Predatory Pedophile Priests and Holy Sacraments?
Over the years, I’ve had the honor of facilitating different forms of Christian community. I believe there is profound hope in the narrative about the birth, teaching, execution and resurrection of Jesus. I have deep respect for faith traditions different from my own that hopefully lead others along a paths of love and compassion, ultimately toward their understanding of God. I honestly believe in the goodness of religion when grace and integrity are evident in the lived reality of the community of believers.
It is with these underpinnings that I come today to ask a few sincere, difficult and maybe even misguided questions of my faithful Catholic friends whom I love deeply, especially those of you who may think the wide-spread and horrific abuse of children by priests does not affect you directly. Please believe me when I say that I’m entering this conversation with an open and concerned posture.
I understand that the Eucharist is the center of Catholic Christian living, the essential act of God’s sanctification for the faithful. I understand that Catholic Christians experience the Eucharist as a singular holy point of contact between humans and heaven. I also understand that in Catholicism, the only one who is able to transform the elements of the sacrament of the Eucharist into the person of Christ is a validly ordained priest. Because of this understanding (please correct me if any or all of the above is incorrect) I have found myself worrying about something very specific.
If you have been receiving the Eucharist from a priest whose hands have willfully and repeatedly violated a child of God, and those hands are the hands that are responsible for consecrating the elements of the Eucharist, would it mean that the elements were in fact NOT consecrated because the one responsible for the consecration had desecrated their holy vows by violating the least of these?
And what about the hands of priests who colluded with the violations by covering them up, and even worse, sending the perpetrating priests to prey on even more children of God in another parish? Are those hands still holy? Have they violated their vows to God thus nullified their covenant with the Church?
According to the theology of the Catholic church regarding the vows of priesthood, the sacraments of the church, specifically the holy mystery transubstantiation, did the elements these men are responsible for consecrating fail to transform into the body and blood of Christ?
And if that is so, according to your own understanding (and regardless of your proper disposition), wouldn’t this mean that those who partook of the sacrament of Holy Eucharist “consecrated” given by these defiled hands, did NOT receive the Eucharist for as long as they were administered by the hands of predatory pedophiles and their collaborators?
And what if those defiled hands were responsible for blessing your marriage?
Or baptizing your children?
Or when the time comes, for anointing you as you lie dying?
If I correctly understand Catholic theology and ecclesiology (from my distant perspective as a progressive Protestant), doesn’t this mean that even those who were not sexually violated have been egregiously spiritually violated – leaving their eternal souls in peril?
And if this (admittedly limited) line of thinking is true, how do the masses begin talking about taking back the Body of Christ by eradicating from their holy church ALL who are guilty of perpetrating these crimes against body and spirit?
What would that look like?