Please Note: We do not claim to be experts in answering your questions. We are simply sharing how we handle similar situations.
I have a question for you...have you both ever encountered a situation where people start talking about the Priests, Mass, Church etc in a negative way? I have and don't know what to say or do in the situation. Truthfully, I(WE) are not that knowledgeable about the rubrics of the Mass/Church. A friend had told me that you are still receiving Jesus and to focus on that. Also, in the Pieta prayer book it does say that Jesus alone will judge the Priests and we need to sacrifice and pray for them and the persons that are complaining; we should say 3 Hail Mary's. Any help on this would be appreciated. -Jane Smith
Thanks for writing. In regards to your question, it's a really tough situation. We have faced situations like that and have met people who were known for constantly priest bashing and church complaining. It may be easy to fall into that, particularly when some of the complaints are legitimate. However, we want to make sure we do not fall into that trap. Our lack of charity for the priests is a serious offense in itself. First, we have to remember that a priest, and especially a bishop, has an incredibly difficult job both in the logistics sense and the spiritual sense. (Not to mention Satan attacks priests and religious doubly hard for he knows the good they can do!) There are some priests who just don't care but I think the vast majority of questionable practices are done either due to lack of formation or a desire to "bend the rules" in the hopes of reaching out to someone.
We have to be very prudent with how we deal with a situation. For example, there are some matters of error that are very serious (ie. the priest tries to consecrate saltine crackers and apple juice or preaches that there's nothing wrong with abortion, etc.) Other matters may be wrong but not "morally threatening". For example, Brian and I were asked to be godparents to our friends' new baby. The baptism was done during the Mass and although the ceremony was beautiful I was taken aback when were asked to stay up at the altar during Eucharistic Prayer which followed. I knew that the Vatican recently put out a new document explaining the rubrics of the Mass and that aspect (standing at the altar with the priest) is not permitted. So what did we do? Well, in this case since we were visitors and didn't want to embarrass those involved we complied.
In general, I understand where the priest is coming from - he is trying to make the Mass more accessible to the laity. For example, at our parish during the children's Mass (which we don't normally attend) the priest allows the kids to come up to the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer but he tells them they cannot touch the altar at all and must have their hands folded. Unfortunately, having good intentions doesn't necessarily make it "right".
If I were to do anything, I'd approach the priest - if I knew him personally - and give him the chance to explain. Saying something such as, "Father, I enjoy the way you try to make the Mass more meaningful to us and although the kids love coming up to the altar with you, I'm wondering how we're allowed to do it if it's actually not permitted in the rubrics of the Mass." That way it would give him a chance to explain himself, hopefully without him being defensive (depending on the tone of the question.) And if he says something like, "Well, I do it because it brings the people closer to God and that's what matters in the end," there's not much more you can say. You'd have to pray for wisdom and use prudence as to whether you'd be able to discuss the case further with him. Since it's not a "major" issue I'd probably not push it. It really depends on the problem you're concerned about. There are some things that are too serious to let go and others that only prayer and sacrifice for a change of heart will work.
In regards to talking with other friends, complaining about Fr. So-and-So is never the right thing to do. What will it accomplish? Nothing but gossip and animosity towards the priest. When someone is complaining I try to say something positive about the priest (or church) then change the subject. For example, a person says, "That Fr. John Doe is so liberal. He's trying to change church teaching to be…" You could respond by, "Well, perhaps we don't know the whole story. Fr. John Doe is a good man and talking against him won't help any. Why don't we offer up our next Mass/rosary/holy hour for him?" Of course, there's no pat answer and every situation is different but I think you get the general idea. If a situation needs to be corrected it should be brought to the attention of someone who can actually do something about it - not just gossiping with the church choir in the parking lot.
Lastly, yes, our focus should be on Jesus in the Eucharist. And prayer is monumental. The priests are attacked on all sides, for our sake. They are the ministers of God's graces in the Sacraments. We have a huge responsibility to our priests, as he does to us. It is vital that we pray for our priests, especially before the tabernacle. And the "worse" a priest is, the more we should be praying. In the end, it is only the grace of God that will change his heart.
I hope this helps you out a bit. You may also find this webpage helpful in regards to the rubrics of the Mass and Liturgical Abuses: Catholic Answers' Special Report on Liturgical Abuses.
God bless you,