A priest writes about his disconcerting experiences

From a priest reader with my emphases and comments:

Really appreciate your blog. Priests like you give us other priests a lot of encouragement to keep working to bring more reverence to the liturgy. Thank you so so so much.  May God Bless you.  [You are welcome!]
Long story short.  In my last parish over a three year period I introduced an EF mass offered each Sunday.  Started using the altar rail for communion on the tongue.  Started to celebrate the OF ad orientem.  Started using more latin in the OF, e.g., gloria, credo, canon, pater noster.  Helped to work with the choir to learn Gregorian chant which we added to the celebration of our Sunday Liturgies.  The celebration of the Mass ad orientem made the biggest difference in my experience[The eminent liturgical scholar Klaus Gamber, who had such an influence on Joseph Ratzinger, opined that the turning of altars was the single most damaging change made after the Council.] The altar boys loved it and they immediately became more serious and reverent.  Communion at the altar rail also made a big difference.  And then because of the complaints of a few parishioners I was ordered by the bishop to cease and desist. [Stopped.. doing things that were perfectly legitimate, btw.  But … it is always a few vinegary types, isn’t it.] I stopped, lost all credibility with the parishioners and was very discouraged for a few weeks. 
Now I’m in another parish and I have made a few little changes.  Like wanting to have male altar servers.  And the complaints are starting to add up.  People really need to pray for their priests!  I guess I’m not looking for any answers but it really does feel difficult sometimes trying to do what the Lord wants us to do. [Especially when the bishop leaves you to twist in the wind.]

Father… don’t be discouraged. 

The tide really is turning.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Nikki8D says:

    To the Priest who wrote to you, and to all our priests… Thank you for all you do.

    I would bet that for every complainer, you have many more parishioners who appreciate what you do. People as a whole tend to be more vocal when they aren’t happy than when they are. People resist change just because it is change, even when the changes are for the better.

    Please don’t be discouraged, what you do is so appreciated and valued by so many.

    For my part, I will try to remember to pray for priests more often.

  2. Central Valley says:

    I will pray for this good priest. This sounds like the diocese of Fresno, Ca. where ortodoxy is discouraged.

  3. Central Valley says:

    I will pray for this good priest. This sounds like the diocese of Fresno, Ca. where orthodoxy is discouraged.

  4. TNCath says:

    Try to hang in there, Father. I do not believe the bishop has the right to tell you to cease and desist in the very positive things you were trying to implement. Eventually, you will be vindicated. But, for now, I am so sorry you are enduring this persecution. And, it IS a persecution.

    From my very limited experience of life, bishops come and bishops go, but the Faith and the Truth survives nonetheless.

  5. ejcmartin says:

    We need to pray for priests. How I would love have more priests here like the writer.

    Just this past Friday I attended on Mass where the priest in his homily compared Jesus to an eastern holy man and went on about how great a writer Sandra Schneiders is.

    Then at our home parish on Sunday a visiting priest bascially threw the host at my mouth missing my tongue and I was forced, with one hand holding my son, to catch it before it hit the ground. He then ended the Mass with a tirade on how kneeling at communion might trip up somebody and that communion on the tongue is going to spread the swine flu.

    We need to pray.

  6. I know a priest with a similar story. I’ve started praying for him (and a number of other priests) when I remember His Holiness, Benedict XVI’s request: “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

    And this. During the year of the priest! Time to redouble our prayers, I suppose.

  7. restoration says:

    No priest should have to abide a bishop who openly flouts the will of the Holy Father. Everything this priest has done has the full support of the Pope. Remaining a priest in this diocese rewards some of the worst conduct one can imagine by a bishop. Obedience to one’s bishop can never overrule obedience to the Supreme Pontiff.

    I would immediately write to bishops in other dioceses who are known for fidelity to the Holy See (i.e. Lincoln, Tulsa, etc…). They would no doubt welcome, encourage you, and allow you to help many more people than you could in a stifling and hostile atmosphere that seeks to hide your light under a bushel. Eventually, these modernist bishops will be replaced, but souls in other dioceses need your help today. If more orthodox priests transferred to orthodox dioceses, many sub-par bishops would be forced to support the work of faithful clergy or risk losing manpower.

    Some may applaud you for your courage in staying the course, but it sometimes takes even more courage to be the first to say — No more! Remember Mark 6:11 “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”

    Several years ago, a priest friend of mine my did just what I suggested above. He was warmly received by an orthodox bishop and has transformed a previously moribund parish. His gifts are not silenced and his work has borne much fruit. There is too much at stake for even one good priest to be wasted by an undeserving ordinary.

    Think it over…

    God bless you.

  8. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Cease and disist everything? Even the gregorian chant? I feel aweful for you, Father. I pray that God will give you perseverence and faith. God bless you and your work!

  9. Father Anonymous is right. We do need to pray for our priests. There is a famous quote attributed to St. John Eudes, “You get the priests you pray for.” If we don’t pray and sacrifice for vocations, how are we expected to see the tide turn for the better?

    I have been frustrated with my own parish and diocese as well. As a layman, I cannot imagine the pressure that this particular priest is under to tow the party line. Yet it seems to be immense.

    Father Anonymous, my prayers are with you.

  10. Such stories makes me so sad. It is the pinnacle og injustice when even the shepherds of the Church prevent their subjects from offering the worship due to God that they desire.

    I agree that this should remind us to pray for our priests. It should also remind the more hot-headed among us why reform is not going as fast as we would like it to. Perhaps the reason why Father keeps allowing altar girls and standing on the wrong side of the altar isn’t that he is a blinkered heretic after all.

  11. robtbrown says:


    I tend to agree with you.

    Priests are under a lot of pressure, and in these situations they can opt for one of three strategies: 1) Give in to the bishop, 2) Tell the bishop no, noting that the Church’s dicta are being followed and being prepared to be transferred, 3) Look for another diocese or SSPX.

    I know a priest who was in Wichita under Bishop Gerber (as in pabulum). After Ecclesia Dei was promulgated the priest made formal request to say the TLM. The bishop told him he loved Latin liturgy . . . blah, blah, blah . . . then told the priest no. Then the priest then joined the SSPX.

    And so the bishop, who thought that he was being shrewd, lost the priest.

  12. Geometricus says:

    In my capacity as a choir director at my local parish, last year I began to sing the proper communion antiphon in Latin gregorian chant-style, while my choir was receiving communion. The Deacon in charge of music shot me an email one day saying it had to stop because of “complaints.” He later clarified himself and said that it just had to be less frequent. He told me he loved chant and Latin…blah, blah, blah…then told me not to do it “too much”.

    Now we have a new pastor who truly does love the Hermeneutic of Continuity (yet the same Permanent Deacon is still in charge of music) and he says it is OK to make some of these improvements in mass, but we are going to G O V E R Y S L O W L Y if you know what I mean.

    It’s a good test of patience for me. I tend to move very quickly when I see what good there is to be done. Meanwhile most of the dynamic orthodox parishoners who love the H of C have moved on to more dynamic parishes where the priests are actually a bit bolder and do not let the entire parish be led around by the nose with the most vinegary complaining members calling the shots.

    Brick by brick. But O Lord, how long! I must really need a lot more patience than I think.

  13. Clinton says:

    I’m so sorry that this priest is being put through this. His story reinforces my belief that Pope Benedict’s “Marshall Plan” needs the
    help of all of us if it’s to gain traction sooner rather than later. We mustn’t leave the Pope to do all the heavy lifting himself. Those of
    us lucky enough to have priests such as this man need to lavish them with support — we must make our appreciation known. Imagine
    the difference for this priest if, for example, the parents of those newly reverent and serious altar boys had communicated their thanks not
    only to the good Father, but to his Bishop as well.

  14. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Now more than ever, say the Prayer for Priests (for the Year of Priests)

    Dear Lord, We pray that the Blessed Mother wrap her mantle around Your priests & through her intercession strengthen them for their ministry.

    We pray that Mary will guide Your priests to follow her own words, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

    May Your priests have the heart of St. Joseph, Mary’s most chaste spouse.

    May the Blessed Mother’s own pierced heart inspire them to embrace all who suffer at the foot of the cross.

    May Your priests be holy, filled with the fire of Your love, seeking nothing but Your greater glory and the salvation of souls. Amen.

    St. John Vianney, pray for us.

    Jesus, Savior of the world, sanctify Thy priests and sacred ministers.

  15. rogue63 says:

    @ robtbrown:

    As a former resident of Wichita, I can confirm that Bishop Gerber once had some reservations about the TLM. On the other hand, Bishop Gerber has recently become quite friendly to the EF—in fact, he celebrated Midnight Mass ’08, Holy Thursday ’09 and several other occasions in the Extraordinary Form for us at St. Anthony. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him, but it certainly seems like he’s come around to see the worthiness of Tradition. 2 cents.

  16. servusmariaen says:

    Father Z,
    can you explain why a bishop any bishop would allow a priest such as this to be persecuted or would tell him to “cease and desist”? I fail to understand why a Catholic bishop worthy of the name would ask such a thing of a priest who has from what I can see done nothing wrong? I do not understand why this type of thing is allowed to go on. Am I missing something here? I for the life of me cannot understand this and it’s gone on for years. What is the crux of the matter? is it about finances? is it about not rocking the boat? I hope someone can enlighten me on this sort of thing. I shall pray for this poor priest.

  17. Fr_Sotelo says:

    I feel sorry for Father. At the same time, I don’t know why he didn’t give the bishop a piece of his mind. It’s not like the bishop can tell the police to arrest you for Latin. Bishops tend to size up priests and the guy who shakes in his boots gets smacked around, while the priest who isn’t afraid to stand his ground and push back tends to be given more respect.

    Are the bills being paid? Is there decent Mass attendance? Are the sick visited? Is religious ed being adequately provided, along with sacramental preparation? Then the bishop has no leg to stand on and you need to tell him not to butt his nose into the parish and micromanage your hard work. On the other hand, if some essential service for the faithful is being neglected, you give the bishop ammunition to go after you.

    No, do not leave the diocese or run off to the SSPX. Make the guy with the pointy hat wish he were running off to another diocese or some religious order. A hard working, loyal priest has every reason to stand his bishop to his face and give a strident case for his liturgical rights. And if you are a pastor, let him know that threats of transfer will be answered with canonical appeal. An installed and incardinated pastor cannot be treated like the village idiot–unless he allows himself to be treated that way.

    I’m not saying to go to the chancery breathing murderous threats–that would be stupid. I’m saying you have to have your words carefully chosen and your rationale laid out when you speak to the bishop. You don’t come out and say no, but rather let him know that you have seriously listened to him and thank him for his concerns.

    If he is being snooty about it, rattle off the stats of his own diocese and remind him of the failures going down under his own watch throughout the diocese. There’s nothing like telling the bishop, “it seems to me that you should start running a tight ship yourself before lecturing me on what’s wrong with my parish. At least I run a solvent and thriving community.”

    One thing that does not work is cowering, with wringing hands and sweaty palms, looking like Dorothy before the Wizard of Oz. You get treated like Dorothy if you do that. If your hard work as a priest deserves to be defended vigorously, then set your face like flint before the bishop and defend yourself.

    Of course, if your parish collection and attendance is a disaster since you arrived to take over, be prepared to take an earned downpour. For whatever you do which is “different” to the bishop, you have to have some results to calm the bishop that you are not going to wreck the parish. Beautiful liturgy by itself is not an argument to most bishops for giving you a longer term in the parish.

    As Fr. Z says, do not be discouraged. Every pastor has an experience of feeling pushed around, by people on one hand and the bishop on the other, before you learn how to confidently run the parish and deal with the bishop at the same time.

  18. Richard says:

    Of course, we are only hearing one side of the story. If Fr. is not under a vow of obedience, why can’t he just do what he feels is right? And if he isunder a vow of obedience then, maybe, this is the Lord’s will. I know I am something of a dissenter but what I read on this site [?!? Then you should read more closely.] seems to me to smack of the dreaded “cafeteria” – we chose to listen to and honor the bishops we agree with and disparage and “diss” the ones we don’t. Having just reread the Vatican II document on the liturgy, it seems there is room for variation and charity.

  19. chironomo says:

    It’s difficult to tell exactly where the issue is here without knowing at least a little bit more about – a) what practices were changed, and what they were previously. b)was REALLY was the reaction and comments of the assembly (was this a bit too much change too fast). c). Had this priest and the Bishop gone around about this issue before.

    There is no “excuse” to not make the changes he describes. They are all excellent and the right thing to do. However…there is a political dimension to Diocesan life, and nowhere does it rear its head as it does in the realm of traditional liturgy.

    We have decided at our parish to begin using the Latin Sanctus, Agnus Dei and incororate more of the sung dialogues at Mass over the next year (or two…or three). Our Pastor has also reduced the use of extraordinary ministers at Mass. We have begun daily adoration in our chapel. In short, changes are being made to get to the eventual goal of the liturgy we should have…but it’s going to take time and that’s a reality we have to live with. The parishioners who oppose these changes are the loudest and the noisiest…if only 1 in 4 people have any objection to the changes, they will make it seem like an overwhelming majority by being vocal. People who support the changes need to speak up.

    We all wish it could just be ordered from on high…a bold declaration signed by God himself that these liturgical changes will be made and that all Bishops, priests and faithful will fall into line and take up the new directives with zeal and enthusiasm. Even if such a fanciful GOD-signed declaration were produced, there would still be those who would think they know better.

  20. robtbrown says:


    Too bad Bp Gerber didn’t have that attitude when he was running the diocese.

  21. robtbrown says:

    No, do not leave the diocese or run off to the SSPX. Make the guy with the pointy hat wish he were running off to another diocese or some religious order. A hard working, loyal priest has every reason to stand his bishop to his face and give a strident case for his liturgical rights. And if you are a pastor, let him know that threats of transfer will be answered with canonical appeal. An installed and incardinated pastor cannot be treated like the village idiot—unless he allows himself to be treated that way.
    Comment by Fr_Sotelo —

    I listed going to the SSPX as the 3rd option. I would personally prefer #2, but I realize that all priests by temperament aren’t comfortable with a confrontation with the bishop . . . AND that maybe a bishop, e.g., Msgr Gerber some years ago, would not give in even though the priest is right.

    I have been stunned how many US bishops seem unfamiliar with JRatzinger’s thought. It would be interesting to know how many have his memoirs (a small book) or The Spirit of the Liturgy.

  22. jpmulcahy says:

    I don’t even dream of celebrating ad orientem (although I would love to) because I know that within 30 minutes of doing so, I would get chewed out by the Bishop. I get accused of making the liturgy to suit my tastes because I do not permit eulogies at Funeral Masses (they do them the night before at the vigil service) and I do not allow secular music at weddings / funerals. It is a battle, no two ways about it!

  23. irishgirl says:

    Father Anonymous, don’t give up-there are a lot of us long-suffering faithful Catholics who love and support you!

    That bishop should get a smackdown from Rome!

  24. Sacristymaiden says:

    Don’t give up, Father Anonymous! The people who watch for the bricks to go up don’t always say much, but they watch breathlessly. Been there, done that.
    I pray for all priests who are in need of support.

  25. Fr_Sotelo says:


    I realize you were not encouraging priests to join the SSPX. Your comment was, as I see it, a laudable recommendation to not give up on the priesthood if a situation seems desperate, but to go where the sacred ministry could still be exercised. Better to join the SSPX than to be so discouraged that one leaves the priesthood.

    And I hope that Father does not feel I am being critical of his courage. My experience confirms what you said–many priests are very uncomfortable in the role of challenging their bishop. Sadly, they do think it is better to leave their diocese.

    But why should a priest leave? That is his home. He has as much right to stay there and take care of the people as the bishop does–maybe more, if he is native to the diocese and the bishop is an “import” as is often the case.

    Bishops are human, and will, at times, take advantage of the good priests who seems quick to buckle under. There is certainly an element of politics in the diocesan relationship between bishop and priest. It is for the priest to remember that even the most traditional priest should not let go of boundaries in dealing with his superior.

    Should my superior make the demands he is making on me? Are they moral? Are they truly for the spiritual good of my parishioners? Most of all, are they motivated by loyalty to the Church’s faith, the mind of the Church? These questions should not be answered in a way that is too servile to the bishop.

    My concern is that while this discouraged priest may be a good priest and is zealous for doing the right, he is allowing the proper boundaries that exist in the bishop-priest relationship to be fluid, so to speak. It is all right for him to challenge his bishop, because at times a priest has to defend the parishioners from decisions on high which are arbitrary and poorly informed.

  26. MargaretMN says:

    Fr. Anonymous, Time is on your side. Yes it is!

    On the flip side, we learn from our failures. Don’t give in to bitterness and despair and don’t stop trying. I am sure that the path will open up for you. I will add my prayers to the rest.

  27. Jayna says:

    My priest is going through some of the same problems, though not quite on your scale. His big achievement so far this year was putting a crucifix in the church (and trust me, that was big for our parish). All the same, so many of you are trying to do what you know to be right and your path is being impeded by those who think they know better. Please do not let the complaints discourage you, the Church needs you and more like you!

  28. Supertradmom says:

    I think the parishioners have a right and duty to right to the Bishop first, and then to Rome. I encourage them to do so.

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