A Priestless Church Simply Isn’t Catholic

Robert Sirico
A Priestless Church Simply Isn’t Catholic

James Carroll, the author of this month’s Atlantic’s cover story, “Abolish the Priesthood,” is famous in certain Catholic circles for his bitter denunciations of the Church. To the well-documented renunciation of his own priesthood years ago, Carroll now adds the claim that, by its very nature, the Catholic priesthood is inextricably tied to clericalism (all priests being clerics, of course), and thus to “its cult of secrecy, its theological misogyny, its sexual repressiveness, and its hierarchical power based on threats of a doom-laden afterlife.” He also argues that in its more pristine first centuries, Christianity had no priesthood and no hierarchy, and so was far more egalitarian. Reading Carroll, I find not so much a hatred for the priesthood or the Church more generally, but rather a deep misunderstanding of Catholicism, which has resulted in a conflicted love throughout his public life.