I was sexually and physically abused by a priest for many years. By the time I was 22, I left the Church, feeling lost, hurt and abandoned by it all when the diocese not only refused to help me, but my abuser was allowed to continue as an active priest to this day. It took nearly two decades for me to return, and, as you can read in an older blog post, I fell about as far from the path God intended for me as I could have.
For pretty obvious reasons, this isn't a subject that I'm normally moved to talk about, especially in a public blog, but the actions of these damaged priests have scandalized us all, and, as Catholic store owners, we hear the complaints more often than most. "I used to be Catholic but ever since that scandal, I left. No priest can be trusted." "Those priests all got away with murder." "The Church turned their back on the victims and did nothing."
First, leaving Christ and His Church because of some scandal or offense committed by someone else is not anyone's fault or decision but yours. Whether it be as serious as a priest who is a serial sexual abuser, a diocese that hid the actions of predators, or as small as a deacon who hurt your feelings, or a member of the parish who upset you during a committee meeting, we don't leave Christ because we have been scandalized or even seriously hurt by someone else or even the Church itself. We do not leave Christ, period. This is non-negotiable. There is no "Get Out of Mass Free" card. Those who leave the Church already had one foot out the door and were simply waiting for a convenient excuse.
Third, and most importantly, you need to know that the priests who have committed these wicked crimes and all of the bishops, priests or other Church authorities who either helped them to continue, obstructed justice, or further damaged the victims in any way are not getting away with anything.
We are living in a secular world where we only see a small part of God's plan. The vengeance of God upon those who have perpetrated the most evil of acts, especially as ordained clergy, will be a far greater punishment than anything we could ever imagine being inflicted upon them here on earth. This isn't just wishful thinking. It's called eternal damnation and it is Church teaching.
"ETERNAL DAMNATION. Finally, this accursed vice leads all, and particularly priests that are infected with it, to eternal damnation. St. Peter Damian says that the altar of God receives no other fire than that of divine love. Hence he that dares to ascend the altar inflamed by the fire of impurity is consumed by the fire of divine vengeance. And in another place, he says that all the obscenities of the sinner shall be one day converted into pitch, which shall eternally nourish in his bowels the fire of hell."
The saints and doctors of the Church are very clear about the fate of the soul, especially that of the ordained priest, who falls into the sin of incontinence, let alone those who have committed sexual abuse.
One of the problems is that during the past 50 yrs., these teachings have been thrown aside as not "keeping up with the times", as if God's laws somehow relaxed along with the flower children at Woodstock. Many priests have never seen these writings. Perhaps the abusers might have been discouraged from falling into this sin if they had!
Last night, my husband brought home a copy of "Dignity and Duties of the Priest or Selva" by St Alphonsus de Liguori for me. He thought it might be helpful for me to read the teachings of the Church regarding the abuse that nearly cost me my faith so many years ago, that unceasingly haunts me in my dreams, and whether I like to admit it or not, is an unresolved, painful, festering wound that continues to cause me mental, spiritual and horrible physical anguish. It is quite an eye opener, and as soon as I began to read it I realized that I had to share it with those who are still struggling with the scandal of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.
Nobody is getting away with anything.
With that being said, we must pray for all of our priests. Pray for the priest who seems to be on the path to sainthood. Pray for the priest who is the greatest sinner. Pray that every priest who has sinned will repent and not suffer eternal damnation!
Satan wants our priests. Without our priests we have no Sacraments, we have no Eucharist. Without our priests, we spiritually starve.
Lord, send us priests. Lord, send us holy priests. Lord, send us many holy priests.
Author: Stephanie McIntyre