Thursday, May 09, 2019

Clericalism

Sorry lads, another religious post.

Clericalism is topical currently because of its purported relationship with the sexual abuse crisis affecting the Church. However, in my opinion, this is a great example where faulty concepts of clericalism confuse more than they help. One of the key problems in understanding the problem of clericalism is that it means different things to different people, the vagueness of its definition contributing quite a bit to a misunderstanding of its effects. A good help to understanding the phenomenon is surprisingly Wikipaedia, which describes clericalism as:
...clericalism is often used to denote ecclesiolatry, that is, excessive devotion to the institutional aspects of an organized religion, usually over and against the religion's own beliefs or faith.
I think this is a good starting point since it emphasises what is the core poison of clericalism,
ecclesiolatry. The core idea behind ecclesiolatry is the notion that clergy is somehow special and the the rules that apply to the rest Christianity don't really apply to them.  From a Christian perspective this is a loser's game.

One of the things which makes an understanding of clericalism difficult is the fact that it assumes different forms. From my perspective I can identity three forms:

1) Venal Clericalism:

This type of clericalism values the Church and its offices for personal advantages that can be gained by doing so. A good example of this is the priest who views his work as a job instead of a vocation, and see's himself as a career man, hoping to climb the ranks and thereby attaining all their associated privileges. The care of the faithful is only of secondary concern.

At is most base, venal clericalism aims at securing a position of worldly status and advantage by virtue of being a priest. The corruption of the Borgia popes, for instance, is a typical example of this type.

The thing is that while this type of clericalism does a lot of damage, it's also the type that's easiest to spot and therefore relatively easy to combat since it is the most obvious.

2) Institutional Clericalism:

This type of clericalism is a more principled type and it's here where we start to get into more spiritually corrupting territory. Here the integrity of the institution--i.e. the Church as occupied by the clergy--is valued above its founding principles. The typical example here is that, is in an effort to avoid scandal, the clergy hides crimes in order to preserve the "reputation" of the Church. i.e. The Church lies in order to appear good. Sinning to appear virtuous is a spiritual oxymoron and you eventually have to pay the price. The problem is that when this stuff is eventually exposed--as it always is-- the Church ends up appearing as a hypocrite, undermining the peoples' faith in the Church as a whole.

Of all the types of clericalism it is this type that played a moderate role in the sexual abuse crisis of the Church. Many of the bishops and senior clerics when made aware of sexual abuse were horrified at the stories of abuse but wanted desperately to preserve the reputation of the church--at the expense of justice to the victims-- and covered the crimes up.

One of things that sin is meant to do is disturb a well formed conscience, but institutional clericalism does is provide a salve for any such disturbances. Doing something wrong? It's OK its for the good of the Church.  I imagine that many clergy have lied, suppressed truth, and punished victims in order to "preserve" the reputation of the Church. Sins which help you sleep soundly are very deadly indeed.

3) Spiritual Clericalism.

Here we get into the real spiritual poison and it's the one that seems to have Catholicism in its grip at the moment. Here the clergy abrogate to themselves the notion that they are the true guardians of the faith and no one but them has a monopoly on the truth. Not only do these people, with certainty, know what is right and wrong, but know in advance how God will act in the future. In these individuals,  there is no sense or meaningful notion that they could be wrong about something...........the thought never occurs in their head. There are zero pangs of conscience, instead they double down when challenged.

It needs to be understood that this type of clericalism has both its liberal and conservative variants and in my mind has three distinguishing features. Firstly there the lack  of fidelity to the Pope: unless the Pope is teaching on their terms.

How this type of clericalism differs from conscience is that conscience knows that it may differ from papal teaching but it does not assume the Pope a heretic. Conscience assumes that there may be some accommodation  with the Pope and the person remains in the Church, or no accommodation at all  and the person has to leave. It does not assume that the Pope should leave the Church.

And secondly there is a lack of fidelity toward the truth. Facts which are inconvenient are simply ignored.

Thirdly: As for the laity.........who are they?

As I've argued before, there is no restoration of Western Civilisation until a religious revival occurs. My current working hypothesis that the secularization of the West has primarily come about because there is something seriously wrong with religion in the West. This "wrongness" has been present in the Church from at least the mid 19th Century and unless it is corrected Western civilisation is doomed. Clericalism, particularly versions (2) and (3) have contributed significantly to this wrongness and they need to be tackled and purged before things can be made right. I'm not sure that the clergy has the resources in itself to tackle the problem and that's why I'm increasingly convinced that the future of the West may lay with the Christian laity.

9 comments:

MK said...

I think there is a large regional variation regarding clericalism, in all it's forms.

As a lifelong American Catholic, I'm puzzled at your view of clericalism. I'm no defender of the modern world, nor modern church, nor the modern church in any era of the last few centuries - I think USA RC that I know (since the 1970s) has been a joke (I can't say much about times apart from my own). But I simply don't see your type(s) of clericalism "on the ground" where i live.

What I see is spiritual sloth everywhere, including the clergy. And I see the biggest problem is the laity, who never read or absorbed VII and expect priests to do it all - still!. I've noticed priests exhibit shades of clericalism (as you define it) when the laity refuse to do their job. But the clergy just fill the gap.

I've always thought these are the glory years for any Christian, where a guy can have it all. Basically, no or limited persecution. Extreme wealth/options for minimal labor by historical standards. We've never, as Christians, had it better. And looking to the clergy for our spiritual salvation is the root of all clericalism. So I see it starting and ending with the laity.

MK said...

Sorry for all the typos in a hurry fix as desired.

Biological Base said...

I never deeply understand these posts. Western Civ, such as it was, is drowning under too many contradictions to have coherence.

I don't know if it's the religion or that people simply weakened, perhaps from an infection that is spreading like syphilis, or perhaps flouride (!) as was warned in the recent past.

It looks like an infection, doesn't it?

Did people weaken first and then lose faith, or is religion something a stronger/healthier people are drawn to?

The Social Pathologist said...

@MK

We've never, as Christians, had it better. And looking to the clergy for our spiritual salvation is the root of all clericalism.

This attitude is has been encouraged by the clergy. There is also a "tradition" of the clergy squashing out any innovation that approve of. i.e. religious innovation only occurs within the clergy and not within the laity.

Maurice Blondel (deep thinker early 20th C) recognised the phenomenon as destructive to the faith and coined a term for it: monophorism.

As for spiritual sloth, I'm not that sure. As I've mentioned previously, from the Christian perspective "it takes two to Tango": God and man. If God is not supplying the Grace then its pretty hard to get worked up by religion. Seriously, how do you get fired up when fed from the trough of modern kumbayah theology? There's this defacto assumption that the Church we've got is the Church God wants and any failure of the faith could never ever be the result of some crappy teaching by the clergy and instead is always due to failure by the laity or minor clergy. The operating assumption is that everything can be fixed by doubling down and God's Grace is always "on tap".

Take Humanae Vitae for example. It is simply assumed that the Pope was right and the laity, which left in droves, wrong. But let us look at this on a theoretical level. Suppose the Pope taught wrongly. How would we know? It's an interesting speculation. In the movie Excalibur, when it is lost, the kingdom weakens and sickens. It's power being withdrawn. Arthur's knights work their arses off to save the kindgom but it's to no avail until the sword is found. I think something similar is going on the Church. The Church has taken some dumb theological directions since the French Revolution and the wheels have fallen off the cart.

Western Civ, such as it was, is drowning under too many contradictions to have coherence.

It was doing OK till about the 1830's then the wheels start falling off. A huge part of the problem was the Church's inability to adapt from an faith situated in an agrarian context to an faith situated in an industrial one. Rerum Novarum was one of the few bright moments when it got things right, but it was too little, too late.

Look at it from the vantage of an industrial worker, wanting a better life. The Church traditionally supported the old order and inhibited social mobility, the socialists on the other hand, were of the opposite attitude. Who do you think would capture the hearts and minds of the poor in such a circumstance. Do you blame them?

We would have been a whole lot better if the Church pushed for maintaining the aristocratic order while at the same time whipping their arses hard in order to improve the lot of the poor. Instead, practically, it doubled down on the past.







Biological Base said...

"We would have been a whole lot better if the Church pushed for maintaining the aristocratic order..."

How would that have made a difference? By today's standards the 1890s aristocrats were religious fundamentalists. Yet what was the percentage lost in the world wars and leading up to them?

25-50% of the young aristocracy died proving their aristocratic blood in the face of rows of machine guns.

No matter what else happened, church policy on the poor or whatever, the large scale physical death of the old noble order of spiritualized warriors sealed the fate of the West.

"Who do you think would capture the hearts and minds of the poor in such a circumstance. Do you blame them?"

Not at all. But it wasn't the poor that really moved things. It never is. It was the middle class who wanted a shot at being a financier or capitalist or larger landowner than the old system provided.

The Social Pathologist said...

@BB

How would that have made a difference?

Democracy has not been a raging success in preserving the old order.

But it wasn't the poor that really moved things.

Beg to disagree.

This blog has a soft spot for the bourgeois. The old order failed to deal with the problems of industrialisation and the massive rise in the population. People took things into their own hands. The ideal situation would have been for the aristocracy to have adapted, let some new blood in and pruned the dead wood. i.e. tested for competence.

The middle class did not lead the poor astray they capitalised on pre-existing grievances. A middle class without the backing of the poor could never have taken down the old order. You had to have angry proles.

MK said...

SP: Seriously, how do you get fired up when fed from the trough of modern kumbayah theology?

Easy. I'm just grateful for the opportunity. I don't need anyone else to "fire me up". I read the bible, daily LOTH, spiritual reading. All free! I'm sorry, but I find the entire modern world reeking of self-entitlement. I honestly cannot see how God makes heaven work without excluding most modern people.

Take HV...Suppose the Pope taught wrongly. How would we know?

To be clear, I don't "need to know" anything. I'm just grateful for the opportunity. But "how do I know" HV is true? Easy: I love children and I love life. I love people and communities and churches who love children. Anyone who needs HV to know they are blessed to have as many children as possible are simply disordered. Hell, even pagans know that much! We moderns have created our own personal hell. I recoil from it like a scorpion or spider.

Anonymous said...

"This blog has a soft spot for the bourgeois. The old order failed to deal with the problems of industrialization and the massive rise in the population. People took things into their own hands. The ideal situation would have been for the aristocracy to have adapted, let some new blood in and pruned the dead wood. i.e. tested for competence."

The old aristocratic roman system of allowing the most competent men to assume the Monarchical seat as well as allowing them to marry their daughters ensured the reign of the 4 Best Emperors of the Roman Empire.

The japanese had something similar:
https://www.tofugu.com/japan/adult-adoption/

Anonymous said...

Here is another similar article on this:
http://freakonomics.com/2011/08/09/the-church-of-scionology-why-adult-adoption-is-key-to-the-success-of-japanese-family-firms/