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When is it Time to Leave A Parish?

David at Apostolate of the Laity asks a good question. If you are at a parish with a pastor whom you believe is leading the flock astray do you stay as a stalwart of orthodoxy or do you abandon a sinking ship and pray for those left behind?

Our pastor is a baby boomer who has lost his faith. He has no reverence towards the Eucharist and has tried on several occasions to eliminate our adoration chapel. He removed offering the precious blood out of convenience from two of our Sunday masses and eliminated the cantor from one. He directs couples wanting to get married, but waiting for an annulment to just get married by a justice of the peace until the annulment comes through. His entire focus is on building a new church to replace our stately old one under the guise that we need more room.

I wrote recently about the positive changes brought about by our new pastor. What if the changes had gone the other way? What if he brought in more Haugen and Haas music instead of encouraging more traditional hymns and Latin? What if he replaced our processional crucifix with a stylized modern art cross with no corpus? What if he took away all Eucharistic adoration instead of looking for more and more opportunities for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament? Would I have stayed? I don’t know.

We have moved around quite a bit. Some parishes have been more to our liking than others. However, for the most part, we have not done too much church shopping. Instead we have stuck pretty much with our geographically assigned parish. The only time we really considered leaving a parish was when we were at a very small parish with a single priest. This priest began advocating for the adoption of children by homosexuals. He kicked the Boy Scouts out of the parish ostensibly because there was no longer any physical space to accommodate their meetings. Before we actually transferred to another parish, the Air Force stepped in and gave us orders to leave so we just waited until we moved out of the area.

Yet, if you see yourself staying in the same area for the foreseeable future, are you better off finding a parish that better fits your spiritual needs? Do you have a responsibility to stay and support orthodoxy in spite of the pastor?

When I visited a parish in Virginia Beach that was so outlandish in its liturgical practices I felt compelled to question it, the pastor told me to just find another parish. I obviously wouldn’t be happy in his. I am sure that if I lived in Virginia Beach I would have taken his advice. So I guess my advice to David is to consider discussing it with the pastor. Don’t make the decision in a vacuum. Let him know the things that make you uncomfortable and see if he can offer any consolation. If the issues are more a matter of liturgical style (music, church décor) it might be worth staying. However, if the issues are more serious like supporting Church doctrine, especially on moral matters like marriage, then it is probably time to leave. Keep praying for him and for all our priests.


Barb, sfo said…
Sometimes decor is more than just decor. The absence of a Corpus, I think, can be quite telling.

In my family's case, we ultimately did leave a parish after YEARS of "little things" that all added up badly. It became more of a stress on our family and faith to stay, even if we did want to support the others who were staying in good faith. The pastor knew why we left and did nothing to call us back. 4 years later, a new pastor, new circumstances, and we have been welcomed back there in what really had been, and is again, our spiritual home.

Sometimes it is more important to your faith that you do leave.

This probably won't help much as I didn't give a definitive answer to the question, but I don't think there is one. I DO recommend speaking honestly to the pastor before leaving, if that is possible. Don't just disappear.
David Jackson said…
You bring up another issue I have with our parish...we don't have a Corpus on our cross. As our last associate pastor lamented, "we have touchdown Jesus over our alter," referring to the risen Chirst image on a cross.

The one thing that helps me is that I go to daily mass at a very orthodox parish by my work, downtown. So five days a week I get fed there.

I think I will try to meet with our pastor before we leave.

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