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Liturgical Press


The Death of Priesthood

George B. Wilson, SJ

Clericalism SEE INSIDE

ISBN: 9780814629451, 2945

Details: 176 pgs, 5 3/8 x 8 1/4 x 3/8
Publication Date: 01/01/2008
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Searching for answers in the midst of the sexual abuse crisis in the church, many blamed the clerical culture. But what exactly is this clerical culture? We may know it when we see it, but how can we’whether clergy or laypeople’go about dismantling it and putting in place a new, healthy culture? George Wilson has spent decades working with organizations to help them discover, and often recover, their foundational calling. He is also a Jesuit priest engaged in the lives of congregations. In Clericalism: The Death of Priesthood he brings together both capacities and gives his sense of the challenges facing the church.

As members of the church, Wilson maintains, we are all responsible for creating a clerical culture. And we are also responsible for that culture’s transformation. Clericalism aids this transformation by helping us examine some underlying attitudes that create and preserve destructive relationships between ordained and laity. After looking at the crisis and establishing where we are now, this book challenges us with concrete suggestions for changing behaviors. We are lay and ordained, but all baptized into the royal priesthood of 1 Peter 2:9, all called to spread the Gospel and do the work of God’s love in the world. Ultimately, this is a hopeful book, looking for the restoration of a genuine priesthood, free of clericalism, in which we become truly united in Christ.

George B. Wilson, SJ, is an ecclesiologist and organizational facilitator. His other books are Blessing Prayers and Church Leadership: Training in the Ethical Use of Power (Treehaus Communications) and Patches ( His articles can be accessed at

ISBN: 9780814629451, 2945

Details: 176 pgs, 5 3/8 x 8 1/4 x 3/8
Publication Date: 01/01/2008


Instructive, challenging and even moving in its depth of insight and hope.

Fr. Wilson has done a valuable service for us in writing this book and I recommend it highly to pastors, religious and laity alike. Wilson brings not only an extensive experience in organizational systems, but also brings wisdom and pastoral sensitivity that make this book one that your will come back to.

In this beautifully written and insightful book, Father Wilson explores the clerical culture that has led to, among other things, the clergy sexual abuse crisis, and what we might all do to bring about a healthy transformation in the Church.
Catholic Digest

. . . insightful and practical. I continue to reflect on his definitions and strategies for conversion. He set out to help us rethink our understandings and usage of the common terms that describe our ministers. He succeeded.
Seattle Theology and Ministry Review

I cannot recommend this book too highly to the widest possible readership for the rejuvenation of all of us who, like it or not, are involved by our baptism in the priesthood of Christ.
The Way

This is a book that should be read and discussed by Catholics in the pews, priests, and those who aspire to be priests.
Catholic Books Review

If Wilson's work reminds us that there is no cheap grace, no casual way to overcome the deleterious effects of clerical culture, it reminds us also that there is grace, that there is hope. The grace and hope are gifts, but the appropriation of them is a project, a project for us all. In identifying the need for, the possibility of, and the steps to such an appropriation, George Wilson's book offers a significant service not simply to the church's ordained priesthood, but to the mission of the church in the world.
The Australasian Catholic Record

This very readable book offers much food for thought and discussion especially for mixed groups of ordained and laypersons who need to work in tandem if cultural transformation is to take place.
Prairie Messenger

[A] thorough analysis and diagnosis of the problem and a down-to-earth, practical offer of how to counter its effects. . . . [I]t is fitting to recommend this book as a very helpful step towards the reconciliation needed in the Roman Catholic Church itself.
Human Development

Father Wilson has performed a very important service for the whole Church. Here is a book Catholics have been seeking.
Inland Register

A big thank you for the encouragement your book has given me.
Rebecca O'Meara, Richmond, North Yorkshire, England

This book has two strengths: great communicative power and practical suggestions. . . . The book is fine, prophetic, courageous and much to the point. It diagnoses with clarity and confidence a painfully neuralgic reality of the church, even as important figures in the church's hierarchy continue to move clearly in the wrong direction.

This is a book that should be read and discussed by Catholics in the pews, priests, and those who aspire to be priests.
Catholic Books Review

Wilson calls for a re-think of relationships in the Church: enhanced consultation with the laity and more shared responsibility, a dismantling of the disciplina arcani on the part of priests, with its assumptions of superiority, much more sharing of vulnerability, much more exploring of the Gospel together. He calls for Sunday liturgies where the priest makes the experience one of shared prayer, not duty done; and acknowledgement that lay people sometimes make good spiritual directors. The pastor has to trust and respect others and stop being, or pretending to be, omnicompetent and omniscient. The parishioner in the pew must also change, as much as the priest in the presbytery: expectations need to change. . . . Wilson does it cogently and well, if provocatively: not hysterically but wisely. I enjoyed this book and I recommend it.
The Tablet

George Wilson's many years of helping religious organizations understand how human systems work enable him to analyze institutions and people with unique and powerful lenses. The `sad reality of clericalism,' he shows, is a `seduction that carries its own allure for every last one of us, ordained or lay.' He skillfully explores the complex cultural and linguistic roots of clericalism and the resulting pedophile scandal without resorting to theological or psycho-social jargon. He lays out a theology of priesthood and a vision of a transformed church that come straight out of the gospels and that are the responsibility of all.
Loretta Jancoski, PhD, Dean Emerita, School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University

Jesuit George Wilson has the eyes and heart of a good pastor. He sees everything about the Church and the Priesthood with X-Ray vision and an understanding heart. That remarkable combination allows him to view the deadening effects of the clericalism that makes priests into princes and to offer gentle comprehensive advice on how to help a new generation to become servants again. Learned in history, theology, and organizational theory, Father Wilson provides just the right book at just the right time. He does not thunder like a prophet when, for example, he analyzes the structural and human failures that led to the clerical sex abuse scandal. He is rather like a good confessor who hears the depths of a sinner's confusion and offers gentle absolution and hard edged advice for renewal and reform.
Eugene Kennedy, Professor Emeritus, Loyola University Chicago

At the time of a serious challenge to the priesthood this book of George B. Wilson, SJ, presents an excellent and positive process for both the laity and the ordained to address this challenge for a renewed Church. I strongly recommend this specific effort.
Robert S. Pelton, CSC, University of Notre Dame

This valuable and timely book provides a much needed education in the concept of clergies and the cultures associated with them. By using the idea of the sexual abuse crisis unfolding as a five act drama, the author is able to clarify the complex interactions of several different clergies and their cultures. Based on this analysis and spiritual reflection, he explores the potential for a renewed priestly community that is the Church. A `must read' for anyone concerned about the future of the Church.
Andrew and Loretta Favret, Former members of Teams of Our Lady, Bethany Beach, Delaware