I just sent your great site to a Protestant in Hungary who is thinking
of returning to the Faith; he never left really — he's confirmed.
I only sent it as a concession, as he wants to complain about something. I tried to
teach him what protocol is and suggested that he talk to a priest before writing to
a bishop he is angry with, or to Rome.
- Do you think a short note on protocol might even make life easier for the curial
folk who sort every letter that really should not go to His Holiness first, but up
the chain of command?
I don't know, I'm just curious. It might make life easier for others and educate Catholics
and non-Catholics, even if most protocol is informal. There might be some good writings
out there about how to complain [and/or] report an offense.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
is Catholic protocol when you have a complaint with
the Church? }
Thanks for the e-mail.
My two cents on the issue follows:
It depends on what issue he is complaining about. Most of the time it is better
to share your concerns by starting with the priest or pastor of the local church.
He is the extension of the bishop in that diocese and is responsible for the care
and spiritual growth of the souls he shepherds. As you said: It might make life easier
for others and educate Catholics but I think my reply and that of my colleagues should be enough without posting a Catholic protocol note.
Reasons to bring issues to the attention of the Vatican should probably include:
- any issue that concerns sacramental validity or the doctrine of the Church.
- any issue stated in #1. where there is no Catholic priest or bishop loyal to the Holy See with whom
one can bring up his concerns.
If the issue deals with traditions, with a small "t", or local practices,
I would, as you said, go up the chain of authority, starting with a priest or pastor. Personally, when I step back and look at some
of the difficulties I've had with my pastors and priests, over an array
of issues, I see them as instants where we are just having a mini "family
fight", and you have to ask the question:
- What family that has the effects of original sin, along with
its temptation, won't have its family fights?
The solution: Knowing which
issues are better suited for praying for that priest ... so that:
- they will see your viewpoint . . . or
- we will see their viewpoint, and
- which issues need a more effective response.
Hope this helps,
Note: You are welcome to call me Mr. Humphrey, but my immediate family
calls me either:
- Mike, Michael
- Ugly or
I prefer Ugly :
). Like my colleague John says,
Humphrey" makes me sound like I should be collecting Social Security.
Along with Mike's answer, I have to say: "It depends"!
Here's a case where I think it makes sense to go directly to the bishop.
Just tonight I drafted a letter about a certain dubious speaker who has
taken up residence in this state. He has been appearing at multiple local
parishes, and at parishes in neighboring dioceses, and talking about his
(phony) mystical experiences — even having them at the parish on schedule!
In this case, I'm skipping the respective pastors and sending it straight
to Cardinal O'Malley. Ideally, I hope he will confer with the other New
England bishops and make a common decision.
Thanks. I encouraged him to find an English-speaking priest in Hungary, or to contact
the diocese in which he lives in order to advise him.
He probably needs to hear from a canonist or priest about what his rights are — what
he may complain about, and his obligations, and how he may proceed.
Right now he thinks he can publicize real or alleged "scandals", or episcopal
incompetence, in press releases to Protestants and Catholics who don't know they may
not also behave as such.
I did my best to explain to him that this is unscriptural
and uncharitable. He has agreed to stop harming us.
My thinking was that putting the addresses on the web is good, but that this man
notwithstanding, even many Catholics who are not lapsed and still in communion with the Church,
really don't know the most basic protocols.
Maybe it is good to put it on such a site since it is a process that includes a
canonical legislation. Most of it is a matter of common sense and is not specifically
mandated, i.e., What is the chain of authority when reporting a grievance? It might not be worth it.
I would be interested in hearing what the priests think about it, or what Rome advises
or has written about it.
We live in democracies and too many assume that they can air grievances in the secular
It is increasing to the point that democratic impulses (a form of mental rot)
might combine with liberal ideas, like abortion and pro-homosexualism, to form schismatic "national" churches
or synod-combined associations of post-Catholic or pope-less Catholicism. Perhaps I think too much about this problem.
Please pray for the American in Budapest.
His two siblings have returned to the Faith after years away and I think he is considering
it too. He is pretty close to swimming the Tiber.
Thanks again, and good luck with the apostolate. It is an interesting question and one
I think that will bedevil (pun intended) the Church as we get less hierarchical in
our secular politics and thus expect "instant answers" from those we owe
ecclesial fealty to.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada