Anticlericalism has its benefits. That the modern Church has to a large extent become synonymous with clericalism and the clerical caste is upsetting to say the least. A Jesuit friend summed this up nicely some time ago when he pointed out the fundamentally un-Christian nature of clericalism and the sinfulness of a community that placed the position of the priest over the needs of the people of God. Clericalism has been a canker within the Christian community for at least a millennium, and it has done untold damage inside and outside the Church. This undue reverence for the office of the priest in secular society has deeply hurt this country, and it has brought upon the Church, in more recent times, the fury of an articulate and driven opposition that actively desires the destruction of the Church in its totality. Such is not classical anticlericalism; a natural ingredient of every healthy Christian community that demands to see a more equal collaboration between the clergy and the laity, but is a force from the exterior which without reflection identifies the problems of clericalism with Christianity in general and everything Christian. In Europe it would not be wrong to say that this new anticlericalism is the last acceptable prejudice.

The first wave of this new movement swept over Ireland and Europe some decades ago, and sought by all available means to remove the influence of Christian institutions from the public sphere. Few would argue that this was not altogether a good thing insofar as these institutions were incompetent or abusive. It does happen. What of those that were competent and fruitful? They too became victims of the same assault. Had the pruning targeted only the bad then this movement could be praised as an instrument of progress and betterment, but in its indiscriminate iconoclasm – removing the good with the bad – it has shown that its true motive was always and singularly the destruction of Christian civilisation. That was then. What we have seen now in the economic collapse of this state, with government austerity cutting deep into struggling communities, is that it is all too often the Church alone that remains to help bind up the broken and feed the hungry. Capitalism and the greed of individualism (‘Secularism’) require the complete removal of community – especially faith community – from its theatre of operations. Nothing is more dangerous to this repugnant worldview than a community which teaches its children the grammar of solidarity and love. Second-wave anticlericalism is all about a more direct strike at the Church.

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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