“Ask a Priest: What If I Think a Priest Has Feelings for Me?”

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Q: I’m a 19-year-old girl, raised by a single mom and I have two younger siblings. We have always had a relationship with our parish priest as a family — I guess because we needed spiritual support. Currently our priest friend has developed some sort of feelings for me. Part of me wants to cease contact, and a part of me wants to keep touch but keep it casual as always, because he has been there for us. Even personally he has encouraged me to be better because I have been battling severe depression. I don’t want to be a distraction or cause him to break his vows, and I can’t tell my mom. She would be disappointed. – M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: My sympathies go out to you and your family. It must be very difficult to be in a home without a dad.

If you think the priest is developing feelings for you, it would be good to keep a healthy distance from him. Even if you are misinterpreting the situation, it is better to trust your instincts and to err on the side of caution.

He is probably a good man. He obviously has been there to help your family. But he is also human. And so he can be tempted. It isn’t hard to see how your home situation – without a father present – could stir the heart of a parish priest in a deep but inopportune way.

Perhaps the best route, the most practical route, is to remain polite with him, but to consciously limit your contact from him. If need be, you might find reasons for avoiding him, either at the parish or if he visits your home.

This slight change in your behavior might even help the priest recognize and address what is happening in his own heart. He might eventually get to a better place, where things can get back to normal and you no longer feel those uncomfortable vibes from him.

You might want to pray for him, too. And realize that your keeping distance from him might be the best thing you can do for him. It could help him persevere in his priesthood, so that he is available to continue to assist others. Count on my prayers.

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