Pope Francis Defines Clericalism and Worldliness as Status-Seeking

Aug 28, 2023 | 0 comments

In answer to questions by Jesuits in Portugal, and in a letter to the priests of Rome, Pope Francis has defined worldliness and clericalism as ‘climbing’ or ‘status-seeking’ – a fascination with ‘the temptations of power and social influence’.

A Grandmother’s Wisdom – the Difference between Progressing and Climbing

Asked a question by a Portuguese Jesuit on the temptations of a sexualised society Pope Francis replied:

“I am not afraid of sexualized society. No, I am afraid of how we relate to it. I am afraid of worldly criteria. I prefer to use the term “worldly,” rather than “sexualized,” because the term encompasses everything, for example, the eagerness to promote oneself, the eagerness to stand out or, as we say in Argentina, to “climb.” Remember that those who climb end up hurting themselves!

My grandmother, who was a wise old woman, told us one day, “In life you have to progress, buy land, bricks, a house…” Clear words, they came from the experience of an immigrant. Dad was an immigrant, too. “But don’t confuse progressing,” Grandma added, “with climbing. In fact, he who climbs goes up, up, up, and instead of having a house, setting up a business, working or getting a position, when he is at the top the only thing he shows is his butt.” This is wisdom.


In his Letter on Clericalism and Worldliness the Pope elaborated on this theme:

“They are things I have recalled on other occasions, but I would like to reiterate them, considering them a priority: spiritual worldliness, in fact, is dangerous because it is a way of life that reduces spirituality to an appearance: it leads us to be “traders of the spirit”, men clothed in sacred forms that in reality continue to think and act according to the fashions of the world. This happens when we allow ourselves to be fascinated by the seductions of the ephemeral, by mediocrity and habit, by the temptations of power and social influence. And, again, by vainglory and narcissism, by doctrinal intransigence and liturgical aestheticism, forms and ways in which worldliness “hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church”, but in reality “consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being” (Evangelii gaudium, 93). How can we fail to recognise in all this the updated version of that hypocritical formalism, which Jesus saw in certain religious authorities of the time and which in the course of his public life made him suffer perhaps more than anything else?”

Lay Clericalism

Referring to lay clericalism as ‘frightening’ in his Portuguese interview, the pope also elaborates in his letter:

“Clericalism, we know, can affect everyone, even the laity and pastoral workers: indeed, one can assume a “clerical spirit” in carrying out ministries and charisms, living one’s own calling in an elitist way, wrapped up in one’s own group and erecting walls against the outside, developing possessive bonds with regard to roles in the community, cultivating arrogant and boastful attitudes towards others. And the symptoms are indeed the loss of the spirit of praise and joyful gratuitousness, while the devil creeps in by nurturing complaining, negativity and chronic dissatisfaction with what is wrong, irony becoming cynicism. But, in this way, we let ourselves be absorbed by the climate of criticism and anger that we breathe around us, instead of being those who, with evangelical simplicity and meekness, with kindness and respect, help our brothers and sisters emerge from the quicksand of impatience.”


Pope Francis: Interview with Portuguese Jesuits

Pope Francis Letter to the Priests of Rome on Worldliness and Clericalism.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This