Bullying and Gossip at Church

Hi there,

I’m relatively new to this forum, so forgive me if this thread is posted in the wrong forum.

I’m writing to express my concerns and sadness at being indirectly bullied and gossiped about at my regular parish in which I act as an altar server and member of the student’s Catholic Society committee, hoping that someone on here may be able to offer me some guidance about how to tackle the situation.

Avoiding complexity, I have become quite good friends with one of the priests at the Church/priory, and someone maliciously reported our friendship to the head of the priory about 6 weeks ago, accusing us of being overly affectionate and publicly indiscreet (I hardly call hugging and the occasional kiss on the cheek as 'overly affectionate!), leading the head priest to have ‘stern words’ with my friend about his so called ‘indiscreet affection’ towards me, and giving me stern looks of suspicion every time he has seen me since (despite my friend informing him that nothing bad was going on). This malicious rumour has further caused strains on our friendship, particularly as we must now be artificially ‘careful’ not to advertise it.

Well to cut a long story short, though no names were mentioned, I am pretty certain of who reported us (another altar server), as I always felt he had a vendetta against me since the first day I arrived at this parish, and thus saw my friendship with this priest as a chance to make that obvious. He further threw a spanner into the works by approaching me yesterday evening and informing me that I am not needed at Sunday morning masses (as I serve on both Saturday nights and Sunday mornings), as there are too many altar servers, so he is having to reduce numbers. I find this very hard to believe, considering that every time I’ve served at Sunday Mass there haven’t been enough of us to fulfil every function, and so I am also thinking that this is a further attempt to ‘terminate’ the friendship I have with this priest.

So, having read this, I hope you can understand the sadness I feel, as such personal hostility I find is making me feel unneeded and worthless- especially because I have only been at this parish since last September, and have been made to feel unwelcome by some, from the very beginning. I further hope that someone can offer me some guidance as to what to do, as I feel that this situation, if true, should be dealt with.

Thanks, and God Bless.

Fairly or unfairly, priests are now under the microscope.

And it isn’t just the priests - in the United States - every man - every teacher has to be careful to be overly affectionate with a child.

Years ago, i volunteered to work with children with disabilities. This was after the scandals of the last couple decades - so we all had background checks - and the parish had policies in place that no adult should ever be alone with a child.

We had a team of 7 adults to serve 5 chlidren. The child i was assigned to was autistic. In our training, one of the techniques we learned was to be tactile. Gently massaging a child’s hands was one way to communicate to that child. And it was all set - we were at the stage where we were going to mainstream the children by having a special celebratory mass. Each special child and his/her catechist (as well as the child’s family) were to sit throughout the church - so that we were around the community. Well, during the mass, I must have held and rubbed the child’s hands as we were taught. a few days later, our lead catechist told me that there had been a complaint about me. They couldn’t tell me who it was - but it was an incident that happened during mass. I did talk to the parish priest (who, himself, was on the local tribunal - handling sex abuse matters). He told me that he didn’t think there was anything to it, but they had to investigate every incident.

Well, even though, i didn’t do anything unsavory - i felt ashamed and dirty. I felt like i should quit the ministry. It took a long time for me to get over it. I didn’t quit the ministry. After thinking about it for a while - i realized that the congregation was highly sensitive to everything (because of all the sexual abuse scandals).

I’m actually surprised that a priest would hug you and kiss you on the cheek - not because it is wrong - but because of the sensitivity of society today. And the press is all-to-willing to report anything remotely salacious.

It could be that those that you think are against you - are trying to protect you, the church and the priest. They may seem aloof - or like bullies - but the church has been getting a lot of bad press lately. Even the appearance of scandal is damaging to all concerned.

My best to you. I can sympathize with how you feel about this whole incident.

Try to stay positive. Don’t take it as a personal indictment.

I wouldn’t be so quick to label this Bullying and Gossip at Church… Could it be that your friendship with the priest, while innocent, is imprudent? I don’t know if you guys hang out with each other a lot etc, but perhaps there is true concern that there needs to be more space between you? He is a man that is not available for marriage and you are a single (young?) woman from what I gather. Kind of like when married people have friends of the other sex, they need to be careful with boundaries etc. There may have been mishandling of the situation by the other altar server (maybe he was instructed to do so?), but I just wanted to bring up the point that it may not be everyone disliking you and trying to bully you, but simply a situation in which you and your friend need to have a little more space between you and the head of the priory is trying to encourage this. It does not mean people are being malicious, it could be quite the contrary…

I am sorry you felt unwelcome at first, and still now. The Catholic Church is Universal, we are all part of a big family, one Body, people from all over the world, different cultures, age groups etc… Please know that no matter what the people of the Church do, no matter how we act, the Church is still the True One, and God is still there waiting for you in the Eucharist.

This seems to have been handled in a very unprofessional manner from what you describe.

I used to live in the UK—a nice country. Kissing on the cheek is a common way of showing affection among/friends family.

I will say, however, it’s been my understanding that priests and their superiors frown upon “getting chummy” with the crowd. I do believe that Fr. Serpa. one of the apologists on here, answered a question from a woman about “needing a hug” from a priest.

My wife’s good friend from grade school was the Deacon who married us, and she asked him once to meet both of us for coffee before one of our marriage preparation sessions. He never responded and later explained to her after the following meeting about it.

I think it’s important for you to understand where our priests and bishops come from on this, but at the same time rumours like that can lead to scandal and to sins like calumny, slander and libel which can require restitution of a reputation.

So, I stand by my initial hypothesis that this was handled inappropriately and that for leaders in the Catholic Church, that to me is not helpful and unacceptable.

I’m sorry you feel bullied, but what you describe is, in this climate, imprudent. Your friend should know better. I am not, in any way, justifying how others are reacting; if you are indeed being punished for an innocent friendship, that is unconscionable. But for a priest to be hugging and kissing (even on the cheek) a student is, indeed, indiscreet.

Thank you very much for sharing your experience and advice. Although I’m not a child (I’m 19), I can understand the sensitivity that some parishioners may feel, particularly during these times, as you said.

However, I know instinctively that the other altar server who reported us, did so maliciously and out of spite against me, rather than with good intention, as I know from his behaviour towards me that he has, for reasons unknown, been against me from the first day I began serving at this parish, and would have thus noticed my friendship with the priest flourish.

I have to say, I agree that kissing a friend is inappropriate. I would feel very uncomfortable if a male friend greeted me that way. I know other people don’t have a problem with it and that is their natural mode of expression but I wouldn’t neccessarily suspect that any one specific person reported you because I imagine any number of people would look at that and think, “what the heck?” Keep in mind that a priest is in their workplace when they are at church. There are methods of greeting someone that are comfortable in private or in specific company but aren’t appropriate in the work place.

Is the person who you feel doesn’t like you in charge of organizing the Eucharistic ministers? If not, how is it her business? I wouldn’t worry about what she thinks. I certainly wouldn’t let the opinion of some silly, stuck-up church lady effect my feelings of self worth! Really, it’s probably her problem and not yours.

Thank you for your Advice. May I point out, though, that I never mentioned that ‘everyone’ was against me, but rather someone who, as a head server is, like me, in a position of authority, but who has held an obvious, and unnecessary dislike to me for unknown reasons since I first began serving in this parish (perhaps for he is against women altar servers, as many in this parish are!). But regardless of the reasons, this individual has made his dislike of me subtly obvious, whilst appearing normal and unbiased to other servers/parishioners.

Concerning my friend’s ‘behaviour’, I have only been a Catholic for 6 years, and in that time, I can safely say that where I live, it is a common norm for priests to show affection to parishioners, of all ages and genders! :slight_smile:

“However, I know instinctively that the other altar server who reported us, did so maliciously and out of spite against me, rather than with good intention, as I know from his behaviour towards me that he has, for reasons unknown, been against me from the first day I began serving at this parish, and would have thus noticed my friendship with the priest flourish.”

Please don’t attempt to mind read.

It’s possible that others are noticing that you have been entering into a grey area without you noticing it yourself–it’s very easy to do so innocently.

Considering that both I, and even some of the other servers have often seen him give me dirty looks of resentment and distaste, that he never greets me or speaks to me politely (unlike his behaviour with the other servers/parishioners), and that he has straightforwardly (and quite rudely) told me that he doesn’t think I am needed at the major Mass on Sunday’s, which I have been serving at weekly since January, all obviously demonstrate his dislike of me. Thanks for your input, but I certainly am not mind-reading here.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable if a priest kissed me on the cheek. That’s too close for comfort with a celibate man. But yeah, it’s still malicious to spread rumors.

In any case - even if this person has a vendetta against you - handle it with grace and dignity.

In my experience, if you misread the situation, and this person is unaware of how he treats you, then you can mend the relationship unilaterly.

if you are correct and he is obliquely resentful toward you - and you return his vendetta with kindness - it will drive him crazy that he hasn’t gotten to you.

(I must admit, i just finished watching “Polyanna” with my kids, so that may be on my mind… But I would advise my children the same way if they came to me about someone who didn’t like them).

I have to be honest. I would raise an eyebrow if I saw a priest kissing a young woman on the cheek at church. That may be where the affection stops with you two, but it is definitely crossing over into grey area as far as what a priest should be doing. Granted, I do realize that in some areas of the world, cheeks kisses are more common as a way of greeting people? Is this the case where you are?

You have clear evidence that the guy doesn’t like you, but you really don’t have any that he was the one who complained about the priest-smooching.

“You have clear evidence that the guy doesn’t like you, but you really don’t have any that he was the one who complained about the priest-smooching.”

Right.

We have a situation in our circle where a married man and a single woman were getting into a grey area of inappropriate emotional intimacy, probably without realizing it. I think it’s going to be all right, and I don’t think there was necessarily anything sinful going on, but there was a point where quite a number of other people independently noticed and decided that the relationship was inappropriate, well before the married man himself did. It is possible for people to notice something about us before we do. That may be the case with the OP.

It may be necessary to put some space between yourself and this priest. You may even need to change parishes. I don’t think you have done anything wrong, but it may be the right thing to do.

Courage International, Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality, NARTH and similar organizations teach bullying to chruch members.

They flat out bully kids in a mystical and extremely hurtful way.

They are considered “rehab” against God’s Law because the organizations used aversion therapies to create so-called ex-gays.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.

We cannot have a true vine if we let these bullies abuse more children.

Stop the hate in churches everywhere.

LEARN CHRIST! What would he do and then look at yourself.:D:cool::mad:

There you go. Clearly, it was a collaborative of these evil organizations that accused the OP and her friend, all because they can’t stand female Eucharistic ministers!

I do have pretty strong evidence in fact- considering that he has often been the only person around when my friend has greeted me. And “priest smooching”? Begging your pardon, but I have never heard a kiss on the cheek and embrace as “smooching”.

A potential collaboration of infiltrators? Could have been- the reasons for his dislike of me remain unknown, but at least this suggestion cheers the situation up slightly! :slight_smile:

Um, neither a priest nor any other parish staff member should be kissing or accepting kisses from young parishioners who aren’t his relatives, and even for those he ought to be on the receiving end. He can make an exception for people over 75, if they’re so inclined, but otherwise he needs to behave in a way that does not set an example that could be exploited by a predator.

I say this because the Archdiocese of Portland had a priest who complained that everyone put something sexual on it when he made such gestures of affection towards young women, but then later it turned out that he was indeed inappropriate with women in his parishes (yes, they moved him around), and worse. These are the kind of behaviors that predators hide behind, so they can’t be allowed.

Be content with serving one Mass each weekend, unless you are asked to do more. Be willing to do whatever is necessary to reduce any appearance of scandal that could possibly touch this priest, not to mention you. Do your part to work and play well with others. I know whereof I speak, trust me on this one.

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