Priests and desire to have status


Hello, some of you may know that I’m discerning my Vocation with Spiritual Direction. To clarify, I don’t know yet if I want to be a priest…

The other day I was talking to my medical doctor, who is also a catholic and I admire greatly, but is very critic of the Church hierarchy, and she said to me that many priests ascend to the episcopacy because of money, and that it is very difficult to find a priest with a true vocation and not someone wanting status. I explained to her that, if anything, many bishops were elected because they held administrative or teaching positions in the diocese before, but the thought remained with me:

I have always been very nerdy and liked when someone gave me prestige or status, specially academic and authoritative, so, what if I become a pretentious priest? Should I decline a vocation for this?


If God intends for you to become a priest, He’ll give you the graces necessary to resist such temptations. It’s up to you to use them.


I haven’t seen evidence of even bishops and cardinals having access to huge amounts of spending money. Some seem to fly first-class or business-class and their housing is usually large but a little run-down from what I can see. In the long years of priesthood they have little chance to build up fortunes, none at all if they are in a religious order. What they do have is the trappings of power. They are literally called ‘Lord’ or ‘Eminence’. They are treated deferentially. They wear ceremonial clothes. People are reluctant to argue with them or oppose them in discussion. These practices will inevitably attract people who like that sort of thing.


I doubt your doctor knows every priest in the country, and she may well have had some bad experiences with status-seeking priests. It may also be that her education and prestigious job puts her in contact with more priests who are also interested in status so they hang out with doctors, lawyers and CEOs, whereas if she were a poor person with a menial job, she would be more likely to meet priests who focus on helping the poor.

It’s wrong for her to sow doubts with a potential vocation like yours, but I guess it’s important for you also to know that some Catholics have these biases and attitudes. As Fauken said, you can make a conscious effort to NOT be “that kind of priest” and pray for God’s help to resist the temptation of status-seeking. I sometimes think God kept me out of the priesthood on purpose because I might have been too drawn to that myself.

I suggest you read up on the life of St. John Vianney if you haven’t already. He was a very humble priest and did great things for God, and he is now the patron saint of parish priests. I’m sure if you ask his intercession he will help you in your endeavors, whether you end up becoming a priest or not.


Do you believe your Doctor is correct, or that her opinion is clouded by her bias and prejudice?


Thank you all! Just to clarify (again), she doesn’t know I am discerning, so she didn’t do it on porpouse.

I will pray for St. John Vianney intercession :blush:


Do you expect to be treated differently as a priest?


Pretty much this. Here in the Northeast the bushops’ Residences I’m familiar with are big arks of places that look like something out of the Adams Family. I know what our bishop makes, and our daughter began to make more than him 3 years out of grad school - in a government job. I think, for some, it’s more about prestige and power- or at least it was. In the current environment I don’t think any priest in his right mind would want to be a bishop.


I believe her to be biased save some exceptions, but that isn’t the point, the point is if it would apply to me, if it would be difficult to fight, or if I would have to not be a priest for having problems with pride.


You are allowing doubts to be sown into your faith and vocation.
Are you speaking with a Vocations Director yet?
Unfortunately at this time in history, there are many within and without the Church, whose opinion of its clergy and members is not so good, for various reasons.


Yes, with my Spiritual Director but he is on vacation right now.


Is he also competent with those discerning Vocations? Have you spoken with your Diocese yet?


I work at a menial job and still have problems with pride! The solution to pride is to accept humiliations of increasing severity with patience and resignation. Check out Saint Mother Teresa’s humility list.


He is a diocesan priest in charge of the seminary for the lay movement which I attend to. He is a very charismatic priest (having seen various ones).

I think I will have to discuss this idea with him when he returns…


A very sound approach. Your discernment to Vocation is in my prayers.


I’ve worked for the Church and very closely with the Diocese for over a Decade. I have never witnessed anything close to this. Sounds as if someone has been reading/listening to things that have a bias against the Church. Pray for her.


All people with ‘menial’ jobs should have justified pride! they are always doing something useful!


You should read more threads here like this one…

It seems like priests struggle these days. Sometimes status or respect is the last thing they get. Consider it if it is a true calling…would be my suggestion.


I think the answer is that, as in all walks of life, most people have the right motivations, but there are a few who spoil it for everyone else. We had a parish priest who insisted upon being addressed at all times as ‘Monsignor’. When somebody (who was in fact a mainstay of the parish and the community) addressed him, perfectly respectfully and properly, as ‘Father’, he stopped her right there and informed her that he expected her to address him as ‘Monsignor’. He’s now at another parish, and I note with some amusement that on the archdiocese’s website they call him ‘Father’, but on his own parish website he calls himself ‘Monsignor’. I personally think that this sort of person is a poor advertisement for the priesthood. There’s nothing inherently wrong with people having titles, but they shouldn’t be used to set oneself up above other people and even cause them embarrassment.

Some priests do seem to be seeking out high office. I knew a university chaplain who rarely had to preach at the main Sunday Mass, as he had usually invited a bishop or abbot (or indeed the apostolic nuncio) to preach. There were rumours that he was expecting to be made a bishop. As it turned out, he was rewarded with a position at the Vatican and appointment as a monsignor.

On the other hand, many years ago now I was fortunate enough to meet H.E. Cardinal Hume, at the time the metropolitan archbishop of Westminster (considered to be the chief pastor of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the true successor of St Augustine). I was quite young and probably looking a little lost, and he just held out his hand and said, ‘Hello, I’m Basil’, and we had a pleasant chat (in which he asked me questions about myself and didn’t talk about himself at all). He was wearing his monastic habit and did not mention his surname or title, so I could easily have not even realised that he was a former abbot of Ampleforth, a cardinal-priest of the Holy Roman Church, and the eldest son of a knight of the realm to boot!

By the way, have you seen the BBC series Broken? It’s a drama, so obviously expect elements of the narrative to be invented or exaggerated, but I thought it was a pretty faithful and sympathetic portrait of what a priest can be for his people and some of the personal struggles that he experiences. Although he seems to have gone off the rails somewhat as a young man before entering seminary, a theme is that he was an exceptional pupil at school, especially in English literature (his essay on Gerard Manley Hopkins’s ‘The Windhover’ is so good that his teacher is certain that he’s copied it from somewhere).


What makes your doctor some big whoop expert on another profession?
Actually it’s funny because doctors get accused of having a God-complex

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