Father John Hollowell posted this on his blog On This Rock, and it tackles some common issues and problems in a way I haven’t seen elsewhere:
This is a compilation of some practical things you can do for the priests you know that might really help them avoid the situations that frequently contribute to priests finding themselves in the midst of scandal.
1) One of the top indicators that a priest is close to either falling away or doing something completely devastating is that the priest has stopped praying, has stopped seeing a spiritual director, and has not taken his yearly retreat. So, ask your pastor “Father, how’s your prayer life?”. Also ask the priests you know, on a regular basis, “How is spiritual direction going for you?” and also ask the priests “How was your retreat?”
If the response to any of these is “I haven’t done it in a while” ask them “What can I and the parish do to help you get to spiritual direction? What can we do to help you go on retreat? Can we help track down coverage for you so you can take a week to go on retreat? Does the parish need to hire someone to help lighten your load so that you can go to spiritual direction monthly and pray a holy hour each day?”
2) The 2nd Vatican Council said in one of its documents that priests ought to live in community as much as possible. I believe if this were happening, the abuse numbers would have been way lower. There is so much accountability that comes with living in community. When guys are living in community, it is harder to be a drunk, it is harder to be addicted to porn, it is harder to get addicted to television or video games, and if a priest is out having an “affair” of any kind, you can bet that those living with him will almost assuredly figure it out quickly.So are we ready to encourage OUR pastor to STOP living at OUR parish so that he can live in community with brother priests at a nearby parish? Consider asking the priests you know “What could we do to help you live in community with brother priests?”
3) A sabbath day of rest is super important for any human being, particularly when you are plugged in, getting stretched in a lot of directions with emails, public appearances, talks, Mass, confessions, funerals, etc. When is your priest’s day off? Ask him if he’s taking it. Also, encourage other parishioners to not bother him on his day off. I will say here that most of the people in my parishes know when my day off is, and yet some ask me to do things on my day off. With regard to future events, encourage a spirit of not asking things of your pastor on his day off. And just to be clear, I don’t mean so much “don’t call Father on Friday” but rather “Don’t ask father to come to something on a Friday a month from now.” He can always say no, but don’t put him in the position of having to say “no” in the first place! For most human beings, one thing on the schedule on a day off is not a day off.
4) Here’s something particularly important for the men of a parish, but it can apply to men and women. Friendship with the priest.
Here’s the deal, a priest’s GOOD friends should NEVER be parishioners. There is a power dynamic that is present there that keeps it from EVER being healthy.
So…ask your priest “Are you taking time to be with good priest friends, good lay friends outside the parish, and your family?”
There’s much more. Read it all. There are some points that I’m not crazy about — notably his reference toward “soft and effeminate” priests, which seems gratuitous and strange. But there’s ample food for thought.