HAVE NEVER actually met Pope Francis; I just saw him from afar at the funeral of one of my most important teachers, who was also a Cardinal. I never had the chance to meet him closely, like with Saint John Paul II or Benedict XVI. I might have seen Paul VI up close when I was very young, but this did not happen either with Pope Francis and maybe will never. But, imagine for the sake of this article, that one day I will be admitted in Santa Marta and have a conversation with him.
What will be the important thing that I will tell him? Please care about sacred music? No. Say something against abuses of the liturgy? Don’t think so. Please declare officially that the Catholic Church did not start with Vatican II? Not necessary. I mean, all very important things, but all in a certain way subordinated to the very thing I should have the courage to tell him: Holy Father, Pope Francis, my Bishop, please free us from the plague of clericalism! If you think the problem is really there. It is this abuse of their function from the clergy that makes everything else fall down.
It is the abuse of those that use the Church instead of serving the Church, those that are protected from their bishops even if caught in crime, those that manipulate other people’s minds, hiding behind the respectable dress they are wearing. But is Pope Francis aware of this plague? Of course! On December 16th 2013, in Santa Marta Chapel for his daily Mass he said: “Lord, free your people from a spirit of clericalism and aid them with a spirit of prophecy.” A little before this, on November 29th, he met with the superior generals and warned them to be careful with the training of future priests, to not risk creating “little monsters.” Speaking of seminarians, he added that they may: “grit their teeth, try not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told ‘Good, you have finished formation.’ This hypocrisy is the result of clericalism, which is one of the worst evils.”
If I may extrapolate from the Pope’s statement: it is the worst evil, the root of all abuses towards people and also liturgical rites. Clericalism is what makes millions of people stay away from the Church, and it is a terminal disease. Unfortunately, this disease affects the Church for a long, long time. Also, perhaps there is something in the Church’s nature that makes it susceptible to this disease (though it is not proper only to the Church), and can never go away. One of the qualities of Pope Francis that I appreciate him for, is having his eyes open on his clergy. But my hope is subdued: the task is too big for one man coming from the end of the world.
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