Grievance about parish priest

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-31-2003
Grievance about parish priest
11
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 10:37am
I'd like to get a serious answer to this question because it concerns my children who attend the local Catholic school.

Recently, our children received report cards. The pastor gave them out to the children.

In one class, the pastor withheld the report card from one student saying to the student in front of all the classmates, "You are not receiving your report card because your parents have not met their financial obligation." The child was, naturally, embarrassed and horrified. The parents are hopping mad and are ready to leave the school.

The fact is that these parents DID meet their financial obligation and can document having done so. Even if they didn't, I felt that this was highly inappropriate behavior on the part of our pastor. As a parent, I am deeply concerned and offended. If it happened to these children whose parents did nothing wrong, it could certainly happen to mine. But I am unsure as to who to complain to or how to help this family put their grievance in writing to the correct authorities.

This is not the first out-of-bounds behavior by this pastor and word has it that many parents have already written the archdiocese on other matters to no avail. Can someone tell me if there is a correct way to address a grievance concerning a pastor's behavior toward members of the school community? Is there some way to get the archdiocese (of NYC) to listen? Do any of you have any kind of experience like this?

For the record, I love the school and the parish. The community and the principal are wonderful and I personally would hate to leave. But if the pastor continues to alienate parishioners, parents and students, we can't stay open for long so I'm losing sleep over this. Any suggestions from one who has been there?

TM

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-05-2003
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 11:47am
That is horrible! When I was in elementary school I went to a private school, non-Catholic, and I can remember things like this being done several times. In one instance a 3rd grade girl was pulled from the school play the day before opening night (after practicing the lead role for WEEKS) because her family was behind on tuition. I can't imagine how confused and devestated she must have been. What a terrible thing to hold a child hostage to punish the parents.

While I understand the school's frustration with late or non-paying parents perhaps they need a Biblical reminder that Jesus wiped away the Judaic tradition that the sins of the father should be visited upon the son. Other than sit down with the priest, write the school principal, the diocesan director for education and the Bishop (or Archbishop) I'm not sure what more can be done. Is there a reason why the diocese has refused to act on the previous complaints? I hope this can be resolved. It's sad to see an otherwise positive school atmosphere ruined over $ matters.

"Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have. The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases." - Thomas Jeff

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-31-2003
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 12:05pm
I'm not sure why the archdiocese hasn't moved on him. By his own admission (during his homilies no less!) there are "file cabinets" of complaints on him. He points to these complaints as evidence that other people are petty and sinful.

It is sad to say that stuff like this makes me sincerely rethink my participation in the Catholic Church. I believe in all the tenets, believe very strongly in Catholic education, but the leadership, at least at my local level, makes me nuts.

TM

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-05-2003
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 1:32pm
I sympathize. The pastor at our former parish was often enough to make me "lose my religion", literally. I would let myself get so frustrated by his arrogance, his pettiness, etc. But then I realized that my frustration was my problem. I was choosing to let him get under my skin and that nothing I could ever do was going to change who he is so I could either accept him as human and acknowledge that the Church is bigger than this one man or give up something so very important to me, my faith. Ultimately I distanced myself from situations and parish groups that I knew would lead to large amounts of interaction with him and I was much, much happier for it. Try to let it roll off your back and only get worked up about situations (concerning him) which affect you and your family directly. Don't borrow other people's righteous indignation and see how it goes. If that doesn't work you can always offer up your frustration and suffering for the poor souls in purgatory. :)

"Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have. The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases." - Thomas Jeff

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 1:40pm
I'm just curious about something...why nobody mentions switching parishes as an option. I can't stand the pastor at the church that is closest to my house. The second closest parish doesn't have a school. So instead of attending a church that is 3 or 5 minutes away, we attend one that is 15 minutes away. I realize not everyone lives in an area where there are that many choices, but I also wonder what other factors may be at play. Is it because you feel an obligation to attend the church that the location of your home says you "belong" to? Is it because you're connected to your current church in other ways? (That wasn't possible for me; my...uhm...distaste for this one pastor was such that I couldn't muster any enthusiasm for getting involved in a parish he led.)

In my town (about 1 million in the metro area...medium-sized, I guess), it's very common for people to drive across town to attend the church of their choosing, and I'm just curious as to how other people feel about that.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-31-2003
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 2:11pm
I don't switch parishes (yet) for a few reasons.

1. As I mentioned in my first note, my kids love the school, are doing great there, have lots of good friends and a great Catholic education. Thank goodness, they are blissfully ignorant of the political shenanigans that the pastor has wrought on the parents and staff of the school. Moving to another school would be very disruptive to my kids. Moving would entail a longer bus commute to a town where they do not know anyone. Sad to say, there are many parents in the school who have moved on, but I hate to do that to my kids until all other avenues have been exhausted.

2. We are very involved in this parish too, very much part of the family, a family that has been around a lot longer than this pastor has. My husband and I are both very involved in ministries for school and parish. Frankly, we see this as OUR parish, not his. We've lived here for 10 years and this is our third pastor. In the grand scheme of things, I guess we're hoping that we outlast him before the school has to close its doors.

3. I have, on occasion, gone to another church in another town. In fact, this parish has our old pastor in it so I'm quite comfortable there. The downside is that they have no school. We could switch parishes and take $1000/year hit in tuition but again, see #2 for reasons I'd prefer not to do that.

Thanks to all for the kind words. I think I'm going to help this family draft a letter to the archdiocese. Then, I'm going to draft my own.


TM


Edited 2/4/2004 2:12:37 PM ET by turningintomymom

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 4:11pm
Catholic schools are not the same as they were 15 or 20 years ago. They are for the most part simply private schools that you pay tuition to attend. The School is not the Church for the most part. There should be a school board and that is who you should be discussing this with. The Bishop is still the one that Church law has listed as the one responsible but in reality the schools are really independent institutions. I would start with the Head Master or Principal and then the School board. No if this pastor acts this way towards people regarding church matters ni addition to the school issues then the diocese should be involved. In NY I would guess that you have Aux bishops that oversee certain areas of the Archdiocese or functions within the Archdiocese. Try and find out who this is for your parish or vicariate.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 4:19pm
Br. Rich brought up something I was going to mention. In our diocese, all the priests report to a Vicar General, who just happens to be the pastor of the church we attend. In addition to his pastoral duties, he handles many of the bishop's administrative responsibilities. I'd suggest finding the specific person in your diocese who's responsible for the priests.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 5:53pm
Most diocese also have a vicar of Education who handles issues with the Catholic schools for the Bishop.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-31-2003
Wed, 02-04-2004 - 6:17pm
This school has no school board. I don't know what the archdiocese rules are regarding this but we don't have one. It used to exist but doesn't anymore. The principal is well aware of the situation but has to walk a thin line since the pastor is his boss. This pastor has no qualms about firing anyone who crosses him. The previous principal, several teachers, the former CCD director and the former choir director can attest to that.

A friend of mine who has been writing letters about him for the past year has provided me with the archdiocese schools administrator and the director of priest personnel. I suppose that's a good place to start.

TM

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-05-2003
Thu, 02-05-2004 - 10:06am
In my case we didn't switch parishes because this was the parish my DH converted in and he felt a very strong emotional tie to the church, the deacon and others in his RCIA classes. Also since he was a new convert I felt that it was best to let him choose to worship where he was most comfortable. Through RCIA we had formed a very strong sense of community with other young families in the parish and it seemed a waste to lose all of that over 1 man.

Luckily I like where we are now and have no issues with the priests, but since my kids are in school I would be reluctant to change parishes even if they brought Bill Clinton in to preach. Ok, well maybe then..... ;-)

"Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have. The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases." - Thomas Jeff

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