Pope Francis speaks at Synod on Synodality: ‘Clericalism’ defiles the Church

Pope Francis leads the Synod on Synodality delegates in prayer on Oct. 25, 2023.

By Courtney Mares

Pope Francis denounced clericalism and called it a “scandal” to see young priests buying lace vestments at tailor shops in a strongly-worded speech to the Synod on Synodality on Wednesday.

Speaking to an assembly of hundreds of synod members on Oct. 25, the pope said that when clerics overstep their roles and “mistreat the people of God, they disfigure the face of the Church with macho and dictatorial attitudes.”

Pope Francis described the faithful people of God as “patiently and humbly enduring the scorn, mistreatment, and marginalization of institutionalized clericalism.”

“It is enough to go into the ecclesiastical tailor shops in Rome to see the scandal of young priests trying on cassocks and hats, or albs and lace robes,” he added.

“Clericalism is a thorn. It is a scourge. It is a form of worldliness that defiles and damages the face of the Lord’s bride,” he said. “It enslaves the holy, faithful people of God.”

The pope made his speech during the final week of the nearly monthlong synod assembly, where he listened to the interventions of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious sisters, and laypeople speaking about “synodality” and their experiences in the Church.

Pope Francis cited only one delegate’s intervention in his speech — that of Sister Liliana Franco, a Colombian religious sister who was one of 42 women who participated in the Amazon Synod, where she spoke at a controversial tree planting ceremony in the Vatican Gardens.

In his speech, Pope Francis praised the female intuition that led women to approach Jesus’ empty tomb after the Resurrection. He noted that many members of the Church hierarchy received their faith from their mothers and grandmothers, adding that the faith is often transmitted “in a feminine dialect.”

Much of the pope’s speech focused on “the scourge” of clericalism and worldliness, a theme that the pope has been focused on since the start of the synod.

During the first week of the synod assembly, Pope Francis gave each participant a copy of a book that he wrote titled “Santi, non mondani: La grazia di Dio ci salva dalla corruzione interiore” (“Holy, not Worldly: God’s Grace Saves us from Interior Corruption”).

The book is a compilation of a text published by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2005 called “Corruption and Sin” and a strongly-worded letter that Pope Francis wrote to all priests in the diocese of Rome on Aug. 5.

“How naturally we speak of the princes of the Church, or of episcopal promotions as getting ahead career-wise … the worldliness that mistreats God’s holy and faithful people,” Pope Francis said in his synod speech.

The pope added that he was pained to find that some parish offices offer a “price list” for sacramental services, like a “supermarket of salvation” where priests act as “mere employees of a multinational company.”

“Either the Church is the faithful people of God ‘on the way,’ — holy and sinful — or it ends up being a business offering a variety of services,” Pope Francis said.

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