Clericalism and Its Remedies

Catholic Bishops Debate Abortion, by Judie Brown
November 21, 2019
McVety: Chick-fil-A Sold Its Soul for Canadian Foothold, by Chad Groening, Billy Davis
November 21, 2019

*Image: “The Road to Hell” by Hieronymus Bosch, 1516 [Museo del Prado, Madrid]. This is the right panel of Bosch’s Haywain Triptych.

By Anthony Esolen, The Catholic Thing, Nov. 21, 2019

Note: We’re getting there. But I need more of you to realize the challenges we face and to step up in support of the many responses we need to undertake. Professor Esolen tells a sad tale today about just one part of the problem – and that at what was once an exemplary Catholic college. I’ve always said that I have faith in readers of The Catholic Thing because I know you are adult believers who take seriously your responsibilities. So I don’t – and won’t ever – harangue. The button’s below and you know what needs to be done. – Robert Royal

Every November since 2016, my thoughts return to the incidents – the demonstrations, the slanders – that ruined the evening of my career at Providence College, where I’d taught for twenty-seven years, and where I’d been the school’s most prolific author and its most energetic booster among the faculty.  It all went to smash, with breathtaking speed.

My friends at the time laid a great deal of the blame upon clericalism.  As they saw it, the Dominican priests hung together, even though they knew that two among their number were much in the wrong. And the bishop’s chargé d’affaires also provided cover, discouraging his superior from getting involved.

My friends were correct.  I wonder what might have happened if a few priests had allowed justice to trump fellow-feeling or the unwritten rules of the club, and had called me up and said, “Get your coat on, because we’re seeing your president right now.”  Anger in a just cause can move mountains.  It can sometimes move a bureaucrat.

It’s tempting to believe that clericalism is a disease of the clergy, and that if only laymen were given greater authority, we would not be beset with so many scandals.  If only.  I don’t see it that way. ….