Catholic Despite the Abuse | Recovering Survivors

Catholic Despite the Abuse

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.  

But I came back. By the mercy of God, I was not only able to fully come back home, I was given the grace to see the whole issue in its proper context and to even become a defender of priests, who, as a majority, are solid, faithful men who have been caught in the crossfire of the incredible scandal of the minority. But I'm not writing this to get into all of that or any of the other reasons that the scandal with Catholic clergy is uniquely different and cannot be lumped in with the problem in society as a whole. I will not entertain any debate on this subject. I'm not writing about this to defend the Church or Her priests (although they both deserve every ounce of prayer we have to give). I'm writing it because there are some things that everyone needs to know.  

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. Many who leave the Church already had one foot out the door and were simply waiting for a convenient excuse.

Second, it's important to understand that a Catholic priest in good standing with faculties, no matter how sinful he may be, at the moment he is administering a Sacrament in persona Christi, is acting "in the person of Christ".  That means you should not be worrying about the state of his soul or whether or not the Sacrament is valid. Valid Catholic priest in good standing = valid Sacraments. And the "good standing" part isn't something we as laity decide. This is the role of the Church. So, no matter what terrible thing you may know about the priest, even personally, if the Church has not taken any action against him, the Sacraments administered by him are valid.

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."

"According to Peter Comestor, the priest who, while he is defiled with sins against chastity, pronounces the words of consecration, spits, as it were, in the face of Jesus Christ; and in receiving the sacred body and blood into his polluted mouth, he, as it were, casts them into the foulest mire. St. Vincent Ferrer says that such a priest is guilty of a greater impiety than if he threw the consecrated host into a sink. Here St. Peter Damian exclaims, and says, "O priests ! whose duty it is to offer to God the immaculate Lamb, do not first immolate your self to the devil by your impurities."; Hence the saint afterwards calls the unchaste priest a victim of the devils, on which these cruel spirits make a most delicious feast in hell."

- Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church (From Dignity and Duties of the Priest or Selva)


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.

Click here to read the "Dignity and Duties of the Priest or Selva" by St. Alphonsus de Liguori free online.

"Oh! how much greater the obstinacy produced in the priest that submits to the tyrannical rule of this vice, than that which it causes in seculars! This happens both because the priest has had greater light to know the malice of mortal sin, and because in him impurity is a greater sin than it is in a secular. For the unchaste priest not only offends against chastity, but also against religion, by violating his vow, and, generally speaking, he also transgresses against fraternal charity. For the incontinence of a priest is almost always accompanied with most grievous scandal to others. In his book on the " Last Things," Denis the Carthusian relates that a servant of God, conducted in spirit to purgatory, saw there many seculars that were suffering for sins against purity, but very few priests. Having asked the reason, he was told that scarcely any unchaste priest repents sincerely of this sin and that, therefore, almost all such priests are damned."

- Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church (From Dignity and Duties of the Priest or Selva)


Stephanie McIntyre

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.