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How can the Church overcome clericalism?

Russell Shaw - published on 01/15/13 - updated on 06/08/17



Christifideles Laici (The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People), the  Magna Charta for the laity that he published in 1989, Bl. John Paul II says this about it:
  • "God calls me and sends me forth as a laborer in his vineyard. He calls me and sends me forth to work for the coming of his Kingdom in history. This personal vocation and mission defines the dignity and the responsibility of each member of the lay faithful and makes up the focal point of the whole work of formation, whose purpose is the joyous and grateful recognition of this dignity and the faithful and generous living-out of this responsibility" (Christifideles Laici, 58).


The fundamental error of clericalism is to suppose that the clerical vocation sets the standard of excellence, the norm, for everyone. But, as practical matter, it’s personal vocation that sets the standard and establishes the norm of fidelity to God’s will for each of us. John Paul II says: "From eternity God has thought of us and has loved us as unique individuals. Every one of us he called by name." For some, that involves the priesthood; for others, it’s a calling to the life of a lay person living by gospel values in middle of the world. Hearing and heeding God’s call is what counts, and this is how the Church will overcome clericalism in the end.

Today, the idea of personal vocation is spreading among Catholics. Even so, clericalism will not give up so easily. So here’s a practical suggestion. Next time your pastor preaches a homily on vocation that refers only to the priesthood and religious life, greet him with a smile after Mass, thank him, and then say something like this: "Father, I’m always glad to pray for more priests and religious. God knows, we need them. But next time it comes up, would you mind also telling us to pray that all of us – including the laity – will discern, accept, and live out our personal vocations? It would help."

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Vocations
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