Simplicity of diet, simplicity of life

Simplicity of diet, simplicity of life

Commenting on the escapades of Fr. Jude Michael Fay of the diocese of Bridgeport, Diogenes notes a quote from Fay’s regular caterer on the dietary habits of his many clerical clients.

Moscato said he never thought anything of Fay’s tastes, saying he has cooked for several priests in the Bridgeport Diocese and they all want nothing but the best.

“Go audit every priest in the diocese,” Moscato said. “You’d be shocked where they eat.”

Diogenes then asks that if priests of the diocese have given up on temperance, how are they doing on chastity? This is the sort of thing that Fr. Paul Shaughnessy, the Jesuit Marine Corps chaplain, was pointing out in his landmark 2000 essay in Catholic World Report in which he offered several suggestions for how priests, bishops and laity can confront the problem, among them being this tidbit:

Restore simplicity to priestly life. Physical comfort is the oxygen that feeds the fires of homosexual indulgence. Cut it off. When you enter a rectory, take a look at the liquor cabinet, the videos, the wardrobe, the slick magazines, and ask yourself, “Do I get the impression that the man who lives here is in the habit of saying no to himself?” If the answer is negative, the chances are that his life of chastity is in disorder as well. It goes without saying that reforming bishops should lead by example in this department and not simply exhort.

In the comments on Diogenes’ post, some suggested that the old practice of hiring a housekeeper could be a partial solution. There was a time when the housekeeper was usually the pastor’s maiden sister or an aunt or cousin. Of course, many priests of a certain age can tell you tales of the Stalin-esque housekeepers who ran their homes with an iron fist and even curates feared her wrath. On second thought, maybe that’s not so bad.

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  • I am curious what you think of priests who do not live in rectories, but, instead, live in apartments or houses.  In our general area, most priests live away from the parish church in apartments or houses and drive to and from the church, just like anyone with a job might do.

  • I doubt my housekeeper would like waiting around to fix dinner when I get home at 8, 9 or 10 pm.

    If you think the housekeeper is going to fix more austere meals than I fix myself, you’re crazy. People—including housekeepers and cooks—love to fix Father fattening foods; and we, like everyone, enjoy eating them. People love to pamper their priest, housekeepers no exception.

    I fix my own meals, do my own laundry, my own shopping, and someone comes every other week to clean the house. And for peanuts.
    This is a lack of simplicity?


    It depends on the alternative. Having the priest’s residence and the offices mixed together as they often are is also a bad situation.

    When I was a seminarian and in a parish for a year, the offices were 1st floor, and partly the second; the priest and I lived in the rest of the house. A single, female staffmember had her office 15 feet from my bedroom, and she often needed to work late and weekends.  Why anyone thinks this is a good idea is beyond me.

    Finally, one force directly leading to the “professionalization” of the priesthood is the hostility to the “family” model of the priest’s relation to the Church—and this is consequence of the scandal.

    For example: folks demand—as so many do here—that a priest should be suspended and removed completely from ministry, simply on the basis of a “credible” accusation, and not returned until his name is cleared (if ever). Good or bad, this leads directly to professionalization of the clergy. How can it not?

    Priests have become employees of the bishop, rather than spiritual sons; and it amazes me that few who consider themselves traditional and conservative about the Church speak out about this; rather, more are cheering it on.

  • Fr. Fox: Little known fact, but I lived at a rectory for five years and am familiar with how it works. No one is saying you’re lacking simplicity, but others are not. Certainly, a housekeeper who is more of a personal chef is not simplicity.

    But the idea is that for priests who cannot or do not cook for themselves, and they find themselves eating out a lot, a housekeeper can help.

    AS for a priest living at his parish, at my parish the office is in the school building (the school is closed), but not all parishes have that luxury. However, I think having a priest live away from the church is a bad idea because it reinforces the idea of it as a job and not vocation. And it could lead some men into temptation: regular late-night visitors, etc. are not at all unusual in apartment buildings and so on. They would be at a rectory.

    Josh: FR. Shaughnessy’s point is that these things can be warning signs and indicators. It is not “If A then B,” but “If A, be careful of B.”

    As for the food, my guess is that Fay and his ilk aren’t grabbing a hurried Snickers or burger if they have a regular caterer and are regularly seen at fancy restaurants (as other stories indicated.)

  • Domenico:

    No, it’s true, there are priests who seem too pampered, no question, and for various reasons.
    I offered my own situation because it’s pretty common among priests I know. Even when I was in a much more well-off parish, the priests still cooked their own meals and did their own laundry; the house was cleaned weekly, and we had an account at the dry cleaners across the street. We didn’t eat out more, but we did eat in nicer restaurants, which is where a lot of our parishioners ate. It was nice having shirts pressed!

    It’s true most rectories have a nice liquor closet, and some priests enjoy it; many have it because of gifts, and/or for when they have people—often parishioners or other priests—over for dinner, whether for fundraising, before Penance services for priests, or just entertaining.

  • Fr Martin

    I live in a rural parish on the edge of a large country township. Our priest lives alone in the Presbytery, we have two churches but no parish office and Father takes care of any calls. We all of us take care of Father by bringing food etc. His sister paid for him to get EWTN. In return he gives us daily masses, daily adoration and the sacraments of the Church whenever needed even though he should have retired several years ago. The priest in the town has a parish office on the ground floor of the presbytery, has confession once a week, mass three times a week + Sundays, and has closed all the parishes mission stations. Professionalisation of the priesthood has led to a “public service” attitude to the calling. Our own congregation has grown as many come from the town to our parish because our priest is our priest. I understand the drive for professionlisation but find it leads to cold and uncaring pastors.

  • Hildebrand:

    About “professionalization” of priests. No question there are good things about that, some necessary; and no question there priests who want it, good or bad.

    My point was that a lot of what many people are demanding—very loudly and angrily—in the wake of the scandal, is pushing priests in that direction. I think some know exactly what they’re asking for; but I think a lot of other folks don’t realize the fruit that will result from what they’re pushing.

  • Hildebrand:

    And you’re exactly right—it will lead to “cold and uncaring priests.” This is part of the fruit of the demands many are making in the wake of the scandal. When Catholic laity say they view all priests with mistrust (I’ve read that many times here and elsewhere—and note the mistrust showing up in this thread), of course there will be increasing distance. How can anyone be surprised?

  • We are agreed then Fr Martin. It is sad to see the point we have reached in this modern age. As a teacher I have seen the same process occur in my profession and for the same reasons. The point you make is valid – that many don’t see the dangers in replacing a vocation with a career. Worse many think they can have all the advantages of a vocation within a career framework. But it doesn’t work. A career approach is like creating an android – it acts according to set rules but has neither heart nor brain. Sadly, there are some of the 60’s generation of priests who actually welcomed this move. I know of one priest who actually took off for his holidays before the locum was available leaving his parishioners without the mass or any pastoral care for a fortnight. I have seen the same process in RE – professional teachers of RE with no emotional commitment to what they are teaching. The problem lies in the discernment of a person’s vocation not in his paper qualifications to do the job.

  • Hildebrand:

    There are good elements, to be sure, but I am against “professionalization” of the priesthood in the main. But many folks, in their understandable anger about the scandal, are making it happen.

    Many who appear in these threads are demanding it—although they may not realize it.

  • Carrie

    I have had your experience in the city and larger country towns. Fortunately living in a small rural parish we still have a priest who calls in, has dinner with us and yes blesses the house. He recently celebrated his 50th and was overwhelmed by the response from his parishioners who plotted it all behind his back. He has said he will not retire but continue until the Lord calls him home. Like Fr Martin I believe in the priest as Father of the Parish family. The answer is not professionalisation but greater discernment of vocations even if it means a period of fewer priests. The Church here was built by men who travelled thousands of miles each month on horseback to bring the sacraments to the people. It will not kill us to have life a little harder.

  • Our pastor visited us in the hospital the day bella was born and came back again to see her before we left. He came over to our house after Bella’s baptism. He’s also come to my nieces’s birthday parties.

    We’ve kept intending to ask him to come bless the apartment. But keep forgetting. He would if we asked, though.

    Maybe part of the problem is that people don’t ask anymore. I can well imagine that these days priests would be hesitant to just drop by uninvited as in former times. But how often do they receive invitations?

  • Carrie, we can’t live on anger. It just makes a person bitter and it consumes and confuses.  Many priests are horrified by what has happened and obviously many of the laity are as well but there’s a fine line between realizing that there are problems and assuming that everything is evil.

  • Carrie:

    I’m very sorry for the awful things you described from your experience; I can’t really be sorry enough for such things. I can understand your anger.

    Everyone doesn’t feel, or act on, anger, as you do, and I would hope you can appreciate that. I would also hope that you appreciate that your anger, as justified as it is, isn’t justification for lashing out.

    Am I angry? More than I can say. The kind of language I’d like to use would scandalize many. How my publicly railing in anger would help is not clear to me, so I don’t. I don’t see my publicly attacking the bishop or my fellow priests helping. Yes, it may make some people feel good—for how long? And is that really the point? Meanwhile, how destructive would it be?

    A fair amount of energy in all this has been directed into what seems scapegoating to me. Not at all surprising.

    One form of that is directed against any and all who are homosexual. Now, it’s certainly true that most of the abuse we’re talking about has been homosexual in nature; that fact—the fuzzing-up of which has justifiably added to the anger—nonetheless does not justify the over-reation that has, to me, verged on paranoia about men, and priests, who have a homosexual attraction.

    When people insist (as I’ve seen several times online) that every priest who may even be suspect of homosexual feelings should be publicly exposed and driven from the priesthood, that strikes me as an overreaction. When people insist—remarkably without evidence—that seminaries are generally some sort of homosexual dating club, and that grown, heterosexual men are somehow going to be seduced into that—that is also an overreaction.

    And, I think, the fury and contempt directed against priests and bishops in general is an overreaction. Yes, I know why it happened, I know the context of hurt and anger; but remember what they say about victims of abuse; without adequate help, they themselves become victimizers. Isn’t it a good idea to break the cycle?

    I wonder if you can possibly see a connection between the hostility you seem to direct at priests, in general, the detachment and distancing that you seemed to lament earlier, and the “giving up” that you identify with your pastor and other priests? No one expects you not to feel anger; but I would hope you can tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy ways of expressing it, appropriate and inappropriate conclusions from it, constructive and destructive ways of acting on it.

    You may not accept this, but an awful lot of priests are hurting, too. And when the laity attack and beat them up, that can be pretty discouraging.

    For my part, and I think on the part of many other priests, our path on this has been to try and be holy, faithful priests. That may not be the best response, but it’s a sure path that doesn’t involve being destructive along the way.

  • Andrew asked earlier if I think some priests have other agendas than being good, holy priests. I wonder sometimes, but I also believe in reserving judgment. I don’t see any reason to tear things down any more.

    If I saw something inappropriate, I would act on it; if I see something I need to bring to the bishop’s attention, or to that of public authority, I would do so.

    This may surprise you, but other priests aren’t likely to see these things. Folks in a parish are much more likely to be privy to such things than fellow priests. The days of priests living together, in most of the country, are over.

  • Tim:

    I only know one seminary intimately, the one where I was formed for the priesthood, Mount St. Mary’s of the West, in Cincinnati (not to be confused with that other Mt. St. Mary’s, back east somewhere).

    During my years, 1997-03, there was no “gay climate” of the sort often described. No doubt there were men there with homosexual feelings, but all I could do is guess, which I won’t do. I’ve heard stories about past years, which probably have some truth in them, but you have to be cautious about how you take those stories.

    While I can’t know how it is everywhere, I think generally the sort of thing often alleged is much more associated with 10-20 years past, or more.

    Again, going from my limited experience, it makes me laugh to hear the overheated descriptions of seminary life from people who’ve obviously never been in a seminary. That they can point to a first-hand account doesn’t settle the matter: someone who left, or was kicked out of, the seminary could, possibly, have an axe to grind, no?

  • Fr. Martin,

    I am not pushing “professionalism” of the priesthood.  On the contrary, I expect a priest’s main and only business to be serving God All The Time—not just during business hours.  I expect him NEVER to have sex with anyone.  I expect him not to care whether he drinks beer or water. I expect him not to be hankering for entertainment, politics or fancy food because I expect him to have his mind on higher things.  He is supposed to be a model and teacher.  And he is supposed to humbly and without complaint dispense the sacraments.  He is not supposed to have a huge bank account and hang around beaches in tight pants.  Or bars. 

    Now.  The reason people get upset is that priests don’t often act like they’re supposed to anymore.  They work 9 to 5 and don’t return phone calls.  They disappear and lock up the church every chance they get.  They are often too casual and they can’t sometimes answer the simplest questions about the faith.  It’s like they don’t care.  Or maybe they don’t even know anymore.  Go figure.

    The scandal thing was just the last straw for a lot of people.  It was (is) outrageous.  No amount of whining is going to change that.  Oh and there’s only one reason why a priest might want to live where you can’t find him.  Think about it.

    Want to be treated as a family member?  Then act the heck like a family member and you might win someone over to the idea.

  • Michigan:

    I’m saying that the behavior of you and many other aggressive, hostile, suspicious laity who show their “love” for priests by viewing them with constant suspicion and thinking the worst of them, bashing them at the drop of the hat, are bringing about the sort of professionalism I am lamenting.

    You can point the finger all you want, but your own actions have consequences.

  • Let’s make it clear that we’re talking about some priests here. Definitely not all priests.

    And certainly not those priests that I know who come here to this blog. Fr. Fox, among others, has demonstrated that he lives his priesthood authentically.

    When we make blanket statements we can tend to include those who shouldn’t be included.

  • “But the number of truly authentic ones is a lot lower in this day and age, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

    I’m sorry, but that’s an unsupportable assertion.

    Prove it.

    Show me the numbers.

    During the height of the Arian heresy, I’ll bet there were more apostate priests.

    And during the middle ages when there are accounts of priests who didn’t even have enough Latin to stumble through the mass.

    And lets not even talk about the Renaissance when under the Borgias clerical offices were sold to the highest bidder.

    Priests are human beings, fallible and prone to sin. And they were just as human in the past as they are now.

    The amazing thing is that by the grace of God, the Church still stands after 2000 years of sinful men doing their best to pull her down. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit, my friends.

  • But the number of truly authentic ones is a lot lower in this day and age, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    I’m sorry but that’s an unprovable assertion. Are there a lot of bad priests? Sure. How many? There’s no way to tell. Were there bad priests in previous eras? You bet. A lot? At times, definitely. Any way to tell how many then either? Nope.

    I don’t mean to be combative, but we have to be careful not to get ourselves so invested in anger that we do ourselves and our spiritual life harm.

  • Andrew,

    I guess my husband and I think alike. <grin>

    I agree the perception is that there is corruption today in the Church. And I’d also agree that the reality is that there is corruption.

    But what I have a problem with is a false mythologizing of the past, the belief in some sort of Golden Age when there was no or little corruption in the Church. The fact is that from the beginning there were problems within the very Twelve that Jesus chose and things have been problematic ever since.

    It isn’t that I think we shouldn’t fight the corruption where we see it. But I think we can be discouraged and lose hope when we have a false sense of history.

  • Andrew:

    Priests are entitled to days off; and the reason the offices are closed on holy days is for the staff. (There is a reason “holy day” and “holiday” are so similar.) I find—and I am confident many other priests, also find—that when the office is closed, I can get work done. After hours, I can get work done.

    I know many priests I don’t agree with theologically, and who I don’t find so inspiring (but I may be judging rashly, too!) but I know very few who don’t work hard.

    The kind words above are appreciated, but I’m not all that exceptional, and I am definitely a sinner and full of human faults.

    As for “confession by appointment”—if you mean only by appointment, I agree that’s wrong; and I know there are parishes where there aren’t many hours offered.

    But let me say this: here I’ve preached about confession, I include it frequently in homilies, we have confessions 3+ hours for two parishes; and we’re not busy. I find the time fruitful for prayer; but unless I install wifi and a phone in the confessional, and do work there, I can’t simply sit there for hours, as much as I would like it (it’s very peaceful, very prayerful).

    Of course a priest should hear your confession at request—within reason. You didn’t propose this, of course—but calling him up at 3 am, just because you couldn’t sleep (it does happen) might be unreasonable. And I’ve been asked 5 minutes before Mass; I replied, I can’t now, but I will after Mass. I think that’s reasonable. There can be other reasons, other commitments, that a priest has to honor. That’s reasonable.

  • Andrew:

    And, by the way, on holy days (of obligation or not), if the priest is also offering Mass once or twice or more; while that is a joy it is also “work” in the sense that it is physically and mentally demanding.

  • And you speak as if there is no hope. And there is hope. The Church can pull through this!! And it will!! And it can get rid of corruption on a large scale, for the Holy Spirit is more powerful than Satan. It just needs some leadership to really make it happen. I don’t have a false sense of history, but I’m nineteen years old, and I guess you could say that I look for the ideals in life.


    If you thought I was being hopeless, then I’m really having problems communicating what I mean.

    I have lots of hope. In fact, I am certain the Church will pull through this crisis as she always has pulled through every crisis that has beset her. Christ will prevail and he will not let his Bride be overcome.

    I wrote what I did about history precisely because I think that many people I talk to seem so hopeless and distressed about our current difficulties because they lack a sense of perspective.

    I do think we should strive for perfection and seek to root out corruption where ever we find it. If I seemed to imply otherwise, I apologize. But I think that we do need to keep our sense of perspective. Because history tells us that often it can take a generation or more to completely clean up a particular problem. People who think that things can change overnight can get discouraged when it takes much longer than they think is reasonable for deeply entrenched corruption to be rooted out.

    I was trying to offer a ray of hope in the discussion which seemed to have turned to doom and gloom by pointing out that while our current crisis is not exactly the same as past crises, it does have parallels. And that we can take hope in the fact that God raises up goodly men and women in every generation to reform his Church.

    Hold on to your ideals. The Church needs young people of vision. But be careful that they don’t lead you to false expectations that success will be easy which then crumble in the face of the reality of evil.

  • O boy, I smell a fight brewing here…

    No there isn’t. I won’t have flame wars boilng over onto my blog from elsewhere. And since Diane has been a good citizen I will let the multiple posts slide this time, but I will reiterate that multiple posts are forbidden. If you have something that won’t fit in a comment, then either post it on your own blog and link back to it here or post in the Bettnet Forum (link at the top of the page) and link to it here.