Tuesday, November 13, 2018


What is the difference between professionalism and clericalism? It seems to me that in the post-Vatican II Church, professionalism has been thrown out the window in many cases and clericalism is on steroids compared to the pre-Vatican II Church? Am I wrong in thinking this?

In the pre-Vatican II Church, there were many protocols on how bishops related to priests and priest to bishops and these protocols were quite formal. For a priest to go and meet a bishop in casual clothes was unheard of. For priests to have priests' meetings and retreats and wear casual clothes like shorts and the like, simply wouldn't have happened.

And priests related to the laity in a professional way, never casually. There were similar formal protocols and how people and priests were to be dressed, etc.

This is professionalism not clericalism.  Professionalism has clearly delineated protocols and courtesies.

Clericalism on the other hand, affords a sort of cult of the personality of the priest or bishop simply because he is a priest or a bishop and automatic trust is given. Priests trusted that their bishops would not take advantage of them and laity felt the same way about priests. So much so, some laity entrusted their sons to priests, allowed them to stay in the rectory over night and to take vacations together. Priests who took advantage of this corrupt trust would be guilty of clericalism.

As well, the fear of Catholics to accuse a priest of wrong doing, especially where wrong doing was

being done or giving him the benefit of the doubt is a form of clericalism too. I am not speaking about appropriate rights and duties assigned to bishops and priests, but the corruption of these.

Since Vatican II, the cult of the personality of the priests seems to have grown. Today, though, it is based upon personality. A good priest is one who you can have a good time with and bad priest is introverted and aloof.

Think of how priests manipulate the Mass and the congregation loves it. Father is so funny, or so smart or so creative or so spiritual, so authentic when he uses his own words and actions rather than what is written for him. He really believes what he is praying because it is his words, not the Church's words he uses. THIS IS CLERICALISM ON STEROIDS.

When bishops did not think they needed to report a priest to law enforcement because the bishop could deal with it on his own and not create scandal and help the priest stay in the priesthood, this is clericalism. If heterosexual priests were given a pass if the abuse was heterosexual that's clericalism. Or if they abused in a homosexual way and the bishop thought homosexuals are mistreated in society and should have special privileges, that is clericalism.

Clericalism is the corruption of professionalism.


Anonymous said...

"What is the difference between professionalism and clericalism?"

Professionalism means knowing your job and doing it well.

Clericalism, in the ecclesiastical sense, means expecting other to defer to you simply because you are a member of the clergy.

Shorts on retreat may not have been acceptable at one time, but neither was having a black person sit in the front seat of a car with a white person. Many things change - and many of the changes are good.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Inappropriate dress in a professional setting and African Americans sitting at the back of the bus; what an odd and inappropriate comparison!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Allan, you wear shorts on retreat.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

That doesn’t mean it is a good thing. I use to smoke too!

TJM said...


You are noticing that Father McDonald wears shorts? Interesting, hmmm.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - Yeah, on retreat Allan and I frequently eat together and walk to and from the chapel or conference center together. I notice what he's wearing. I notice pretty much what anyone else I see is wearing. What on earth is "interesting" about that?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - Know what else I noticed? Now this is going to SHOCK you I am sure.

Hold on to your hat. . . Fr. McDonald has . . . LEGS! Two of them.

Alert the media . . .

TJM said...

Kavanaugh, most men do not notice what other men wear

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr MJK,

Fr M has 2 legs. Yes.
Regarding a lot of your words here the average committed Catholic has more than 2 brain cells between their ears.

Get real.



Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM asserts, "Kavanaugh, most men do not notice what other men wear"

Well, I don't think that is true, but, be that as it may, it seems that means that Fr. McDonald and I are not like "most men" since both of us have been guilty of noticing what other men wear.

I notice, as he does, that men, he and I included, wear shorts on retreat. He, of course, goes on to notice that priests go and meet the bishop in casual clothes.

Seems not a few men notice more than you think.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Professionalism, as I understand it, means keeping professional boundaries which needs to have supports, protocols and the like. These protocols cannot be considered clericalism.

Dress codes that were enforced in another generation, both in the Church and society, were a part of these profession, boundary keeping protocols.

The 1970's all the way to today have seen the "casualization" of America and other countries and the tearing down of boundaries once erected as safeguards.

All of this as led to the "movetoomovement" and other things that show how boundary violations are so prevalent in our society. When clericalism is introduced into this casualness then we see bishops inviting seminarians and young priests to sleep with him. Now you would think adult men would know that this is a boundary violation, but no more in our causal society which also sees sees sex as casual, as merely a "hook-up." Clericalism of McCarrick takes advantage of these compromised men that both society and the Church have compromised.

Anonymous said...

Jack here...

FRAJM, I agree with all you point out to us here, but I would point out one caveat: Professionalism, including dress codes did not keep clerics from abusing children in the sixties. Read the Pennsylvania report, and read the nightmarish reports from Ireland.

God bless

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, there was a betrayal of trust that occurred prior to Vatican II and because priests were given access to boys/teenagers in the most unfortunate trustful ways. God forbid a child accuse a priest. And if the priest were a white priest in the south abusing a black girl or boy, no one would believe that child let alone a same race child.

But the casualness of the 70's I think exacerbated the issue and clericalism of bishops perpetuated it as if on steroids in that period of time up until 2002.

Marc said...

I went on a retreat in July, and there was a dress code that excluded shorts, requiring slacks and collared shirts at a minimum.