Thomas Groome is one of the signs of hope in the Catholic Church. He teaches at Boston College,  speaks at religious educator conferences, works on the editorial board of a catechetical publishing house and continues to publish in religious education. Among Catholic educators he is lauded as a visionary and leader. Among the less well-educated, Catholic, conservative internet communities he is depicted as a corruptor of Catholic Truth. Why? Perhaps because he is not a hater of women or gays. Or perhaps because he encourages Catholics to think critically about important issues and not abdicate that responsibility to the clergy and heirarchy. Or maybe because he has the temerity to criticise the culture of clericalism that currently reigns.

For all of these reasons he is a hero. Below is an excerpt from an interview in which he expresses his views on clericalism.

 Catholic New Times, Nov 16, 2003 by Ted Schmidt

I asked Groome at breakfast what he believed were the “thought patterns” we had to rise up against to become “tomorrow’s Catholics.”

Chuckling at this early morning cut to the chase, he did not dodge the question. “One of the obvious ones I am going to address with the teachers today is clericalism, the whole clericalist culture which has become inimical to authentic priesthood. It is anything but the priesthood model of Jesus Christ ,who came not to be served but to serve. There is a whole elitist, pedestalized ideology of preference, deference, accepting that there is a real ontological difference between the ordained and the baptized.

Certainly this pope has augmented it and heralded it. Read his Holy Thursday statements on priesthood. They all champion clericalism. It is an exaggerated and inflated sense of priesthood, rather than seeing this ‘holy orders’ as helping maintain good relations in the community, which the old sacramental name meant.

The Greek hierarchy does not refer to the level of command on a power pyramid but rather to a ministry of helping a Christian community work well together–” holy order.”

“Too often it has become an elitist sect, clique or club that is imposed on the Christian community. It militates against the authentic priesthood of the ordained which I deeply value and the priesthood of all believers. It kills both. A structural change is needed to help the demise of clericalism but also we need a change of ideology, a change of outlook, a change of consciousness.

The scandal in the Boston area is one of the best examples of debunking clericalism that we’ve had in a long time. However, it is sad to see it come that way. In a sense the pope’s exaggerated and inflated clericalist ideas are part of this scandal. Not only did it happen on his watch, but he created an ethos around priesthood. So when the scandals began to be evident, the bishops’ tendency was to cover them up. You could not allow these to become public because this is not what the Holy Father understood by priesthood. It is all a Potemkin village, a fake, a sham. It’s the elephant in the living room which Rome won’t address.”