Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Humpty Dumpty Clericalism

‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”’ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”’

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”’ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

‘Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice ‘what that means?’

‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’

‘Oh!’ said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

‘Ah, you should see ‘em come round me of a Saturday night,’ Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: ‘for to get their wages, you know.’

(Alice didn’t venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can’t tell you.)
Though the Looking Glass, Chapter 7

One of the odd dichotomies that crops up as Catholics discuss the scandals surrounding clerical sexual abuse and chronic violation of clerical vows is that some people say "it's about sex" while other say "it's about clericalism", when it seems clear that the scandal involves both. On the one had, the clergy sex scandals clearly involve sex. On the other, I can't think of a better word for a culture among clerics in which they on the one hand continue to give at least lip service to the Church's doctrine's on sexuality and on the other hand cover up for the sexual sins of clerics as if clerics were some protected class to whom the rules of morality do not apply.

For me, as a married person, violation of my vows would be potentially life ending. When priests or bishops brush off other clerics violating their own vows with the comment that everyone falls once in a while, they are engaging in an approach to morality where clerics live under a different set of rules and consequences than the rest of us.

And yet, while you might think that this definition of "clericalism" as a system or mentality under which clerics do not live by the same rules as everyone else, where clerics have an exalted status simply by virtue of being clerics, is a very straight forward definition, there are wordsmiths who would laugh at your simplicity.

Enter theologian and self appointed spokesman for the pope Massimo Faggioli. He writes in La Croix that a set of initiatives kicked off my lay Catholic donors with the aim of investigating cardinals in regards to their handling of sexual abuse cases and their own personal morality represent a case of dangerous clericalism.

Catholics with abundant financial resources and strong connections to the leaders of the U.S. episcopate are trying to fill the vacuum with an agenda that is officially about reform. But, in fact, it is actually corrupting the Church even more, though in a different way.Recently a self-appointed Catholic watchdog group emerged under the name “Better Church Governance.”At a meeting on Oct. 3 at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., the group announced “plans to enlist the help of former F.B.I. agents to investigate the cardinals who will vote for the next pope and assess how they handled allegations of sexual abuse and whether they have remained faithful to their own vows.” In the very same week, another event — called “Authentic Reform” — also took place in Washington. It was organized by the Napa Institute, a group of wealthy Catholics “known for its annual conferences in California wine country” and which “blends conservative theology and libertarian economics, with an emphasis on apologetics, sexual ethics and countercultural anti-secularization.”There is much to say about how the leadership of the Catholic Church has become desensitized to the threat that money represents for the Christian character of the communion of the faithful. This desensitization is one of the consequences of the abandonment of a theology that takes seriously what Karl Marx called “relations of production” and has instead embraced “culture” and “identity” as an opposition to materialism. This post-materialistic theology of culture, focused on “values,” turned out to serve the interests of those who are in control of the “relations of production” — the influential network of wealthy Catholic philanthropists from the right, which recently has built strong ties with conservative bishops in the United States.
If the 2013 conclave took place under unprecedented circumstances (following the resignation of Benedict XVI), the next one could take place in a much more dangerous and uncertain situation for the freedom of the Church. The influx of agenda-driven money has long term consequences on the trajectory of a religious community and of a faith. Just look at the effects of money coming from Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the schools for the formation of the new generations of leaders of Islam – not just in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but globally. This could happen also to the Church, with certain groups of American Catholics using their resources and outreach to create an ecclesial culture that is not exactly in sync with the one embodied by the current pope. Without ignoring the obvious differences, there are certain similarities between the new right-wing Roman Catholic institute in Italy, created under the auspices of Steve Bannon and Cardinal Raymond Burke, and the Saudi-financed madrassas that teach Wahhabism around the world.This poses a challenge to Catholicism that is no less dangerous for the freedom of the Church than the one coming from the Chinese government or from aggressive secularist agendas. But it is more subtle than foreign State interference, presenting itself as offering theologically orthodox assistance to the Church. However, it is actually a new version of the old juridical-political principle “protection draws to it subjection” (protectio trahit subjectionem).In the 12th century, the initiator of “modern” canon law, Gratian, said that there are two kinds of Christians (“duo genera Christianorum”) – the ordained and the laity. He was notreferring to the ability to marry or celebrate Mass as that which separates the ordained from the laity. Rather, he was referring to the distinction between those who can manage Church finances and resources (the ordained) and those who cannot (the laity).We are now in a Church that is trying to get rid, for theological reasons, of this dualistic understanding of authority and power in the Church – what Francis refers to often as “clericalism.”And in reality the line dividing the clergy from the laity has been blurred for a long time now — having become a canonical distinction says little about what the clergy and the laity have in common and what separates them. But we are now witnessing a new type of “duo genera Christianorum” — those who have money (and can thereby influence in the Church) and those who do not. This is creating a new clericalism of money and even dividing the Church in one same nation (today, the United States). But it also threatens to create an even deeper division between the rich churches and the poor ones. This Catholic plutocracy is already one of the major factors in the rift between Pope Francis and some sectors of U.S. Catholicism.Money is indeed talking in the business of Catholicism today. It is not at all clear if there is another kind of currency that can influence the Church and in a different direction. Given all this, the canonization of Oscar Romero next Sunday could not come at a more crucial time.
So there you have it. If members of the laity use their financial resources to shine a light on clerics who use their power within the Church to cover up for their offenses, that is "clericalism". To avoid clericalism, the pesky laity should know their place and leave the clerics to do as they please.


Bernard Brandt said...

I'm afraid, Darwin, that if my calculations are correct, as I have posted elsewhere, the RC clergy CAN NOT afford to do anything other than the stonewalling which we have recently witnessed.

Those calculations are that the 5% rate at which RC clergy have abused children (as indicated in the 'Jay Report') and the concomitant finding that fully 80 percent of that abuse involved post-pubescent boys, is in sharp contrast to the statistics for the 'normal' U.S. adult male population, in which less than 1/20th of one percent of that population abused children, and 80 percent of the population was male-on-female.

I would invite you to look up the U.S. registry of child abusers, which indicated that in 2013 there were 60,000 registered offenders, of whom 80 percent were charged with male-on-female abuse, and 20 percent. I estimate that the adult male population (18-60 years of age) to be 100 million. Do the math.

I contend that these statistics validate the findings of the late A.W.S. Sipe, that there are a disproportionate number of male homosexuals in the RC clergy, and that only fifty percent of RC priests adhere to their vows of celibacy. From the statistics, I suspect that there is a considerable degree of union of the two sets.

In consequence, I suspect that the group of lay Catholics, who are currently conducting background checks of all U.S. cardinals, and who intend on doing the same for all U.S. bishops, will have some interesting, and rather unpleasant, findings.

Brandon said...

I saw this, too, and had very much the same reaction. (Probably less polite.)

Even the Gratian point is sophistical tapdancing; Gratian didn't identify the two groups by distinguishing those in charge of finances from those who weren't; the distinguishing feature was whether someone counted as a cleric or not. The group of clerics would not have included lay patrons, but only people who had undergone the rite of tonsure. The primary characteristics Gratian associates with clerics is that they are freed to pray the divine office regularly and that they in some sense have no private property, everything being devoted to the common life of prayer.

Agnes said...

I'm afraid I temporarily lost the line of thought (of the quoted article) somewhere at defining a group by libertarian economics and counter-cultural anti-secularization. Then I realized I have so many bones to pick with its manipulative false statements that I shouldn't even begin to count.
Only one thing: People who had money/power have always tried to (and to an extent, succeeded in) influencing the Church, and God only protected that which was promised: the faithful keeping of Christ's teachings. There wouldn't have been wars about investiture and wars between popes and kings/emperors, no martyrdom of Thomas Becket or Thomas More etc. otherwise. The Church (the community of the bishops lead by the pope) should of course resist any influencing of the Church's teaching, activity, political standpoints (if any) through money - do they always, I wonder? But highlighting sins and insisting that they be punished isn't something the clergy have any right to resist. They ought to be eager, in fact.