Whose parish is it?


(Hope this is the right forum!)

Over the years I have noticed that some priests think the parish belongs to them. We had a priest who didn’t like the Knights of Columbus and tried to get rid of them. Other priests supported or just ignored them. Three priests have not liked the Divine Mercy and two of those tried to squash the devotion in the parish. Other priests have been supportive. One church building was designed by a former parish priest, who also spearheaded the fund raising; it has been known ever since as “Fr. X’s church.”

In the latest incident, the priest (who was the subject of a petition asking him to leave) interrupted Benediction (being led by a retired bishop) and stated, “This is MY parish and I’m not going to leave.”

I feel like I’m getting spiritual whiplash. Whose parish is it? Do we really have no say about what a priest does?


It is all about obedience. Obedience to your priest pleases the Lord more than who’s right or wrong. The Church is not a democracy, but a monarchy with Christ at the head. He instituted the priesthood and authorized them to tend his sheep. In short you should not only obey the priest but support him and pray for him.


A diocesan parish is the property of (belongs to) the diocesan bishop. The pastor stands in for the bishop in his absence. I was the secretary of a parish and saw the legal paperwork when pastorships changed hands.


I believe that the parishioners are the owners of their parish according to cannon law. The Bishop is an overseer and is like a trustee and although can close it or suppress it he doesn’t technically own it.


In our diocese, ownership of the property was transfered to the parishes after the scandals and bankruptcy. If anyone sues the diocese now, the pockets won’t be as deep.

The kind of “ownership” I’m asking about is spiritual. Do priests have the authority to make us change our devotions, which in one case resulted in the removal (by the priest) of a lovely Divine Mercy picture. He said it “didn’t go with the architecture.”

Do they have the authority to forbid parish directories, bulletins, parish councils?


Yes, they do.


Yes, the pastor is the ultimate authority on how the parish is set up and what devotions or groups operate within the parish.

Art work comes and goes. You liked the painting, the pastor did not (or didn’t like it where it was). He gets a vote. You don’t.

Now if the pastor was fostering something illegal or immoral or if the pastor refused to offer required spiritual elements - such as Confession times (yeah, I was in a parish like that once), you would have a valid complaint to take to the Bishop or the Vicar for priests. But differences of opinion, within the wide variety of Catholic devotions, are not one of those valid complaints.

Do they have the authority to forbid parish directories, bulletins, parish councils?

Some parishes have directories, some don’t - pastor’s choice.

Bulletins - are not a required thing for Catholic parishes. It seems like there should be some way of communicating but the how is up to the pastor.

As for parish councils, this is up to the Bishop. Finance councils are required, in all of the diocese of the US, I believe. Parish councils are another thing entirely. Some parish councils act as a governing board and try to overrule the pastor. If that is the case, the council should be disbanded or reconstituted and the Bishop would probably back up that decision. A parish council that serves to advise the pastor or to take on some of his administrative burden is a good thing. A council that tries to force it’s opinions on a pastor is not.

“In the latest incident, the priest (who was the subject of a petition asking him to leave) …” :eek: Unless the priest was suspected of serious wrong doing (ethical or legal), this is a very bad sign. Who would do such a thing (start a petition against a pastor)?


The Pastor is the authority and needs no one’s permission to do most things, though the diocese imposes spending limits.

In Canada the parish properties are owned by the diocese, which is set up as a Corporation, not the parish.

Things like the pastoral council and the finance council are only consultative bodies who advise the Pastor but he’s free to reject their advice, though a wise Pastor will try to ‘rule’ by consensus rather than by imposition.

Priests all have their little quirks, just as all humans do. Some are better at dealing with people so they get what they want without a murmur. Others aren’t so great with people and if you happen to get one of those after years of one who is great, you’re more likely to have complaints from parishioners.









Whose parish is it? The bishop’s.

Who makes the decisions in a parish? The pastor.

Do parishioners have a say? No.

The pastoral council is a consultive body and the pastor should take their opinions and wishes into consideration, but he is not obligated to do so. He may do what he believes best.


You can feel free to keep a devotion to the Divine Mercy. That has nothing to do with the pastor’s decision regarding how the interior of the church is adorned.

Contrary to popular belief, parish bulletins are not a Divine ordinance.


NO!!! Priests suffer from mental aberrations, emotional imbalance, addiction, and error just as we do. If I were in a parish where the Pastor did something SO inflammatory as to refuse the Divine Mercy picture because it “didn’t go with the architecture”, I would write to the Bishop. Now, I’m not saying anything will be done about it. There are politics even in the Church (how sad, how tragic to me, this is). But if no one speaks up, then how can the Bishop know? And wouldn’t a “good” Bishop WANT to know if one of his Pastors was in trouble in any way? I hope so. I have two parishes here and both priests, although so very different people, are both true men of God whom I trust. I wouldn’t stay in a parish where I thought otherwise of the Pastor.


I can appreciate that many people do not react well to changes in their lives, especially when it comes to their religion. But, I am always astonished by how many contemporary Catholics (Post V II) that post on this site either have forgotten about or are not aware of the necessity for obedience to our Church leaders, from the Parish Priest, to the Pastor and the Bishop, all the way up to the Pope.
It seems that many people think that Catholic Parishes operate like Protestant Churches where the Congregation chooses their Preacher and, in many cases owns or otherwise has a say about the church related real estate.
I am of the pre-V II generation that was taught that obedience was not only to Holy Mother the Church, but to the Clergy. But, of course, back then individual clergy did not interpret Church teaching or tampered with the Litergy.
I guess I am lucky to belong to a Polish Parish with priests from the Old Country who are as orthodox as the clergy I remember from my youth!


Parishes are governed by two sets of laws; civil and canon (internal church) law.

In the canonical sense, each parish is a separate entity. The parish owns church buildings, etc, and parishioners have an obligation to support the parish, but don’t quite “own” the parish. I don’t think “ownership” is really part of canon law. The priest is appointed to run the parish, and various committees are set up to aid his administration. The exact authority of these committees would be based on internal diocesan policy.

In the civil sense (I will describe Connecticut, the details will vary elsewhere), each parish has a corporate identity, but the bishop is the sole owner, who holds the corporation and all its assets (building, etc) in trust. The parish priest, the bishop, vicar general, and two parishioners serve as the civil law board of directors for the parish corporation. These 5 must agree on how assets will be used. Employees of the parish, such as the secretary and religious education director are employed by the diocese for civil purposes, though their wages are likely derived from the parish budget.


The people in this parish want a say in how things are done because the priest is very disorganized. There is no way to set up classes for the children or people being confirmed. They want to be aple to pass the word (via bulletins) about upcoming events. When the retired bishop came to confirm 3 people, none of them showed up. Instead, 2 girls were there for their 1st Communion.

He has not kept records for 1st Communion, Confirmation, or deaths for several years.

We sometimes don’t know until the last minute if we will have a Mass or a Communion service. When he does say Mass, he changes the words & leaves parts out. I don’t know if it’s a memory problem or for some other reason.

This priest has alienated quite a few people. After he announced that he was going to take a break for possibly the rest of the year, the church was almost full. Then he came back. Then he was going to take a break. Now he’s back. We think. A visiting priest is coming for July - don’t know if the regular priest will show up or not.

I like the people here. I don’t want to change parishes again. :frowning:

If I had known back in '76 that it was accepted practice for priests to do this sort of thing to the people, I wonder if I would have joined the Church. It’s becoming a very unhappy experience for me.


The way to handle a situation like this is with individual letters to the diocesan Bishop stating facts and backing them up with documentation. Do not judge the priest’s motives or assume any bad faith, just tell the Bishop what is happening. It is for him to judge.


I suggest you look into this. Each parish ought to have a record for confirmations, etc. I don’t believe 1st communion is required, though, if I recall. Perhaps yours is not an official parish, so the records are kept elsewhere? Find out what is going on. If you cannot resolve it, contact the diocese. If there truly is no record being kept of sacraments, this must be fixed.


And to add on, if you write to the Bishop, stick to things that are really wrong and not just differences of opinion.

Worth mentioning : irregular Sunday Mass schedule (the times of scheduled Sunday Masses is actually one of the Bishop’s responsibilities), lack of Sacramental records, lack of religious education classes and Sacrament preparation. Especially important is concern over the pastor’s health problems, especially a failing memory.

Not appropriate for a letter to the Bishop: whether or not there should be a particular picture in a particular place, the bulletin, or whether parishioners like this priest.

I would also recommend that no one who was involved in the previous “petition” be the one to write a letter to the Bishop.


And take these three ingredients, add one sexually predatory priest, one fearful bishop, and voila! Another abuse scandal.


Nonsense. Call the police.


Non sequiter.

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