Monday, October 14, 2013

The Laity's Role in Fostering Clericalism

The desk columnist of the Catholic Times brings to mind the Pope Francis interview with the atheist Scalfari. The Pope's way of handling himself during these interviews has become of interest to many of our Korean young people, he says, often generating plenty to talk about. The Pope's habit of treating subjects very openly that previously were deemed "hush-hush" have endeared him to many, non-Catholics as well as Catholics.   

He wants to open up the Church to the whole world, the columnist says, adding that the temporal interests of the Vatican seem not to be this Pope's chief preoccupation, since these concerns tend to neglect the world around us. And he believes the Pope will do everything possible to change this type of mentality. Is the Pope right in following this approach? he asks. This question is now being asked by some who doubt its effectiveness. But what can be said with certainty about the new approach is that what was once considered taboo when finding fault with the Church has now  become acceptable.

In discussing anti-clericalism, Scalfari said he is not anti-clerical but when he meets clericalism, he becomes anti-clerical and the Pope agreed with him, saying he has the same reaction with clericalism. Clericalism, he said, should  have no place within the  Church.

This kind of talk on the part of the Pope is welcomed by many of  the laity. Everybody, the journalist says, has had some difficulty dealing with  a cleric or a religious. He doubted, however, whether the laity here in Korea have the right to  criticize clericalism within the Church. He  may be opening himself up to criticism, he says, but we have to be critical of ourselves.There are good reasons for being critical of clericalism within the Church; the renewal of the Church and its mature development demands it. But we have to see what the laity are doing to foster this  kind of clericalism.

He mentioned an incident during a news gathering when a journalist was hit by a book thrown by a cleric.
Let us not be concerned with the circumstances, he adds. In response the journalist quickly left the room. One of the laypeople attending the gathering reprimanded the journalist, telling him that was not the way to behave to a priest, that it was disrespectful, and that he should apologize to him for walking out. 

This idea of unquestioning submission to the leaders and priests of the Church, from the time under the Japanese, has come under attack. Church leaders in the past were reluctant to have Christians get involved in society. Today it is just the opposite. Bishop conferences are speaking out on more participation in society, and the laity are often on the opposite side of the issue. What Pope Francis said about the Vatican-centered interest, which neglects the world around us, is difficult for many of our Catholics to appreciate and accept.

When the Catholic newspapers treat some of the troubling issues of society, even passively, they receive all kinds of protestations, most of which are essentially asking the same question: Why is a religious newspaper getting involved in politics? Pope Francis gave his answer: Because we are composed of body and soul.

And this insight also forms much of the thinking of the Second Vatican Council. Though there are some who are looking forward to another council, the Second Vatican Council's teaching is still valid, with its emphasis on the Church as a communion of the people of God, a Church with a horizontal not a vertical structure, and thus motivated by love and mutual respect. Overcoming clericalism has to begin, and end, with the clergy themselves, but we of the laity, he argues, have a great responsibility to help in advancing that goal. The lack of effort on the part of the laity in effecting this change, the columnist laments, is regrettable.

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