How friendly should a Priest be?

I am taking RCIA in a parish my family recently switched to. Part of the reason we switched was the Priest at the old Parish (where we were married, and where my daughter was baptised), is aging and in poor health, and there wasn’t a very vibrant community in the Church. I knew a couple of families at this new Parish, so we tried it out, and the Priest was younger, and also obviously filled with Holiness. His homilies were very honest, and educational, and filled with depth. I was drawn to continue there, and decided that I finally wanted to take the step into becoming a full member of the Church, so I started RCIA. I met with the Priest privately once, and talked about a few personal issues I had been dealing with. We are about the same age. Anyway, I almost felt a kinship with this Priest. I really like him, and his enthusiasm for Catholicism and the way he talks about everything related to Catholicism and Christianity in general. He would come sit in sometimes during RCIA, and even taught a few classes himself. But in my inquisitiveness, I started asking questions that he may have thought were too personal. Things about his background, college, why he decided to become a Priest, etc. I even took him aside after class one night and inquired as to whether he thought he might be moved when the Diocese re-assigns Priests in the summer, and mentioned how disappointed I’d be if he got re-assigned and that we just might follow him to a new Parish (he has been there 7 years). I was admonished for this directly, and told that we shouldn’t be going to Church for the Priest, but for God. I know this, but the way he presents God is unique and meaningful, and really drew me to stay at this Parish. Since then, I have noticed he has seemed to try to keep me at arm’s length, so to speak. He is polite, but very quick in his greeting, and seems to avoid any personal discussion, almost acting like he needs to be somewhere else. I don’t know if I crossed a line with my questions, if they were inappropriate, so he is now trying to be more “professional” and curt? Are Priests advised not to befriend parishioners? I feel bad about this. I am very sensitive to getting “the cold shoulder”, and one of the reasons we switched to this Parish was in search of an active community in the Church, and I thought I had found it, but now I’m not so sure.

Obviously none of us can speak for this priest.
Only he knows what may have made him feel uncomfortable.

Priests do make dear friends within their parishes.

It can also be said that when a parish or persons within the parish attach themselves too strongly with a priest, it has the potential to cause serious problems.
For ex:
When a group of parishioners “love” a priest too much, they can and often do treat the incoming pastor poorly. “That’s not the way we do it here” has hindered and hurt many new pastors. It’s somewhat natural to become a bit attached, but you have to understand that in obedience, priests move to where they are needed and must be free to minister wherever the Bishop sends them. As much as we will miss their warmth, expertise, holiness, and personality, we must let them go to enrich others. They do not belong to us.

Thank you for your reply, pianistclare.

I don’t expect you all to speak for the Priest of course, but I guess the point of my question more directly is if a certain “professional detachment” is normal for Priests, or even expected.

Certainly. All of us, priests or lay, should be careful not to suggest scandal.
Perhaps that sounds harsh, but you’ve got to exert caution with anyone…whether it be in the workplace, school. or a house of worship.

He’s not trying to be rude…simply keeping his dignity as one of the Lord’s holy priests.
God bless you on your journey!

guiltyofdoubt says: I** “mentioned how disappointed I’d be if he got re-assigned, and that we just might follow him to a new Parish (he has been there 7 years). I was admonished for this directly, and told that we shouldn’t be going to Church for the Priest, but for God.”**

Priests are people (in spite of what some people think).
People are frequently off-put by some remark that another person says.
When people feel off-put, they will frequently change the tone of a relationship.
So, in this instance, you feel like the priest has changed your relationship with him.

Communication is the ONLY way that a person knows what another person is thinking.
You may have said something else in that last, good talk with your priest which made him feel the desire to back off a bit.
Something that made him feel like you might cause him a problem in the future (or, “fill in the blank”).

I have had a similar problem with a couple of Religious over the years.
I recommend that you send this priest a letter.
In that letter, you could fully explain your situation, AND tell him how you feel about things.
One of these things is, you want to feel close to him, like the Good Old Days.
Both of the Religious I wrote to, responded with returning to our closer relationship.
It may also work for you. And, if if it DOES work, then you BOTH will Win.

A picture MIGHT be worth 1000 words, but 1000 words can do a whole lot of explaining, and heal this situation.

I read through these posts, and was thinking about attachments.

My pastor told me that he could be talking with someone in the parking lot, and then without realizing it, he is now in some kind of transference relationship with that person.

I am not referring this to anyone on this thread. But for alot of Catholics, it has been a fallout with the priest in the parish that made them leave, not anything doctrinally, or may be some clique that appeared to have to much sway on things with the perceived unequivocal support of the pastor.

This is rather a touchy subject. And I have been guilty myself in putting priests on pedestals. I have met a number of wonderful priests, but then they aren’t so great after I got to know them better, and could see later on, I then began to have unrealistic expectations of them. And they don’t want to be on pedestals because that is reserved for Christ alone, besides being put on a pedestal will put them in the position of bringing disappointment to their admirers later on, and then they will know some of these same parishioners will be mad at them for some thing.

I know someone who became a formal minister in a parish some time ago, and came to that position because of the pastor who greatly inspired him. When the pastor needed to reach out to new people and develop new relationships with them, the parish worker was hurt and displaced, and complained about him. I am sure the pastor could sense that.

The big key in becoming Catholic and remaining Catholic is Christ and to see what is in your parish that is also drawing you closer to Him.

Rather than writing anything…because it will come across as more attachment or focusing a little too much on the priest, I would just let it go. I think people who enter RCIA hear alot of great teachings and stories…but you really have to keep turning to prayer and your own prayer life with Christ, of which I am sure, from the sounds of it, your priest has.

Let it go, don’t worry about it, and give him his space and lighten up and enjoy your journey into the Church. In time things will work out. Keep your focus on Christ.

You do not say if you are male or female. If female, your personal questions and obvious interest in him as your priest may have unsettled him. Priests are trained to ensure that they cause no scandal and that relationships with women are kept professional. You may have inadvertently instigated this defense behaviour in your good priest.
I would maintain the same reserve as he is showing so as to reassure him.

I was going to ask exactly what Petaro asked. If you’re a female you might not understand the situation from his perspective.

A man in the situation of a priest has to be beyond careful to avoid any connection that might appear or lead to “complications.” A lot of men who are going into counseling or relational type positions are actually explicitly told this. Billy Graham, for example, I’ve heard, used to require a male assistant at every speaking engagement and two hotel rooms. Anything delivered to him was first given to the male assistant, who would then bring it over to Mr. Graham after the delivery person had left. Without meaning to ascribe to a doctrine of the invisible church, these types of activities are necessary for men to preserve the dignity of The Church and our own reputations. When I taught CCD the admonitions to “never be alone with a child” are as much for the teachers’ protection as the students.

Priests are in a very unique and desperate situation. They have to be in intimate situations with women who are divulging secrets, desires, temptations, etc. Therapists have many of the same issues.

If you had said any of those things to me, and I were your priest, I would be reacting in the same way. He doesn’t really know you, and he is probably moving quickly to prevent any sort of complication or attraction you might be having (not that you do, but again, he doesn’t know that).

As a Convert myself I know what you are saying and mean well, but in trying to be nice which I am sure you are, we as lay people have to understand from the Priest’s point of view he is single, and dedicated in a very personal way through taking vows, same as a married person takes a vow, to serve the Lord for the rest of his life. In all walks of life
we must not cross the line, if we work for a large Corporation we don’t ask the CEO all about himself, his wife, his kids, his social habits, where he lives, or is he thinking of moving his home to some where else.

We should all know we have to treat some people with a kindness but with deference.
As an example my nephew is a Rabbi, even though he is a blood nephew I cannot shake his hand as they don’t touch a woman unless its his wife( and not in public) so when I meet him I am friendly but I keep a distance which is appreciated.

Its a more Protestant thing to go Church hopping and follow that Pastor but that is not the way it is done in the Catholic Church, we follow God, not the Pastor. I would suggest next time you meet Father keep your distance, don’t ask anymore personal questions, but be friendly, and things will be fine, this is way to go in life with your boss, someone else’s husband, politician, priest, or vicar.
Always remember we learn by our mistakes, and it takes humility to admit it.

Welcome home…

Priests do have to keep an objectivity in the pastoral relationship; they can be friendly to all, but keep very firm personal and professional boundaries.

Or he was just really attracted to you, so that spending lots of time with you would (in essence) tempt him to sin. :shrug:

Or…he has heard about the drama that can come with attachments…nothing to do with attraction…just people being too focused on you emotionally, then they seem stuck on you…and then…you do something they don’t like…

The fact you want to write something to him…does indicate over attachment…just let it go…

This is Lent…St. Alphonse Ligouri has a book out on the 12 steps to holiness…and it covers attachment issues, and is a classic. It is about detachment…and I thought I would like to go through it with this saint. I studied it from a few others.

It is called, ‘The 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation’. I got it at Amazon. Anyway, the chapters’ subjects start with faith, then hope, love of God, love of neighbor, poverty and detachment, chastity, obedience, meekness and humility, mortification, and recollection.

I am going to give it a try.

Firstly, I want to clarify that I am a man in my 40’s, married for almost 20 years, and with one child.

Secondly…perhaps there is a misunderstanding, but I do not intend to write to the Priest, or even pursue this any further. I was simply looking for clarification on my observation, and some opinions.

I have heard that some people have had friendships develop with Priests…strictly platonic friendships is what I am speaking of. I am not one with many friends, nor a lot of social skills, so perhaps I simply came across “wrong” in my attempts to join the Parish community, if not strike up a friendship with the Priest. I am gathering that perhaps my personal questions were inappropriate. But then again, I also realize Priests are people, and they will all react differently to these types of situations.

You are right to focus on joining the parish community. Look for your friendships and support among your fellow parishioners - through a men’s group, Legion of Mary, RCIA sponsors, other families in your daughter’s CCD classes, etc.

While I have several priests who are very good friends, the priests in a parish are assigned and reassigned by the bishop for the good of the entire parish - and for their own development as priests. We need priests, but our faith is in God, and our support as lay people comes from our fellow parishioners.

Thanks for clarifying your gender…didn’t pick up on that at beginning…

I think now you were just coming across on a different level of sociability than he, as well as he wanting to maintain his objective distance.

Other than that, don’t take it personally as he didn’t want to be really personable in part because of his own personality and limitations.

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