Zollner Paternalistic Attitude Clericalism
Title: Top anti-abuse expert says ‘paternalistic’ attitude is worse than clericalism
Author: Elise Ann Allen
Date: 13 MAR 2020
ROME – German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, one of the Catholic Church’s leading experts in child protection, has said that more dangerous than clericalism in the clerical abuse crisis is a “paternalistic” attitude within the Church that both devalues laypeople and puts clergy on a pedestal.
While clericalism has become a hot-button issue under Pope Francis and while it certainly contributes to the problem of abuse, “What I think is a deeper problem is the paternalistic attitude that exists,” said German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner in an interview with Crux.
The problem with this attitude, he said, “has two sides: Both with those in the hierarchy not involving the gifts of a wide variety of faithful, and on the other hand, we have laypeople who enable a paternalistic attitude by believing bishops to be omniscient and having the power to affect immediate change.”
This is not referring to accountability for crimes, he stressed, adding that, “What I want to affirm is that every baptized person is co-responsible for the holiness of the Church and needs to be prayerful about that and take action so that the community of the Church is ever more a witness to the Gospel.”
Head of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Zollner is among those supervising new task forces helping bishops’ conferences develop and adopt guidelines for abuse prevention.
Clericalism and a skewed understanding of the priesthood and how they contribute to the Catholic Church’s clerical abuse crisis was originally on the list of discussion topics for a conference Zollner had organized exploring the issue from a theological perspective, but which was cancelled due to the global coronavirus outbreak.
Originally scheduled for March 11-14, the so-called “theological laboratory” was titled “Doing Theology in the Face of Abuse,” and was focused on five topics:
- The image of the Church that conveys and betrays Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus in ecclesiology
- Sin and crimes: Punishment and reconciliation: Doing justice for victims, perpetrators, and the entire Church
- Priesthood – Ministry of service vs. Clericalism: Rethinking the sacrament of orders
- Sexuality and Vulnerability: Re-examining sexual ethics and inhibiting abuse
- Church and World: The Church’s mission as guiding our reform
However, the event was cancelled amid a swath of government restrictions on schools and universities in a bid to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Italy.