Anti-Clericalism - From Fellow Catholics (And How to Answer It)

I’m from the Philippines - a very Catholic country. However many Filipinos are wary of the clergy to the point that sometimes we generalize the actions of one priest or bishop and apply it to other members of the clergy. Because of that reason I hear some fellow Catholics who don’t want to go to Mass because they would expect the priest to be “political” in his homily (in other words the priest being in agreement with some of the Church’s doctrines which they themselves don’t agree on).

There’s this almost inherent antagonism here towards the clergy - even as so far as putting them in a whole different group to show that the laity are more “important” because the laity have a larger portion of the population. It’s a “us-vs.-them”, “those-in-power vs. the people” dynamic that feels a bit communist to be honest (which kind of makes sense since we are a developing country)

A context to understand where I’m coming from:

Anti-clericalism was a tool for our revolutionaries back in the 19th century to gain independence from Spain. During the Spanish colonial era of the Philippines the Church and State were one. There was a culture of corruption both in the colonial government and in the main government in Spain. Incompetent people went into the colonial government to get an easy buck and to have a large influence over people. Since Church and State were one during this time, people treated positions in the Church like governmental positions where they can get more money and influence, rather than what they are actually supposed to be - which is to spread the Gospel and to spiritually administer to the people. As a result incompetent people went into the priesthood and did things contrary to the true goals of the priesthood itself.

Because of this most of our revolutionaries who were from middle-class backgrounds or are rich Intelligentsia (ilustrados as we call them) would go on and attack the clergy as part of their rebellion against Spain. They would paint stereotypes of Spanish colonial priests and bishops as greedy, womanizing hoarders with mistresses (in contrast to Filipino priests who are at least sympathetic towards their fellows) in their writings, most notably in Jose Rizal’s two great novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. The ilustrados had the Enlightenment (surprise, surprise) and the revolutions in Europe as an inspiration for these writings and our own revolution in 1896.

It made sense before when the Philippines was a colony under Spain to paint such stereotypes as part of the nationalist agenda. However as time progress during the American colonial era onwards into the post-war years and now, the painting of these stereotypes eventually evolved into generalizing all members of the clergy, along with the required reading of the works of Rizal in the high school curriculum.

This became stuck in the Filipino psyche - as well as the notion that the Church as a hierarchical institution shouldn’t meddle with politics (or anything if such a notion is to be taken to the extreme) - because it seems that we Filipinos feel that anything that has colonial origins (the Church for example) is threatening our cultural integrity and sovereignty. That post-colonial thinking seems to be stuck with us despite the world becoming globalized - all while loving American culture and listening fervently to Korean pop music. Of course most Filipino Catholics love the Church - but again many of us have this, how should I call, stigma towards the clergy.

I’m assuming Latin America has a similar pattern with their people’s relationship with the Church and a similar formation of the psyche of their societies.

Also I’m quite disturbed - and annoyed - by what this person (a fellow Filipino Catholic) says about the bishops here in the Philippines. Here are some of his/her posts and threads that just annoyed me:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=679698&highlight=Rappler
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=675701
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=9355769&postcount=23
forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=9406356&postcount=73

He/She claims not to attack the clergy, but it seems that there’s a subtle anti-clerical subtext in his/her posts. This also goes with some Filipino Catholics whom I know personally who say they’re loyal to the Church but make such similar subtexts. It’s probably already embedded in the culture I suppose.

Now, I’m not intending to negatively poster-board this person and put him or her to judgment, and I apologize if I did seem to do so (please don’t ban me for this :frowning: ), but I just want to know how to answer such anti-clericalism from fellow Catholics like him/her. I just need your help guys. When does such claims border from simply merely criticizing actions to upright rebellion against the clergy?

Well, I am not sure that it was a goid idea to point out a specific person, esp one who is a member of CAF. Perhaps stating the problem as a more general problem would have been more charitable.

What I do when I see negative blanket statements like that is I try to bring up a counter-example of something good. So if someone says all school principles are just trying to indoctrinate our children, I say, no, some schools really do focus on proper education.

Another thing to do is to suggest possible and appropriate courses of action. The first, of course, is prayer.

I am here in the US, and I wonder how much of the time we have spent griping about the scandal and the money spent would have been better spent in prayer for our priests and bishops? And I wonder how much stronger our priests and bishops might have been if people all along had been praying for them?

One of your links (I got confused and posted ln it) was about s financial problem in which the appropriate action was taken, referral to the Vatican via the Papal Nuncio.

All too often we forget many things: how much priests have already to do, how the hierarchical structure is supposed to work, how important prayer is, and how tye laity is supposed to pitch in and do things and not leave everything to the religous.

Sometimes people grappling with problems like this also need prayer.

(Oh, this is getting long…) I griped about the scandals in the US, but I came to realize that we are supposed to be a family. What happens in a family when a member does something very bad? Does the family simply toss him away? Generally not. They know and love the person and want to help the member to get onto the right path, bit also seeing that some family resources might be needed to help that member.

This was a tough place for me to get to, it took years, but we also have to see these things from a spiritual viewpoint. God allowed these terrible sins to take place to accomplish something in the Church. We are humiliated–what does that mean? It means we end up humble. Did we need to be humbled? I guess so…

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.