Michael L. PAPESH, Clerical Culture: Contradiction and Transformation. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2004. Pp.194. ISBN 0-81463001-4.
Reviewed by Kafkazli SEYED JAVAD, M. M., University of Bristol, 12 Woodland Road, BS8 1UQ, Bristol, England.

The work consists of three parts (1. Focusing the issues; 2. The contradictions; and, 3. Considerations toward transformation) and four appendices. In Clerical Culture: Contradiction and Transformation Papesh helps us understand the contemporary clerical system and its current conditions. His narrative describes the origin and the formation of the clerical culture, as well as the contradictions in which the contemporary clerical system is trapped. He calls for a spiritual approach to cultural transformation through leadership in holiness, love, and justice. He embarks on this path with a narrative where both problems and solutions could be found within the matrix of clerical culture, as the latter is an embodiment of all what Christianity should have been ideally but fell short of actually. He sets to define the problem of the clerical culture in U. S. by going through the history of spiritual growth within the framework of the Christian Churches in the West. This enables him to come up with a functional definition of both "culture" and "clerical culture;" it will be of assistance to him in his critical appraisal of the practical theology within American Catholicism, in general, and of the sexual abuse in particular. In the second part of the book, Papesh focuses on the contradictions that the clerical culture may encounter in its interaction with society at large. He approaches this problem with a critical analysis of the history of seminaries which have greatly influenced the formation of the priesthood, as we know it today. In his view, there are fundamental contradictions that have come to pose great challenges by generating a fractured clerical culture. Priests, ministers and others within church were formed to bring a new spiritual perspective to the world; without overcoming these contradictions there is little hope for the future.

In the third part, Papesh offers practical considerations for the transformation not only the clerical system but also the worldview that underpins our understanding of existential questions and our spiritual yearnings. The cultural transformation Papesh has in mind is based upon a "spiritual approach." Although he presents a very pessimistic picture of the clerical culture nevertheless he believes that the transformation of the Catholic Church in U.S. is possible. But its possibility hinges upon how serious we are about the spiritual heritage that envelops the very existence of the Church. Although the author mentions explicitly that he is not an anthropologist, sociologist, or ethnographer, his work is an excellent example of empirical research based on good observation and deep reflection. His work is also an attempt to come to terms with the daunting responsibility of being (or claiming to be) an authentic representative of Jesus Christ. Or to put it differently, this is a work that attempts to depict the dangers and hazards of religious life in a world that does not offer much time for personal as well as communal reflection and communion. This work could have gained from a brief history of "clerical culture" as a religious phenomenon found in other major world religions. However this is a significant piece of reflexive research for those interested in the clerical state and the contemporary church.


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