Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Priest and lay reform organizations take on clerical culture


The BridgeDialogues brings together laity
and clergy to tackle scourge of clericalism

Pope Francis has repeatedly called out the clerical culture’s danger to the Catholic Church and its faithful, for example, calling clericalism “our ugliest perversion.” Now a nationwide Catholic priests’ organization and two international lay reform groups have developed the BridgeDialogues: Laity & Clergy re-Imagining Church Together to show Catholics what they can do to recognize and prevent this perversion which blocks the laity from achieving their full potential in the Church.

Clericalism has been defined in various ways. In a 2011 report criticizing the Church’s “Study of the Causes and Context of the Sexual Abuse Crisis,” VOTF defined clericalism as “an overriding set of beliefs and behaviors in which the clergy view themselves as different, separate, and exempt from the norms, rules and consequences that apply to everyone else in society.” As the Pope has said, “Clerics feel they are superior, they are far from the people,” and clericalism “can be fostered by priests or by lay people” where the laity show clergy excessive deference because they assume the clergy are morally superior.

The BridgeDialogues is a collaborative effort of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, FutureChurch, and Voice of the Faithful. They offer:

  • prompts for opening up discussions addressing clericalism, including topics such as the subtle ways that language and pastoral relationships can feed clericalism;
  • examples of how you experience clericalism barriers and what you can do about them;
  • tips for how you can guard against clericalism in your own behaviors, while removing the barriers others may use to hold you on “your side” of the lay/clergy divide.

The BridgeDialogues’ many resources are available online at bridgedialogues.org and through the links below: 

Introduction to the BridgeDialogues

The BridgeDialogues Model

Template 1: Introduction to Clericalism and Discussion Questions

Template 2: Prof. Massimo Fagioli on Clericalism (see Vimeo page for link to video), transcript and Discussion Questions