Clericalism shouldn’t have anything to do with Christianity
The recent release of the findings of the District Attorney of Pennsylvania, have resurrected the memory of the failure of the hierarchs of the Roman Catholic Church to properly address the problem of the continuing sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
As a priest, I am deeply shocked, almost beyond words, and troubled by the abuse perpetrated upon innocent children, by clergy who have demonstrated a total lack of commitment to the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and who, in turn, used their sacred positions as clergy, to take advantage of children.
That bishops and clergy would violate their duty in such a way can only be describe it as diabolical. Although there are cultural and psychological ramifications, the problem remains primarily spiritual. This whole sordid behavior is a clear sign that Christianity is under Satanic attack, both from the media who take this as the ultimate chance to criticize, and discredit, Christianity, and in a society at large that has chosen to turn away from her Judeo-Christian roots.
For those who know me, they are not surprised to hear that I am anti-clerical. I am sickened when I witness clergy who expect special treatment, or who gush before their bishops, like court officials in some kingdom of bygone days. I was thus delighted to read that Pope Francis vowed to change the mindset of the Roman Catholic church, declaring that the institution “must return to being a community of the people of God” and rethink the relationship between its leaders and the laity.
The Pope went on to say, “Leaders of the Church have often been Narcissus, flattered and sickeningly excited by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy. Sometimes when I meet a cleric, I suddenly become anti-clerical,” the pontiff said. “Clericalism shouldn’t have anything to do with Christianity.”
I, like this pope, pray we Orthodox clergy, be we lowly monks like myself, or patriarchs, archbishops, archimandrites, or mitered archpriests, pay attention to the prophetic witness of this man of God. I pray we will not simply dismiss the Roman pope’s words, and his humble example, as those of the leader of a church in schism from Orthodoxy, but hear his words as coming from a man who loves Christ, and who wishes to reverse the terrible turning away from God by mass numbers of people around the world.
This world cannot well afford the remnant of Christianity to continue living the bad example of privilege, power and wealth, while witnessing the slaughter of innocent Christians in the Middle East, the mass turning away from Christ in the West, and the masses of people lost in poverty and hopelessness.
It would do us well, as priests and bishops, to remember that the kissing of our hand by the laity is not about us. It is given as a way of honoring Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the priest is a servant of Christ and steward of the Mysteries. When someone kisses his right hand, it is about Christ, and Christ only.
“And for their sake I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:19). To sanctify means to consecrate. Christ consecrated Himself for the ministry and our redemption. All the ranks of the priesthood are consecrated for ministry, according to the example of Christ, the High Priest, and if we truly follow the example of Christ, we will serve His people as simple servants.
As Orthodox clergy, we dare not dismiss the actions of child rapists, and those who would cover the sins and crimes in their house, as simply a Roman Catholic problem. We Orthodox clergy need to remember that very time the media publishes such horrid news, more people walk away from all forms of Christianity. Like the first century, people need to see in us the Co-Suffering Saviour Who would lift us out of the mire and filth of this fallen world. They need to see, in us, humble, loving servants of the Lord God, clergy who, like Saint Paul, see ourselves as the worst of sinners, who point the way to the salvific role of the Church, and the Lord of Mercy, Who is the salvation of our souls.
Finally I ask, who hates children? The one who has never forgiven us for producing a God-Child! Unless we save all the children, we are allies of the one who hates every one of our spiritual brothers and sisters. They have nothing to do with my church, and when they go to hell, as most of them surely will, Mother Church will not follow them there. Because there are some places that mothers should not have to go.
Love in Christ,