What do you do when you disagree with your pastor


#1

Our small parish merged with another parish last year. That priest took over our combined parish. When the merger first started, he came and assured us that any and all programs could continue as they had before the merger.

I, and many other members of the parish, were a bit uneasy because this priest also presided over a merger when he took over the other parish. And what we heard wasn't good, all the programs disappeared, many people were forced out of roles in the church, etc. But when he took over here, all that seemed to be false. He seemed to be very willing to work with the people at our parish and allow our programs to continue.

I am in charge of several programs for the poor which are very popular with the members of our parish, and when we merged those continued and the folks from the other parish were very enthusiastic about them and I've heard great comments about how well they are run, etc. I received an award from the KofC in March for running these programs. Everything seemed to be fine.

Then starting in April the pastor cancelled 3 of my programs, 2 of which were previously approved when the merger happened. I have been told there isn't room for these programs, and that we need to find more "progressive" programs that help the poor. I haven't been told so yet, but I'm pretty sure the last 2 programs I run will be cancelled soon. These are programs that our (pre-merger) parish has been running for over 30 years, and the community has come to rely on and depend on these programs.

Many of the people from the old parish have left and gone elsewhere. I have been feeling pulled to another parish in the area. The priest that was at our parish when I came back to the church, and helped me come back into the church, is taking over this other church in the area. He was a great priest, and had great homilies, and everyone loved him and I felt spiritually nourished in his masses. I don't feel that in this new merged parish. The pastor has 5 min homilies, which mostly consist of him doing a stand up routine for 2 of the 5 minutes.

I personally want to leave the parish and go to the other church in the area. I'm only staying to fight for these programs, but I feel that they will be cancelled anyway, and there's not a whole lot I can do to stop their cancellation if I wanted to. So I'm kind of stuck in limbo. I know what I'd like to do, I'm not happy with the priest at the merged parish, but if I leave the church these programs will definitely die. So I feel responsible for their existence. Yet I find it hard staying at this church with what has gone on.

What I'd like to do is find a way to separate these programs from the church, but I don't know where to begin with that.

What can you do when the priest, the pastor of the church, does things or acts in a way that you just can't understand? These are good programs, that cost very little, that people like to participate in, and do nothing but good for people. Yet he's dumping them one by one and has given no reasons or alternatives. Frankly, I'm quite angry about it, but it seems like I am powerless to do anything to stop it.

Should I stick around or just cut my losses?


#2

My suggestion is to cut your losses and attend the parish that you mentioned has the priest that nurtured your return to the faith.
Unfortunately, it is all but impossible to buck the pastor of a parish, not to say one that was sent by his Bishop to combine two parishes. To try to change his mind would be an exercise in futility and frustration that could very well endanger your relation to the faith.
Why not make an appointment with the priest you favor and discuss the matter with him?


#3

There is really not much you can do about it. You have the right disagree but he still is your pastor and you still are a lay-person with no power to change the situation. You must feel awful but what can you do then adapt?


#4

Someone correct me if I'm wrong (I'm not sure) but I remember reading that if a priest is wrong to not correct him and pray for him instead. I think there was a card or something in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel that said that. Unless I got it completely mixed up or understood it wrong. Like I said, I'm not sure, but I felt bad if I didn't say it.
Having said that, I'm not too sure what a "Pastor" is. I heard the word before but I'm not too sure on the role. Is he the parish priest?


#5

[quote="vanessabyrne, post:4, topic:330938"]
Someone correct me if I'm wrong (I'm not sure) but I remember reading that if a priest is wrong to not correct him and pray for him instead. I think there was a card or something in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel that said that. Unless I got it completely mixed up or understood it wrong. Like I said, I'm not sure, but I felt bad if I didn't say it.
Having said that, I'm not too sure what a "Pastor" is. I heard the word before but I'm not too sure on the role. Is he the parish priest?

[/quote]

Yes, the Pastor is the Parish Priest. Pastor is the term used in Canon Law to refer to the priest who is in charge of a parish - as opposed to "administrator", a priest who has oversight of a parish while said parish has no Pastor.


#6

Have you talked to him one on one?

If parishes are merging, are there perhaps issues you are not aware of? Obviously there is a reason the bishop is merging parishes-- financial, manpower, or something else. You may not be in the know on all the things the bishop has asked of the priest.

I would encourage you to make an appointment, sit down and explain the facts of your programs and also your feelings of disappointment and not understanding why.

Give him an opportunity to explain things you may not be aware of.


#7

First, talk to him and see why he wants to cut the programs or how he mants them changed. Second, if these are programs are to help the poor and he wants to change them for what ever reason then try to work with him to make sure the needs are met. We need to make sure that our attachments to how we do something doesn't get in the way of what we are doing. In other words don't get hung up on how you have met the need if it is to the detriment of meeting the need in the first place.


#8

I agree with others that you should have a one on one meeting with the pastor.

One of the questions I would ask him is how HE measures the success of a given program.

For example, you may consider a program successful if each month you are able to help more people than you helped the month before. The Pastor might consider a program successful if each month you have to help fewer and fewer people. It could be the opposite or it could be something completely different.

The pastor probably believes that existing programs take people, time, and money away from what he would like the parish to do. In fact the Pastor may be happy if existing programs continue outside of the parish; he just doesn't think it is the parish that should be responsible for them.


#9

I have found that it's hard to buck a priest's decision or wishes. There are members of the church who will agree with him and do and give him what he wants no matter what because they will not disagree with him ever for any reason. Many priests have gotten used to this and it doesn't go over very well with them when you disagree, no matter if you are right and they are wrong even it it's a matter of legal issues of which they have little to no knowledge of.

I found that it's easiest to slip away quietly and to not make waves. Waves can and will hurt when they come back at you in tsunami proportion. And they will come back.

So in my experience it's usually easier to become a pew sitter and avoid the issues. I also have a teensy tiny parish and nothing is private or personal (unless it's in confession) and everyone wants to be the queen bee and there are no worker bees.
I do so miss my parish from back east where we had 2500 families and several priests and many masses!

At least you have the option of going to another parish, some of us don't have that option without driving many many miles.

I wish you all the best, you are in a tough situation.


#10

When I disagree with my pastor I remember that he is the pastor and the one who has ultimate responsibiblty and accountability to and for the parish. I remember that he may have more of a bigger picture than I do and I also remember that he must obey his Bishop and that I may be unaware of directives that may have come to him from that Bishop.

Then, I remember that I serve at the pleasure of the pastor…not for myself. Finally, I remain in my parish, where, like in my own family, I there may be some disfunction and disagreement, but nothing serious enough to make me leave them.


#11

These are all good posts, thank you.

As far as doing a sit down with the priest, that can be difficult. He is very good at insulating himself from things he doesn’t want to discuss. My last 2 emails about the programs that were cancelled were not answered and I can’t get through on the phone either. I have had discussions with him about these programs and he is very good at giving answers that aren’t really answers. For instance: We need to form a committee to discuss more progressive ways to serve the poor. When I ask how I do that, he tells me to bring it up at the parish council meeting. Problem: no parish council meetings. We have had exactly 2 in the past 18 months. When I point out we already have a program in place that’s been there for 10 years or more, that people want to take part in, and want to continue, I get no answer. I have been told by him that there is no room for some of these things at the church, but there is piles of empty rooms and a former school building to use that stands empty most of the time. And these programs in question cost the parish very little $$, I think we even bring in more donations than it costs us on a couple of them.

These programs have brought the church a lot of positive media coverage over the past, and the former pastor and bishop were very glad to have them there. They are very popular in the community.

I have decided to start making inquiries to seperate these programs from the parish and take it to a level that’s not dependent on the parish. Once I do that I will consider what to do about the church and going elsewheres.


#12

[quote="thomasf, post:11, topic:330938"]
These are all good posts, thank you.

As far as doing a sit down with the priest, that can be difficult. He is very good at insulating himself from things he doesn't want to discuss. My last 2 emails about the programs that were cancelled were not answered and I can't get through on the phone either. I have had discussions with him about these programs and he is very good at giving answers that aren't really answers. For instance: We need to form a committee to discuss more progressive ways to serve the poor. When I ask how I do that, he tells me to bring it up at the parish council meeting. Problem: no parish council meetings. We have had exactly 2 in the past 18 months. When I point out we already have a program in place that's been there for 10 years or more, that people want to take part in, and want to continue, I get no answer. I have been told by him that there is no room for some of these things at the church, but there is piles of empty rooms and a former school building to use that stands empty most of the time. And these programs in question cost the parish very little $$, I think we even bring in more donations than it costs us on a couple of them.

These programs have brought the church a lot of positive media coverage over the past, and the former pastor and bishop were very glad to have them there. They are very popular in the community.

I have decided to start making inquiries to seperate these programs from the parish and take it to a level that's not dependent on the parish. Once I do that I will consider what to do about the church and going elsewheres.

[/quote]

One problem could be that more attention needs to be given to support the parish. It is a sad thing that most parishes, even thriving ones, are supported monetarily by only about a third of the parishioners. People may not like to hear this, but it is not the duty of the pastor to use parish facilities and money that it does not have to keep social programs going. There are Apostolates such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul that help with those needs. These organizations are usually self-supporting (at least in our city) but do also depend on the contributions and volunteers. The parish also contributes to The Society of St. Vincent to some degree, but it's first duty is to the spiritual needs of the parishioners, and that includes providing a suitable place for worship and care and upkeep for the parish facilities. I think it is best to be obedient to your pastor. You may not know all that he has on his plate.


#13

As for me, I would leave.


#14

If you still have any hope of keeping the programs at your parish, I'll just add a bit more advice.
Does the pastor have a secretary he works closely with? When I feel my pastor can't or won't deal with something, I have gained much helpful advice from his secretary, who knows him in and out. Things such as "This is the best time to reach him by phone." or "Don't email him, because he never checks it." or "He is not likely to approve of such-and-such. Something similar came up last year, and he didn't agree to it." A few times I have run ideas passed her see how she thinks he will handle something. This is not meant to be going behind his back, but an attempt to make things easier on him. I hope this is coming off in the right way. If I was in your situation, I might ask her, "Do you think Pastor is going to cancel these programs?" She might have some helpful insight.

Best wishes for whatever you decide.


#15

[quote="zab, post:12, topic:330938"]
One problem could be that more attention needs to be given to support the parish. It is a sad thing that most parishes, even thriving ones, are supported monetarily by only about a third of the parishioners. People may not like to hear this, but it is not the duty of the pastor to use parish facilities and money that it does not have to keep social programs going. There are Apostolates such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul that help with those needs. These organizations are usually self-supporting (at least in our city) but do also depend on the contributions and volunteers. The parish also contributes to The Society of St. Vincent to some degree, but it's first duty is to the spiritual needs of the parishioners, and that includes providing a suitable place for worship and care and upkeep for the parish facilities. I think it is best to be obedient to your pastor. You may not know all that he has on his plate.

[/quote]

As I wrote, the programs cost the parish very little. I'm talking less than $500 for all 4 programs. If necessary, I could find sponsors for the programs if the $$ was a problem, but he hasn't cited that as an issue. In fact when he took over he offered me more $$ if I needed it. I feed almost 500 people at Thanksgiving and Christmas for less than $300.

[quote="hannajomar, post:14, topic:330938"]
If you still have any hope of keeping the programs at your parish, I'll just add a bit more advice.
Does the pastor have a secretary he works closely with? When I feel my pastor can't or won't deal with something, I have gained much helpful advice from his secretary, who knows him in and out. Things such as "This is the best time to reach him by phone." or "Don't email him, because he never checks it." or "He is not likely to approve of such-and-such. Something similar came up last year, and he didn't agree to it." A few times I have run ideas passed her see how she thinks he will handle something. This is not meant to be going behind his back, but an attempt to make things easier on him. I hope this is coming off in the right way. If I was in your situation, I might ask her, "Do you think Pastor is going to cancel these programs?" She might have some helpful insight.

Best wishes for whatever you decide.

[/quote]

He has a secretary and parish administrator that are as tight lipped and hard to talk to as he is. He does a good job of limiting communication and information through and with them.

I found out tonight that the food pantry that we had at our parish before the merger is moving to a different church because of lack of cooperation with the folks that run it. The lutheran church down the road offered to give space to keep it going. That eliminates pretty much all the poor outreach programs that were part of our parish pre-merger.


#16

Cordially, calmly, and supportively, write him a letter, and a follow up email with the contents of the letter you sent.

Save a copy of it. Give it a few weeks, follow up with a phone call.

Document the letter, the email, the phone call and all replies.

If you receive no replies, or receive a truly unsatisfactory one, makes copies of the documentation and forward the copies to your bishop's office (probably the vicar general first, then bishop if the chancellery doesn't reply).

At the point, I don't know what to do from there- I am sure there is a congregation in Rome to write, but I don't know to whom. Though after a bishop, with a reasonable answer, they are more than likely to simply say, it's his will (the bishop's) and that's what matters.

That being said, in any case, pray. Also, there may, in fact, be things and forces at work which you cannot see.... there may be, also, action responsibly required on your part.

Pray, for you, him, the parish, and the people.


#17

[quote="thomasf, post:1, topic:330938"]

What I'd like to do is find a way to separate these programs from the church, but I don't know where to begin with that.

What can you do when the priest, the pastor of the church, does things or acts in a way that you just can't understand? These are good programs, that cost very little, that people like to participate in, and do nothing but good for people. Yet he's dumping them one by one and has given no reasons or alternatives. Frankly, I'm quite angry about it, but it seems like I am powerless to do anything to stop it.

Should I stick around or just cut my losses?

[/quote]

If it were me, I would stay and be obedient to my pastor. If I felt as strong as you about the programs and knew the people that you know who enjoy helping out with them and know people who have money to support them, then I would take on the ministry myself. Personally, I don't like to hear people bad mouthing my pastor. So I guess I am a little guarded when others complain about their pastors and I don't know their pastor. The choice to stay or to go is really up to you.


#18

[quote="Porter_Disciple, post:16, topic:330938"]
Cordially, calmly, and supportively, write him a letter, and a follow up email with the contents of the letter you sent.

Save a copy of it. Give it a few weeks, follow up with a phone call.

Document the letter, the email, the phone call and all replies.

If you receive no replies, or receive a truly unsatisfactory one, makes copies of the documentation and forward the copies to your bishop's office (probably the vicar general first, then bishop if the chancellery doesn't reply).

At the point, I don't know what to do from there- I am sure there is a congregation in Rome to write, but I don't know to whom. Though after a bishop, with a reasonable answer, they are more than likely to simply say, it's his will (the bishop's) and that's what matters.

That being said, in any case, pray. Also, there may, in fact, be things and forces at work which you cannot see.... there may be, also, action responsibly required on your part.

Pray, for you, him, the parish, and the people.

[/quote]

I'm not sure this is something serious enough to go to the bishop, or even Rome about.

[quote="zab, post:17, topic:330938"]
If it were me, I would stay and be obedient to my pastor. If I felt as strong as you about the programs and knew the people that you know who enjoy helping out with them and know people who have money to support them, then I would take on the ministry myself. Personally, I don't like to hear people bad mouthing my pastor. So I guess I am a little guarded when others complain about their pastors and I don't know their pastor. The choice to stay or to go is really up to you.

[/quote]

In the end, there's not much I can do about it if he wants to end the programs. He's in charge of the parish, after all, I can't fight him. But I can't just stand by and let these programs that serve the poor go away. What do you mean by being 'obedient'? Say 'ok' and just walk away from the whole thing? Is it being disobedient to try to keep the programs going on my own?

I am fortunate that I can choose from many churches in the area. I chose to attend the parish that was absorbed because the parish offered a lot of programs to the poor, and because the priest that was there was open to service to the poor, and was a great priest. I was lucky that the priest that took over for him agreed with that and was also a great priest and a friend. But since the merger, if these programs are going to go away and there is no longer a place for that at the parish, I'm not going to stay. And I'm not the only one that has made that decision. I don't wish the current pastor any ill will, but I am disappointed with what has happened.


#19

[quote="thomasf, post:18, topic:330938"]

What do you mean by being 'obedient'? Say 'ok' and just walk away from the whole thing? *Is it being disobedient to try to keep the programs going on my own? *

[/quote]

Nope. If it were, I never would have said: "If I felt as strong as you about the programs and knew the people that you know who enjoy helping out with them and know people who have money to support them, then I would take on the ministry myself."


#20

Don't despair and give up. If everyone does that what will happen to your parish? Perhaps this could be solved. Does the priest know how you feel? Do you know why Father is making the changes he's making? If you speak to each other may be there is a middle road that will satisfy your aspirations to work with the poor and which may fit in with constraints placed on the priest. I'll pray for a happy outcome to your problem.


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