Pope Francis: Clericalism linked to fixation on sexual morality

Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Nov. 8, 2017. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

In a meeting with Jesuits in Mozambique earlier this month, Pope Francis said that clericalism is a direct result of rigidity and linked to a fixation on sexual morality.

“One dimension of clericalism is the exclusive moral fixation on the sixth commandment,” Pope Francis said according to the Jesuit-run journal La Civilta Cattolica transcript published online Sept. 26.

“We focus on sex and then we do not give weight to social injustice, slander, gossip and lies. The Church today needs a profound conversion in this area,” the pope said.

“Once a Jesuit, a great Jesuit, told me to be careful in giving absolution, because the most serious sins are those that are more angelical: pride, arrogance, dominion… And the least serious are those that are less angelical, such as greed and lust,” he explained.

Pope Francis said: “Clericalism has a direct consequence in rigidity. Have you never seen young priests all stiff in black cassocks and hats in the shape of the planet Saturn on their heads? Behind all the rigid clericalism there are serious problems.”

The pope added that he recently had to intervene in three dioceses due to “problems that expressed themselves in these forms of rigidity that concealed moral problems and imbalances.”

“On the other hand, great shepherds give people a lot of freedom. The good shepherd knows how to lead his flock without enslaving it to rules that deaden people,” he said.

“The shepherd has the ability to go in front of the flock to show the way, stay in the middle of the flock to see what happens within, and also be at the rear of the flock to make sure that no one is left behind,” he said. “Clericalism, on the other hand, demands that the shepherd always stays ahead, sets a course, and punishes with excommunication those who stray from the flock.”

As examples of clericalism, Pope Francis told stories of a priest who refused to bless a woman’s rosary and a Jesuit provincial who wrote a letter with a future date claiming to have discerned a decision for a long time.

“Clericalism is essentially hypocritical,” he said.

During papal trips Pope Francis often stops to meet with Jesuits in the region. On his Sept. 4-10 trip to sub-Saharan Africa, the pope had private meetings with members of the Society of Jesus in both Mozambique and Madagascar.

In a one-hour meeting on Sept. 5 with 24 Jesuits from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Portugal, Pope Francis answered questions about apostolate, proselytism, clericalism, xenophobia, and his experience of God as pope.

On this last subject, Pope Francis said: “My relationship with the Lord has not changed, apart from a greater sense of responsibility and a prayer of intercession that has spread to the world and to the whole Church.”

“I commit the same sins as before. My election as pope did not convert me suddenly, so as to make me less sinful than before. I am and I remain a sinner. That’s why I confess every two weeks,” Pope Francis said.


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]