Cardinal Brady said yesterday in Knock that the Church had in effect learnt its lesson and was now more modest and more listening.
That is not my experience. I have come across experiences that tell me priests, particular parish priests, are as arrogant as ever as ever in their communities? *That is why I put this thread in this forum, BTW. 'Community' topics go here in Culture and Community.*
Twenty years ago the then parish priest in my parish decided to rebuild the very old church in the parish. The community wasn't consulted as to whether it was needed or what they wanted to see done. He spent £100K at the time on a massive rebuild and re-ordering which in fact the locals hated. But he liked it, and it was entirely his business apparently. (There is a local parish council, but he had a habit of packing it with people who would agree with everything he wanted. Those who disagreed found their nominations to join 'disappearing' or ruled invalid (by him) etc. So of course the parish council, as usual, said "yes Father" to what he wanted.)
To make it worse, the parish had only just cleared the previous debt run up by the previous parish priest. The local community needed a community hall. So he went off, without seeing what was needed, and got a hall built. The hall be built was useless - it was a glorified shed with woeful acoustics, which meant it could not be used for functions, concerts, etc. It was the wrong size for any sports use, had changing facilities that were worse than useless, and was in the wrong location. So it became a storage area, but the locals got the bill for building it.
The local community ended up saddled with a £100K debt for a rebuild and renovation they never wanted and openly said they hated.
The new parish priest has decided to spend tens of thousands undoing some of those changes. But again no-one was consulted. The changes will cost in the region of €40k and the debt will be given to the parishioners. But they have no say in any of it.
The new priest decided to change Mass times on Sundays. He picked a dumb time that is totally unsuited to the needs of his local parish. It is a rural farming parish with many dairy farmers. The time he picked means that farmers will either have to start waking up their unfortunate cows at dawn to have all the farm work done by Mass time, or else leave it until after Mass and be milking at lunchtime. Again no one was consulted, and he won't listen to complaints. The new time suits him, and that is all that matters.
He recently made a change regarding funerals. In country funerals, neighbours sympathise with the family of the deceased. That has happened for decades in the church, where it is warm, dry and crowd control is easy. The new guy has decided that it must take place in the cemetery, which is on an exposed hill. So now old people are expected to clamour over graves to get to the family to sympathise with people. People in wheelchairs or who are physically unable perhaps due to sight loss to climb over graves to get to the family cannot do it.
Locals have pointed out that it is crazy to insist that offering sympathy takes place in the cemetery - it is dangerous, someone could get hurt and anyway the way the cemetery is laid out is a mess, with few paths and uneven gravel, courtesy of another former priest who decided that was what he wanted it to be, and where he wanted it to be.
So in 2011, in the supposedly more modest, listening church, you have a parish priest that poses as all open and modern, but rules by diktat to suit himself. He is no different to the priests of fifty years ago. He just wears modern vestments and says the Mass in English. And for the third time in fifty years, the locals find themselves saddled with a debt they did not seek for the priest's latest spending spree, which he will then turn over to them to be cleared.
I am not religious. But many neighbours and relatives are. And they are fed up with him, his arrogance, his bullying, his refusal to suit anyone but himself. Nor is he alone. Other local parishes also have arrogant priests who run up big bills and do what they want, listen to nobody, and pack the parish council with yes men and yes women.
So the question is simple: why are parish priests in particular so utterly arrogant and why are they incapable of listening to the voice of their parishioners?