Vatican Insider reports that Pope Francis has abolished the conferral of the Pontifical Honor of “Monsignor” on secular priests under the age of 65. The only Pontifical Honor conferred will be that of “Chaplain to His Holiness,” namely, “worthy priests” who exceed 65 years of age. The Pope’s decision is not retroactive, however. Thus, Monsignors who have not yet reached the age of 65 will not lose their honor, title, and better yet, the red buttons, piping, and cuffs on their cassocks, and fuchsia sash (that is, if they wear cassocks).
The Pope’s objective is to “reform the clergy” and “eliminate careerism” in the Catholic Church.
Many on the Catholic left will hail the move and acclaim it as a positive step in declericalizing the Church, building as it does on Pope Paul VI’s reform in the area of ecclesiastical titles following in the wake of Vatican II.
It took almost 1600 years for many of those honors and titles to creep into the Vatican bureaucracy. Today, they represent a style of Church and ministry that Pope Francis apparently disdains. It’s one many people across the globe also resent. Some say “It’s a Church that Jesus wouldn’t recognize as his own.”
The Motley Monk doesn’t view this “reform” in itself as a positive step. While reforming the clergy and eliminating careerism in the Catholic Church are important and worthy objectives, consider who now bears the brunt of the burden of reform for all of those careerists: the extraordinary, hardworking Father Joe Schlub.
This isn’t a “real” reform. It’s boasts a patina of reform, but doesn’t strike to the heart of the Pope’s real objective: clericalism and careerism in the Catholic Church.
Want real reform?
For a starter, as a bishop and cardinal, Pope Francis asked people to call him “Father,” convinced that this title best reflects the mission entrusted to priests, bishops, and cardinals. Indeed, the Pope is called “Holy Father.” Why not strip future bishops, archbishops, and cardinals of their formal titles (“Your Grace,” “Excellency,” and “Eminence”) and specialized clerical daily apparel that sets them apart from the others (meaning, ordinary Fr. Joe Schlubs). Why should they not also be called “Father” to reflect better their mission as bishops and cardinals? Why should they not also wear typical priestly garb?
Then, too, how about “term limits” for the Vaticanista careerists? Have “Father” work in the Vatican for a specified period of time that can be renewed if necessary and, then, return home to live with the sheep and start smelling like them again.
Now that’s real reform!
Pope Francis first set the personal standard for reform: He wears shoes that practically anyone can purchase at Walmart, has moved out of the Apostolic Palace into an apartment in a hotel, scuttled his Mercedes Benz limousine in favor of a Volkswagen limousine, and drives a 1984 Renault 4 to shuttle about town. Nine months later, the Pope is undertaking a reform of the clergy and the elimination of careerism in the Church.
However, it’s a reform that starts “from the bottom-up.” While Pope Francis himself “walks the talk,” those working for the Pope also need to “walk the talk.” Reforming the upper levels of Church management first would send a clear and unambiguous message to the world that the ordained priesthood in all of its dimensions is not a matter of titles, positions and roles, or apparel of honor but of service to the Church.
The ordinary Fr. Joe Schlubs who desire to become careerists will get the message real fast.
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