Thursday, December 15, 2016

I like it ... you know, what the Pope says about clericalism and narcissism ...

If St. Christopher was a Cardinal.

Today I was amused by what Fr. Hunwicke had to say about it.

I don't read him, but he looks delightful and when others quote him, I appreciate his wit.  Today Fr. Z links to him and reprints a bit of Fr. H's impressions about clericalism.  It really is very interesting and like I said, pleasantly amusing.

My sense is that laity maybe taking the blame for clericalism, even Fr. Longnecker suggests they are to blame... to some extent.  Because, as he points out, traditionally, we laymen esteem our priests and tend to be even more impressed by our bishops - especially when the wear long cappas.  Yet the esteem is due to them, because they are ordained ministers, they act in persona Christi, they are consecrated, set apart.  Catholics understand that.  That's not clericalism.

However, if a priest 'courts' honors and esteem, if he prides himself on it, if he rejoices vainly in it - I think that's narcissism.  The laity didn't make him a narcissist.  Liturgical vestments - Baroque or Gothic or plain - do not a narcissist make.  These belong to the patrimony of the Church.  However, if a priest layers expensive clothing upon his ordinary clerical-wear, and models and parades about to impress others with his taste and style and the expense of fine tailoring, that's vain and narcissistic.  (FYI: Beaver fur Saturnos start at $495* - if you wear an expensive hat you probably need expensive shoes with buckles, and cashmere cappas, as well as a nice car or at least a fine portantina to get around in.  So now we are getting closer to clericalism.)

As the Pope said today: People who went out to John The Baptist, "weren’t looking for men dressed in fine vestments, because people like that are found in the palaces of kings – “or sometimes of Bishops,” the Pope added."

Clericalism can be rigid, but it isn't always.  Many 'novus ordo' clergy can be said to be guilty of the same defects.  It isn't limited to traditionalists.  Protestant ministers can be guilty of it as well as new age women priests.

For me, clericalism is perhaps best exemplified in the Gospel of the man born blind ... The Pharisees when questioning the man, replied to his challenge, saying to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

The passage of the woman at the well may also help illustrate the meaning a bit better ... The disciples returned to find Jesus speaking to a woman, a Samaritan, and though it isn't clearly stated that they were scandalized, it's clear from their first reaction they looked down upon the woman.  "At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?

I may be wrong, of course.

I like these discussion though.  I just don't think people need to be so offended by it.  Why would anyone think the Pope is talking about anyone in particular when he discusses these things?  Although it is certainly his place to warn against these problems.

If Dom Deluise was a Cardinal.

*Correction: I'm told you can get a Beaver fur Saturno for as low as $120-.


  1. It's a meaningless term. Where I'm from, if you do merely 'clerical' things - wear the collar, vest appropriately, say the black and do the red - you're suffering from clericalism. To be called pious is a slur these days too.

    As the Pope and an older cleric I guess he can say these things with just authority. But a priest telling stories about other priests...I dunno.

  2. Modern day Clericalism: I think we should add expensive guns to the list.....

  3. "FYI: Beaver fur Saturnos start at $495" NOT TRUE. A little research online will show that you can Get a Beaver Saturn for as little as $190 and a regular felt Saturno as low as $120. These are typical prices for a decent, quality hat.

    1. Thanks - I only found 1 site and saw that price. $120 is a deal. I saw a thing on PBS once about a London hatter with a Royal License and they made Beaver Derby hats - custom - I wonder what the cost is for that? I would imagine it's similar.

      There's nothing wrong with these hats or birettas - if I was a priest I wouldn't want to wear one - but I think they look cool on priests in a cassock.

      I think they Pope may have been talking about attitude and demeanor more than style or attachment to clerical clothing. I know you disagree, but that's okay too.

      For some reason I think capes are weird. Must be a Dracula connection from my childhood or something. When I was in the monastery I didn't like the habit either. See how I am?


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