In the old Canon Law of the Church, and also in the new Canon Law of the Church, both parish families and priests as fathers of those parish families are to have the benefit of the stability that one would witness with faithful fatherhood in a sacramental-biological family.
Some decades ago, the more progressive, liberal, more merely administrative and political types petitioned for an indult granting to the Episcopal Conference the right to transfer priests out of their parishes after a mere six years, all as a matter of course. In practice, some have renewed this for a second term of six years, but almost impossibly beyond that.
Just to say, all things being equal, there has never been even one priest, appointed parish priest before the 1983 code, and who appealed a threatened transfer out of his parish, appealed all the way to the Holy See, who ever lost that appeal. Not one, ever. The Church wants priest to be stable fathers of their parish families.
At any rate, the six-year model made for a great deal of politicking with bishops both on the part of priests and parishioners:
- Sycophant priests sucking up to willing bishops sought “plum parishes”, while simply faithful hardworking priests were “punished” with “non-plum parishes”. No one understood, or really cared, that the faithful priests desired run-down, disspirited, bankrupt parishes, especially those parishes in which there had been horrific scandals, for such faithful priests wanted to be fathers of such parish families.
- Powergroup parishioners harrassed willing bishops for this or that priest that they knew they could manipulate for whatever ends they had. No one understood, or really cared, just what a promotion of a clericalistic mentality this brought about, where the priest was ever more god as long as he did what he was pressured into.
Just to say:
- The best parishes I’ve seen in my life as a priest in quite innumerable dioceses and archdioceses on so many continents, are those parishes with priests who are appointed for life, so that the priests understood that they were to be fathers of their parish families, even while the parishioners knew that they had a father, perhaps with some quirks in this way or that, but surely someone they could encourage like any family would encourage its father.
- The worst parishes I’ve seen in my life as a priest in quite innumerable dioceses and archdioceses on so many continents, are those parishes with more priests than years clicking by. The priests couldn’t care less about the parish families, waiting for the next assignment, and the parishioners even learned to hate the priests, even without having met them yet, already having it set in their minds that they are going to do things their own way, come hell or high water, since they will have another priest after some months anyway.
Make the analogy with a family with one mother and as many fathers, one after the other, as there are children. None of the children love any of the fathers, especially not their own. Very common, no? This is what happens in parishes. It’s bad for everyone involved. Priests have to know that they are fathers. If not, there will be trouble.
Priests have to know that they are married to the Church by the Sacrifice of the Mass they offer, with such wedding vows: “This is my body given for you in sacrifice… my blood shed for you in sacrifice.” If they don’t know that, if they are reduced to being administrators, anything goes. They will most like reject the doctrine and morality of the Church, permit divorce and remarriage (at least on the quiet, in the confessional, which is a horrific lie to the penitents), and, all in lockstep, will begin to benignly tolerate all sorts of rubbish, until it all gets worse, much worse.
Sure, there are priests who are constantly on the move for one reason or another. I belong to a group of misisonary priests, who are constantly living out of a suitcase, giving parish missions. And I’m a hermit! But I once was in a cycle of troubleshooting parishes for bishops, and would move from one to the next. But that doesn’t mean that fatherliness is thereby lessened. One has jacked up the whole thing to be a father for the Church beyond this or that parish family (although all priests are priests for the whole Church, as are bishops).
What’s important is to know that a priest is a father because of the Sacrifice of the Mass he offers.
To help your priest, know he is a priest, go to Mass, go to confession, start up Eucharistic adoration in your parish and have hours offered for priests and vocations to the priesthood.
“But Father! But Father!
We don’t like that priest! We want a better priest!”
Great! There are many reasons not to like a priest which are very legitimate. Pray and act.
If there are things which have to changed right here, right now, fine! Correct him in all charity like any son or daughter would correct a wayward father.
Rebuffed? Go to him with a group. Rebuffed? Make an appointment with the Bishop. Not granted or rebuffed? Write to him with copies to the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington and to the appropriate dicasteries in the Holy See. Don’t give up until you get a priest who is not anti-Catholic.
But first of all, help him to see the error of his ways, sitting down with him and explaining the situation about the reality of life and the Church at this present time, and Christ having been tortured and put to death, and takes His risen life with us deadly seriously, and that you all have the right to the sacraments as Christ and Church have provided, that is, not by way of some self-congratulatory remake done by the priest.
Having said that — whew! — wish your priests, all of them, deserving or not, a Happy Fathers Day, and mean it, and make sure they know you mean it. Look them in the eye and say it. If they deserve it, this will encourage them all the more. If they don’t deserve it, the words will work on them, encouraging them to turn around and be priests, knowing why they are priests.