Parish Priest Being Bullied


Not sure where to post this one - so please move if necessary:)

A year and a half ago, our old PP retired. He was one of those people that was very jolly and outgoing and in his younger days, incredibly enthusiastic and popular, in particular with young people, who really felt his un-stuffy and informal approach was great.

As he grew older, several members of the parish began to assume more responsibility and by the end (because we all loved him and nobody really wanted to admit he was way beyond retirement - and because of the shortage of priests too) he was almost literally just wheeled out to say Mass and then ‘put away’ again, while the parish was in effect run by a group of parishoners.

Anyway, we were sent a new priest:) which should have been cause for celebration, considering the scarcity of priests. However, in addition to the Parish Church, we also used to have a lovely little gothic chapel in a stunning setting, that was used to say Mass in each Sunday and very poplular for wedddings. It was well known that it was in dire need of investment, not least because it was built close to the river, on quite sandy ground and the river meander was getting a bit close!

The first duty the new priest had was to explain that out little chapel that we all loved would be closed, because he would be running 2 parishes and there simply wasn’t the manpower (priest-power!) to celebrate Mass so many times over the weekend - nor did the Arch-Dioscese have the funds to maintain the chapel. His second duty was to alter the remaining Parish church Mass times - to enable him to say 4 Masses over the weekend (2 per parish)

This all went down very badly:( Poor man was held personally repsonsible be several parishoners, who left the parish ‘in disgust’. To make matters worse, the new priest is a very quiet, reverent, thoughtful man, who does not have anywhere near the same force of personality as our old priest. Nevertheless, he quite reasonably wanted to mark his authority as PP and pulled us up short on a few things that the old priest had let slip (such as no chattering before Mass in church: readers should all adopt a more reverent approach to approaching the altar and leaving it etc.) He also wanted more involement with the tasks that variour parish groups had taken responsibility for.

Ironically, although I was only a small child when our old PP arrived, I well remember several parishoners expressing absolute horror at his informal, loud and (in their eyes) irreverent ways because he had replaced a very strict, learned, quiet and pious man as PP. Some people are never happy:confused:

So many parishoners just didn’t give him a chance and others still attend Mass but are downright rude about him. As far as I can see, they are bullies whose noses are out of joint because they have had to relinquish the bit of authority they had when the PP was unable to fulfil his role without assistance. Letters of complain have been written; meetings hi-jacked and now we have no priest at all, as he is off long term with illness:mad:

I know he does not have the charisma of our last PP - who was just so loved by everyone, but this is a man who has given up his life to follow Christ and to help others find Him and administer the sacraments. It isn’t just a job - it’s a way of life and I imagine it can be a very lonely and isolated one at times.

I wish some people would just be grateful we have a priest at all! What message is their behaviour sending out to any young men who are considering the priesthood? Be a priest! If we don’t like what you say we’ll leave the parish - or just stay and be so awkward you’ll wish you never came:thumbsup:

I am appalled by the behaviour of these people. I did approach him after Mass one Sunday and tell him that he did have some parishoners who thought he was doing a good job and not to get down about it and I know he appreciated that - but these people are so-called well-respected members of the community and to be blunt, they should know better! They are people who were adults that I was taught to respect when I was young, as good Christians.

Irony no.2 is that if our old PP was back, as his younger and livelier self - I have no doubt he would have given these bullies a real dressing down. They are an affront to his memory - as they are going against all the values he worked so hard to instill in us - not least that our parish should be a welcoming place:(

What is the best way to deal with these people? :confused:


I have always found that bullies are like cockroaches-- they despise the light of day. In my experience standing up to a bully always makes them back down. They only bully when they believe they’ve found a weak target that they can maintain power over.

There are many ways to approach this, confronting their rude behavior head-on when you witness it. Publishing your very finely written sentiments above in the parish bulletin, local paper, or simply standing up after mass and telling them what you’ve written here.

You are indeed correct, they should be ashamed of themselves. But, they don’t have any shame.

It is sin taking hold-- pride, arrogance, selfishness, lust for power and prestige. All those things and more.

The other option is to ignore them. The priest probably will take that route. The disgruntled will grouse and then either leave or get with the program (or die!). I hope the illness your priest is currently experiencing has nothing to do with this situation. If it does, he is perhaps not of the constitution necessary to be a priest!

I’ve never been in a parish where everyone was happy with the priest, except in the case of the jovial old grandpa you describe. That’s because people can just do whatever they please and don’t have to be accountable.

That was the exact situation in my old parish-- grandfatherly priest everyone loves is replaced by business-like, distant, introvert who has the task from the Bishop to change a bunch of things (in our case build a new church). Ugh! It was as bloodbath. But, that priest just retired from my old parish after 15 years… and he was “loved” by everyone and now the new priest (who was actually an associate there 20 years ago) is the “bad guy” who is changing everything.
Same with my current priest. I moved into a parish that had a young, charismatic priest everyone loved replaced by a foreign priest who speaks halting English, is very holy but totally unimpressed with American culture, very old-school and very introverted, and relatively young (and thus likely to be here a long time!). Many have cut off their noses to spite their faces and are going “elsewhere.” Well, we move along just fine without them!


Stay around long enough and this despised priest will become the saintly hero of the parish and the next one will be the meanie.


Be sure a bunch of you take turns inviting the new priest to dinner and making him feel connected.


Please write a letter to your bishop to let him know what a good job the new priest is doing under difficult conditions. He needs to hear your support for the new priest, not just complaints from disgruntled complainers.


I’ve heard that for his first year, a new pastor shouldn’t change anything but the light bulbs.

Your new pastor may not have had much choice in closing the chapel and changing Mass times, but that’s a lot of change to put onto parishioners. It’s not surprising that some will balk and some will react even more strongly.

Keep him in your prayers. Speak up for him when others are negative. Offer to help in any places you see a need. Support him in his ministry.


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