Antidote to Clericalism

In last week’s column we spoke about the need to act now.  “Now is the acceptable time,” to start implementing cures for clericalism, at the core of the sexual abuse crimes in the Church.  The Church has lost her way.  One way to reform the Church so she can once again be a moral authority for Catholics, is to reform the clergy.  Address the sin of clericalism.

Fr Peter Daly, in his NCROnline column of Dec 9, 2019, states, “If we are going to reform the priesthood, we need to tame the demon of ambition and substitute the idea of servant leadership.  Ambition gives oxygen and energy to the evils of clericalism.  It comes from a desire to dominate others.”  (https://www.ncronline.org/news/goodbye-climbers-we-need-restore-servant-leadership-priesthood )

What is the antidote to clericalism?  Fr Daly states above that servant leadership abilities are needed.  These skills are most often taught in a business context.  But you will say, “A diocese/parish is not a business.”  That is somewhat true.  But that does not mean she is completely different from other business enterprises that sell a product.  She is not.  The Church, just like other business enterprises, has a mission: spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.  She has a constituency she serves:  those within and outside her walls.  She has a mighty service to offer:  spiritual, emotional and physical healing that restores humanity to its imago Dei.  She has particular methods, a particular hierarchy and of course she has funds to steward.  With those obvious parallels to other kinds of business enterprises, it then makes sense to look to the business world for leadership skills. 

Ecclesial leadership needs the specific skills of the servant leader.  Unlike a domination leadership style, servant leadership puts the leader in the position of placing his/her employees and volunteers first.  The servant leader is all about providing the employees and volunteers all that they need to accomplish the mission.  To excel in their role.  A real servant leader will be about providing skills, support, and removing obstacles so that those called by God to kingdom work can in fact do that work.  Servant leadership places the leader subordinate to the mission and in service to employees’ needs so the mission can be accomplished.  The concept of Servant Leadership is not new to business.  It seems it is new to ecclesial leaders.  In fact, any type of leadership skill seems foreign to ecclesial settings since, of course, it doesn’t have its roots in the Church but in business.

We can, and should, integrate other disciplines’ treasure of knowledge where it supports the vision of Jesus.  We use accounting methods for financials, we use human resource knowledge to give us rules and regulations on how to manage employees.  Why not business skills in leadership?

If you have an ecclesial body that was not taught servant leadership in college or seminary, we can provide that knowledge for you.  We have a model of servant leadership that has courage, vision casting and detailed servant leadership skills included.  Contact us.  We can help you mold your leadership team into a team that models Jesus’ mode of leadership.


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As I write this, it’s just under a month until the first phase of the Church’s Synod on the process of synodality is to begin.