QUAERITUR: Should priests with effeminate manners work to correct them?

From a reader:

I hope you will not take this the wrong way but given certain sad realities of our time, do you think priests who are unusually effeminate in manner (e.g. speech) should work to minimize this aspect of their personality? Just the other day my wife’s friend told her she’s fairly certain her pastor is homosexual, but I have known of him for a number a years and am certain he is a holy, orthodox, priest. In fact, she also related how he alienated a good number of parishioners when he first came to their typically-liberal parish, which I take as a sign of his faithfulness.


Alas, I think very few people have a clear understanding of their own quirks of manners and ways.  And this would be an extremely difficult, delicate, dangerous work of fraternal correction, for a priest friend or other to point out these traits.

This is also complicated by the fact that the entertainment industry has relentlessly tried to run down priests and the priesthood, to distort the very concept of priest in the minds of… well… everyone who watches movies and television.

But, yes.  I think a priest who comes to realize that people may be thinking he is homosexual because of his manners and traits of speech should undertake the arduous work to correct them.

I’ll leave the combox closed. People can email comments to me and I will consider them as it may be opportune.

UPDATE 14 Jan:

I’ll make it possible to post comments, but they will all be filtered through the moderation queue. I will probably release only a few, and those well-thought and not repetitive.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Effeminate mannerisms make life very difficult for a priest and can be a stumbling block to many parishioners, even if he has been well-formed. By well-formed, I mean that both the priest and his diocese have properly discerned that the man is disposed for a celibate life (i.e. A life spent sacrificing a proper sexual ordering for the sake of the kingdom). Unfortunately, mannerisms can still exist in such men that can be off-putting to his flock. [Indeed.]
    **My main point: only mention this in fraternal correction IF you have a deep, personal friendship with the man in question; otherwise, you will only alienate and hurt his feelings. 99% of the time, when I meet a seminarian or priest with mannerisms that seem to be unduly effeminate, I add him to my prayer list, and trust that God will bring him along in self-knowledge in His own time, just as He is slowly but surely showing me the faults that reside in my spiritual “blind spots”.
    That’s all.

  3. scottylellis says:

    Only two thoughts:

    What standard could possibly be set as to what qualifies as “effeminate manners?” I would assume such standards would all have to be based on local custom, as what is considered effeminate in the Deep South might be considered completely normal elsewhere.

    Second, I wonder if this is not a dangerous mindset. Even among heterosexual males, there is likely a kind of “bell curve” of masculine mannerisms: most people fall in the middle, with some outliers that are extremely “macho” and others who seem, as you say, “effeminate.” Shouldn’t the priesthood also reflect, by the natural course of things, this diversity of human behavior?

  4. RichardC says:

    This to me points to another reason why the altar should be turned back around: a) the scrutiny effect and b) the entertainment effect. a) the scrutiny effect–when we spend a lot of time staring at the priest, it we are tempted to scrutinize him. Father So-and-So is too funny–he isn’t pious enough. Father So-and-So is too dour–he isn’t joyful enough. b) the entertainment effect: when people are being stared at, there is a temptation to entertain, and so, Father So-and-So starts telling jokes. The same is true for the congregation: suddenly the idea of giant, larger than life puppets appears appropriate. I am not saying that priestly effeminancy is never an issue. I am saying that the personality driven liturgies, both from the altar and from the pew, are also a problem. –and maybe a larger problem. Father So-and-So’s personal mannerisms may be much more effete than either his thoughts or his behaviour for no other reason than that they reflect the thoughts of the people staring at him.–or maybe his mannerisms reflect the 2.1 children families he is looking at.

  5. Tammy says:

    Im very impressed by the firm yet charitable treatment of this delicate topic.

    Early in my adulthood & new career, I came to learn that I had some very disruptive communication patterns. I came by them honestly (having been raised in a situation where poor communication was the norm) and facing the truth was humiliating, but being honest with myself and objective helped me to work on my skills and improve my abilities.

    That was half a lifetime ago and I can now see that my willingness to face the pain that I had some seriously bad habits paid off in ways that have since helped my vocation greatly. I now teach seminars for healthcare workers on communicating with newly bereaved people ( not an east population to communicate with). The fact that I had to LEARN my skills (rather than just being born a wonderful communicator) makes my content user-friendly for my class participants.

    I encourage Seminarians to face their habits with courage, objectivity and honesty knowing that doing so will hurt, but it may be worth it.

  6. shin says:

    Effeminate mannerisms are a vice. There is an absolute measure to apply.

    It is a part of virtue to have virtue in outward behavior and manners. Thus a person should speak, and move virtuously — modesty is what is to be paid attention to.

    Both priests and ordinary men need to show virtue in their outward behavior, which should be a reflection of their interior virtue. It has to reflect interior virtue and so then it is unaffected.

    Simplicity. Courage. Modesty.

    ‘Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God. ‘

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10

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