Ask Zoe is Aleteia’s advice column addressing the everyday decisions we make and how faith informs and guides us. If you have a dilemma, question, or need some general advice for your life, email Zoe. All questions are given consideration and names are withheld.
I belong to a medium-sized parish and lead a few ministries there, which I love. I’m married and our kids attend the parish school. Our pastor just invited me, and some other parish ministry leaders, on a small Lenten weekend retreat. It’s been a long time since I went on retreat and I could really use it, but the truth is, I’ve become very attracted to my priest and I’m afraid that spending more time with him is a bad idea. What do you think I should do?
Attracted to My Priest
Developing an attraction to a priest is not uncommon; it’s just taboo to admit it. We often come to admire and feel close to people we work alongside and respect, especially those who mentor or care for us in some way. Similar things can happen between students and professors, patients and doctors, and clients and therapists.
A priest is a spiritual father, and his life of sacrifice, faith, and servant leadership makes him a beautiful human being. If he also happens to be warm, charismatic, handsome, smart, and compassionate, well… that can be a recipe for a church full of women (and some men) with secret crushes. Who isn’t drawn to a person like that?
If this is just an innocent crush, one you can laugh about and tell your husband and girlfriends about, you’re probably fine going on the retreat. Crushes are a normal part of life and tend to dissipate, especially the more you expose them to the light and keep appropriate boundaries in the relationship.
If, on the other hand, this is more of a full-blown attraction where you think about your pastor a lot, harbor fantasies about him, desire his personal attention, go out of the way to see him, etc., then you need to treat it very seriously.
While parish priests are responsible for caring for the well-being of their flocks and encouraging us in our faith and vocations, we, in turn, must do the same for them. If your pastor were your own brother, how would you want a woman to treat him? Decide today to be 100% committed to protecting both of your vocations, in spite of your feelings. It will help you take the appropriate actions.
Set some strong boundaries around the relationship: no time alone with him and no unnecessary personal contact. Skip the retreat this year and find another retreat or day of reflection to attend — use it as a time of prayer and reflection.
If you find yourself acting contrary to these commitments — and sexual attraction to someone you know and like can be very powerful — and especially if your priest has shown any signs of being attracted to you in return, I suggest you find another parish, at least for a while. Sounds drastic, but it’s important to give yourself some physical distance so that no serious boundaries will be crossed.
Be sure to also take a look at your personal life. Something is probably missing. Are you lonely? What needs are not being met? How is your marriage? Work on it. Consider registering for an upcoming Marriage Encounter weekend or going on a retreat together as a couple. By addressing the deeper issues in your life, you may find the attraction to your priest will dissipate so that you can go on being a faithful parishioner and ministry leader without this distraction.
If you have a dilemma or question for Zoe, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoe Romanowsky is Lifestyle Editor and Video Curator for Aleteia. A freelance writer, blogger, consultant, and personal coach, she’s been published in many national publications including Real Simple, Catholic Digest, Baltimore Eats, and TruthAtlas. Zoe holds a Masters degree in Counseling from Franciscan University, and a certification in life coaching from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). She’s an urban homeschooling mother of twins with a weakness for dark chocolate, Instagram, vintage Harleys, and vodka martinis—not necessarily in that order.