Sunday 19 March 2017

Clergy Take Care; Laity Beware

This post is to compact the previous post, ‘Laity Beware’ and to underline the fact that since I have contacts the length and breadth of the country via Catholic organisations and social media, it is not advisable for readers to enter into speculation as to the Diocese, parish and individuals concerned. In brief the facts of my post were as follows:

  • ‘X’ was a long-standing catechist under two former parish priests
  • ‘X’ had taught the children that although it was allowable to receive Holy Communion on the hand the norm is to show God respect by receiving on the tongue, offering this to the children as something they might like to do for God. In ten years no child had declined, but some parishioners were unhappy that the norm was being presented.
  • ‘X’ met with their new pastor and was told to continue his/her preparations for providing the First Communion preparation course but then had his/her initial meeting with parents cancelled from the pulpit without explanation on the day the meeting was announced in the Bulletin.
  • ‘X’, on querying this with the pastor after Mass, was told the pastor would ‘get back on that’, but didn’t do so.
  • ‘X’ was covertly excluded from the First Communion preparation programme, only discovering it had actually begun when the children were presented at Sunday Mass some weeks later.
  • To avoid public dispute and wounding of the pastor, ‘X’ wrote to him privately, asking the reason for his/her furtive exclusion and having his/her first preparation meeting publicly derailed at Mass. ‘X’ received a reply of three to four lines saying ‘your concerns have been noted’ but making no response to those concerns.
  • When at an open meeting of the parish a parishioner stated the pastor had been ‘receiving hassle’, the pastor said it had all come about because he had spoken to ‘X’ (naming ‘X’) about First Communions saying to continue on but had now decided that ‘was not for the best’.
  • The Bishop was present at this open meeting and did not defend the good name of ‘X’ at any point. His only comment was that ‘more people need to be involved now’, thereby allowing the impression that ‘X’ had been monopolising lay roles. 

‘X’ felt as though s/he had been on the receiving end of prejudice and poor handing by the clergy, thus the stated purpose of the post remains: to advise clergy taking up new appointments -and Bishops who make those appointments:

Pastors should take a year or more to get to know the personalities in any new appointment so as to avoid making changes on the strength of tittle-tattle (be it from teachers, medics or other persons who, despite having professional qualifications, remain subject to the self-interest we call sin). Failure to do this means the pastor can be being drawn into personality clashes and/or attempts by individuals to achieve prominence/dominance (the need to be ‘big fish’ -but in a very small pond!)
Bishops should avoid being drawn into such dynamics early on and becoming the proverbial sledgehammer.

Bishops and Pastors might ask themselves if those who have the pastor’s ear have a history of complaining about former pastors, as it may indicate they are now taking the opportunity with a weaker pastor, to monopolise lay roles themselves and to re-make the parish to their own liking, thereby making of the pastor (at worst) their puppet, or at best their obedient child/servant, with consequential removal of his integrity.


  1. Andrew,
    The 'new pastor' is probably trying to get to know the parish by listening to those he sees as 'professional' simply because they have professional qualifications/responsible occupations. He maybe lacks the confidence to learn about his parish by observation rather than by hearsay. Life must be very hard for him since he will always be pulled in two directions by operating this way: he will always be unable to avoid offending one set of people or the other. The added pastoral problem is he is not offending folk because of what he had learned from his observations but acquired by hearing (usually called 'gossip', which always arises from having an axe to grind; there is always a self-serving purpose).

  2. Yes father, I'm sure those who recounted this scenario to me, and I know I in posting about it, do not intent to cause the new pastor any pain or upset. The intention was only to educate the clergy and stimulate in those involved a humble reflection on their actions (and attitudes?)
    God Bless you.

  3. 'Your concerns have been noted' struck a curiously resonant note; see here:


  4. Where did this idea come from that a pastor should wait a year before making changes? Who's the leader here, him or the congregation? If something abusive is going on would he wait?

    I think this is a novelty in Novus Ordo parishes. We have had 5 FSSP priests over the years, and each one has made changes quickly. We obey him because we think of him as our spiritual Father, and we know he has our souls in mind when he tells us we must change - grant you, most of these changes have been fairly minor, like Mass time tweaks, but even so any squawks and Father puts his foot down. Our parish is growing by leaps and bounds by the way.

    1. Thank you Daughter of Mary.
      The idea of not changing anything for a year was given to us in seminary so as help us get to know the parish and help the parishioners get to know us and not disturb the folk and thereby set up antagonisms. If the people had not been taught that we were their as their servants (in the secular sense rather than serving by teaching, sanctifying and governing) they would simply accept things, but they have been taught over about priests as servants in a distorted fashion. Thank God you have an FSSP parish, and pray for the Novus Ordo communities.
      God Bless.


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