Priests and desire to have status


Hi. One additional thought for you. You say that you have always been nerdy and have enjoyed academic prestige, but I’m not sure how old you are or what you have already done in life. Something worth bearing in mind is that if you do get to seminary, the people you will be studying alongside will all be people who are capable of studying for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in philosophy and theology at an academically rigorous university and mastering Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, probably Italian, and ideally other modern languages too. Some will go on to receive further postgraduate qualifications, e.g. in sacred scripture or canon law, and a few will go on to study for doctorates. You may therefore find that the experience of going to seminary alone may be enough to give you a sense of intellectual humility! :slight_smile: Of course, as I say, it does depend what you have already done in life, but I think that that is certainly something worth considering. It would be an experience that would be familiar to anybody who has studied at an elite university or entered a highly competitive profession. Nerdy people who have been used to enjoying academic prestige and status find that when they are surrounded by more nerdy people who have also been used to enjoying academic prestige and status they are suddenly merely average for their new peer group. It can be a demoralising experience, but it is probably good for one spiritually, especially if one is planning on becoming a priest!


I’m in a different country to you, so it may not be the same… but I’d like to think your doctor’s opinion is very outdated (they are thinking of some time in the middle ages). I was at a day of reflection with our Bishop who is very down to earth and I’d not think his status orientated at all, just because of his efforts to be ordinary with ordinary people. I a normal run of the mill person has met him a few times and spoken with him. He recently parachuted out of a plane to raise money for charity which was met with much hilarity. All the priests I have met are quite the same, many of them can be seen out and about walking on the seaside or just in town and are happy to chat to you.

I’d say if you recognise this imperfection in yourself then your potential calling to be a priest is not something that will stand in the way of this, like someone said, God will give you grace for it, actually He already has by making you aware of this imperfection in yourself. One of the greatest problems, I have found with regards to sin, is self deception, so if you are aware of an problem by the grace of God then you can, again with His grace, move forward more effectively, than if you weren’t aware and/or were deceiving yourself about this. So thank God for his grace in awareness of this whilst discerning and God bless you…


I haven’t thought about that! Yes, I always hate talking with too pedantic nerds :rofl: I think (an my psychologist too) that’s because it reflects a part of myself that I don’t like.

Thank you all! My doctor is a very intelligent and intuitive person, but she is also some kind of conspiracy-theorist too, so I shouldn’t trust her judgement always…


A true story I heard while making a vocational visit:

Fr. Hardon, who was a fantastic and highly respected catechist in the US in the late 20th century, was known for his humility. However, he wasn’t always that way, and while in the seminary a professor called him “an intellectual bully”. Fr. Hardon told the sisters that from that moment on, he was always looking for ways to humble himself. This would be the path I would suggest for you. It is true there are priests and bishops that are always looking to move up the ladder, and their lives are aimed at only that. But it is also true that there are priests and bishops that live solely for God and the sake of saving souls. Get the “Litany of Humility”. Pray it and foster a true desire for humility, and you will make an excellent priest.


The honorific “Monsignor” is a special title. It is in no way wrong or proud to wish to be called by that title. I have very close friends who are priests, I would never in a million years call them by their first name without the “Father” or “Monsignor”

Dear Nephew is now a doctor. I still think of him as a bratty kid, however, I will address him as “Doctor XXXX” because that is his title.

This sounds like speculation, gossip and a bit of detraction. Do you know that he was not qualified to be appointed to the Vatican?


I agree that there is nothing wrong with wishing to be addressed by a title to which one is entitled. Where I draw the line is when somebody possesses two equally valid titles (Father and Monsignor) and will not permit his parishioners to address him as ‘Father’, which is not only perfectly accurate but also arguably preferable in a pastoral conversation. The parishioner was not using his first name. What he objected to was being called ‘Father’ instead of ‘Monsignor’. A priest whose ministry I have valued very greatly is entitled to be addressed both as ‘Very Reverend Father Prior’ and as ‘Professor’. He is, however, known by everybody simply as ‘Father’.

Out of curiosity, is it an American (perhaps specifically Southern) thing to address family members in a manner which to us British seems exaggeratedly formal? I don’t have nieces or nephews, but I cannot imagine addressing them as anything other than their names. I do not know any European who is addressed by their family and friends as anything other than their name. On the other hand, when I have travelled around the southeastern parts of the USA, I have observed that children addressed their parents as ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’, which would perhaps make it less strange to address other family members as ‘Dr’, ‘Professor’, ‘Counsellor’, etc. We always think it very odd that President Kennedy’s parents addressed him as ‘Mr President’, as our own Queen is called ‘Mummy’ by her children, ‘Granny’ by her grandchildren, and ‘Gan-Gan’ by her great-grandchildren. Her husband is known to call her ‘Cabbage’. Her parents and grandparents called her ‘Lilibet’.

I know that he didn’t stay at the Vatican for very long. He returned to his diocese, where he was appointed parish priest (in the face of opposition from parishioners), and very shortly afterwards he was moved to another parish. Believe it or not, there are priests who are not so different to the rest of us. While most priests are undoubtedly humble men who work hard for little tangible reward, there are also those who are ambitious for personal advancement, seeking prestigious appointments and a comfortable standard of living. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen much worse in the Anglican Church (where the rewards are greater and the path to achieve them clearer) than in the Catholic Church.


OP, are you sure your doctor is not projecting? Because I’m sure there is no shortage of doctors who are in it for money and status.


Priests are human and have all the same temptations as everyone else. Granted, they should be able to handle those temptations better than most because of their intense spiritual formation. But still, they have temptations just like the rest of us.

Ambition, pride, and careerism are temptations that many people struggle with, priests not withstanding. As a result some priests and bishops are guilty of these things. But most priests I know (and I know many) are very holy, humble men who want to serve God and his people. Having temptations or fears like this shouldn’t dissuade a man from discerning priesthood if that’s his true calling.

I think that your doctor may have had a bad experience with a priest who was careerist and now she’s projecting that onto all priests, which I think is unfair. I also don’t see money as the prime motivation that a priest might have, but certainly ambition.

At the end of the day, this shouldn’t dissuade you from discerning your vocation. Just focus on trying to be the holiest man you can be and be attentive to the Lord, and you’ll be on the right track.


Monsignor is not interchangeable with “Father”. Monsignor is a title given by the Pope or a Bishop. I use that title out of respect for the man who granted that title to a priest. If they saw something that deserves this title, who am I to toss it away?

The title “Mr President” is out of respect for the office, not the person. I am guessing that it is more equal to “Mr/Ms Prime Minister” in the UK. Noble titles are different, if the Royal Family prefers to use casual names in public, that is their decision. I do not think it was always that way, if I read history correctly.


President Kennedy’s father was obsessed with having a President in his family. He probably loved reminding himself and everyone else of that fact as often as possible. Kennedy’s mother followed the preference of the father.


It sounds like your doctor may be moody. Obviously, it was a careless discussion on the doctor’s part.


And this has what to do with the topic?


Pope Francis


That certainly puts a different perspective on it. I also remember reading somewhere that the parents never called Bobby ‘Mr Attorney General’ or ‘Senator’. I suppose if I had a daughter who married Prince George and I lived to see her become Queen I could make a great show of calling her ‘Your Majesty’ and bowing to show everyone how much I’d come up in the world!

Yes, you are right that in a monarchical system the person and the office are merged insofar as, in the UK at any rate, the Sovereign claims to reign ‘by the Grace of God’ and receives anointing after the manner of the anointing of Solomon. Even more junior members of the royal family, who hold no particular office, are addressed as ‘Your Royal Highness’ and traditionally people bow or curtsy on meeting them, although this is now in something of a decline. Other European countries have scaled back their monarchies and no longer make divine claims or perform rites of anointing. And, yes, politicians are addressed, in general, by the title of their office, e.g. Mr Speaker (House of Commons), Lord Speaker (House of Lords), Prime Minister, Chancellor, Secretary of State, Minister, etc. Even so, I’d be surprised if these titles are used by their holders’ family members. Yes, certainly earlier times were a good deal more formal. Queen Charlotte, for example, used to address her husband as ‘Your Majesty’, although I don’t suppose we know for certain what she called him in private.


I certainly have no problem with monsignors and on the rare occasion I’ve had cause to address a monsignor I’d call him ‘Monsignor’. Generally this has been when corresponding with the archdiocesan vicar general when a formal tone is appropriate. My only complaint is about my former parish priest, who refused to acknowledge the title ‘Father’ and would not speak to parishioners who addressed him as such until he had explained to them, ‘I expect to be addressed as “Monsignor”’. While there is nothing wrong with the title or its use, it is not a very pastoral manner to make one’s own title and form of address the first topic of conversation.

Again, this may be a British cultural thing. Despite having a complex system of titles and forms of address, it is considered a virtue to be self-effacing and a solecism to be self-important. There is a well known anecdote about an occasion when Viscountess Norwich was seated next to Montgomery at dinner. Lord Montgomery said to Lady Norwich, ‘We can’t have you calling me “Viscount” all evening; “Field Marshal” will do.’ Clearly he was supposed to say something terribly self-effacing like, ‘Please, call me Monty, everybody else does.’


I’m not sure this is exactly the same, but I had a math professor who was probably no more than 10 years older than me who asked that we call him by his first name. My response was: “Okay, sir.” :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: I just could not call one of my teachers who had a Ph.D in mathematics by his first name, even if he asked for it.


I have several priests that I’m close to and when we are out and they are not wearing a collar, I make it a point not to call them “Fr” most of the time. Now I would never call the by their first name if we were in public and/or if they were in “uniform”. That being said, i don’t think they’d ever correct me. My previous is a deacon and I have never called him “Dn” at work but the few times I’ve seen him in a non-work related event, I have introduced him and called him “Dn”.

The south does tend to be somewhat more “formal”. Sir and Ma’am is almost required. So is “Miss” as in Miss Betty, for an older person. The mother of a former school friend worked with me and I called her Mrs Smith even when she ended up reporting to me. Eventually, other people would call her Mrs Smith also.

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