Pope Francis: Clericalism Began with the Apostles

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

ROME — Christians must embrace the “imbalance” of the gospel rather than trying to put everything in order, Pope Francis said Thursday, which leads to a “dictatorship of functionalism.”

It is an error to try to “fix” things and impose order on the world or the Church, the pope told participants in a diocesan assembly in Rome, adding that it is a “temptation” to think we can “reorganize the city, reorganize the diocese, put everything in order.”

Having everything in order converts the Church into a “museum,” Francis said, which would mean “taming things, taming young people, taming people’s hearts, taming families” and making everything “perfect.”

“But this would be the greatest sin of worldliness and of the anti-evangelical worldly spirit,” he said.

“We have heard about the imbalances of the city, the imbalance of young people, the elderly, families … The imbalance of relations with children,” the pope said. “Today we have been called to embrace the imbalance.”

“We cannot do anything good or evangelical if we are afraid of imbalance,” he said. “We must grasp the imbalance in our hands: this is what the Lord tells us, because the Gospel — I believe you understand me — is an ‘unbalanced’ doctrine. Take the Beatitudes: they deserve the Nobel Prize for imbalance!”

The apostles did not get this, Francis suggested, because they had fallen into the clericalism of right thinking and a desire for order and balance.

Drawing inspiration from the miracle of the loaves and fishes as recounted in Saint Matthew’s gospel, the pope said that the twelve Apostles “became nervous” as it grew late and sought “a way to ‘reorganize’ things,” approaching Jesus and asking him to send the crowds away to find something to eat, because they were in a deserted place.

“This is the illusion of the balance of ‘Church’ people,” he said, “and I believe that clericalism began there: ‘Send the people away, let them go, and we will eat what we have.’”

“Perhaps that is where clericalism began, which is a beautiful ‘balance,’ to organize things,” he said.

We do not need “a beautiful, functionalized diocese,” he said, where “clericalism and functionalism” reign.

The pope says he knows of a diocese that has more employees than the Vatican, and “that diocese is getting further away from Jesus Christ because it worships ‘harmony,’ harmony not of beauty, but of functionalist worldliness.”

“And in these cases we have fallen into the dictatorship of functionalism,” he said. “It is a new ideological colonization that tries to convince us that the Gospel is a wisdom, it is a doctrine, but it is not an announcement, it is not a kerygma.”

“We need the Holy Spirit,” he continued, “and the Holy Spirit gives the table a kick, knocks it over and starts over from scratch,” he said.

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