Monday, July 5, 2010

Sins Against and Sins By a Consecrated Person

In a recent post ("Thoughts on Blessing and Consecrating," posted on July 1, 2010), I mentioned that I had learned in Catholic school that priests are consecrated persons. Thus, if one murders a priest, one not only commits the mortal sin of murder, but the additional sin of sacrilege because one has desecrated a sacred person, a person consecrated to God in a special way.

In other words, a sin against a priest - murdering a priest, insulting a priest - is far more serious than the same sin committed against a lay person. The sin of sacrilege is added when the sin is committed against a priest - because of the priest's status as a consecrated person.

Now, here is what I wonder. I see that sins committed against priests are worse than sins committed against lay people. But what about sins committed by priests? Are not such sins worse than sins committed by lay people? I would think that they are.

Here is why. A sin committed by a priest does far greater harm than a sin committed by a lay person. Let us consider a priest who has sex with a twelve-year-old girl. The girl suffers terribly from being sexually violated. But her suffering goes even deeper when a priest is the perpetrator. In the case of a priest, the girl feels betrayed by God and by the Church. If she feels guilty about what was done to her, she will feel doubly so because it was a priest, a consecrated man of God, who did this to her. How irredeemably bad she must be for someone as good as a priest to want to do this to her. This will deeply affect the girl's relationship with God and may cause her to lose her faith. Or she may feel that God could never ever forgive her.

Even lesser sins committed by priests can cause people to lose faith in God and to mistrust the Church.

Therefore, I would say that a sin committed by a priest is a greater sin than a sin committed by a lay person because the priest not only does something wrong but also damages people's relationship with God and with the Church.

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