Josef Clemens was born in 1947 in the Archdiocese of Paderborn belonging wins and placed his Abitur at the Archbishop's Collegium marianum in Neuss from. After studying Catholic theology as a seminarian at the Collegium Germanicum in Rome he received on 10 October 1975 in the Roman church of St Ignatius of Loyola in Campo Marzio by Hermann Cardinal people the priesthood. After Vicar activities in Bielefeld- Schildesche ( 1976-1977 ) and Dortmund (1977 to 1980) he was released for further study (1980 to 1984) and in 1983 received his doctorate at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Moral Theology. He then worked 19 years as a private secretary to the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI. Pope John Paul II conferred him on March 17, 1989 the honorary title of Chaplain of His Holiness.
Clemens was appointed by John Paul II on 12 February 2003 for undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. On 25 November 2003 he was appointed titular bishop of Segermes and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. On January 6, 2004, he donated Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in St. Peter's Episcopal ordination. He is one of the four high-ranking German - Vatican bishops. He was also appointed to the Presidential Committee of the Family Council in early 2005. On September 24, 2013 was confirmed by Pope Clement Francis in his office as Secretary of the Council for the Laity, the confirmation was renewed on 6 February of the following year.
Josef Clemens was a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity organizer of the XX. World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne. For his commitment to this major global event, he was awarded the Grand Cross of Merit of the German Federal President Horst Köhler; the award was made on 19 January 2007 by the German Ambassador to the Holy See, Hans -Henning Horstmann, in Rome.
- 2000: Grand Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
- 2008: Grand Decoration of Honour with Star of the Republic of Austria
- 2005: Great Federal Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany