Five Ways to Make Your Priest Miserable

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PriestMy dad was an evangelical pastor for most of my childhood. Watching him lead a church made me acutely aware of the ways church members could be wonderful servants or horrible distractions for the pastor. As a new Catholic, I’ve found that the principles are the same. Below are five actions you can take during this holiday season to make your priest miserable.

1. Complain: Did Father leave the lights on? Was his homily too long or too short? Let him know, frequently. Is the music not up to par, a door unlocked, the Knights of Columbus breakfast not announced, a call not returned? Send a mountain of e-mails! Even better, make them anonymous. Remember, the priest is at your parish to be your personal servant and meet all of your needs.

2. Gossip: If the priest isn’t listening to your wants, let others know about his failures (the less significant the better.) Was he late to confession, not interested in your ministry idea? Let others know through “prayer requests.” Turn the parish against him—you’ll be better off with no priest at all, right?

3. Hoard your time, talent, and treasure: Whatever you do, don’t give 10% of your income to the church. Don’t even give 3%. Throw in a buck every couple weeks. This way, the parish will have a small budget and you’ll be able to complain about the ministries you can’t do. Don’t volunteer, either. Just be a critic. It’s what Pope Francis would do.

4. Forget he is a person: Father does not have a family, does not get stressed, does not have doubts, does not have hobbies—he is a Catholic machine. Keep that perspective in your dialogue with him.

5. Neglect praying for him: Spend your time doing #1-4 and you’ll certainly have no time or desire to pray for him.

That’s it! 5 simple steps. If you diligently follow the instructions detailed above, you will not only succeed in making your priest miserable, but also discourage other discerning boys and young men from ever taking his place.

Anthony Baratta

Anthony Baratta

Anthony Baratta is a 24-year-old writer and newly married husband who left seminary to become Catholic in March of 2012. Read more about Anthony’s journey at his blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

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45 thoughts on “Five Ways to Make Your Priest Miserable”

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    I’m glad you became a Catholic. Here’s a suggestion for being a better one: sit down, shut up, listen, and learn for a few years. You went through RCIA? That means you know NOTHING about being a Catholic. Bupkis, nada, zilch. That isn’t your fault at all – you couldn’t help it. But it’s true all the same. I don’t doubt the clowns running your RCIA program (and it’s run by clowns almost without exception in the US) told you a lot of flattering nonsense about how much better a Catholic you are because of being a convert, and what wonderful exciting things you were going to do for the Church. None of that is going to happen until you learn something from people who have been Catholics for a lot longer. I’m married to a convert, so don’t tell yourself that I’m speaking from irrational animus against new Catholics. It’s just a fact: learn from experienced Catholics before you try to tell them how to be REAL Catholics. Best wishes to you.

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      Imelda Franklin Bogue

      Man, Kathleen Wagner, way to welcome people home to the Barque of Peter. God save me from ever being an “experienced Catholic” if you are what they talk like.

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      seriously sweety, where did that all come from??? I didnt read this as an indictment against cradle catholics at all… took it as a satire that could go for ANYONE in ANY denomination… are you going through something that we can pray for? ::hugs::

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      I will be praying that he does not model being a Catholic upon your example. I am thinking you may not know what a real Catholic is. I would say that you have some issues. What I found with people who had so much animosity against converts was that they spent their life being Catholic and knew about 10% of what the Lord placed in the heart of the convert. They might know the teachings, but they had no personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. They weren’t on fire and they were envious of the joy and peace and enthusiasm of the convert. Like the grumbling worker who started work in the vineyards early and got paid the same as the last worker. Envious of the Lord’s generosity.
      Mr. Baratta gave some good advice. We should be a help, not a hindrance to our priests. We should be praying for them every day and offering our time, treasure and talents fully to the church. We need to remember that without a priest, we have no Eucharist, no absolution for our sins and they are a special gift and blessing for us, from the Lord. That should be apparent and appreciated by converts and cradle Catholics alike. Pointing it out shouldn’t draw insults and sour grapes. Wow.

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      Wow, Kathleen. Sure, he will learn but he’ll be better off learning from the Saints and Doctors of the Church and not from “experienced Catholics”. I’m pretty sure the pastors and the other parishioners at Saint Benedict’s Chapel would agree.

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      Firstly, to everyone else: Kathleen is actually quite right, but her harping on what’s wrong without offering any way to fix it makes her part of the problem.
      Secondly, Kathleen, oddly enough, I should mention that many Catholic priests have said the same thing and more from time to time in different words. Just because he is a brand spanking new Catholic doesn’t mean his observations aren’t accurate or helpful.
      Thirdly, it has just occurred to me that Kathleen may be attempting sarcasm. If that is the case, she’s failed miserably.

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      Wow again, Kathleen. Sorry if all you say is true for you … because if you “have clowns running your RCIA” I can’t help but wonder what you’ve done (or could do) as a parishioner to help correct it? Have you volunteered to help? Or did you volunteer and you weren’t welcomed? AKA, check out St. Paul and all the troubles he had dealing with converts, old and new. On the other hand, if you’re just being sarcastic, it is so sad that you did it this way. Either way, it sounds like your convert spouse and you may have big differences about what faith means to you. Let us all hope and pray for peace in our homes, joy in our faith and love of our neighbor. God bless us everyone!

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      Sad to say, but in our day and time, many new Catholics are much better catechized than us cradle Catholics. They often know the teachings, doctrines, and other important stuff we weren’t taught. Whilst they have come to the Church after reading books, and searching our teachings. Many of our currently popular and great apologists have come into the Church as converts, like Dr. Hahn, Jimmy Akin, Jennifer Fulwiler to name three off the top of my head.

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    Love this article, especially the tongue in cheek way it was presented. Anthony, you are spot on.
    As a parish priest, #4 really resonates with me. Something interesting after I worked in an Archdiocese that has married priests…The parishioners with married pastors w/families respected the privacy and need for personal time more than the single/celibate priests. The going philosophy was that the single priest didn’t need the private/personal time because he was single with no partners or family. The married priests of course needed time with their families.
    With all of that said, I wouldn’t change my life for anything. I really can’t see myself doing anything else but being a priest.

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    Anthony, thank you for this post. I just shared it on my Facebook as well as my blog. The men who answer God’s calling to the holy priesthood have done so out of the generosity of their hearts and the grace of God. We want to serve God and His people to the best of our abilities. Every little bit of encouragement helps and is really appreciated. Thanks for reminding the people of that.

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    you know for some folks that couple of bucks every couple of weeks is actually a meal that they are skipping. Just saying there might be a reason why folks don’t give the “required” amount – and the long term unemployed might have to worry more about keeping time open for interviews rather than volunteering —it’s this type of thinking that kept me from joining a parish for years. And while this might be “tongue in cheek” the attitudes that there are some more worthy than others exist both in clergy and in laity.

    .Also, I agree that complaining and gossip are great ways to crush a priest’s spirit- I don’t agree that telling a priest that lights were left on or doors left unlocked are bad things to give a heads up on. In my area we have had three churches broken into and vandalized lately. One had all the statuary broken, one had the tabernacle stolen and the third had two reliquries stolen. Why would we not be telling our priests that doors are left open- we don’t want to make it easier for folks to steal or destroy holy things, Especially the Blessed Sacrament!

    As for lights…ok, it happens occassionaly and that should be ignored. But as someone who sees lights left on in the school building at midnight when I come for adoration and still on at 3am when I leave, do I not tell the priest when this is almost a weekly event? Are Catholic schools now so rich that we can leave lights on over the weekend, every weekend? If so,I am glad to hear it, and will be expecting a ceasation of fundraising for the schools. I don’t see what’s wrong with a private head’s up message to my church’s facebook page ( manned only by the parochial vicar) saying “hey, the light’s on again in the storeroom/classroom above the chapel” so he can tell teachers to be more careful. And before you ask why I don’t tell him when I see him, because that would leave it on until either 5pm Saturday or 11 am Sunday, where as the FB page is checked regularly and He can either shut it off himself or ask someone to as soon as he sees it–and the fb page won’t wake him like a phone call would- he’s human he needs to sleep, too. 🙂

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    Well done. Don’t forget to complain about the priest having a heavy accent while never talking to your children about a religious vocation.

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    Didn’t realize in order to join a religion I’d have to give up 10% of my income to the church. That’s the money I feed myself and my family with. Guess I’m too poor to be in your club because I like to try to eat every day

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      CCC#2043…give according to your means…here:
      ” The fifth precept (“You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”) means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.”
      The young can owe huge college debts for years; the elderly waitress who is widowed and has no pension but social social security is in a very tough position if she ever needs a new furnace and a new car and her medicare doesn’t cover dental and only covers a percent of her hospital stay. Avoid percent parishes…go by the ccc.#2043.

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    Too late for me. I left the priesthood after 32 years five years ago, with no thanks, no good-bye, and no hope of financial assistance. While the writer is right on target and certainly I experienced all five items listed, the one that finally pushed me to leave and get a life of my own was: indifference. Few seemed to care what I did, what needed to get done, what I accomplished, or what my skills were. The church hierarchy treated us all like little plaster statues created out of one mold. Their communication was unnecessarily ambiguous and inconsistent, as was the enforcement of diocesan practices, leaving the priest hung out to dry if there were any controversy. Most parishioners couldn’t care less what was offered as long as they got what they wanted when they wanted it from someone with a collar or a veil. Many wanted a simplistic religion that worshiped the pope while I tried to offer a deeper spirituality that put Jesus first. I got tired being treated as a holy shaman one minute and a franchise functionary the next. I lasted over 3 decades in part because of the tiny minority of people who stepped up to the plate and supported the mission of the church with generosity and goodness. Ultimately the isolation of celibacy, having to be closeted as a gay man, and the lack of leadership in the church got to me. And please, if you’re one of those “super-Catholics” ready to judge me or preach to me, don’t bother. I’ve been harder on myself than you can possibly be and have finally found what a lot of priests lack: human happiness.

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      I won’t judge you, but I will ask, how do we help other priests to feel supported and valued? I ask as a Catholic who recently returned to the Church and really has no idea how to help

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        1. Get to know them as persons, not as functionaries, if they permit you. A lot of priests are impenetrable, self contained, typical of many men who don’t let their emotions show. Try anyway.
        2. Send them cards…not the drippy pious kind….humorous and light hearted.
        3. Volunteer when there’s a need for Euch. min., lectors, rel. ed. teachers, church decorating, etc. You don’t have to give over your whole life…have your own boundaries, but help him with the work!
        4. Praying for him is good but can also be a cop out. God answers prayers by using our hands, feet, and voice.
        5. If you ever have anything important to tell him, do not say it at the door of the church and expect him to recall. Make an appt at your home for tea or at the office to sit down and discuss your observations and ideas.
        6. Never suggest that something ought to be done unless you’re willing to do it.
        7. Be his champion in public. Truthfully tell others of his gifts/talents. And don’t listen to detractors…no comments…just walk away.
        8. Don’t put him on a pedestal. Don’t call him just “Father”. He has a name… use it, otherwise it objectifies him further.
        9. If he’s into the clerical game, there’s not much hope….he’ll likely be happy to be kept at a distance. Otherwise treat him as you would your older/younger brother. Priests generally like kidding around, sassy ladies, and joking…but not in public. You don’t want to appear as if you are currying favor or that you’re one of his favs.
        I had a hard time figuring priests out. I’m Italian American and have a totally different temperament from the Irish American priests I knew. The latter are a tough breed, tend to be close to the vest, and have lots of walls. If your priests are like that don’t worry….they’ll still get the message that you like them and appreciate their efforts.

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        Michael Bazikos

        Michael, of course I hope you will actually read this. I live in South Jersey, in the Diocese of Camden. Most of the time it is very difficult to get to know a priest. I always chalked it up to them being very busy. It wasn’t as if many Catholics wouldn’t extend friendship and hospitality but in my experience most priests are not open to it. Now, most priests have been cordial but to get to know one as an close friend is rare. From my end, the worst of the worst are the priests that have been told by their mothers how wonderful they are. And they believe that is the unvarnished truth. I want to add that I am 53. I grew up in the 70’s and I remember that the majority of priests and nuns were very angry people and immature. I know that many Catholic religious and priests have a hidden and active gay sex life. This is not my guess. And I did not go out of my way to find this out. So the same folks don’t want to have lay people close to them who might find their activities scandalous. The bottom line is, many practicing Catholics would offer a meal, comradery and emotional support but they are outside of the walls that the priest built himself.

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        Hi Michael, I totally agree with you. The fact that some people are emotionally wired to be celibate is one of the issues. I find those who seem to be are very self-contained, don’t want or need much company from others, and are happy keeping their own company. This can be a factor in some cases when a someone reaches out to a priest and just seems to get a wall thrown up. And yes, some priests and religious have private lives that they do not want to share with others. They may involve sex with others or may just be a way the man separates the need to be “on call” and “helping mode” from a time away from it. Sometimes people are attracted to priests as friends precisely because they are good listeners and helpers. This can be exhausting for the priest who needs to have time away from it all. And of course there’s always the issue of having something in common with another person that goes beyond ministry and church. I found I had little in common with most priests because their whole worlds were wrapped up in the profession, without outlets that I found interesting. And maybe it was me. Maybe I have an unusual set of interests and find most people are not equally interested…and so we find each other boring! Human interaction is always fascinating and complex! So while I agree with much of what you wrote, Michael, the fact is that there may be many issues getting in the way of relationships with clergy.

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    If a seminary priest knows that he should not do anything wrong with a girl.. then knowingly he did.. what is the answer for this

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