“Ask a Priest: What If a Priest Gives Faulty Homilies?”

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Q: The church that I go to has a parish priest who is very vocal in his homilies about his opinion on change, especially for 1) women becoming priests and 2) optional celibacy. I’ve read that part of the Catechism and some writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Benedict XVI, and Bishop Sheen. Clearly, the homilies are against Church teaching and obedience. Now, I’m a member of the church choir. Would it be bad if I don’t attend the Mass because of my dislike of him? In effect, I wouldn’t be able to sing in the choir. Would the Lord hold that against me? I just don’t feel comfortable listening to the priest. – A.P.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s unfortunate that a priest would use the pulpit to promote ideas against Church teaching and discipline.

The Church has already said that it cannot ordain women as priests.

Pope St. John Paul II in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Priestly Ordination) wrote, “[I]n order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren […] I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

So women’s ordination is a closed issue.

Priestly celibacy, on the other hand, is a discipline, not a doctrine. In theory it could be changed. But a priest who wants to make a case for optional celibacy should do so in a different forum, not in a homily.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which governs the celebration of Mass of the ordinary form of the Roman rite of the Church, says of the homily, “It should be an explanation of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners” (Chapter 2, No. 65).

In any case the Mass obligation remains for Sundays and holy days. You don’t want to deny yourself access to these Masses or the Eucharist because of faulty homilies. For peace of mind you could seek out another parish for Mass if need be.

If that’s not an option, you might approach the pastor with your concerns. Or if the pastor is the one giving these homilies, you might want to contact the chancery. Perhaps the priest needs a bit of guidance from his bishop.

In any case you might want to pray for this priest. It sounds as though the waters beneath his surface are anything but calm.

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