Thursday, August 25, 2016


Not too long ago we went from permanent pastorates to term limits in our diocese.  I was on the committee.  One of the points I bought up was that the reason there are two methods (you may have one or the other in a diocese, not one for some and one for others) is that they both come with their own set of problems.  Neither is particularly better than the other.  With one there is a particular set of difficulties and advantages and likewise with the other.  So today we have what we have and while it cleared up a lot of difficulties in the diocese, we are faced with a whole new set.

Many people would like to see a more Protestant form of choosing a pastor: that of a board at any given parish hiring and firing the priest.  Once again, that would mean some great advantages and some disadvantages.  One of the (depending on who you are this is either a dis or an advantage) is this: because a pastor does not have to worry about teaching and preaching about something that pleases a board, he may be more daring.  If a parish has a large percentage of euthanasia proponents, for example, he need not fear for his livelihood preaching that older Americans are people with dignity and rights too and should be treated as such..

Leading a parish, in some ways, is not much different than being the mayor of a town.  There are decisions that you make that you know will leave 10% ecstatic, 10% furious, and most the rest just fine.  Sometimes you weigh popular demand, sometimes you weigh Church teaching, sometimes you guess and you try to remember that the worst thing is not that someone might be angry because if they are angry, they are still invested.

It is an imperfect world and all of our human institutions, even those inspired by God Himself, are imperfect and are incapable of pleasing everybody so you try not to take it seriously when you’ve not pleased everyone.


Nan said...

Protestant churches are their own entities. The Catholic Church is a top down structure. Priests promise obedience to the Bishop at ordination, not to the parish council! It's scandalous that Catholics think it should be any other way.

Anonymous said...

Father, I think we should be obedient to the Bishop and the Church in every way. What is the point of going to the trouble of calling ourselves Catholic otherwise?

But I also think pastors should listen to the concerns of parishioners and not simply have their own agenda. Each parish has unique strengths and weaknesses and needs. Every parish seems to have its own personality and charism. Every challenge is not always resolved by cookie-cutter responses.

As a former member of my parish council, I do not think parish councillors should be "yes men" all the time. Sometimes we need to challenge our good pastors to think outside of the box, and to bring concerns of parishioners to his attention. Maybe that is why I was taken off council!

Fr. V said...

TAKEN off? Ha! Pretty extreme.

You are correct of course but I do understand the difficulty. A priest is evaluated by individuals and groups of people on an official level and unofficial level from the moment he enters the seminary. Sometimes it is nice to have Yes men around you that help enact your vision. But you are correct - where will the growth be? From where will the new insight come? I know I've been rotten in this area from time to time.

I remember my home pastor. I loved him - even took my confirmation name after him - but I new how to read his moods and when to ask for the keys to the gym and when to just say hello - amazingly just like any dad.

If I had any advice, it would be to learn WHEN and HOW a particular priest will listen. He is fallible and subject to the same highs and lows as anybody and can take just so much controversy. We should be better at it but that is why even we go to confession . . . weekly for me!

Anonymous said...

Father -

Thank you for your good advice. It is too late for my current situation, but I am sure it will come in handy for the future.

I am sure my pastor had compelling reasons for taking me off council (and preventing me from volunteering or participating in parish activities). I am fine with it, and I am sure there are a great many other parishioners who do a much better job than I.

I am grateful for and support my parish, my pastor, and Bishop Lennon.

But when a parishioner complains or reacts negatively, please do not take it personally (I know that is difficult sometimes). We are not attacking you personally. Sometimes it is just comments and opinions, not a personal evaluations or general whininess. We still support and love our pastoral staffs at our parishes. Sometimes we just need to know that someone at the parish is listening and considering our points of view.

Thank you again, and God bless you and your parish.

Pat said...

My "worry" about presenting an idea to the pastor is that I don't know all that is going on "behind the scenes" that the pastor is already dealing with/managing. A negative answer from the pastor might simply mean that, from a human standpoint, he is already doing as much as he can. So I myself try not to take it personally if my "great idea" seems to go nowhere. The Lord is ultimately in charge of our parish.