Criticism of the Clergy


When or is it ok to Criticise the clergy and what does scripture say?


criticise is a stong word, nothig wrong with talking about the overall human attributes of servants of God.


“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest”(Ignatius of Antoich)


It is a fine line. It is correct, perhaps even mandatory, to criticize our bishops and priests when they commit grievous sins, like our current sex abuse scandal. Should we publicly criticize for every little thing that upsets us, like the liturgical music? No.


If it is a proven absolute issue for criticism do so personally and privately to the clergy. If it is something of a much graver issue like sexual abuse take it to the clergy’s “boss” and to the proper law enforcement authorities if necessary.

Now if it is a disagreement of how something is done at the Masses or in the Church at your Parish ask the particular clergy why.


A quote I found from St. Catherine of Siena recently made an impression on me:

“Behind each priest there is a demon fighting for his fall. If we have the language to criticize them, we must have twice as much to pray for them”

Nobody is above criticism, but clergy are also in need of prayer!


We should give them the benefit of the doubt, especially as to their pastoral decisions, which are often questioned here. Many people on here think they know more than the clergy and make rash judgments like “that Priest was WRONG” (and worse! I have seen some nasty stuff) based on an internet post.

We should assume they know their business, like we would assume a doctor would theirs. Of course, there are Doctors that make mistakes and Priests who give poor advice. But I am still going to a doctor for a medical problem and not to random people on the internet.


Apart from the obvious issue of respect for the clergy and guarding their reputation against injustices such as detraction, calumny, and rash judgement, we must also consider the effect of our words upon the faith of others. Avoid saying or writing things which lead to a weakening of others’ faith in God.


The clergy are our pastors. They are shepherds and we are the flock. We are to submit to them in spiritual matter. That would be in an ideal world where everybody plays their roles correctly.

The scriptural verse that I can think of is Heb 13:17, Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.

However, they are humans too, the ministers of God they are. Like us, they make mistakes and often behave like jerks. What are we going to do then?

While being faithful to our roles respectively, that is for the laity to be obedient to them and perhaps to maintain that disposition, when things go wrong, it should be like in any other relationship and situation – if correction is necessary it has to be always with Christian love.

Just my two cents.


I don’t think it would be sinful to say “Pope Alexander VI misused his authority”.


My reason for asking the question in the first place is that I’m somewhat disturbed at the amount of criticism aimed at Pope Francis. Almost ever time he speaks about the faith. It seems to be a trendy thing to do, to criticise him.

I believe our clergy have a very difficult job, from our parish priest to our Holy Father.

I think their position of Catholic priest should always be respected and any judgement should be done privately and respectfully no matter what the circumstance.

Thank you for the quote from Hebrews.

Surely cricism of the religious who are married to the Bride Of Christ is criticism of God.


this would be a great time to put in a plug for reading the Bible… 'The Bible in a Year" from Ascension Press, is one example.

But, to your question: Love thy Neighbor as yourself. Criticize? try to understand before you criticize.Criticize in a brotherly way, that is, a loving way. Assume the best rather than the worst.


It is good to criticise. Using reason, with good faith—those are the two distinguishing factors.

Critique is not gossip, which is also an important aspect to keep in mind. If you do want to level critique at your priest, bishop, the pope, etc. make sure it is not gossip, it is constructive and at least directed at them somewhat.

Let’s say you have questions about the expenditure of your parish, some things aren’t adding up and your priest is recovering from a stroke, so you have an administrator.

Good: Bring it up in a parish council meeting, bringing notes for everyone, and discussing the matter. Talk about it with the administrator before hand, and if possible with your priest.

Not so good: It’s Sunday and in the foyer, you are loudly discussing the missing funds and now the Lady’s Luncheon to the zoo won’t happen.

If you have any concerns with any priest, and you feel very compelled to say or act, write to his superior, his bishop, etc.

When it comes to the sexual abuse crisis that the Church is recovering from, many Church leaders did not act when alerted to behaviour of priests by the laity. They may have also covered it up. This is not good, and erodes trust. Hopefully in the future, the swift actions of Church leaders will allow laity to trust that those shepherds are looking after the flock.

If you ever feel like there is a criminal aspect to what is going on, you can also turn to the police—even if you have alerted the Church.

However, with everything prudence is advised and it is important to follow proper channels.


I blame attitudes like that for leading to the cover up of heinous crimes so I totally disagree.


What methods are you using. For example is there objective critical thinking going on, or is it a subjective type criticism


Personally, I feel if you have a legitimate concern about the actions of a particular priest, first pray about it to determine if your grievance is real and true according to Sacred Scripture, the Catechism and the rules set forth by the Church. If so, approach the priest about it privately in a charitable way, to glean his side of the situation. If the actions are detrimental to the his flock, and he refuses to acknowledge your concerns or change, then a general inquiry to his Diocese may be in order.

  • I understand what you are saying.

  • We agree that an evil action (the coverup) cannot be justified by reference to a good intention (faith in God). The end does not justify the means. CCC 1759

  • Faith in God is not the same thing as faith in the clergy.

  • Faith in God is essential for salvation and must be promoted.

  • We can find a way to correct evil without destroying good.


Me too. I get an uneasy feeling in my stomach when I see or hear it. I’m also super uncomfortable with the amount of casusl complaining I see on here about people’s parish priests and worse how combative some people have been with actual clergy who were willing to come post here.


And many of them had enough of it and moved on. These forums are worse off as a result.


It public criticism that bothers me the most. Particularly when it’s aimed at the Holy Father Pope Francis. Private grievances dealt with in the proper manner yes. Public criticism does nothing but harm. I think it can also lead the young and impressionable in the wrong direction…

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit