The time is now to end clericalism

September 24, 2018

The passionate call by The New Mexican (“For the Roman Catholic Church, it’s time,” Our View, Sept. 12) for the Roman Catholic Church to enter a period of radical reform is well-reasoned and highlights debate within the church that has been taking place for a long time.

Something has to be done to protect the children in her parishes. After all, this is a topic about which Jesus is crystal clear. According to Matthew’s Gospel [chapter 18: verses 1-7], when his disciples asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus put a child among them, saying, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Then come these chilling words: “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

As years passed, the larger church rightly included the sexual abuse of children among actions that are intrinsically evil, along with such things as rape and torture. These actions are never good, never right and must be constrained in every way possible. And let me support what the editorial says about other faith communities such as mine facing the same challenge. We do.

I wish the editorial had said more about getting at the roots of clericalism, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a policy of maintaining or increasing the power of a religious hierarchy.” Simply put, religious leaders often can’t resist the temptation to cover for one another in times of great peril. Courageous clergy and laity must put a stop to this.

Hafiz, a Persian poet of the 14th century, disarmingly says, “The Beloved sometimes wants to do us a great favor/Hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.” When offensive acts are committed against children by clerics, the police need to be notified immediately, and the buddy system now too prevalent needs to be replaced by a healthy mix of laity and clergy who will move decisively to keep parishioners out of harm’s way.

I believe God is shaking the nonsense out of our religious communities. Hafiz observes that when this takes place, “Most everyone I know quickly packs their bags and hightails it out of town.” For our children’s sake, we must not let this happen.

The Rev. Jim Brown is a retired Presbyterian minister living in Santa Fe.

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