How do I address a priest who has temporarily left the priesthood?

In August of this year, a 29-year-old priest assigned to my local parish asked for permission to be temporarily relieved of his priestly duties while he discerned whether he wished to remain a priest. According to the announcement that was made to the parish, Father Matthew was given 90 days away from the parish to make his decision. Those 90 days have come and gone. Father Matthew hasn’t returned to being a priest. Last night on his Facebook page he removed the word “Catholic” from his religious views.

This man still lives in the same small town that I do. I am sure I will see him again on Facebook if not in line at the supermarket. How do I address him? Should I refer to him as “Father”? If he is still officially an ordained priest, I wouldn’t feel right calling him “Matt.” Any suggestions? Thanks.

The rule of thumb is to start out with a title that shows the most respect and then to dial it down accordingly once you find out something different applies. In this case, call the man “Father.” If that title is no longer applicable or if he prefers something else, he’ll say so.

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