Discussing Concerns with new-ish Pastor, without creating SheepAttack
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,520
    Ok, so,

    Many people, devout people, people who have over many, many years, devoted much time, talent, and treasure as Altar Boys, Readers, Choir-members, Catechists, Sacristans, etc., have come to me with many concerns about some of the liturgical things done by our new-ish Pastor (who just celebrated his 10th ordination anniversary, and is about to celebrate his 2nd anniversary as Pastor). These include such things as unreasonably long homilies -- by which I mean 25-30 minutes; improvised and "preachy" General Intercessions, sometime lasting 10 minutes; and overly-long introductory remarks, which on certain Saints' Days have become 10 minute sermons in themselves; then compensating for this by rushing through the Super Oblata, Preface, and Eucharistic Prayer.

    Also of concern, and this greatly bothers me, as well, is that he will occasionally, in the same opening remarks, come up with some "clever" pun off the saint's name. Additionally, he will occasionally, when giving a blessing or something, make a joke out of it.

    The problem is that many of the people who have come to this parish came specifically to get away from things like this.

    And the thing is, I don't entirely blame him, personally---it is his lack of formation at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary for Delayed Vocations, combined with a lack of knowledge about the pre-Concilliar Church, as he is a convert from the Baptist church (Our former Pastor was also non-formed at the same institution, but could supplement from his memory of the Old Ways). I know that he has good intentions -- he is learning the TLM -- and he has been open to other suggestions of mine, but those haven't impinged directly on his ars celebrandi (or lack thereof).

    I know that these things are causing problems--our attendance at the Sunday High Mass has gone from 200 to 60; I am losing choir members because they can't take the length of the Masses: 1 1/2 hrs. on most weeks, mainly taken up by the sermons (!) and general intercessions.

    People are coming to me, being a point of continuity between the Ancienne Regime and the New Guy, as if I am the Pastor and he is my wayward Curate. I know that something needs to be done, but I'm not sure what, or how. I don't want to be the leader of a Sheep Attack, but I also don't want the parish to collapse.

    So, in sum: HELP!!!!
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,892
    This is simpler than you realize and you already have part of the answer here:

    1. You are not the pastor, and he is not your wayward curate.

    2. You don't actually know that something needs to be done, because you don't what it is, or how. And unless people have somewhere else to go, collapse is less likely than loss of good energy, and miasma setting in.

    Thanked by 2Salieri CHGiffen
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,520
    Thank you, Liam. Sometimes it just takes someone who is completely outside of the situation to see the solution.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,892
    Can't tell if you were being ... ironic, but I was serious, not snarky. People need to take responsibility for communicating their issues with the pastor to the pastor; for them to try to deputize you as their advocate is a form of injustice to you. If he's demonstrated a pattern of blowing his flock off, then to the vicar forane or regional bishop, if any, though that's really something that doesn't have traction with the kinds of things you've listed.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,520
    No, I was being honest. What you say is absolutely correct, and I hope that I didn't come across as being sarcastic or anything, it was certainly NOT my intention.

    Sometimes when a person is so closely involved with things, it becomes a situation of not seeing the forest for the trees type of thing---I'm sure that's not the right metaphor. It is difficult seeing attendance at all the Masses plummeting, and hearing the same complaints from vastly different people, and feeling like you HAVE to do something, but the truth is, there is nothing I CAN do. It's not my place--and they should take their concerns to him directly. I am not their spokesman. I have been causing myself a great deal of anguish over this, and fretting about what to do--but, I'm not going to do anything, it's not worth an ulcer.

    Again, I hope this doesn't sound sarcastic, I don't intend it to be.
  • People do need to talk directly with the new pastor.

    If he is not responsive, they then need to meet directly with the Bishop - telephone calls to a chancery may be pretty much a waste of time 'cause things get "filtered" before they get to him.

    The bishop KNOWS that giving has dropped in the parish and possibly putting this guy there may be a move to close the parish down.
  • Noel,

    I didn't get the sense that giving was down before this pastor arrived, but that it had dropped because of this pastor. Did I misunderstand?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,520
    (On paper, giving has actually stayed fairly consistent--this has to do with a diocese-wide increased-giving campaign a year ago, plus new practices put in place when after a 'sting' operation we confirmed our suspicions that someone was nicking from the till, but that's not the topic being discussed--despite the exodus of tuchuses from pews, so money isn't an issue---if you just look at figures on paper it looks like the campaign was basically a failure because we're all too cheap to give more, those stat.s don't show pew-count.)
  • toddevoss
    Posts: 118
    Quite frankly with such a massive drop in attendance, I am surprised he hasn't asked someone "why do you think this is happening" (and you would be a good candidate since you have had a leading role in the parish for many years). If he does ask you, I would just be honest about what you have heard.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • I have noticed a trend among younger priests--no matter where they went to seminary--to stretch the homily longer than it should. This, in spite of admonitions to the contrary by Pope Francis and several bishops. I have no objections to a long homily as long as it says something. Having a captive audience must be tempting!

    As for the extra commentary and joking around, there is no place for this.

    Salieri, the fact that your pastor is making the effort to learn the Latin Mass is impressive. Maybe, that is a starting point for you to have an honest discussion with him.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,520
    So, 2020 is only 34 days old, and already has the makings of an Annus Horribilis.

    Attendance is down the drain (and likely only to get worse after this weekend--see below). Altar Boys have all but stopped serving. The finance council chairman says that at the current rate, we will only have enough money to survive for another two years.

    The pastor's foray into the Wonderful World of Tradition, in spite of things that are often reported (such as on Fr. Z's blog), has not helped to tighten-up his ars celebrandi. (After allegedly 'learning the TLM' for two years, he has only ever said it twice: both of which were absolute disasters, with me telling him what to do: "Fr., kiss the altar. Fr., turn around. Say 'Dominus vobiscum. Turn to your right and go to the missal. Bow to the cross and say 'Oremus'. Now say the collect. Finish the conclusion: Jesum Christum. Repeat after me: Filium tuum. Qui tecum vivit. Et regnat. Per omnia saecula. Saeculorum. Now read the Epistle. No, not from the Ambo, from here. The Epistle. Lectio epistolae.") What it has done, is gotten him involved with "the seedy underbelly" of Traditionalism. Which brings me to this weekend: to wit:

    He preached a sermon at the Sunday Masses (Presentation of the Lord)--NB, all of our Sunday Masses are Novus Ordo!--which was most egregious at the 8:00 am, but horrendous at all of them, in which he was going on and on about how superior the Extraordinary Form is to the Novus Ordo, going deep into the waters of the "liturgy wars", calling into question the postconciliar liturgical reform, including the Kalendarium, Ordo Missae, etc.. Also, while taking up his insane interpretation of St. Pius X's condemnation of Modernism, he questioned--FROM THE PULPIT, IN A RECORDED SERMON!--the canonizations of St. John XXIII, St. Paul VI, & St. John Paul II, and the cause of Ven. John Paul I (Albino Luciani). It was almost Gnostic in some ways, as if attendance at the Vetus Ordo imparts some kind of arcane knowledge of True Catholicism that is unattainable to the uninitiated Novus Ordite. And this on the heals of his sermon last week calling for 'unity' in the parish.

    Needless to say, people are livid--including myself, a "Rad Trad"--and, based on an e-mail I received, people are complaining and taking him to task for bashing the New Mass, including people saying that they will go to the Bishop (the current Episcopal Vicar (promoted from Dean), and the emeritus Episcopal Vicar have both been made aware of this sermon already, as has the Pastor Emeritus).

    The problem is that when people have come to him with concerns over the past years about certain things in the parish, i.e., concerns about things that he is doing or not doing that is causing division, he simply digs his heals in more. So chances are, he will do the same with this.

    There are other problems that have been manifesting themselves, but I won't go into them here. What I said above is public knowledge, since it was a sermon, one iteration of which was filmed for broadcast of the Mass later this week on local TV.

    I don't know what else to say, or do, except, please keep us all at my parish, including the pastor, in your prayers. Here beginneth the Annus Horribilis.
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 124
    Over at pray tell there is a series of one minute homilies. Perhaps they could be of inspiration.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,197
    I have had pretty good success at keeping the administration believing they need me more than I need them. So far, (20 years) it has worked to my advantage. We have had exemplary priests which has made a difference, too. I am always perturbed when I read the horror stories some post here. Definite prayers for you folks.
  • KARU27
    Posts: 110
    Well, if it was filmed for the TV Mass, then lots of people will see it, right? And there'll be lots of people complaining to the bishop? Don't you think this pastor will be shuffled off to Buffalo in short order?
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 128
    Having dealt with a somewhat similar situation for the past two years, my recommendation is to back away as much as possible. Do not encourage others to share their concerns with you. In fact, avoid situations where you might be "intercepted." For me that has meant continuing to perform my assignments while keeping a low profile. If people begin to talk about their concerns, listen but be non-committal. If necessary, walk away from the conversations. Find another focus for your energy and time. Be cordial and polite to your priest and avoid confrontation with him. For me, that means working in church office at odd hours and scheduling rehearsals when he will be involved in other matters. I retired from teaching two years ago and my goal was to devote more time to church and music. After two years, I accepted the fact that all I could was provide the best music possible, be polite, and be inconspicuous. Let others be responsible for speaking out or complaining. If they complain behind priest's back to you, they could very likely be talking behind your back as well. Liam offers excellent advise. I have returned to a full-time teaching position and while much more invisible at church have seen growth in parish choir. I accept the fact that at least for the foreseeable future liturgies are going to be haphazard and hackneyed. The only thing I can do is provide the best music possible and pray.
  • We all know that our most troubling adversaries can be those aligned to “our” side of the liturgical divide. As an example, many Latin Mass Catholics were recently upset by Fr. Z’s unqualified infatuation with Donald Trump and felt such praise does the cause more harm than good. More personal and local, the biggest mistake of my career was accepting a parish MD position offer from a priest who touted Theodore Marier’s hymnal as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Little did I realize that his admiration would not extend to liturgical praxis.

    The public speaking virus that infects so many priests, as detailed by Salieri above, has reached a pandemic stage - at least in the Northeast. So few Catholic homilists seem to know how to home in on a single point and tie all thoughts to it. Is it that the priest shortage causes seminary admission directors to overlook the need for attracting people with the capacity for critical thought?

    Though my words may seem to indicate otherwise, I try to be understanding. I’ve written for homily services and know how difficult it is to write something concise and meaningful week after week. Public speaking is not something most of us are born to do. Great preaching is a gift that can’t be easily taught and we shouldn’t expect every parish priest to be a John Henry Newman or a Fulton Sheen. But we should expect that seminary candidates know basic grammar, rules for composing a cohesive paragraph and common mistakes of speech. (The nonsensical “anyways” is so common in my locale that my fingernail marks are immortalized on organ benches throughout the Boston Archdiocese.)

    Not knowing when to shut up of course appears to be a fundamental nationwide complaint. We all perhaps need to reflect and work on that, but in the seminary it needs special emphasis or at least a nod to the wisdom of St. Francis that to preach is not necessarily to use words.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • shuffled off to Buffalo


    Excuse me! It's a very tastefully decorated cesspool, thank you very much, and I miss many aspects of life in that part of the world, where I grew up.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck