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Thoughts on leaving a parish April 17, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Interior Life, Latin Mass, North Deanery.
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Since the Voris imbroglio has seemed to have attracted a great deal of attention, I thought I’d lay down my thoughts on the circumstances in which one could consider leaving a parish.  First, it really depends on the specific situation, and the specific individual.  If you are being exposed to egregious abuse or outright heresy, I cannot see what good can come from remaining.  It is very unlikely that you will be able to change the abusing priest’s mind, or demonstrably affect the minds of most, if not all, the parishioners (assuming they largely support the priest).  If children are involved, I think in most situations one should leave. unless the problems are fairly minor and easy to counter with at home catechesis.  If there is a group of faithful people, and another perhaps much larger group of unfaithful, one might consider staying to try to improve the situation.  But, please consider the following:

  1. Are you well formed enough in the Faith to keep from being influenced by the dissent/abuse/protestant-inspired thought/etc occurring at the parish?  If you don’t feel comfortable going out in the world and defending the Faith as an apologist, and maybe even evangelizing protestants, I think staying in a situation like this makes it more likely that YOU will be changed by the ongoing circumstances, rather than your witness improving things at the parish.
  2. What specifically do you want to try to address?  Simply trying to remain and being a witness is unlikely to have much impact.  You’re going to need a plan.  You’re going to need to invest time to do research to present arguments grounded in Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and Church documents.
  3. Continuing in that vein, how, specifically, are you witnessing the Faith?  I know a number of individuals who have remained at problem parishes due to their desire to remain a ‘witness’ to the authentic Faith, but I am not certain they really take any concrete steps to actually, you know……….witness.  A few ideas – kneel for Communion, wear a veil, be very, very focused and prayerful during the Mass, arrive early and stay late kneeling in prayer, etc.
  4. How prevalent is abuse in the Diocese, and what are the alternatives?  If there is not much alternative, one may want to stay and just fight through it as best one can.  But if there is a thriving orthodox parish a few miles away, it may make sense to seek out that alternative.

Those are just a few considerations.  A very good priest I know, down here in baptist country, repeatedly makes the point that we, as Catholics, cannot help being influenced by our protestant neighbors, unless we are extremely vigilant and well grounded in the Faith.  He’s been fighting a battle trying to get his people to recognize the supreme need for the Sacrament of Confession, whereas many of the laity think they can just say “confess their sins directly to God and be alright.” I generally attend only orthodox parishes, although one is way more orthodox than the other.  But we do take very concrete steps to witness at the good, but perhaps more mainstream and less openly traditional, parish.  I really need the grounding the FSSP parish provides, though.  Thus equipped, I feel we can witness more effectively at the ‘large, suburban parish’ we attend primarily on weekdays.

There are good arguments on either side, but I think it wrong to declare that leaving a weak, dissenting priest is somehow wrong. Every Catholic is responsible for their own formation, and must seek the the Church environment that appeals to their sensus fidei and meets their spiritual needs.

Dominus vobiscum!