• Immersed in Christ

The Evil of Clericalism

Thursday, January 13, 2022 - First Week of Ordinary Time

by Fr. David M. Knight

Save us, Lord, in your mercy. ( Psalm 44)


In 1Samuel 4:1-11 God punished the priest Eli, and Israel with him, “because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.” God had sent word to Eli, “The fate of your two sons… shall be the sign to you—both shall die on the same day. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart.”[1]


When the Philistines attacked, “Israel was defeated, and they fled, everyone to his home… Of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers fell. The ark of God was captured; the two sons of Eli... died.”


In modern terms, what God punished Israel for was “clericalism.” Because Eli was the priest, and seen as so sacred he was above other people, his sons were able to steal from the offerings people made, and even abuse women, and no one, including Eli, did anything about it.


Because of the clericalism in today’s Church, both the laity and clergy, including bishops, refrained from calling the police when priests abused children. This caused enormous suffering to the victims. And the spiritual “Philistines” were able to use it to attack the Church in particular and religion in general. How many Christians, as a result, have given up the fight and “fled, everyone to his home”?


When we look upon any class or category of Christians as “more sacred” than others, we have ceased to be aware of the true mystery of grace. By Baptism every one of us became a son or daughter of God himself through incorporation into Jesus, the “only Son of the Father.” Because we are “in Christ,” we share in his own divine life. We are divine. Every one of us. And no sacrament, position or title in the Church makes anyone “more divine” than another. The mystery of our being is that we have “become Christ.” There simply is no dignity “higher” than that. “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit,” varieties of functions in the Church, but only one body of Christ, in which all are equally members. It is essential that we keep ourselves aware of this. Then, no matter what happens, we will be able to say with confidence, “Save us, Lord, in your mercy.” [2]


Mark 1:40-45 shows us two things about Jesus: First, he is able to heal and cleanse us—and the whole Church—of anything. He said to a leper, “Be made clean!” And “Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.”


Second, he acknowledged, respected and made use of the official role of the priests in his day. He told the healed leper, “Go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded.” The positions and functions in the “institutional Church” were established by God himself. We don’t have to believe the ministers are holier than others in order to use them.


Initiative: Remind yourself, when you show respect to anyone, that all are equal.

[1] See 2:34-5; 3:13. [2] See Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 795; 1Corinthians, chapter 12.

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