Respect for priests

“If I were to meet a priest and an Angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the Angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place … When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest.”

– St. John Vianney

It always grieves me when Catholics are not respectful of their priests. I get the same feeling when I see a child being disrespectful towards his parents. We are required to honor priests, to defer to their judgments, to obey them in all things lawful, to preserve and defend their good names, to endure their personality quirks, to give them the benefit of the doubt, to readily forgive their faults, to submit to their decisions (even when we think they are mistaken), and to assist them in every need. There are exceptions, of course, when serious harm is being done – but these exceptions must rise above the level of personality clashes, liturgical nit-picking, and the prudential judgments necessary to the office.

A priest is your father in God. Apart from what is settled in ecclesiastical and moral law, everything that happens in a parish is legitimately subject to the pastor’s discretion and authority. Everything – liturgy, devotional activities, education, parish groups and societies, committees, celebrations, the literature in the narthex, etc. It is true that Catholics have lived for 40 years with a scourge of lawless priests. Unfortunately, this has given us a nasty habit of suspicion and a critical spirit that is hard to break. Such un-Catholic habits are now inflicted upon the good and faithful priests whom God, in His mercy, has now seen fit to give us. Considering, also, the natural contempt for authority that is the trademark of Americans in general, the priesthood can become an intolerable burden. It is a wonder that any man would choose to be a Catholic priest today.

“Let all, then, who would live in Christ flock to their priests. By them they will be supplied with the comforts and food of the spiritual life. From them they will procure the medicine of salvation assuring their cure and happy recovery from the fatal sickness of their sins. The priest, finally, will bless their homes, consecrate their families and help them, as they breathe their last, across the threshold of eternal happiness.”

– Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei

2 thoughts on “Respect for priests

  1. Great quote (and entry). As best I can tell when looking back when I have criticized priests, I restricted my comments to his error (and then only if it was a serious and scandalous error) and not directed anything disparging to him personally or his office. However, I’ve dropped the ball when others used a legitimate beef as a launching pad for dishonoring the priest and remained silent. Your entry ecourages me to speak up in the future.


  2. I liked the quote too. While reading this post, a good friend of mine, a priest, came to mind. I hadn’t talked with him in a while and called him to say hello before reading further. Then, i finished reading your post. Thanks.


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