Russell Shaw writes an absolutely great article on clericalism at Inside Catholic. This is the first of a multi part series on clericalism. The article has a great balance in explaining this with the necessary caveats in that clericalism is a distortion of the role of the priesthood and condemning clericalism does not mean blurring the lines between the priesthood of the faithful and the ordained priesthood. I also likes the examples he used to explain clericalism which made me to see more fully what this term means.
We can forget about the dangers of clericalism when what we mostly see is the danger of those that seem to be reducing the role of priests to some kind of sacramental dispenser.
It also seems to me that the women’s ordination movement is also a form of clericalism. Where these women seem to think that the only way to serve the Church is via the priesthood only. In this day and age of specialists this is no surprise since we can see the priesthood as the ultimate religious specialist and we forget that holiness is not caused by our vocational state in life, but by fully responding with love to the vocation we have. The Devil tempts priests and religious by making them long for the lay life and the Devil tempts the laity to long for the priesthood and religious life even when they don’t have a vocation to it.
It is ironic that sometimes clericalism is used to support blurring the lines between the laity and the priesthood as for example Bishop Clark has managed to do in his diocese. He uses the term ministerium which is also used by many Protestants to do some of this blurring I must admit when I saw the term ministerium today in a headline in association to the bishops ministerium event I thought that the word was a contraction for minimizing the magisterium.
The fourth-annual ministerium event brought together people who serve in various leadership positions across the diocese. Participants are invited by Bishop Clark, who had introduced the term ministerium — Latin for "body of ministers" — in 2001 to define those who exercise an official of ecclesial ministry. This group is inclusive of ordained priests and deacons, and also such people who are considered lay ecclesial ministers: women religious, pastoral administrators, pastoral associates, religious-education coordinators, youth ministers, hospital chaplains, campus ministers, prison chaplains, Catholic-school principals, parish volunteers with significant ministerial responsibilities and diocesan employees.
Under Canon Law to be chaplain in the first place you must be an ordained priest. It really isn’t correct to term lay volunteers to these ministries as chaplains. The definition of ministry in this context is a mirror form of clericalism where to be doing something for the Church this means physically doing something for the local diocese as an employee or volunteer to the parish or diocese. Lay apologists, the faithful praying at home for the Church, etc, are left out of this equation. This is like the distorted meaning of active participation meaning physically doing something during Mass.