In the wake of the most recent revelations of clergy sex abuse and coverup, many -- including Pope Francis -- have diagnosed clericalism as one underlying disease doing great harm to our Church.

Still, a question remains: How do we rid ourselves once and for all of every form and manifestation of clericalism and its ugly counterpart, patriarchy.  

FutureChurch’s 2019 teleconference series, “Power to the People: from Clericalism to Collaboration” was a significant contribution to the ongoing conversation, seeking the input and advice from top experts well-positioned to help the Church confront and overcome clericalism.

The 8-part series began in January 2019 and continued through October. Nearly 500 Catholics from around the US registered and joined us in these conversations – a sure sign that the People of God are ready for a healthier, holier Church.

The series began with Jesuit priest and journalist, Tom Reese, SJ,  who provided an overview of the clergy sex abuse crisis, assessing the effectiveness of steps that have already been taken, reflecting on the latest developments, and outlining the challenges and opportunities ahead as we seek to move from a culture of clericalism to a culture of synodality in the Church.

In February, Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Boston College School of Theology and ministry, Francine Cardman, Ph.D.,  joined us to present a historical overview of the development of hierarchy and clericalism in the Roman Church, addressing the Church's evolving understanding of charism, office, ordination, and authority; the influence of sacramental theology; as well as the role of secular political realities.

March brought a passionate presentation from canon lawyer, Tom Doyle, who offered invaluable insight from his 35 years of experience working for justice for victim-survivors and their families. Doyle discussed how canon law upholds a clerical system and culture in the Church, which perpetuates a cycle of abuse and coverup. Going into detail, he outlined which canons in particular lay a foundation for clericalism and argued that the entire church structure -- including canon law -- must be radically reformed if the violence and abuse of people and power is to stop.

Kerry Robinson, founding executive director and global ambassador of Leadership Roundtable, joined the conversation in April to put forth a vision of Church finance and resource management, where laity are lead at every level.

In May, assistant professor of theological ethics at Villanova University, Katie Grimes, Ph.D., discussed the model and language of “servant leadership” as one way Catholic bishops deflect the issues but that could also be wielded by the laity to hold them to account.

Sociologist, Michele Dillon, Ph.D., joined us in June to present on the “euphemization of power,” arguing that the hierarchy uses techniques of euphemization and mystification to both downplay the tragedy of the clergy abuse crisis and coverup and to maintain their own power while prohibiting women from leadership and ministerial roles. She also provided us with some effective strategies for identifying and overcoming such euphemization.

Rev. Donald Cozzens, author of the award-winning book The Changing Face of the Priesthood, continued the conversation in September, and approached clericalism from the personal – rather than the structural – perspective.  He outlined specific steps lay people can take in their own communities and with their own pastors to help dismantle a culture of clericalism in the Church through personal relationship.

The series concluded in October with a presentation on Seminary reform from Drs. C. Colt Anderson and Christopher Bellitto. Both former seminary professors, Drs. Anderson and Bellitto discussed their experience as lay people inside the seminary system and their proposals for changing that system which currently serves as a breeding ground of sorts for clericalism.

To listen back to these insightful and helpful conversations, visit