On The Dangers Of Clericalism

The year was 2018 and the fight to stop abortion from coming into Ireland was in full swing. That winter I was asked by the local priest if I’d be interested in taking on the task of driving around the advertising van that it would be a paid job independent of the Church. I didn’t think much about it because the 600 euro a week was much better than the 400 I was currently on. The job was temporary and only for a few weeks.

He’s a lovely priest with a head full of knowledge but from the moment I’d met him, I thought he was a bit of a people pleaser. It was something I noticed about him. He’d done a lot of pro life work in the Church and sweated buckets trying to bring people to the faith, I’ve great admiration for him.

You see, Priests do this thing where they try to get on everyone’s good side to try and convert them. They end up spreading themselves thin and run the risk of upsetting people doing that. The reason for this is because if you’re willing to sacrifice the truth to appease and save one soul, you can in the process alienate and lose the person who strongly disagrees with your approach.

Therefore when it comes to sacrificing the truth like St.Paul often did in order to convert and please the other, lots of reflection and discernment is needed as to how that will impact others who notice your behaviour and get disgusted by it. Therefore there are times when you absolutely must tell a person the naked truth.

The van in question happened to be very wide. I’d never driven such a wide vehicle before in my life. But I’m daring enough, for 600 quid a week to give anything a go. I hop in and because my father is experienced in driving wide vehicles take him with me for the spin the first day. On coming back to the yard I back it in to make it easier to get out. The gates are so tight that for a beginner like me I was sweating buckets.

I decided to make life easy for myself by parking it directly across from their Catholic school in a sort of space that makes it much easier for me to get out. I get away with this for a few days before the priest comes over and explains that the next time I come and park I should back it all the way up the alley away from the school windows. I noticed right away it was because the teachers and parents were complaining about the imagery of pro life stuff on the van which was only a pic of a kid with down syndrome.

But the priest, under the pressure from the parents who may have their kid in a Catholic school but are very much pro abortion, asked me to move the van. It irritated me to begin with but I also reflected on the fact that it being further up the alley could protect it from vandals so I agreed. Then I park it up the alley and I back it in so it’s easier to get out. But lo and behold he asks me to park it yet again so that the picture of the child with down syndrome is facing the other way. He explained that a kid with down syndrome attends the school and his mother has complained about the image.

That was it, I lost my cool that day and I went out with the van for an hour and I drove it back. I handed the keys to reception and let them have their job. I knew that those paying me to do the job would take his side because they were good friends. The thing about tight knit groups is that you’re considered the stranger and because of their love for their priest and friend, they will hang you in order to protect their buddy.

I said that to myself in the van on the way back. “Now you know they’re going to hang you and protect him because of the friendship”. But I didn’t care because for me the truth in this instance was more important than earning 600 euro a week. I really needed the money, but my conscience just wouldn’t allow me to associate with someone like that. In the end he gained for himself the good praise of the teachers and this woman, but he lost me (not that I’m worth saving).

When I did call them to explain what was going on, they wouldn’t accept and like I foretold they saved him and hung me instead. The person who did hang me even had this priest say her wedding. I knew then that it was a form of clericalism I was witnessing. It’s where the priest is your best mate, and it’s very difficult to take your best mate to task on anything. That’s how the sex abuse in the Church went on for so long because of behaviour like that.

You have to be very careful about forming friendships with priests because it’s all too easy to end up sheltering them from any imperfections they tend to exhibit. At the same time, I’ve learned my lesson coming into Catholic based groups that are sort of like a family. I need to always be aware of the fact that I’m a stranger to them, and while I’m useful to them for the time being, there’ll come a time when they’ll discard of me if it means protecting one of their own.

I learned my lesson that day and I write this post so that you can also watch for this spirit of clericalism.

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