A Monsignor Moment

Some people are saying that Pope Francis has decided not to bestow the honor of Monsignor any more.  This seems to be based on a rumor in an Italian newspaper, which means it is about as reliable as The Onion or the Coast To Coast show or just about anything on MSNBC.

In any event, I predicted that in 2013 I would still not be a Monsignor.  I hate being right all the time!  No, wait.  I was really wrong about #3 in that list, wasn’t I.  Never mind.  I was sort of right about #5, though.

I hope this rumor isn’t true, but if it is, Pope Francis would do well to get a food taster!

As a matter of fact, he could create a new position: Cardinal Food Taster.  It’ll be the only position left in the Church to which all sorts of honors and great gear are attached.  It could even be the only Cardinal’s spot open to women.

He could do that right after he sets up a new and long-needed Congregation for Sitting Down and Calmly Thinking Through Things Beforehand.

In the meantime, enjoy this clip from one of the greatest TV series ehvvurrr.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

     It could even be the only Cardinal’s spot open to women

    Perhaps an honorary position towards those in the LCWR!

  2. uptoncp says:

    I think we can say by now you were wrong on #7 too. But have half a point for the Church in Wales.

    [Sorry. I get #7 right also.]

  3. Luciano says:

    “I hope this rumor isn’t true, but if it is, Pope Francis would do well to get a food taster!”

    Holy Father doesn’t have one yet???? :O

  4. acardnal says:

    Interestingly, Pope Francis also did not pay bonuses to Vatican employees at the start of his pontificate. AND he did not pay 25,000 Euro bonuses to five Cardinals on the Institute for Religious Works (the bank).


    More to come I expect.

  5. Actually, I was hoping to see more monsignors as opposed to titual bishops and archbishops, so that may not be a step in the right direction if found to be true. Meanwhile, we may need a Congregation for Putting Things on Top of Other Things as a place to promote cardinals and titular archbishops who have proven that they have already risen above their competency (and I don’t mean that term in the canonical sense).

  6. Vecchio di Londra says:

    I like monsignors: all the ones I’ve know have been faithful, orthodox, excellent speakers and free of any careerism or need for tact.
    I can still remember one who gave us a half-day holiday when I was at school, to the perturbation of the headmaster. Fifty plus years ago, but these memories linger.

    PS – Father Z, do I sense you may have a sort of shy interest in the foodtasting job? It wouldn’t be without its dangers, you know, and we wouldn’t want to lose you… :-)

  7. jlong says:

    If this is true, then why not? There does appear within the ranks of clerics, for some but not most, a career orientated understanding of the Priesthood. I know many monsignors who hold liberal positions and are actually awful pastors, but have the title because they know who to schmooze. They have a clericalist mindset, and see themselves as in a position of power rather than at the service of the Church to help draw man to eternal life.

    Pope Francis in his comments and examples is trying to bring reform to the Church, which was something that happened in the days of Saint Francis. I think valid questions can be asked about how much money priests earn, what they spend their money on (expensive cars), among other things. The Priest is given a salary with medical benefits, but what happened to the humble stipend given his parishioners, or a small amount of money from the diocese to cover basic costs including entertainment (of course the Priest should have a house, reasonably priced car, food, and utilities.

    There does appear, at least in the Priests I have met, to be a disconnect from at least the concept of poverty, or living a humble and simple existence as a Priest. There is a reason why Saint John Vianney is Patron Saint of Priests.

    What the Church is facing today with a clerical career mindset within the Priesthood is something it has faced in the past. What always happens is renewal, where the Church re-orientates itself to bring a sense of simplicity. Reform is needed of the Priesthood, and how the Priest interacts with the modern world. In the past, great Saints showed the way, or even Church Councils. The same reform is needed today.

    Priests do not need to live in lavish houses or drive extravagant vehicles, but rather should see Pope Francis and his example, and place himself at the service of the laity who are trying to get to Heaven. The Priest doesn’t need the title of monsignor if he is going to laud it over people.

  8. jlong says:


    There does appear, at least in some of the Priests I have met, to be a disconnect

  9. Fr Z

    I used tease Father Bob Levis that he was a Monsignor IN PECTORE. He chimed, ‘better that people ask why Father So-and-so was never made a Monsignor than for them to ask how the heck did he become one?

    Poverty of spirit and simplicity of life for the diocesan priest is essential but it cannot be imposed as we do not have the evangelical charism of poverty as do our consecrated religious brothers and sisters. Diocesan Priests are secular clergy, not regular. We get a monthly salary as do laity but our room and board are provided by the parish or diocese, as like our religious counterparts. We own our cars which means we must buy them and pay for the fuel and maintenance of them. We pay taxes on our income. Religious priests share the community car, must ask for money from the bursar to buy something, and share everything from computers to iPhones. Diocesan priests on the other hand, must exercise prudence and poverty of spirit. We are asked and encouraged to have simplicity of life but when your parent or sibling gets old and sick, guess who has to help out financially? Not the religious, for he owns nothing and has no resources. The diocesan priest has to help and we do so gladly. Just because a few clergy come from wealthy families is merely anecdotal. Most clergy come from middle class or from poor families. Instead of obsessing over what priests spend their money on, better to ask what they spend their TIME on? If Father does his work and serves his parish, he deserves and is entitled to his weekly day off and to his annual vacation. Some spend their free time on their hobbies, like golf or tennis. Others cook, travel, give talks, make pilgrimages, relax. As long as the two extremes are avoided: workaholic and couch potato. Jesus Himself worked in the carpenter’s shop, preached and worked miracles but He also took naps and ate meals with family and friends. Work and rest in their proper balance. Sadly, a few rotten apples make it bad for the rest of us. Likewise, when a priest is named Monsignor, I would like to think it was because his bishop wanted to show appreciation and gratitude for his exemplary work. The sycophant bureaucrat, however, does not ecclesiastical purple, he needs to get a life.

  10. Gratias says:

    Sorry you will not make it to Monsignor Father Z, but to us, and to the Church, you are worth much more.

  11. CharleyCOllins says:

    I think there are several different ways which you can honor a priest who has done good work – papal knighthoods, awards, even getting citations or “days” from the local city council. Monsignors are “honorary prelates”, and giving the title to the local pastor for drumming up money in the Diocesan appeal is a rather recent innovation. Vicars General get the title “ex officio”, and that does not change (although Bishops almost always also get their VG’s the title for the person, so they keep it after leaving office). I also understand possibly giving the title to others who have to exercise authority, such as Chancellors (authority is not part of their office, but is usually delegated to them), Vicars Judicial, Episcopal Vicars, etc. But the present system of giving the title out to huge percentages of the presbyterate can cause “wonderment”, which is a wonderful bit of Vaticanese. It is also possible such a move, it true, is part of a larger plan. There are many real bishops (and archbishops) at the Vatican in often minor posts, but also somewhat major posts, to which episcopal consecration seems a bit much. Perhaps being made an honorary prelate, especially if the title is not longer diluted through overuse, is a better way – and being considered? (Just speculation on my part) In any event, such titles are at the gift of the Pope, which we shouldn’t forget.

  12. jflare says:

    Well, you never know, really, do you? Francis has shown us that he’s quite willing to..ignore the usual approach to getting things done when he deems doing so worth the trouble. ..And we still have a few months left this calendar year; a few weeks left this liturgical year.
    We can always hope….

  13. jflare says:

    BTW, what TV series did this clip come from? [I, Claudius.]

  14. TNCath says:

    I’m all for re-evaluating the critieria for bestowing ecclesiastical honors to priests as Monsignori; however, I am not for getting rid of the practice altogether. The bestowing of the title “Monsignor,” while personally honoring a priest for his outstanding service to the Church, is also a profound honor to the people and the diocese he serves. I hope the Holy Father considers this as well.

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Meanwhile, we may need a Congregation for Putting Things on Top of Other Things as a place to promote cardinals and titular archbishops who have proven that they have already risen above their competency (and I don’t mean that term in the canonical sense).”

    Would that be an example of (St.) Peter’s Principle?

    The Chicken

  16. Imrahil says:

    Well well well,

    the Holy Father does seem to ado a lot of the things you instinctively feel to be wrong without being able to argument against them.

    And… the dear @Fr Jim said in a comment here once that if he had wanted to be told which car to drive, he had entered a religious order. Good point:

    it’s not a particularly new problem, but the Church seems to somewhat lose the very concept of the secular priest. Only, secular clergy has been and is what keeps the Church, as we know her, running. Religious clergy (and laity) has usually been recognized as the in itself higher vocation, it has served as a sign to remember the supernatural, by its sacrifice, by its obedient service and yes, also in running some parishes by contracts between dioceses and institutes; but the basso continuo of the Church as we know her has been provided by secular clergy. I say “the Church as we know her”; nothing of what I mean has any connection to the deposit of faith. But I am a patriot and, just like a 90+x% majority of all men that live on Earth, have a conservative heart; I do not want to see the Church’s tradition lightly changed, even if it is tradition in the non-theological sense. At the very least, we have to obey the Chestertonian fence principle; and in all obedience to our Holy Father, I doubt this is followed here. (If the rumour is true at all. The Holy Father did, after all, give a very sensible reasoning for his living in the Domus St. Marthae. The Apostolic Palace, he said, is not so lavish either, but he can no longer change himself and just prefers, or needs, to live among many men.)

    Now the secular clergy is of course not easily to define. A priest does need enthousiasm in the sense of, to use the often used phrase in a more concrete sense, choosing God beyond everything else; he lives celibately; he serves the Church; he obeys his bishop; he has been given huge gifts by God and has to be grateful for it, and so on.

    But still… the secular priest never was meant to be a mendicant, or even a monk. The moral authorities are in unison in that, while a prospective priest must ask for ordination for the greater glory of God, other motives, if subordinated to that motive, are not detrimental. The historically usual position of the parish priest is among the few village notables, among the even fewer who have higher education, address as Reverend, safe salary, a housekeeper, and as habitation a large house now often having the rank of “protected memorial”.

    And of course, for a priest, honors also were among the things subjected – as in any Catholic – to the usual virtue of temperance, but not to utter renunciation. Now the concept of honors seems to have been rather forgotten in the democratic society, much to our loss as only the way of money remains for honoring then.

    Napoleon said: “I bet one cannot name to me one republic either old or new who did not award orders. And that is called trifle and frippery! Fine! But one leads men with such fripperies. I would not say so from a lectern, but one can say everything in a council of wise statesmen. I do not believe the French people loves freedom and equality. The French have not changed in the last years of the revolution. They have one passion: honor. This passion must be cherished and nurtured; orders must be awarded.”

    Said the revolutionary who seems to have bought in to the concept that orders are trifles and fripperies.

    To the Catholic, honorific awards are necessary awards of the natural civic order, even significant of mankind (animals don’t have that), and thus principally just as legitimate as eating, pleasure and the like; nay higher, because honor ranks before the body. Of course there is the thing called vainglory which is seeking an undeserved or vain (this means: empty) honor; but that is a venial sin and the harmlessest of cardinal vices, and not a specific danger of honors (in the sense that the same danger exists in eating, gluttony, and so on and so on).

    Nature is not evil, vainglory is not pride, and honorifics are necessary in an at least slightly elaborated human society.

    And it has been the general decision to have secular clergy participate in ordinary human honoring, even at the cost of exposing them to vainglory. (But, come on: Can you imagine a snobistic priest? Really? Joviality is something good, harshness, using power against subordinates and other bad things subsummed under the much-meaning word “clericalism” – which existed – may be disagreeable; but did priests really think they were something better in the way snobs do?)

    Careerism? I would not go so far as the dear @jlong that there does appear within the ranks of clerics, for some but not most, a career orientated understanding of the Priesthood. I’d say at least to slight degrees for most but not some. Only I fail to see what is the particularly bad thing about it.

    A certain career is intrinsicate to the deposit of Faith itself: there are bishops, priests and deacons, after all. (And we may perhaps say, below them laity.) – This is the only time in this comment that I talk about the deposit of Faith. – Of course a priest will feel honored when he is given a honorific or when he is elevated to a higher position. (There emphatically are higher and lower positions.) Aptitude, ability and achievement, as the principle for promotions in German officialdom goes, why should that be wrong here. (Although there are some posts, such as that of bishop, where the moral authorities say he is bound to judge himself incapable because they simply are so difficult.)

    Bad careerism is when basically when it means willingness to sin for career’s sake.

    There is of course a certain “backfire” of Conservative accusations. Conservatives long time have attacked liberals (I take the English word but still don’t like it) not correctly of liberalism (dito), but of careerism – i. e. something the Conservatives themselves would never hesitate to do at least as in defence (make a career to replace liberal position-occupiers to see conservative principles done).

    A note on the oftenness. Around here, Monsignor (which is something different from Prelate) is a thoroughly rare title. Some deans and some heads of categorial pastoral have it. Prelate is rather usual in the Cathedral Chapter (oh yes; another career post), and quite certainly unusual outside of it. The general vicar is Protonotary apostolic, and that only because our diocese is quite large. On the other hand, there is the title of “Counsellor Spiritual” around (back in the monarchy days, a distinguished businessman would receive “Councellor Commercial” from the King), which was once awarded by the King and is now awarded by the Bishop. A majority (I think) of secular priests get that some time in their life. Monsignor is rare, though; and should be. It means to take a title which by nature belongs to Real Prelates and give it, by papal favor, to those who are not Real Prelates; should exist (in my opinion), but should be rare. But there should be other titles below it.

  17. Imrahil says:

    Just read something which throws a quite different light on it:

    During that meeting, Francis said he wanted the granting of such onorificienza to be put on hold at least until October, after he had met his group of eight cardinal-advisors to discuss reforming the Roman Curia and governance of the universal Church. The Tablet, UK, apparently.

    Forget every part of what I said that is criticizing our Holy Father. To temporarily stop promotions not strictly necessary until the principles have been made clear is a most sensible decision. (And being outflows of the Papacy per se, that does have to do with the Curia reform.)

    I vote for keeping the titles in the said reform, though. Not that that would count.

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