Please pray for a Legalistic Priest

Not anywhere near me but in another universe far, far away…
There is a new, young priest with his first parish. He’s very orthodox and intelligent. The problem is that he’s a legalist. What I mean by this is that he is very good at “laying down the law” but he does it without compassion or grace or charity. I know people who he has really hurt.
Please don’t get the impression from this that I am, in any way, a liberal or dissenting catholic- I’m not. On the contrary, most of my friends think that I’M a bit of a legalist and/or religious fanatic because I take the teachings of the church seriously and attend daily mass.
Please pray that the Holy Spirit might come into his heart and infuse some love into him. A priest can do so much good or he can do so much harm.

If you are close enough to this priest, I suggest you give him this feedback in a kind manner. He cannot change if he does not know. He can grow from this if he is open to the feedback.

If he’s not wanted there, we will take him. My area is in urgent (even emergency) need of priests loyal to and in conformity to Rome.

My prayer for him is that he learns how to communicate the teachings of the Church with love and compassion without compromising one inch. Sometimes the most loving answer is “no.”

That’s really too bad. Something like that should have been ironed-out in his life by now, particularly after going through seminary and being ordained. At 25+ it really will take God’s grace for him to change. Would you happen to know an older, retired priest who might be able to talk to him in private?

unfortunately, the problem is wide spread in the usa. I am grateful for the Pope’s efforts to fix the church.

Lord, please pray for those who pray for legalistic priests.
–Jesus, Lord of the harvest, hear our prayer.

May they remove the beam in their own eyes before commenting on the speck in other eyes, especially the specks in the eyes of priests.
–Jesus, Lord of the harvest, hear our prayer.

May they realize that prayer can do wonders for others, but it can perform miracles of metanoia in their own hearts.
–Jesus, Lord of the harvest, hear our prayer.

And, Lord, pray that we have more priests, legalistic or not.


By the title I assumed you meant pray for a Legalistic Priest to be sent to you; the Lord know we could use more of them. While I do feel sorry when people feel hurt, I often find that we sometimes need to be knocked up side the head to realize that we need to amend our lives.

I will agree with Cavaille-Coll that we need to pray for him that he learns to speak with compassion while still teaching the Truth.

Amen brother

Once while going to confession, I noted that I had a choice of priests with two very different styles: The first was my pastor, a very pastoral man who once gave a memorable sermon in which he impersonated the Wicked Witch of the West, complete with body language, hand gestures, and voice inflection … God bless him, it was a great sermon and I loved it. :thumbsup: The second was a young, stern priest who spoke with an accent and kind of scared me even though I knew he was humble, courteous, and respectful. :eek:

I chose to make my confession to the pastoral priest figuring that I would be more at ease … but while still standing in line, saw something that made me reconsider.

Since the confessions were going on all morning long, a third priest showed up to relieve the stern, young priest. The young, stern priest came out of the confessional box and knelt before the tabernacle, praying earnestly. It seemed he was praying for those who had gone to confession with him, and likely for the rest of us, too, and in thanksgiving. Wow. The love was clearly visible. I’d never seen a priest come out of the confessional and pray in front of the tabernacle like that before.

Dear Lord, please send us more legalistic priests like the one I just described, so that I may have the honor and privilege of going to confession to one … and dear Lord, if that happens, please grant me the courage for it, Cowardly Lion that I am! :slight_smile:


Sounds like he’s a good priest to me.

When people are stubborn in their error, there’s not really a whole lot you can do to sooth their feelings when you correct them. Ultimately they are just wrong and need to accept that they are wrong. But they don’t want to do that, so they get upset.

Being “legalistic” is a very good thing, but doing it without love is not. I’ll be praying for him.

People can become too focused on the rubrics, rules, and laws of liturgy that they forget why they exist. Some of the Jews of Jesus’ day did the same thing with the law, such as keeping the Sabbath holy.

In the end, we must worship G-d, not worship worship. Legalistic priests, in my experience, forget why it’s important to stand by rubrics and rules, which can be just as dangerous as not following them in the first place.

He sounds young and hasn’t developed his bedside manner yet.

Some charitable feedback would be helpful, he may not realize how he comes off. Also be receptive if he explains why may not be willing to change his style. He might have good reasons.

Good luck.

Some of you who have responded seem to think that I’m promoting a warm, fuzzy catholicism without law- I’m not at all. That would be heresy. I embrace and am grateful for ALL that the church teaches.
What I’m saying is that you can fall off the path that leads to life on either side. Presenting the law without any grace, compassion or forgiveness is just as heretical as no law. It’s only telling half of the story. There were guys around who did this when Jesus was with us- they were called Pharisees and our Lord didn’t much care for what they taught. For those who think that religion without love is worth anything I would refer you to the thirteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians. You can argue with the apostle Paul. :slight_smile:

Sometimes a knock upside the head or a really harsh scolding can cause people to leave the church. We are also called to charity…that doesn’t mean watering down the truth but you can do it with gentleness and kindness…as we should…to reflect Christ…

I will pray for this priest…

Gentleness and kindness like this?

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

(Mt 23:27-28)

Is that what you consider to be kindness and gentleness? If a priest said something like that, would you consider it to be charitable and Christ-like?

Christ, as we know, is all-loving; so clearly harsh words are sometimes the loving and charitable thing to say.


Prayers sent.

It’s odd that you should bring up this scripture quote in a discussion about legalism; in your quote Jesus was specifically rebuking the Pharisees for… legalism! As He did in this passage as well (Luke 18:11)

The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican.

It’s been my experience that strict legalism either usually backfires, or results in fact in a superficial religious observance that on the surface is “correct” but that masks deeper issues; in fact if those deeper issues are ignored often there is a huge crisis and a meltdown that may in fact result in regression.

What is needed isn’t more legalism, it’s true conversion of the heart. That requires teaching with gentleness and pastoral care. Not everyone is on the same point on the path leading to Truth.

The good shepherd will goad his sheep gently along the path. He knows where the path leads, that is he understands the Truth and it always ensures he guides his sheep along the right path with the Truth in the back of his mind.

For a priest, the Truth should guide his teaching, but he needs to use that Truth wisely, and sometimes, knowing who he is dealing with, he realizes that the conversion must come gradually, so he encourages the next step, rather than trying to force the person to reach the end of the journey too quickly which can result in an equally quick regression if the inner conversion didn’t keep up with the superficial observances.

If I set out on a long bike ride and ride too hard at the start I may not make it to my destination; on the other hand Lance Armstrong will be able to maintain that pace and arrive at the destination much faster than I can. If I pace myself gradually, I will make it eventually, even though I arrive much later than Lance Armstrong. If my coach says that I must finish the next race in the same time as Lance without adequate time to train, I will get discouraged and quit. Similarly it is easy for a legalistic priest to hammer the Truth home so hard that he discourages his flock, and they quit the race.

Truth needs to guide the pastor and be the goal that the pastor always has in mind, but pastoral concern for his flock means he has to accept that some people may take more time and need more gentle encouragement to get there, and some may never reach perfection due to various psychological issues and will be dependent on God’s mercy. He also needs to reassure them that God can, in fact, be counted on to be merciful.

This, my friends, is something I learned through the “school of hard knocks”. Doctrine without love, charity and true conversion of the heart will never save a single soul.

This is supposed to excuse the rude behavior? He prays after confession hence he has license to be nasty?

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