. And every once in a while, someone would circulate a rumor, based on sketchy or incomplete information, precisely about how the funds and activities of the parishes were being conducted. Including comments about "secret" funds -- i.e., the funds that did not belong to the parish, but which belonged to the estate of the donor, and from which, the pastor was able to request funds.

Anonymous said...

Must be a picture of an Anglican (Episcopal) bishop and his wife---as their bishops typically wear purple shirts. I guess if there is a caveat, though, Episcopal bishops don't have the same level of authority as their Catholic counterparts---they have to deal with diocesan councils, vestries and other entities and cannot change church discipline on their own---only with the cooperation of their triennial national convention or their annual diocesan convention.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Martin, Fr. Phil Murnion (RIP) who organized CHURCH magazine many years ago, used to say there were Five "L's that would drive any pastor crazy: Lights, Locks, Leaks, Lawns, and Ledgers.