Wednesday, 26 October 2011

For bishops (and in the interests of comfort in solidarity) for priests!: some compulsory reading

Fr Z has highlighted a post by Fr Trigilio on his The Black Biretta blog which should be compulsory reading for all bishops.  And which all orthodox priests will no doubt take great comfort in seeing so well articulated many of the problems they constantly struggle with!

Here are a few extracts to entice you to read the whole thing:

"...while most priests are happy being priests, which includes celibacy and obedience, not all enjoy how priests are treated...What many priests dislike, however, is when they feel like they work for a corporation more than for a family of faith.


The corporate business model some bishops and dioceses espouse make pastors feel like middle management and not as spiritual shepherds of the local, neighborhood flock. Most priests do love the priesthood. Most love being priests and doing priestly work. Most are willing to sacrifice time, opportunity and reward for the higher good of saving souls. What most priests do NOT like is the often oppressive bureaucracy emanating from diocesan headquarters. Canon law and liturgical rubrics are not the problem, but often the plethora of diocesan regulations and policies that go well beyond micromanagement. Vatican II spoke of subsidiarity, yet most times even legitimate options afforded priests are being transformed into mandatory rules as if Father is not qualified to decide for himself.


...What really makes priests unhappy, however, is the injustice done to brother priests by their own kind....Professional jealousy and clerical sycophants are what discourage priests. When their bishops do not treat them as sons of the church but as lower level managers whose task is to be a company man at all times, then you get some unhappy priests on your hands. When the same guys have been on Personnel Board for the past 20 to 30 years; when assignments are made not based on qualifications but on church politics and ‘who you know rather than what you know;’ when special treatment is given to those who went to the bishop’s alma mater while those who had to fight tooth and nail to preserve their orthodoxy and virtue while in the seminary are made to feel like misfits after ordination; these make for disillusioned clergy to be sure....


What deflates priests, is not celibacy or Magisterium, but subterfuge, duplicity and deceit from their own ordained brethren. When church ceases to be about faith and more about solvency, then priestly zeal can drop dramatically. Yes, bills must be paid and responsible financial procedures and policies be in operation. On the other hand, bishops do not need ‘yes’ men, they need honest, courageous, and un-ambitious advisors to give them reliable and responsible counsel. Sometimes, you wonder if the old Soviet Union did not reincarnate or morph itself into a diocesan bureaucracy.


Priests are happy being priests and doing priestly things, like celebrating the Sacraments, teaching the faith, visiting the sick, and helping parents form their children into Christian men and women. What makes us unhappy is being treated like we’re guilty before we even know what the accusation is. What kills priestly zeal is corporate red tape and extreme micromanagement... During the worst of the clergy sex scandals, it was not just the perverts who misbehaved and a few bishops who swept things under the carpet, it was also a few middle management clergy giving bad advice and a few becoming a buffer between priest and bishop. When that happens, good priests are unable to communicate important information to their chief shepherd because someone in between has blocked or intercepted the message. Access to the bishop for any priest has to be unfettered as any son would be to his dad. When the corporate model is enshrined, however, it feels like only the vice presidents and board members have access and lower level employees just do their work and keep quiet...


When priests are told they need to get anger management treatment merely because they preached a homily in support of Humanae Vitae and in condemnation of birth control and abortion; when priests are admonished for enforcing canon law and requiring sponsors for baptism and confirmation to be Catholics in good standing; when priests are reprimanded for exercising their legitimate liturgical options as stated in universal law; when pastors spend sleepless nights over meeting diocesan assessments; when assignments and transfers are arbitrary and haphazard rather than based on experience, history and qualifications; then zeal begins to erode and evaporate...


It helps when church authority is employed to discipline all instances of misbehavior (like teaching heterodoxy or committing liturgical abuse) and not just when it involves personally disagreeing with one’s superiors or their prudential judgments. Stepping one someone’s toes is not the same gravity as denying a revealed truth or committing sacrilege, yet often those crimes go unnoticed or unpunished while minor infractions of diocesan policy are punished with severity and swiftness...


When the human element of the Church is fair and just, that enables the rank and file to busy themselves with the pastoral work that has to be done. When there is cronyism, politics, skullduggery and intrigue among the clergy (upper and lower), then the zeal can be robbed from those who find it distasteful and inappropriate..."

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