“Speaking-up” is a pseudonym for an individual who chooses to be known only by this title. This individual is a frequent contributor to this posting site. I have been impressed with the level of intelligence and depth of insight “speaking-up” has brought to the various topics of discussion. As a result, I privately approached this individual -off the record-and asked this person to be a guest blogger. I will only tell you that this person is schooled in philosophy, theology and psychology. Speaking-up addresses the problem of clericalism in both the laity and the clergy and its very destructive effects on the human community. Questions are presented in the following article for us to respond to. This is the time to participate in the conversation and subscribe to future articles on religious issues of the day. God Bless, DrNick
City of gods
Clericalism: The Pope’s rule extends globally, through a sophisticated and organized network, from the Vatican to Local-Parishes around the world. Parish-Priests (diocesan or religious-orders) oversee the work of parish-ministries as well as lay-communities. All are groomed within the centuries-old culture of clericalism, initiated at the seminaries, monasteries and nunneries. This culture is passed down to the lay-leaders, along with the perks of elitism, entitlement, social recognition, abuse of power, status etc.
Excerpt on clericalism from the website “Good People 2 Good Priests”: Fr. John Celichowski of Detroit, provincial minister of the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph, also raised the matter of clericalism. He described clericalism as a “form of elitism” that is “reinforced by the distinctive education and formation, dress and titles that priests and religious receive.” “Elitism” he said, “can lead to a distorted sense of entitlement, the assumption that one is not bound by the rules that govern everyone else, and that other people (even the vulnerable) exist to serve one’s own needs. It is only through examination of this fundamental issue and the abuse of power it generates, he said, that we can make sense of the crisis.”
Clerical elitism corrupts many within the Church, as it trickles down the hierarchy, to the superiors of the secular-orders and the lay-leaders of parish-ministries. The upper echelons operate within their feudal pockets of power and control, without accountability or transparency. This develops into a sophisticated system of endemic and systemic religious abuse, perfected over time, under the “Rules” of spiritual / catholic formation, which include obedience, docility, submissiveness, passivity, self-abasement etc. No virtues are accredited to the courageous who speak up for social justice.
Religious abuse is the fore-runner of all types of abuse encountered within a religious-context. David Henke defines spiritual abuse as the misuse of a position of power, leadership or influence to further the selfish interests of someone other than the individual who needs help. When religious leaders are given the power, by the hierarchy, to discern the spiritual well-being of another, then it is no wonder that abuse will creep into the system. When a superior is allowed to discern if the other has a “vocation”, then we have the potential of a serious abuse of power. Power corrupts … absolute power corrupts absolutely. Superiors “play God” as they expel dissenters on the grounds that the latter have lost their “faith or their vocations”, while the group-think and mob-mentality fosters fear, intimidation, hypocrisy, secrecy, corruption and abuse. The Superior has only to throw the first stone and the community will complete the job. Some Superiors unabashedly say that they stand in place of God Himself. This is Scripture-twisting at its worst. Amidst so many gods, how do we find a personal relationship with the true God?
The Formation: It would take a change of heart to alter this mind-set. The problem begins at the grass-root level, which is during the Formation, when the “spirit and will” is broken under the guise of religion. Perhaps akin to the breaking-in of a beautiful, wild horse. The majestic splendor of the horse’s spirit changes into a docile, fearful and submissive one. When this happens to a human being, all kinds of moral weaknesses can develop such as the lack of moral courage, a “disordered” conscience etc. I guess most seminarians would have committed some “grave sins” during the initiation process into a system plagued with non-accountability and the abuse of power. A documentation-trail of these character-flaws would ensure a culture of silence… a kind of black-mail. Whistle-blowers (themselves tainted) are fearful of speaking-up. Franklin’s old dictum would apply, “If they don’t all hang together, then they will surely hang separately.” Those who are courageous enough to voice their concerns are weeded out during the early years of their Formation, while docility and passivity are encouraged and “tested” during a period of 9 to 13 years, reinforced through living in the spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience. Why does the Formation take so long, when one can earn a Bachelor’s, a Master’s and a PhD in around 8-9 years with the possibility of emotional and spiritual maturity as well?
The Ordination: Only the “cream of the crop” is allowed to make their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience after they have graduated in the virtues of submissiveness, passiveness and self-abasement. Why do they endure years of religious-abuse? Perhaps some are afraid of the consequences of “speaking-up”, as threats abound on the dangers of doing this? Perhaps this career affords them an opportunity for advanced education and old-age security? Perhaps some look to lucrative transfers and career-advancement as they move up the totem-pole. Perhaps some have bought into this “culture of death” and are willing to perpetuate this cycle of abuse from the top-down? Perhaps there are some who nurture their vocation, in this crucible of suffering, and develop a personal relationship with God. Religious abuse is the source of most types of abuse such as verbal, emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, financial etc. Unless we root-out religious abuse, the sexual abuse of vulnerable children and women will continue. I make special reference, at this point, to the abuse of nuns, especially in Africa. The following link provides extensive information on the subject of Sexual Abuse of Nuns in Convents and Nunneries. http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/4864861/
I DO NOT BELIEVE that this situation has come about because of the “wrongdoing of some priests”.
I DO BELIEVE that some priests will have to pay for the sins of many…that they will be made the biblical scape-goats…the gladiators that will be thrown into the arena.” I guess the needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the few… a classic strategy of finding someone to blame in order to take the heat off the situation….protect the reputation of the Institution at all costs. I am not saying that there are no erring-priests but that our perspectives should encompass the history of the church, in which the structure has perpetuated the corruption. Until this evil is rooted-out, the abuse of children, women and other vulnerable populations will continue.
Clericalism among the laity: The laity also go through a Formation, of sorts, through years of catechism, through which they are taught to be trusting and obedient to their superiors. While the management of the parishioners’ confidential files… police-checks etc. are presently being handled by clergy and lay-leaders, I am hoping that there is more transparency and accountability towards victims. However, the authoritarian leadership-style that the laity is being exposed to does not include an “effective” reporting-hierarchy or mediation strategies to ensure fairness and social justice. At the diocesan level, committees have been set-up for the reporting of sexual abuse, but none in relation to religious abuse, which is a precursor for sexual abuse. In the past, if the victims took their grievances up the chain of command, they would be sent back, down the ranks, to the original abusers, at whose hands they would be re-traumatized. There was no concern for the victims’ pain, sense of betrayal, hurt, faith-crisis etc. as clericalism is a complex and sophisticated system that protects its own. Without the necessary checks and balances against the abuse of power, this new collaboration between clergy and lay-leaders could turn out to be no different. Is this simply an internal transfer of the main players, while the same autocratic and high-handed policies remain in force? How often have transfers been used as cooling-off periods to protect offenders and to avoid accountability? If the laity is to function as servant-leadership, will the clergy change their top-down position and model Christ-like behavior? If the laity is not given the proper training to carry out its duties, how will it succeed? How will the laity perform as ‘middle-man’ between their superiors (clergy) and the parishioners? Will the lay-leaders be “thrown under the bus” as have some good priests who have spoken-up against injustice? Will it be safer for them to buy into the prevalent culture of secrecy and silence instead of voicing their concerns? Will the future generation be asking the clergy to take over the management if this present arrangement falls through? Will the future generation know anything about the present-day clergy sex-abuse of nuns and children, just as this generation knows very little about Vatican 11? Will Vatican-conservatism reintroduce the ‘spiritual-aids’ that have helped clericalism in the past? Are they not already doing this with the new (old) missal, the Latin-Mass, the bells and smells, the difficult-to-understand scholarly documents? Will the laity become another breed of gods … legions of them… warring against each other and against the clergy, while we stand by and watch clericalism destroy our church?