From a reader:
I am newly ordained. An issue has arisen between myself and my Pastor, and you could say, a small number of vocal parishioners. [Imagine my surprise.] It appears as though I am too orthodox for them and one of them [It’s almost always one.] has written a letter of complaint to my Pastor who might require that I give him advance copies of my homilies for his approval. He has not required this YET. My question is, does he, as the Pastor, have the right to dictate what I preach about or to approve ahead of time what I preach about?
This was not discussed in the seminary, and I always understood that my faculty to preach came from my Bishop and that he could do this, but nobody else. Would you kindly offer your advice on this matter?
First, you cannot be too orthodox. You can be too orthodox for someone else, perhaps. But you cannot be too orthodox.
Ad rem: I think the pastor does have a certain measure of control over what you preach. He is the pastor, even if he is an heterodox jackass. The pastor, parish priest, parochus, is responsible for preaching in the parish.
For example, the pastor can determine that you are going to preach about topic X on Sunday Y. As a young priest I went back to my home parish in the USA for the summer. Sometimes the pastor had a project for preaching. For example, he divided up the Cathechism of the Catholic Church and every Sunday all the priests had to integrate the designated paragraphs. There are times when the bishop will designate a topic for preaching.
Also, turn the question around and look at it from the other point of view.
Consider your question in the light of a solid orthodox pastor who has an assistant who is a heretic or an idiot. After hearing a few bizarre and doctrinally questionable sermons, the pastor reasonably would have to exercise oversight. I know a case where a priest in residence was absolutely going to the zoo when in the pulpit, not because he was heterodox, but because he wasn’t especially bright. The pastor wanted to check his sermons for content before he preached so as to save everyone some problems.
That said, no one can require you to say anything that is demonstrably contrary to defined teachings of our Faith. Use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a reference.
You might want to contact the bishop or the personnel board for a transfer if the pastor wants you to say something that is contrary to the Catholic Faith. Document everything.
These are personality issues as much as anything else. I take the view no pastor should impose too much on the preaching of the assistants or guest, unless there as, as mentioned above, some ongoing project or, as mentioned above, the sermons are unacceptable. The pastor should try to express concerns while leaving the priest’s freedom to preach intact, if possible.
Approve a text in advance? If it would come to that, I would say that he should only check for errors of doctrine, much in the way that a censor librorum would. A censor librorum checks for errors against doctrine. They do not pass judgments on style or quality of arguments, etc.
Don’t worry about this too much until it actually happens.
I am guessing that you have a couple priest friends who are themselves pastors. You might discreetly sound them out for advice.
If you are in a diocese where the local dean is strong (deans are not strong in all dioceses), and he is sound, you might ask his advice on this point of the pastor approving the actual text.
Lastly, remember that you are not the pastor.