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Pope Francis Warns Priests of the Dangers of Spiritual Worldliness and Clericalism

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In a recent letter addressed to the priests of Rome, Pope Francis issued a solemn warning about the perils of spiritual worldliness, calling it one of the most dangerous temptations facing priests and the Church today. The lengthy letter, dated August 5 and released by the Vatican on Monday, aimed to provide a fraternal encounter with the Roman clergy.

Photo credit: Alberico Bartoccini

Photo credit: Alberico Bartoccini

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
8/7/2023 (9 months ago)

Published in Vocations

Keywords: Pope Francis, letter, statement, priests, vocations, religious, clerics, Catholic, worldliness

Spiritual worldliness, as described by the Pope, is a troubling phenomenon that reduces spirituality to mere appearance, disconnecting it from the true essence of the Gospel. He referenced the insights of theologian and cardinal Henri de Lubac, who saw spiritual worldliness as an even greater threat to the Church than simple moral worldliness, as it corrupts the Church from within by undermining its very principles.

The Pope cautioned that spiritual worldliness can infiltrate the lives of priests through various temptations, such as mediocrity, the pursuit of power and influence, vainglory, and even doctrinal rigidity and liturgical aestheticism. These seemingly pious behaviors may, in reality, be driven by a desire for human glory and personal well-being rather than genuine love for the Church.

Addressing the issue of clericalism, which he described as a specific form of spiritual worldliness, Pope Francis expressed concern about the false impression it gives of priests being superior and privileged, separate from the rest of God's holy people. He considered clericalism an illness that leads to a loss of the memory of baptism and undermines the priestly spirit, service, and care for the people.

The Pope urged the Roman clergy to focus on the example of Jesus crucified, gazing upon His wounds daily to learn selflessness and humility. He stressed that the solution to spiritual worldliness and clericalism lies in returning to the evangelical sources and renewing the Church's spirit rather than simply reforming external ceremonies.

In his letter, Pope Francis also critiqued a "clerical spirit" among the laity, characterized by elitism, possessiveness of ministry, and inward focus, which hinders joy, generosity, and promotes criticism and anger.

To counter these dangerous trends, the Pope encouraged priests to collaborate with the laity in initiating "synodal forms and paths" that would strip the clergy of worldly securities, allowing God's mercy and compassion to reach everyone.

Pope Francis expressed his hope that the Church of Rome would become an exemplar of compassion and hope, with pastors who are always ready and available to bestow God's forgiveness and serve as channels of mercy for the thirsty souls of today. He called for a genuine return to the core values of the Gospel, infused with fresh energies to overcome harmful habits and foster a new spirit in the Church's institutions.

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