One of the best and most challenging aspects of the Church is that it is composed entirely of humans, who are flawed and fallible, with their own perspectives, experiences, strengths, and weaknesses. As a result, disagreements between individuals can arise, and this can be particularly challenging when those disagreements are of a spiritual nature and involve one’s pastor. Priests are ordained and have received the sacramental grace of Holy Orders, so it can be tempting to assume that their word is final.
However, that assumption is not always accurate. If a priest is teaching or practicing something that is morally wrong or clearly heretical, it is essential to inform the bishop and other relevant authorities. In situations where the issue is less clearly defined, such as disagreements about church approaches to evangelism or liturgical practices, it is okay for a layperson to question a priest. Nevertheless, it is crucial to approach such conversations constructively, personally, socially, and spiritually.
3 Tips For Talking With Your Priest When You Disagree With Them
Here are three tips that can help conversations between a layperson and a priest stay positive:
- Begin with prayer. Specifically, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and inspiration, and seek wisdom and understanding from sources such as Scripture, the Catechism, and the lives of the saints. Talk to a trusted spiritual director or someone who can help you clarify and understand your own thoughts and feelings about the situation. Seek to understand the perspectives of both God and the priest, rather than focusing solely on your own opinions and emotions.
- Always approach the conversation with respect and charity. Acknowledge that your pastor is a human being with his own strengths and weaknesses, and recognize the dignity of his priesthood. Keep in mind that love and respect are essential to any productive conversation, and try to avoid letting anger or frustration dominate the discussion. Actively listen to his perspective before responding and stick to the issue at hand.
- Remember to be faithful. Trust that God has entrusted the direction of your parish to your priest and bishop, even if you disagree with some of their decisions or practices. If you feel compelled to speak up or make changes, do so in a way that is faithful to God’s will, rather than your own desires. Ultimately, the most critical question is whether you have been faithful to what God has asked of you.
Following these three tips may not guarantee that every conversation with a priest will be smooth and easy. Still, they can help promote greater understanding, respect, and charity between individuals, ultimately helping to strengthen the bonds of faith and community within the Church.