Can clericalism be cured?

Ronald D. Witherup PSS

Clericalism has been blamed for much of the scandal which has engulfed the Church in recent years. This article looks at the roots and growth of clericalism, and suggests that restoring the role of the laity is necessary to emphasise the priesthood of all the baptised. Ronald D. Witherup PSS is Superior General of the Society of the Priests of St Sulpice.

The summer of 2018 proved to be most trying for the Roman Catholic Church. It seemed that scandal after scandal kept appearing, and each wave seemed worse that its predecessors. It began with credible accusations of adult boundary violations and sexual abuse of minors against an American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington. These quickly led to his being removed by Pope Francis from the College of Cardinals. It continued with the release of a grand jury report in the state of Pennsylvania showing how the six dioceses in that state had, for decades, covered up sexual abuse of minors by clerics. It involved some 1000 victims and 300 priest perpetrators.

It did not end there. A former nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, accused the pope himself of having hidden the truth about McCarrick. In two separate letters, he also took swipes at other prominent clerics who are allegedly part of a homosexual ring prevalent in the Vatican. When the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet PSS, debunked much of Viganò’s accusations, the latter followed up with a third letter basically repeating earlier accusations and asking Ouellet to be more forthcoming of evidence in the files on McCarrick.

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