Monday, January 13, 2014

It is not what a man wears but how he acts and treats others that tells who he really is

de gustibus non disputandum est

True clericalism is an anomoly and abberation in that it engenders disdain and disrespect for others, especially those who are not clerics (ordained). Hence, real clericalism is when a deacon, priest or bishop has an attitude of superiority over his flock in that he believes he is 'better' than they are, whether spiritually, intellectually or otherwise. Clericalism patronizes and denigrates the unordained (laity). It seeks to be treated with privilege rather than seeking to be of service.

Clericalism is an ATTITUDE but is not a costume, clothing, preference or option. It has nothing to do with LANGUAGE (Latin or vernacular) and nothing to do with ATTIRE. Clericalism is how one behaves and treats others, not how one dresses.

Here is a poignant example. While my father was still alive (before 1998) he was often in the hospital being treated for leukemia. On one occasion that I was there after driving 300 miles from my rectory, Bishop Donald Trautman popped in to say hello and give my dad his blessing. Although I was not a priest of the Erie Diocese (I was ordained and am incarnated in the Harrisburg Diocese) my parents lived in Erie where they were born and raised. Bishop Trautman visited my dad because he was the parent of a priest. Without being asked, His Excellency was good enough and kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule and visit my dad. He went so far as to offer to stay with him for 20-30 minutes if I needed to take my mom to the cafeteria and get something to eat (she was a diabetic and needed to eat at regular intervals). Despite any difference of opinion on other matters, I always appreciated, respected and admired Bishop Trautman for that act of charity and kindness.  He was ACTING and  BEING very pastoral as a bishop. Sadly, that does not occur everywhere. A priest I know was hospitalized and admitted to ICU for three days and his own bishop never called him even once. After being discharged, he went back to his rectory and not one call or visit from his bishop. THAT is clericalism. When a bishop is too busy to make a brief phone call to one of his own priests when he is in the hospital for a serious condition; when a bishop sends his 'representative' to a priest's funeral rather than going himself; that is clericalism. Yes, bishops are very busy but they are not bank managers or bureaucrats. They are pastors and must act like a FATHER rather than a corporate executive. I would never call my dad by his first name. I had too much respect for him but I also loved him enormously. He was always there when I needed him. He never sent one of my brothers as his envoy. He himself called me or visited me. Likewise, a real pastoral bishop CALLS his own priests and deacons. He visits them when possible if they are seriously injured or ill. He goes to their funerals because they are his FAMILY. It is not clericalism to call the Bishop Your Excellency, Your Grace, or Bishop since he is the hierarchical superior to his priests and deacons. It is clericalism, however, when he treats his clergy as mere employees or when he treats the lay faithful of his diocese as customers or clients rather than as his spiritual children. Bishop Trautman visited my dad and on several occasions telephone my mother when she was in the hospital or nursing home before her untimely death. He did not have to do that as I am a priest from another diocese. He did so because he has class and he knows a bishop must be a good father and pastor even to those not of his fold. When clergy act like they work at a company instead of Holy Mother Church; when they behave as if their priesthood, diaconate or episcopate is just a career and not a vocation; then that is the ugly head of clericalism.

I entered the seminary after graduating from Catholic grade school. I attended high school seminary, college seminary and major seminary (total of 12 years) from 1976-1988.  During those days, the buzz word was 'clericalism' but it had a latent meaning and hidden agenda. It went from the ridiculous to the sublime. If you wore black socks to match your black trousers, you could be accused of being clerical. If you wore a rabbat or full collar rather than the 6" tab insert, you could be considered clerical. If your Liturgy of the Hours had a black leather cover, you were clerical, however, if you had a colored or a knitted breviary cover, you were OK.  Wearing a cassock was over the top and tantamount to waving an American flag in downtown Tehran during the 444 day hostage crisis.

Real perpetrators of clericalism are obsessed with externals such as attire, vestments, language, art, music, etc. in that certain types are considered dangerous if not disruptive. Roman style vestments are an option as are Gothic, yet for the clerical person, it is not his personal taste, preference or opinion, it is his unjust imposition on another. In other words, it is not clerical to wear a cassock or use an amice or chalice veil and pall, rather, it is clericalism to treat and speak about those who licitly choose those options as if they were snobs.

Clericalism is MISTREATMENT of fellow clergy and of the laity. It is when a deacon, priest or bishop insults the intelligence of someone who disagrees with their prudential judgment. It is when a pastor embarrasses or humiliates an elderly woman for praying her rosary during Mass. It is when a layperson is DENIED their licit option to receive Holy Communion on the tongue or to confess their sins anonymously behind a screen. It is when certain members of the clergy act as if any and all requests for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite are potential schismatics or sede vacantists. It is refusing to expose a parish congregation to Gregorian chant and traditional hymns as part of a diverse repertoire. True clericalism is the assumption and attitude that the common lay Catholic is not sophisticated enough to read and comprehend the Catechism of the Catholic Church or any magisterial document, from  Vatican II to papal encyclicals. Real clericalism insults the laity by treating them as ignorant intellectual slackers when they refuse to embrace a heterodox or heretical idea espoused in a homily.

Some seminaries in the old days and some dioceses for that matter, had unofficial witch hunts to identify, isolate and eliminate those deemed rigid, conservative or traditional. The term used, however, was that these fellows were proponents and adherents of clericalism. 

DEFINE TERMS. Clericalism is not about attire, it is about attitude. Whether the ordained man wears a tab shirt, rabbat or cassock is NO proof or evidence of his ecclesiology. It is a matter of taste and personal preference. Many a layperson have been mistreated, insulted and demeaned by clergy wearing all sorts of attire.  THAT is what Pope Francis has been denouncing and repudiating, the attitude and mistreatment of the faithful by members of the clergy (deacons, priests AND bishops) who abuse their authority and position. It is not an issue of liberal vs. conservative, progressive vs. traditional, Ordinary Form vs. Extraordinary Form (previous known as Novus Ordo vs. Traditional Latin Mass)

Clericalism is a cancer to the clergy and when clergy seek to 'clericalize' laity and 'laicize' the clergy, they are committing clericalism. The common priesthood of the baptized and the ministerial priesthood of the ordained are different but they need each other. Clergy are there to serve the spiritual needs of the laity and not serve themselves. What Father, Deacon or Bishop WEARS is irrelevant. It is HOW he treats his people, his peers and his subordinates. Don't get me wrong, I wear my collar whenever on duty and whenever traveling as a witness to who and what I am. I like seeing religious men and women in their habits. People need to see priests in public doing ordinary things (shopping, dining, etc.) to see that we are normal human beings. Wearing the collar also keeps me on my best behavior lest I am tempted to say or do something imprudent were I in civilian clothes. Wearing the collar is not meant to elicit any privileges or favors (those days are long gone, anyway). Just like our military men and women are proud to be in the service of defending our nation, clergy should likewise be proud to be in service to the Lord and His Church. My point is that the STYLE of clerical attire is purely preferential and a matter of taste, nothing else. No agenda need be read into it. Unfortunately, some accuse anyone who wears the collar all day of clericalism OR they accuse those who wear more formal or traditional clerical attire of clericalism. Wearing a biretta or fedora is an option just as much as wearing a baseball cap. Some folks are OBSESSED however with externals and peripheral incidentals. Better to focus on the person's ACTIONS.

Once and for all, let's end this ridiculous paranoia about anything prior to Vatican II as well as the paranoia about anything after Vatican II. Rad-trads are having a field day concocting all kinds of conspiracy theories about Pope Francis' papacy while geriatric liturgical hippies from the 60's lament anything and everything Pope Emeritus Benedict said and did. 

Wearing french cuff shirts is a matter of taste as is your preference in music, art, literature, etc. What matters is not whether Father wears a short sleeved tab shirt or is wearing a cassock, what counts is how he treats his flock.  Is he present? Is he approachable?  Is he orthodox?  Does he celebrate valid, licit and REVERENT Masses?  Does he have a priestly heart to his people and to his colleagues?

Imagine if we acted as if it mattered which sports team you supported?  Does being a Cleveland Indian fan make me a bad pastor to those who are Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles or Philadelphia Phillies fans? Of course not. Likewise, would making me an aficionado of Italian opera or Baroque Music interfere with my sacred ministry to those who like Rock, Country Western, Hip-Hop, or Celtic? Absolutely not. Then WHY in heaven's name are some members of the clergy beating the drums of war and whipping up a witch hunt frenzy to discredit any of their ordained colleagues who have a difference of taste or who choose a different valid option?

Our American culture has been addicted to the mentality and ideology of SYMBOLISM OVER SUBSTANCE.  Poor people can love classical music as much as the rich and the wealthy can prefer Jazz while the indigent listen to rap. YET, for some in the church, liking Gregorian Chant or Polyphony is borderline reactionary traditionalism leaning toward schismatic sede vacantism. On the other hand, contemporary liturgical music may not be everyone's cup of tea but it is in no way indicative of iconoclastic mentality.

It is not the amount of Monsignors which instigates clericalism, it is the sycophant who is nothing more than a mere 'yes' man who seeks a diocesan position or the bureaucrat who filters who has access to the bishop and what he hears. It is the career clericalist who is voraciously hungry for power and prestige, regardless of his title or lack thereof. Most of all, it is ecclesiastic (high or low) who espouse a corporate model paradigm on how to run a diocese or parish instead of the pastoral model of seeing the church as a family of faith and not a business to be run.

Just my thoughts on the matter 


Lynda said...

Wearing the attire proper to the priesthood, is amongst other things, a sign of respect for one's priesthood and to lay persons to whom a priest has a most sacred duty.

Unknown said...

Amen Father

Fr. Denis Lemieux said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

Father I never thought I would ever hear you use the word reactionary since men like yourselves who wanted to wear cassocks were called REACTIONARY DAUGHTERS of TRENT. It is ironic that you seem not to be concerned with the FFI who are being mercilessly persecuted by Father Volpi. Smarmy Butterflies indeed.

Deacon David Oatney said...

Father Trigilio, thank you for your fidelity to your vocation.

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