In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
My dearly beloved in Our Lord,
We often hear the Catholic clergy being accused of “clericalism”. Such an attitude on the side of the clergy – to seek to dominate the faithful, “dominantes in cleris” (1Petr 5,3) – was clearly not that of the last canonized Pope, Saint Pius X.
Holy Church puts on his tongue the words of St Paul to the Thessalonians: “For at no time have we used words of flattery, as you know, nor any pretext for avarice, God is witness, nor have we sought glory from men, neither from you nor from others. Although as the apostles of Christ we could have claimed a position of honor among you, still while in your midst we were as children, as if a nurse were cherishing her own children.” (Epistle, 1Thess 2)
Today clericalism is still around in some priest, but not generally. The Church has lost most of her outward or earthly splendor, and thus it is considered rather a stain than a glory to be part of the clergy, by the greater number.
The problem today with which we are faced many times, is rather anti-clericalism. It can also be found among “traditionalists”, and even – believe it or not – among the traditional clergy.
Obviously such a concept might sound a bit far-fetched to some of you. But just consider how twisted the “recognize&resist” position is in its fundamental statement, and you must concede that just about anything is possible today.
By recognizing the material hierarchy of pope and bishops as the true hierarchy representing Christ, it breeds anti-clericalism. For a half-century now the R&R “Catholics” keep scrutinizing and criticizing what this hierarchy is saying, in order to find out whether it is Catholic so as to accept or to refuse it, case by case, day by day. So they usually despise pope and bishops, and thus engrave defiance and contempt of the clergy in general into their minds and habits. Thus wholesale anti-clericalism is just round the bend…
But by resisting – since they want to remain Catholic and refuse to loose the Faith by following a bad Pope and bad Bishops, as they say – they breed clericalism at the same time. A newly-ordained SSPX priest once put it in a succinct phrase when he said to an old priest: A priest ordained in the SSPX is – by the very fact – a specialist in all ecclesiastical matters. Such a thought is preposterous, but it is easy to understand: In their system such priests are the spiritual Rambos or Terminators standing up against a crumbling Church; they alone uphold what otherwise would be ineluctably defeated and lost. – You can imagine that the old priest was very astonished at what he heard from that young SSPX priest! This error is found with AB Lefebvre: He consecrated four bishops “so that the Church may continue”. In saying this, he neglected to admit that there were enough truly Catholic bishops around (through the line initiated by AB Thuc) and that therefore his claim was not a valid one.
For the laity – the faithful – obviously the anti-clerical issue is the greater threat. It is not uncommon to see lay people having left the R&R camp being deeply infected by anti-clericalism. Instead of earnestly reforming their attitude, they carry on despising the clergy.
They do nothing else but what human beings so easily do: Throw out the child with the bath water. Certainly the present situation has come about as a result of a lack of vigilance of the clergy, especially the bishops at Vatican2. If each single adherent of the conservative “Coetus internationalis Patrum” – between 250 and 400 at different times – had gone seriously about their business and responsibility, the tiny minority of heretical bishops – although favored or backed by Roncalli and Montini – would not have been successful with their revolution and take-over.
But to go on from this insight to question the legitimacy of Popes Pius XII and down at least to P. Benedict XV (1914-1922) is a long way; a way that no Catholic should even contemplate to go! Certainly one can admit that during these pontificates some decisions have been made that are unfortunate (at least in hind-sight…). But there is no doctrinal flaw to be found that even gets close to the teaching of heresy by any of those Popes, and this is what makes all the difference.
The Catholic mind is neither clerical, nor anti-clerical, nor anti-anti-clerical… It rather recognizes that the spiritual by nature is superior to the material world; and it resists the temptation to play off one against the other.
It is unreasonable to see the Catholic priest just a dispenser of Sacraments and Sacramentals, and to refuse his teaching or advise in all other matters spiritual or mixed (spiritual and material).
It is also unreasonable for a priest to act in such a way. A priest obviously has the responsibility to make sure – with moral certitude – that he gives the Sacraments to people who are worthy of them, in the sense which the Church has always held and taught. He cannot make abstraction from attitudes or acts displayed by the faithful.
The Catholic knows that “by divine institution there is in the Church a clergy distinct from the laity” (can. 107 CIC). Thus any concept of clericalism or anti-clericalism is equally destructive and against the divine constitution of the Church.
St Pius X was very humane, as all Saints have been. He neither practiced angelism nor clericalism. The outbreak of what he knew would be a global conflagration broke his fatherly heart – he was the first victim of World War I. – At the same time he made no concessions when the good of the Church was at stake. When the French government wanted to press him into a deal, he preferred that the Church in France loose all her earthly possessions, rather than to give into any kind of transaction that would compromise her liberty.
It is difficult to stay on the right way and to remain a Catholic; many come, and they go away again in all different directions…
May “God, Who, for the defense of the Catholic faith and the restoration of all things in Christ, filled St Pius X, the Supreme Pontiff, with heavenly wisdom and apostolic fearlessness, mercifully grant that, by following his teachings and examples, we may receive His eternal rewards.” (cf. Collect)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
If you wish for a copy you can find it here:sermon 170903 StPiusX