Is it wrong to argue and doubt a priest?

I’ve had a sensitive case with a priest. I chose to forgive him, and I offered the case to God.
However one friend of mine was reprimanded by a priest, and she said she did no wrong.
I feel uncomfortable talking about this stuff with her since she’s been resenting the priest and is insisting her analysis that she did no wrong. I also went through the same thing. I struggled with it since I really dont want to harbor any resents against him. I believe in the priestly authority.

  1. What should be the proper attitude when we are in doubt of priests? is it wrong to doubt them?
  2. What does the catechism of the Catholic Church tell about respect for priest and obedience to them?
  3. How about priests who have committed serious? how should be dealt with?

I see that this is important because as a lay person, I see priests as shepherds and leaders. I look up to priests as spiritual guide, and I felt that doubts like this offer a serious danger and creates confusion among people though I also know they should be dealt with.

Your question is an important one, because it is not uncommon - but the proper answer, in my opinion, is not as simple as one might like. There is not one simple answer because all priests are not the same. There are faithful, wise and holy priests. There are also dissident, imprudent priests who seek the things of God along with the things of the world - that is, carnal priests. And, there are priests in between those extremes. Indeed, it is not impossible to come across a priest even worse that I have described - there have been, for example, cases of priests abusing children, and worse.

It is very helpful to find, by God’s grace, a holy priest in whom you can place your confidence! Such a priest will, in many cases, not be a blind defender of all his brother priests, because he will likely have experienced much grief himself, through some of them. If you do not know such a priest, often a holy lay person can direct you to one or even several.

It is important to grow, spiritually, in the Catholic Faith so that you can increasingly discern truth from error when you hear it. The four “pillars of the Faith” all reinforce and complement and strengthen one another:

  1. Catholic doctrine and authentic teachings,
  2. The Sacramental life; the life of grace,
  3. The Catholic moral life,
  4. the interior and spiritual life, the life of prayer.

Also important is this teaching from Jesus:
Mt 23:2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;
Mt 23:3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.

That is, in the context of your question, clergy deserve a certain respect because of their office - they sit on the chair of Church authority, the Chair of Peter, the chair of apostles, the chair of the holy priesthood. And when they teach from that chair - when they teach in accord with that chair, in accord with the teachings of the Church, then “practice and observe whatever they tell you.”

However, if their ways are not holy, are sinful or are lacking in holy wisdom and purity - then do not follow their example! Here is where your own discernment, your own wisdom - and hopefully the guidance of a holy priest and holy lay people - can help you.

If a priest is teaching contrary to the Church, then this must be brought to the attention of his Bishop or Religious Superior. If his superior will not correct it, then the next step is go to the Papal Nuncio for the US (if you are in the US), or to your country’s papal nuncio. For the US, it is (unless he has been changed):

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò
The Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the United States
3339 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest,
Washington, D.C.

The Holy Spirit will help, sometimes in ways unseen to us, but He is working in the upbuilding of the Church. Pray to Him, to our Lord Jesus, and to the Father.

Thank you. I actually went through a lot of discernment in my case. I wrote a letter to his superior but got no reply. Until now, I really do not understand what happened but I felt better surrendering it to God. In my friend’s case, it was not a legal one but a moral one. She was reprimanded. I was struggling to help her deal with the reprimandment–are there other teachings about the holiness and authority of priests? (The priest who reprimanded her was one I look up to and I believe is an authority in discernment)

I got this obedience/respect for priest philosophy mostly from the spiritual writings of the Saints. They do advocate such obedience and respect for their confessors (even obeying the confessor before direct personal revelations from God). Saint John Vianney would even insist reverence for priests.

Reality wise, I really dont get how should I see a priest–as Christ himself? as an ordinary man? or as a holy man? sometimes, I get confused—especially during the mass and confessions.

Saint John Vianney: What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God – a man who is invested with all the powers of God. . When you see a priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Priests are fallible men. They make mistakes. They may be good or poor communicators. Their knowledge of the faith is imperfect, but probably better than yours. You are not bound to follow their advice. They deserve your respect, but you are at liberty to say something like “Well thanks for your advice Father, but we’ll need to agree to disagree on this”.

If your interactions with a priest tends to be unsatisfactory, perhaps you can find another.

I suggest you talk to another Priest, perhaps an older, wiser one and seek his advice. If the situation is serious enough he may recommend you bring it to the attention of the Bishop. Go from there. God Bless, Memaw

It depends on what the priest truly believes and it was very hard in the Church here so many years back, dissension even in the Church by consecrated souls.

I think it best to go to another priest if indeed the priest is giving his opinion and not that of authentic Church teachings…and to pray and do penance for him.

I knew of a woman coming into the church who was a prior activist…hearing she even got into it with doctors she worked with as a nurse. This regarding the firing of a principal and there was alot of upset as the principal was very good and popular. The pastor perhaps could have handled things better.

But every time the woman saw him, she would literally lay into him. Others in the parish who were more like congregationalists also were abusing him. The bishop came in for Mass and some woman came in and went up to him saying, ‘Who invited you here?’

It was a parish where the crowd running it bragged about not having a statue of Mary in the church and no rosaries said in there for 20 years. I came in from out of state…because of the principal…and parishes were told not to take anyone from this parish school. So I had to stay there. The pastor let me go to a more Catholic parish for Sunday Mass as people would visit before the tabernacle before Mass. The cross on the altar had no corpus so the spin was this was more a protestantized Catholic church…and this can go back to prior priests who allowed this to develop.

Anyway, the pastor hung in there, and the crowd went elsewhere…but that woman stayed…next thing was her coming out of Sunday Mass in a contentious spirit…getting people to insist on having a cross on the altar with a crucifix…it is her manner of getting things done…didn’t want a new church…they met in gym, but rather a new school and she wanted that done…very full of herself and not seeing how abusive she was, probably most contentious person in the whole metro area.

I don’t care for people mistreating priest. Just express your point by going to another parish. But then this is how things were in the 1980’s and 90’s.

A priest is certainly not “Christ Himself”! There is a human desire to look upon a priest as Christ Himself - without sin, without error, pure in mind and heart and action. One result of this is “clericalism” - a very dangerous blindness to the humanness of a priest, that leads to excusing and overlooking of any and every real flaw in the man, placing him on a god-like pedestal. Some priests, by the way, love to be treated this way, and encourage it in others, and hold to it themselves in ways that dishonor the priesthood. They actually believe that in their case, “my way or the highway” is from God when applied to them. They see themselves as absolute rulers over all in their domain.

This “clericalism” - which is far different from the actual respect that is due to a cleric because of the Sacrament of Orders, and thus the office he holds among God’s people - was seen in the time of Jesus, and some characteristics are described in Mt 23, concerning the hypocrisy of the religious leaders in Jesus’ time. No Catholic should be an “enabler” of clericalism - it is deadly to both cleric and laity.

On the other hand, when one looks at a priest one should think of Christ Himself, because the priest is called to and enabled to stand in the place of Christ the Head among HIs people, His Body, as priest, prophet and King. What that means, “in reality” can be understood only in understanding Jesus and HIs ministry - He who came not to be served, but to serve and to do so in Truth and in Love.

Remember, priests are sacramentalized through Holy Orders. That means that the priest is an extension of Christ’s ministry through the sacrament.

For this, the Church holds to Psalm 101, ‘Thou shalt not touch my anointed ones’. This is the problem the Church has in dealing with sex abuse cases…civil crimes…the encroachment of civil authority, when such priests need to be locked up and punished by the Church as in past times. Nothing more. Not intending to protect the abusers…but it is the meshing of civil law with canon law.

A priest told me the Vatican had its own prisons, ugly places, not nice where priests who committed crimes were locked up. A Pope Gregory wanted to execute those who abused children because such abuse destroys the person.

But on the day to day perspective, you have an issue with a priest, you bring it up to him and pray and do penance for him. If you can’t no matter your good faith, it is best to move on.

Of course it’s not wrong.
Priests are human…so just because they are priests, doesn’t mean they are always smart or sensitive or right or perfect.
We know from history that many priests have done harm to people.
I’ve seen many people on this forum tell posters that their priest has given them wrong, bad advice.
You shouldn’t let the title of “priest” blind you from looking at him honestly with open eyes.
Especially with what the church is dealing with and trying to correct today, you should not feel a priest is “infallible” in all actions and thinking.
That kind of thinking has led to tragedy in the past.


I’m not saying priests are gods, but in some way they ought to be seen and respected as spiritual and moral leaders. In the northern part of my country, priests are seen as ordinary people…people just pass by them… I’m not saying this is bad but in the southern part of the country, (where I live) priests are revered and really respected, not just as an ordinary person but as a minister, a representative Christ, in short as holy men…

Socially, they are cultural symbols of religion—the archetype of holiness…and if priests are less valued like that, I believe that will be the start of relativism in religion as well as in moral and spiritual discernments. I’m not saying they are above any other men, but that their vocation calls them to be the spiritual guides of the Jesus’ flock----as such, I’m really wary about my doubts and arguments against them. I do agree that the best thing when in doubt of a priest is to find another one who is much experienced with these matters.

I mean seriously we need more priests, holy priests :slight_smile: let’s pray for them

In America, for several reasons, the reputations of religion in general and priests in particular have declined greatly over the past few decades. Priests here once used to be generally respected - by believers and non-believers alike - because of the holiness and dedication and hard selfless work of those who went before them. Then, things changed. and then, very loud and persistent voices attacked the reputation of priests in particular, some of it deserved by the bad actions of bad priests - and now the priesthood is suffering from a wide-spread cynicism and suspicion. Many people today have no confidence in religion in general and priests in particular.

This situation is not fair to the good and holy priests of today, but that is the situation. I think that in America, religion in general and the priests in particular will have to earn the reputation that once was assumed and presumed of them.

Absolutely they have to earn it, as anyone has to earn his reputation.

Catholic and Protestant churches have been infiltrated by unwholesome and conniving clergy.

It is in the nature of the beast.

The thing is to know what to do before you do it. Do you go over the priest’s head first to seek satisfaction? Or do you go to another priest to see if his treatment of your issue is the same or better than the first priest you went to? Should you go back to the first priest and ask for clarification? If you do, and the priest leaves you more dissatisfied than before (after you have respectfully addressed him) then where do you go? I think that somewhere along this line of searching, the problem you feel you have will be adequately resolved to your satisfaction. If you keep getting the same treatment of your problem, ask yourself whether you should begin to assess that maybe you have been the source of the problem, not the priest.

If the priest becomes rude to you, it is a sign that maybe you should find another pastor?

He is either rude because he is in the wrong or you are in the wrong. :shrug:

I dont seek to be right though I always try seek for the truth despite myself. That’s why I go to my spiritual director and other reliable people who can look more objectively at my case. It was very hard for me even to write to the superior of that priest. I have always been praying for him. I heard nothing from the superior though. I accepted what happened…what bothered me was not that I was in the wrong but perhaps I might have tolerated an evil…or I might have not done the will of God. I am at peace now with him. I did everything that I believe was the will of God.

Im really sensitive with this issue because I went through it…and my friend is going through the same thing though not as legally and morally upsetting than my case. It’s just that I’m really sad when things like this happen. I really do want to be a priest if only I were a boy.They really need a lot of prayers.

Where does division, resentment and doubt come from? if not from the beast.

The Catholic priest is supposed to lead us deeper into our Catholic faith and live it out with good fruit.

He is an ordained, a living sacrament. He ministers Christ to us. You abuse a priest, you abuse Christ Himself.

People should get a copy of St Catherine of Siena’s, ‘Dialogues’ and read the chapter on ‘Holy Church’.

It is the priest who gives us the Living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, their sacrament connecting them to Christ and His ministry to us on earth.

Irregardless…not because of the priest’s personality or flaws, or errors, we are not to abuse any sacrament! Including priests. You are to report any failure of not leading you properly or any sign of abuse to your local bishop.

The Catholic priest is supposed to lead us deeper into our Catholic faith and live it out with good fruit.

He is an ordained, a living sacrament. He ministers Christ to us. You abuse a priest, you abuse Christ Himself.

People should get a copy of St Catherine of Siena’s, ‘Dialogues’ and read the chapter on ‘Holy Church’.

It is the priest who gives us the Living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, their sacrament connecting them to Christ and His ministry to us on earth.

Irregardless…not because of the priest’s personality or flaws, or errors, we are not to abuse any sacrament! Including priests. You are to report any failure of not leading you properly or any sign of abuse to your local bishop.

I joined the parish in my geographical boundary, waiting a long time because of its history. Came in and noticed a void and off-centeredness of focus. After so many months, I left, and now with what I know…did the right thing. I told two people that the priest came across as not really believing in the Catholic faith.

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