Clericalism is one of the greatest distortions affecting the Church in Latin America Pope Francis said on Tuesday. The clergy should serve lay people and not make use of them, he said . His comments came in a wide-ranging letter reflecting on the role of the laity that was addressed to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
The letter was a follow-up to the commission’s recent Plenary Assembly on the theme: ‘the indispensable role of the lay faithful in the public life of Latin American countries.’ In his letter, Pope Francis explained that he wished to follow-up the discussions and reflections that emerged during the Plenary Assembly in order to prevent them “from not bearing fruit.”
He urged the clergy to look closely at the people and lives of the lay faithful and avoid falling into the trap of adopting certain slogans on their behalf that seem well-meaning but in practice don’t succeed in supporting the lives of our communities. Pointing to the example of a famous phrase “it’s time for the laity,” he noted that in this particular case, that clock has ground to a halt.
We must remember, he said, that as clergy we all began our lives as lay people and that “we’d do well to recall that the Church is not an elite of priests, of consecrated people, of bishops but all of us make up the faithful and Holy People of God.”
Turning to the issue of clericalism, the Pope said he considered it the outcome of “a mistaken way of living out the ecclesiology proposed by the Second Vatican Council” and described clericalism as “one of the greatest distortions affecting the Church in Latin America.” He said clericalism has many negative impacts such as wiping out the personality of Christians and causing a belittling of the grace of our baptism that the Holy Spirit has placed in the hearts of lay people. Clericalism “forgets that the visibility and the sacramentality of the Church belong to all the people of God and not just to an illuminated and elected few.”
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