Pope Francis on cassocks on clericalism

From John Allen at the NCR, “Book indicates pope is a moderate realist“:

The pope evinces little preoccupation for externals: “The problem is not whether you wear a cassock, but rather if you roll up its sleeves when you have to work for the good of others,” he says, quoting another priest he respects.

And this:

Francis rejects clericalism, which he calls a “distortion of religion.”

“When a priest leads a diocese or a parish, he has to listen to his community, to make mature decisions and lead the community accordingly,” he says. “In contrast, when the priest imposes himself, when in some way he says, ‘I am the boss here,’ he falls into clericalism.”

28 comments

  1. My favorite quotes:

    “In certain situations, I do not give communion myself; I stay back and I let the ministers give it because I do not want those people to come to me for the photo op,” he says.

    At one point, he says that while he can be naïve on some matters, in other ways he has a good “alert-o-meter,” meaning a sense of when people are trying to play him.

    One interesting tidbit from On Heaven and Earth is that Francis reveals he hasn’t actually voted in elections in Argentina since the early 1960s, partly as an expression of how important he thinks it is for the clergy to remain impartial. “I am father of all, and I cannot be wrapped in a political flag,” he says.

  2. Are the above statements ones that Benedict XVI never would have made?

    Something tells me that Francis does care about externals. A good example of this is his bringing back the Paul VI staff, as well as bringing in the new vestments that he wears, and having only the Greek deacon chant the Gospel at his Inaugural Mass. Francis has a definite sense of what papal liturgies should look like, how much this clashes with Benedict’s sense, it is too soon to tell.

  3. But, wait !

    Vatican City, Nov 19, 2012 / 05:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an effort to promote priestly identity, the Vatican Secretary of State has issued a letter asking clerics and religious at the Vatican to dress as befits their identity as priests conformed to Christ. […] written at Pope Benedict’s bidding […] Cardinal Bertone said that bishops should faithfully wear the cassock every day during office hours at the Vatican as an example to the clerics who visit the Holy See.
    He reminded clerics that at official and papal events, they are to wear the more formal “abito piano.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/catholicnews/2012/11/vatican-memo-aims-to-boost-priestly-identity/

  4. Again this is all about style which is quite different than previous papacies, but when it comes to substance, he is opposed to Catholic light, a wonderful term, when he says, “The worst that can happen in the priestly life is to be worldly, to be a ‘light’ bishop or a ‘light’ priest.”

    I think we can deduce from that quote that he is also opposed to a “light lay person” too.

    Pope Francis may well be the most pastoral pope we’ve had in centuries as evidenced by the following quote:

    “Francis warns of the dangers of “rigid religiosity” and “fundamentalism.”

    “This type of rigid religiosity is disguised with doctrines that claim to give justifications, but in reality deprive people of their freedom and do not allow them to grow as persons,” he says. “A large number end up living a double life.”

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #4:
      I disagree, it’s not just about style; it’s about substance.

      I read the remarks as saying that fancy vestments and other finery are okay, but don’t be afraid to get them dirty to do the real work of God, which he says is working for the good of others. I would agree that the work he refers to applies to both clergy and laity. But the work is substance and takes precedence over the ‘style’.

      His approach is gentle – even pastoral as you note, but his words are clear.

      1. @Charles Day – comment #8:
        I don’t disagree, the style is different, the substance though is the same, perhaps his style is more consistent with the substance.

  5. He broke down church hierarchies that he believed distracted priests from the work of evangelizing. He ended a system of perks whereby priests were given successively more-desirable parishes in richer neighborhoods….. He frowned on careerist priests and discouraged many from studying or taking posts at the Vatican…He approved very few such requests, a decision that disappointed some priests under his watch. Staff of The Wall Street Journal, The (2013-04-16). Pope Francis: From the End of the Earth to Rome (Kindle Locations 882-886). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

    These actions as Bishop are about the substance of careerism not simply about externals.

    Benedict was aware of careerism and even speculated that perhaps we should go back to the early church practice of not allowing bishops to be transferred. Francis has a solid track record as bishop of not supporting careerism.

    Careerism takes priests and bishops away from ministry (service to others) and promotes self-referential clericalism.

  6. Thanks, Jack esp/ the promoting of self-referential clericalism….Allan’s constant twisting is tiresome and disingenuous. His constant theme over the last two weeks is to *invent* that Francis’s words and statements directed at *clerics* also applies to lay. Nice way of diverting; ignoring that Francis may be calling him to look at himself rather than others, etc.

    ALERT – Francis saying that priests who seek successively more-desirable parishes in richer neighborhoods; careerist, etc. – could this apply to a certain diocese in Georgia and a certain town, Macon?

    And from Allan’s #4 – “Francis warns of the dangers of “rigid religiosity” and “fundamentalism. This type of rigid religiosity is disguised with doctrines that claim to give justifications, but in reality deprive people of their freedom and do not allow them to grow as persons,” he says. “A large number end up living a double life.”

    Geez – all you have to do is compare his own blog (talk about rigidity and fundamentalism) to some of his comments on PTB (again, talk about living a double life).

    What about integrity; consistency; much less hypocrisy – oh yeah, think Francis has addressed hypocrisy also – especially directed at *clerics*

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #6:
      Really, Bill, couldn’t you have just stopped your post at the the end of the first paragraph? I sometimes wish you and Allan would get a playpen for yourselves so you two could tussle this out.

      1. @Joshua Vas – comment #7:
        Joshua – see next comment. Obviously, you don’t mind the Allan opinions that really stretch the imagination.

  7. Clergy cassocks? Who cares? So long as I still get to wear my hat and cape!

    (Though we are wondering: if the Pope himself can see no need for choir dress, surely its days are numbered for everyone else!)

  8. Famed Roman SJ calls Francis ‘profoundly Jesuit’ pope

    This is about substance as well as style. Anyone familiar with the “Spiritual Exercises” of Ignatius of Loyola, Ghirlanda said, will see them reflected in Francis’ concentration on three core themes: the poor, the Cross, and the mercy of God.

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/famed-roman-sj-calls-francis-profoundly-jesuit-pope

    Fr. Miguel Yañez confirmed Ghirlanda’s assessment of the new pope’s palpably Jesuit style. Yañez is from Argentina, and was a novice at the time then-Fr. Bergoglio was serving as the regional provincial.

    “His style as pope was with him even then,” Yañez told the crowd, saying that as provincial Bergoglio emphasized simplicity of life and remaining in close contact with ordinary believers. “He wasn’t interested so much in a theology of liberation as a theology of the people,” Yañez said.

    Yañez also told a vintage Bergoglio story from the period after 1992, when the future pope became an auxiliary bishop in Buenos Aires and visited the seminary. The rector asked the bishop after dinner if he wanted to say a few words to the seminarians, Yañez recalled, and he said yes.

    He then rose and said, “I can wash the dishes tonight.”

    After that, Yañez laughingly added, it became fashionable for the faculty to clear their own plates.

    Francis is about the substance of Christian life interpreted largely through the Jesuit style of life (spirituality). Much of what he says and does is attractive to me since I was a Jesuit novice and Ignatian spirituality forms an important strand of my own spiritual identity. However both Benedictine and Solitary spiritualities form equally important although very different strands.

    We need to cease denying that Francis is different. We have not had many religious Popes and this is our first Jesuit Pope. Perhaps having them all the time would not be a good thing, but I think the Church and World can learn a lot from Jesuit substance and style. Of course if we all lived like Jesuits all the time the Church would be poorer not richer.

    Perhaps one further advantage of having a religious and a Jesuit as Pope might be that it will help (along with Benedicts resignation) to bring the Papacy down from a too lofty pinnacle which invites excessive attention to the Pope’s words and behavior. What is good for the Pope might not be good for everyone. Disagreeing with Pope might become more acceptable for bishops, priests and laity.

  9. Bill, I’m wondering if it isn’t time to stop using Allan as a foil? You have so much to share with the forum without having to keep the rest of us abreast of your latest reactions to something he said or didn’t say. We can evaluate what he says on our own. Hope you don’t take offense.

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #13:
      Okay, Jack. The other Jack did a better job of responding to him. No offense and hope it doesn’t take you too long to *evaluate* what he says.

  10. It seems as though the third “S” – Symbol (in the best sense of that word) – is where Francis is particulary adept, as illustrated in the story passed along by Jack in #12.

  11. @Jeff Rexhausen Symbol (in the best sense of that word) – is where Francis is particularly adept.

    Yes, symbols that not only communicate but transform; and nor only a person but the social structure; and not only in the church environment as the cleaning of the dishes example but also in society as in the following example!

    Father Di Paola hatched a plan to rejuvenate Villa 21– 24. It was a textbook version of Father Bergoglio’s technique of using gestures to help spur broader changes. The young priest decided to bring a new image of his little church’s namesake— Paraguay’s national Virgin, Our Lady of Caacupé— to the barrio…. Father Di Paola figured that because so many in Villa 21– 24 shared Paraguayan descent, perhaps a new statue of the Virgin of Caacupé would bring them together and defuse some of the gang violence. With funding from the archdiocese, he dispatched a group from the villa on a pilgrimage to Paraguay to retrieve a new icon of the Virgin of Caacupé to replace his church’s locally made replica.

    While the group was in Paraguay fetching the Virgin, the priest started walking the streets of the villa— something only a priest could do safely— telling people that the Virgin was coming from Paraguay to the neighborhood. In the process, he built a network of contacts. He also built excitement around an event that had some meaning for everyone. A dramatic welcoming ceremony for the newly arrived Virgin was staged. She floated into the villa on a bamboo raft on a stream that flows through the slum. A cheering crowd gathered.

    And Father Bergoglio held a Mass for the icon— not in the slum but at the grand cathedral in the center of Buenos Aires. Slum children climbed onto high-backed, centuries-old wooden chairs normally filled by Argentina’s elite. The future pope joked about the scene: “Look how far the children from the villa have come!” After the Mass, the procession began the long walk back to the villa. Few realized it, but Father Bergoglio had slipped into their midst. “About halfway there, I realized that he was in the crowd with us, wearing a poncho,” Father Di Paola says. “He does things without making a big fuss.”

    Staff of The Wall Street Journal, The (2013-04-16). Pope Francis: From the End of the Earth to Rome (Kindle Locations 189-206). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

    Notice the careful choreography throughout that empowers the people not the clergy or the bishop! What a great sense of liturgical creativity he seems to bring to the politics of life!

  12. “We priests tend to clericalize the laity,” Francis said. “[We] focus on things of the clergy, more specifically, the sanctuary, rather than bringing the Gospel to the world… A Church that limits herself to administering parish work experiences what someone in prison does: physical and mental atrophy.

    “We infect lay people with our own disease. And some begin to believe the fundamental service God asks of them is to become greeters, lectors or extraordinary ministers of holy communion at Church. Rather, [the call is] to live and spread the faith in their families, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and beyond.”

    The reform that’s needed is “neither to clericalize nor ask to be clericalized. The layperson is a layperson. He has to live as a layperson… to be a leaven of the love of God in society itself…. [He] is to create and sow hope, to proclaim the faith, not from a pulpit but from his everyday life. And like all of us, the layperson is called to carry his daily cross—the cross of the layperson, not of the priest.” – Pope Francis

  13. The pope evinces little preoccupation for externals: “The problem is not whether you wear a cassock, but rather if you roll up its sleeves when you have to work for the good of others,” he says, quoting another priest he respects.

    It’s hard to argue with this. And it brings to mind one anecdote about a French priest in Marseilles I posted on another thread here several weeks ago that is worth sharing again, illustrating that cassocks aren’t inconsistent with rolling up one’s sleeves:

    Why the cassock? “For me” – he smiles – “It is a work uniform. It is intended to be a sign for those who meet me, and above all for those who do not believe. In this way I am recognizable as a priest, always. In this way on the streets I take advantage of every opportunity to make friends. Father, someone asks me, where is the post office? Come on, I’ll go with you, I reply, and meanwhile we talk, and I discover that the children of that man are not baptized. Bring them to me, I say in the end; and I often baptize them later. I seek in every way to show with my face a good humanity. Just the other day” – he laughs – “in a cafe an old man asked me which horses he should bet on. I gave him the horses. I asked the Blessed Mother for forgiveness: but you know, I said to her, it is to befriend this man. As a priest who was one of my teachers used to tell those who asked him how to convert the Marxists: ‘One has to become their friend,’ he would reply.”

    …Later, I glimpse him at a distance, on the street, with that black garment ruffled by his rapid stride. “I wear it,” he told you, “so that I may be recognized by someone I might never meet otherwise. That stranger, who is very dear to me.”

    As with religious habits, the point is to make a clear witness to the world, not to assert a superiority over others. With that dress comes the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one.

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #20:

      I’m a bit worried that the correct context of this quote is being reversed.

      It’s found in On Heaven and Earth, the book coauthored by Bergoglio and Rabbi Skorka. The full quote is:

      I do not have any doubt that we must get our hands dirty. Today, priests no longer wear their cassocks. But a recently ordained priest used to do it and some other priests criticized him. So he asked a wise priest: “Is it wrong that I wear my cassock?” The wise priest answered him: “The problem is not if you wear a cassock or not, but rather if you roll up its sleeves when you have to work for the good of others.”

      The lack of preoccupation with externals is aimed, at least in part, at those obsessed with the young priests wearing of the cassock as being a bad thing. They’re also being told not to worry about whether he wears the cassock if he also rolls up his sleeves.

      1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #23:

        Thanks for the clarification, Samuel.

        There were rumors, circulated in St. Blog’s, that then-Cardinal Bergoglio had cracked the whip on priests who attempted to wear cassocks. I was never able to find any information on the question, so I set it aside…

        But this statement sounds encouraging. A cassock is a good thing, and one expects that the wearer, like Fr.Michel-Marie, will roll up his sleeves and labor in the vineyard.

  14. Gerry Davila : “We priests tend to clericalize the laity,” Francis said. “[We] focus on things of the clergy, more specifically, the sanctuary, rather than bringing the Gospel to the world… A Church that limits herself to administering parish work experiences what someone in prison does: physical and mental atrophy. “We infect lay people with our own disease. And some begin to believe the fundamental service God asks of them is to become greeters, lectors or extraordinary ministers of holy communion at Church. Rather, [the call is] to live and spread the faith in their families, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and beyond.” The reform that’s needed is “neither to clericalize nor ask to be clericalized. The layperson is a layperson. He has to live as a layperson… to be a leaven of the love of God in society itself…. [He] is to create and sow hope, to proclaim the faith, not from a pulpit but from his everyday life. And like all of us, the layperson is called to carry his daily cross—the cross of the layperson, not of the priest.” – Pope Francis

    I think that this is the most perceptive quote I have seen yet from the Holy Father.

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #21:
      It’s a good quote.

      But it exemplifies the life I’ve seen lived by many liturgical ministers. They indeed serve in the world as parents, students, workers, and give witness through this. Their role is nourished and informed by the service they occasionally render at the liturgy.

      On another site, conservatives were crowing about this being a statement of conflict for liberals. I don’t see it that way at all. And with very few exceptions, I don’t see it a problem for lay liturgical ministers either. The statement challenges the entire Church, clergy and laity, to examine and discern what they are doing and why they are doing it. We should all welcome that.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #22:

        But it exemplifies the life I’ve seen lived by many liturgical ministers. They indeed serve in the world as parents, students, workers, and give witness through this. Their role is nourished and informed by the service they occasionally render at the liturgy.

        You seem to say this as if I’ll disagree with it, Todd.

        But my only concern here is the one offered by the Holy Father: Witness is essential from both the laity and clergy (and religious), but these witnesses can be and are distinctive in certain ways. The difficulty is that – let us be candid – too often in the post-conciliar period, there has been a blurring of the boundaries, an over-reaction to the perceptions of clericalism that abounded in the years before the Council.

        Religious habits have a value that we have too easily disregarded in recent years. The clothes do not make the man (or woman), but they do provide a unique and unavoidable witness. Nor do they make clergy or religious superior to the laity – just different in their vocation.

  15. As some will have noticed, Francis was snapped wearing a simple cassock without the usual oversleeves and shoulder-cape, which he’s taken to sporting around the Vatican guesthouse over recent weeks. While a similar model was employed by B16 during his downtime, following Joseph Ratzinger’s 2005 election the now Pope-emeritus tried to wear it in public, but was pressured against doing so by his handlers. (Before their respective ascents to the papacy, both pontiffs primarily made use of capeless cassocks.)

    http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2013/04/buen-dia-del-santo.html

    I suspect many things attributed to B16 were really his handlers. It will be interesting to see to what extent they eventually succeed in handling Francis.

  16. Lest anyone think otherwise, clericalism is not restricted to those who care about vesture and resplendent liturgy. Nor are all priests who care about vesture and liturgy clericalists. I have observed an odious clericalism in quite a clultural variety of priests who have a very priest-centric view of themselves and the world, and a correspondingly subordinate view of those not in ‘holy orders’. To be fair, I have been blessed to know priests of all liturgical stripes who were very truly holy men. The accidents by which one communicates his faith to the world have relatively little to do with the genuineness of that faith, and none, whether he be a ‘Francis’ or a ‘Benedict’, should be judged by those accidents.

  17. An aside concerning clericalism and those with superior notions about themselves:

    No one ever looked up to someone who was looking down on him.

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