Right lets go for the jugular here, something that has really been irking me recently is clericalism and it can be subtle, so subtle I think it can even be entered into subconsciously.

Loyalty to bishops is laudable but what if being loyal to your bishop is at the expense of the preservation of the souls of your congregation?

What if loyalty to your bishop is at expense to your loyalty to the Pope or to the tradition of the Church?

Hearing of Bishops placing the needs of Methodists over the needs of their flock to the untrammeled truth and fullness of the Catholic faith gives me serious pause for thought.

I know Bishops have a tough job and armchair generals like us Catholic Taliban bloggers criticize from the safety of the internet, but really! protestants using Catholic Cathedrals to ‘ordain’ their clergy… that is going beyond a mixed message into downright universalism.

It seems to me that unquestioning loyalty is the first step towards clericalism. As a lay person I’m relatively powerless in the Church, I’m going to have to learn to live with that since recently I’ve realised I could never be a priest even if I felt called to it.

But what irks me is that priests who are part of the hierarchy of the Church don’t feel empowered to challenge the liberal status quo even though they do know better. Things are never going to change unless parish priests are encouraged to do what they know to be right and more in line with the tradition of the Church.

In some respects it is great that the ‘spirit of Vatican 2’ is slowly being exorcised, but in others its a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. The liberal project has been successful in that it has shifted the goal posts, people like me are the eccentrics trying to “turn back the clock”. Sometimes it feels like any actions we take now can only be holding actions so that things don’t get worse than they already are. Even this takes infinite patience, humility and vigilance otherwise we can seem like petulant pedantic pharisees.

I know being annoyed about an extraordinary Eucharistic minister purifying the vessels after mass is perhaps contradictory if  they have just helped administer the Eucharist, it is a bit like decrying Hitler for being a bad artist….

But I don’t want the idea of the priesthood to be eroded even further or the sense of the holyness of the mass to be chipped away ever more until people think our priests are just social workers and the holy mass is just a religious meal. With a puff of smoke and a flash of light suddenly we will all be Methodists and the Tablet will throw a ticker tape parade.

So then, just as you have to be brave to kneel to receive the Eucharist, so we should encourage our priests to be brave and begin to embrace their natural inclinations towards more reverent liturgy and being more openly questioning of the liberal project, a project which is the root of the problem of empty pews. Lets face it to question the liberal project may sometimes entail questioning the bishop, telling truth to power isn’t always easy.

Priests should be encouraged to embrace the unique and sacred nature of their priestly vocation, only then can they defeat the “spirit of vatican 2” and the clericalism that gave rise to it. Perhaps if Ushaw had done that it wouldn’t be closing its doors.


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