Priest: Clericalism Leaves No Space for True Relationship
Fr Dennis Ongansie CO, Oudtshoorn – Clericalism is a big stumbling block to effective pastoral ministry because it imposes an artificial relationship on the clergy, particularly parish priests, and the Catholic faithful.
As a priest, it can be very irritating when people feel they have to put their best foot forward in Father’s presence, to the point of pretending.
This also prevents us priests from showing our vulnerability, as people perceive us as a caste apart, and expect us to be Super-Christians and masters of the moral life.
Priests can also be made to feel that they belong in the sanctuary and the confessional only, and that that is the extent of their usefulness.
One of my personal experiences as a priest includes finding it very burdensome when, at parish pastoral council meetings, I am made to feel that everything depends on me, whereas most priests would love everyone to realise their shared responsibility for the mission of the Church.
Sometimes though, tempers can rise and seemingly irreconcilable differences need the intervention of the priest to set the tone, reaffirm the bond of charity and the general atmosphere in which the apostolate is discussed and carried out.
Socially, I sometimes allow parishioners to serve me, not out of personal pride and having them serve me simply because I am a priest, but because we are all called to serve.
I look for opportunities to show parishioners that as I am called to serve everyone, so are they.
The hymn “Will You Let Me Be Your Servant?” inspires me.
When I sometimes feel I want to decline being served first, am not given the chance to make myself a cup of tea the way I like it, and am not able to sit at table with my friends because I am assigned to the table with the guests of honour at social events, I remind myself of this hymn.
In order for someone to be a servant, there must be someone who accepts the service and allows that person to serve.
However, I usually soon find a way to show that actually I want to be treated the same as all other guests, without giving offence to the hosts/organisers and the trouble they have gone to.
I am likewise grateful when I am allowed to serve in a human, everyday way. Being part of a religious community affords me ample opportunity to be of service to my confrères, our staff and volunteers.
The younger generation generally tends to question everything, especially those in authority, knows nothing about deference, and can see straight through hypocrisy.
I salute them for their humanity and authenticity.
I am certain that this age group in our Church has long been giving the clericalist mentality a run for its money, and will continue to do so.