When we hear about religious leaders who lord it over people, we might picture some priests who carry themselves as though they were something special.
That puts me in mind of how the Church adopted “clericalism.” Wanting to recall what I read about that, I Googled the question, “How did the Catholic Church adopt clericalism?”
By bad luck, the only answer my computer would give was something I wrote myself. It was this.
“By 450 a.d. Europe was overrun by Arians who said that Jesus could not be the Son of God. After several generations when the Church was barely managing to stand up to the Arian tribes, a fresh German nation, the Franks, came into the valley of the Rhine. Their King Chlodwech (also known as Clovis) married a Catholic girl who convinced him that by accepting Christianity, he could become another Constantine.
“At Christmas of 496 Chlodwech and his Franks received Baptism from Bishop Remigius of Rheims. It was an immensely joyous occasion, but Remigius and his priests found that their alliance with the Franks had them facing a social problem.
“With the Franks, as with all nations under Feudalism, there was no place for commoners. Any man with an inherited title would possess lands and serfs, while any man without an inheritance was a serf, and he slept with the pigs. The priests and bishops, who had no inheritances had no standing.
“Then, in 500 someone came up with a scheme for elevating the bishops and their priests. The plan had each of them, finely attired, appearing before the nobles to declare, “I have an inheritance. My inheritance is the Lord.”
“An oddity of those times was that their word for an inheritance was clerc. From that the bishops and priests came to be called “clerics.” That innovation altered the structure both of Feudalism and of the priesthood. In making a place for the bishops and priests, the new clerical state became part of Feudalism. In time the social tier of the clerics came to be recognized as the First Estate.
“The ruling class among the Franks began demanding that the clergy take on the superior ways proper to their high estate. As the French say, “Noblesse oblige.” So clerics came to be known as Reverend, Very Reverend, and so forth. They had to wear robes befitting their station. This brought about a conflict in the hearts of the priests. At the same time they were asking to be addressed as very reverend, they could hear Jesus telling them not to lord it over people.”