Far be it from me to tell anyone, let alone a priest, that they can be an ass to people, but our priest, whom I have good rapport with (still even it seems) really can be an ass to people who try to help him, but fall short of his expectations and didn’t think there was anything wrong with how he was treating them. I attempted to talk to him about it in a gentle manner, but he just went on a vulgar rant about how he didn’t care, etc. I left it alone after realizing he wasn’t open to constructive criticism and just prayed for the Holy Spirit to enlighten him.
A month later I received reliable news that he had done a very jerk thing to another parishoner that was inexcusable. I left it for a couple days, and after some time in prayer I decided to attempt again, but use a different, more tactical approach that I thoroughly thought out and was confident would work.
I used your cushioned direct approach, but used the same harsh tone and vulgar phrases he used and respectfully and humbly told him that at times he was being an ass to people who were trying to help him, as well as laid out clearly all the times (I could think of) he was said ass, and reminded him in harsh terms that he is dependent on his parishioners who volunteer their time to have a functioning Latin Mass Community.
It seems to have had some effect, but only time will tell. I have a high degree of respect for his priestly authority over me and the reverence due to his office, and now I’m feeling guilty and debating on whether or not it was wrong for me to take it into my own hands to harshly enlighten him and whether or not I actually sinned. What do you think?
Yes, priests can be jackasses. Priests can – and do – have bad days. And some priests have better people skills than others. And while we all admit that being a jackass is a bad thing, let’s also not fall into the trap of thinking that the first job of the priest is to be a nice guy, full of smiles and hugs. No. The first job of the priest is to offer sacrifice, to pray with and for the Church, to help souls to avoid hell and attain heaven, and therefore properly to teach, govern, and sanctify, to administer the sacraments, etc…. Of course, not being a jackass really helps in trying to get all these priestly duties done. That said….
Fraternal correction is difficult. Paternal correction is even more difficult and we should be extremely reticent to attempt it.
Trying to strike a balance between respect for those in authority, and legitimate reproof of that authority in error has been a difficulty in the Church since St. Paul corrected St. Peter. This always calls for a careful review of motives, and prayer to the Holy Spirit and Guardian Angels of all involved for guidance and the gift of the virtue of prudence.
Here’s a thought.
How about, after correcting a priest on his behavior (maybe not immediately after, but sometime after), going to confession to that same priest and asking his forgiveness for any possible overstepping of bounds? That could show the priest that the correction is not personal, and that you still respect both his priestly office, and him as a person. Or, you might simply approach him some time later – since you say there seems to have been some positive effect – in order to say something like, “Everyone’s so happy with how things have been going lately. I feel much more confident now inviting my friends and family members to come to our parish. Thanks so much for all the great things you’re doing here. Here’s a pound of Mystic Monk Coffee to show my appreciation for your service!”
The original questioner send this:
Since it was awhile since I sent that Ask Father question regarding paternal correction to my priest acting like a jackass, I thought Pryor might appreciate an update.
My conscience started eating away at me within 24 hours and within less than 72 hours I had apologized to him for being disrespectful and related that now I am the ass. All is well (he wasn’t mad and accepted my apology) and, since he is also my regular confessor, I went to confession to him a couple days later.