How to interact with an "ex-priest"?


#1

To start, this topic is a strange one and so I didn’t know where to place it. If the moderators feel this is in the wrong section I apologize and am fine with it being moved somewhere else.

This is the situation:

When my mother began to practice the faith again after many years away from the Church and the Sacraments she began a friendship with one of the priests at her local parish. She would regularly have him over for coffee to chat and to help her with spiritual problems or questions, etc. Recently however this priest has left the priesthood. When she asked him about why he decided to do something so drastic he simply told her that he felt that God was leading him elsewhere.:frowning:

He will be coming over to visit my mother tomorrow afternoon. I happen to be home for Christmas break from college. I don’t know what to do as regards this “ex-priest” visiting. I have prayed for him and asked God to show him that abandoning the priesthood and his flock was wrong and that he should repent. But I don’t know what to do as regards interacting with this man? Should I make plans to be out of the house when he visits so that I don’t risk offending anyone and don’t have to worry about where the conversation leads? Or should I stay and politely side-step the elephant in the room? Or should I actually try to engage him about his leaving the priesthood? If so, how should I go about this?

My mother is fond of this man (and to avoid it before it even comes up, she is fond of him in a platonic way not in any romantic sense). She has been defensive of him when others have been critical of his leaving the priesthood. She is more willing to hear me out regarding my concerns, but she doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of his decision. So on one hand I don’t want to offend my mother and on the other hand I don’t want this man to intentionally or unintentionally put any doubts about the faith in her mind, etc.

Ok, well that was a rather long rant. Sorry for that. I’m just having difficultly knowing how to balance being charitable with being true. I knew this priest since my mother began going to this parish and his departure left me feeling hurt too (even though I go to a different parish). Sadly, in retrospect I can see that I should not have been surprised that he abandoned the priesthood. :frowning:

Oh, I nearly forgot. Of additional concern to me is that my mother has told me he no longer lists himself as being Catholic on his facebook profile page. I don’t know his reasoning for doing this. I hope it isn’t that he’s abandoned the Church altogether. :frowning:


#2

Was it through the church that he applied for and received a release from Orders? (as my mom’s cousin did).

If you don’t know, you could ask and if he says he has not, encourage him to legitimize the choice he has made. This would allow him to continue to receive the sacraments.

If he has received a release, you would treat him as any other of your mom’s friends.


#3

Be cordial.

While I can understand your concern for his soul, it’s really none of your business, and it isn’t anything you have any control over. I rather doubt that there’s anything you could say to convince him that his decision is in error.

One thing I’ve learned in my 54 years on this Earth is to pick my battles, and focus on my own salvation. This isn’t one you can win.

What you most absolutely can and should do though, is pray for him (and of course your mother).

You can always be absent when he comes over but if your mother has an on-going friendship with him, at some point you’ll have to get over your discomfort, at least externally, and acknowledge the reality of the situation. You’re not obliged to be his friend, but you are obliged to be cordial towards him and your mother.


#4

Evan, I do not believe he received a release from orders based on how the other priests and the parish responded. The other priests at his former parish were quite angry with him and he has told my mother he is not allowed to come back to the parish, nor was he allowed to address the parish when he notified them of his decision to leave. He asked to be able to do so and was told he could not. Basically from what transpired it appears that he kept his decision to leave to himself until the very end. He never discussed his thoughts about leaving with my mother or anyone else I know prior to leaving (I was actually present when he surprised her with that news via text message) and he never mentioned that he was formally released from his vows.

I know that his decision to leave the priesthood is not my business. But his decision to visit brings him into my life. So I am simply trying to find the appropriate way to respond to that. I don’t dislike the man. I feel sad for him. I do not know how many more of these visits will actually take place since he’s distanced himself from everyone after he left the priesthood. It’s taken my mother two or three times as long to get him to agree to meet for coffee at our house than it normally would have in the past.


#5

From Matthew 22: 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

I like to go by the philosophy that everyone is fighting battles we know nothing about. Think of this if it was your situation. You have a job which is also a vocation. The place you work provides spiritual support and community. (Most likely) your whole adult life has been involved in this sacrificial way of life which sets you apart from most people in the world. Then after a (again, most likely) long period of spiritual discernment you decide you can no longer continue this way of life. With this decision you understand you will receive the rejection of those who loved and supported you as well as the place you went for spiritual strength. The decision has, in effect, caused you to be shunned by your society.

Now, one afternoon you are invited to one of the few friends you have left for coffee and conversation, and their college aged child is home on Christmas vacation and treated you ....(you can fill in the blank).

The decision to leave the Priesthood is never easy, it appears you have a unique opportunity to reflect God's love for another person and maybe make a real difference, at least for an afternoon.


#6

You should treat him with Christian charity. Avoiding him is not going to accomplish anything. He is still a priest even if his faculties are suspended. Being released from vows takes years.

Don’t argue with him, but tell him that you and your mother are both praying for him every day.

From our perspective, losing a priest is always a very sad thing but, in some cases, it may be for the best. There are some priests who never should have been ordained in the first place.


#7

“Now, one afternoon you are invited to one of the few friends you have left for coffee and conversation, and their college aged child is home on Christmas vacation and treated you …(you can fill in the blank).” - Church Soldier

I really think people may be unfairly assuming that I’m going to be rude or mean to this man. I don’t dislike him. I am hurt and upset that he left the priesthood. But I don’t hate him or hold ill will towards him. As I’ve already said, I feel sad for him. I feel sorry that he’s done this and has possibly even left the Church entirely.

I just wanted to know how to respond to all of this. For instance should I address him as Father ______ anymore? Should I avoid any and all discussion of the Church and the priesthood with him unless he brings it up? And if so am I supposed to pretend that I think what he did was right? It will be difficult to avoid discussing the Church as a whole since that’s all he and I ever talked about.

All I did was ask a few questions. I’m not asking if I can abuse the poor man.


#8

Thank you. :slight_smile:


#9

[quote="jtodisco, post:1, topic:311075"]
I have prayed for him and asked God to show him that abandoning the priesthood and his flock was wrong and that he should repent. (

[/quote]

leaving the priesthood is not necessarily a sin,so i don't see as where he has anything to repent :shrug:


#10

I’d address him as Father _____. He will ask you to call him something different he doesn’t want to be called Father anymore.

Personally, I wouldn’t ask him any questions. I’d just visit with him for a few minutes and then excuse myself. He’s your Mother’s friend and they should be able to have coffee and visit alone.


#11

That depends. Do you feel a husband or wife that abandons their marriage commits a sin? Being a priest is not just a job you quit and walk away from. If he just left without asking to be laicized then he has committed a sin just as a spouse that abandons their marriage would be.


#12

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