What if the Priest Sins?

In this week’s Catholicism in Focus, we take a look at a mildly uncomfortable question: what happens when a priests is in a state of mortal sin and yet celebrates the sacraments anyway? Just as the lay faithful are forbidden to receive the sacraments in a state of mortal sin, so, too, the priest is forbidden to celebrate them. And yet, we can say with certainty that it happens anyway: The recent scandals in the Church that have exposed the grave sinfulness of some of its active ordained ministers.

So, in a very practical, non-hypothetical manner, what happens to the sacraments if they are celebrated by a priest or bishop who is not fit to celebrate them?

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5 Comments on “What if the Priest Sins?

  1. Came across a few terms from the early church issues. Thanks for clearing that up

  2. Excellent topic and thanks for the great response Casey. We are ALL sinners. Some are in grave sin, some are not, yet we all sin. I learned, after the fact, that one of our children was baptized by a person who was in grave sin at the time. I learned of this after the fact but was given proof of it. I had wondered about the baptism of my child and how or if that affected their baptism. I know now that it is the grace in the sacrament that makes it authentic, not the person baptizing. My analogy – it is the nutrition you get from your vegetables, prepared by a Chef, that makes you strong. The chef is important to the preparation but you are nourished by the food, not the chef.

  3. After our priest was sentenced to life in prison for distributing child pornography I thought many times about receiving the sacrament from this sinner and pondered the same question. I thank you for answering my unspoken question in great detail, and helping mr understand

  4. I’ve wondered about this in the context of a priest who doesn’t have access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation — that is, one who recognizes his offense, wishes to confess with contrition and make reparation through penance. I suppose a priest in that situation would have to entrust himself to the mercy of God? We’re blessed in the West, even with a shortage of priests, that we’re never more than a day’s journey away from a Catholic parish. In some places, such as Africa, priests must travel great distances alone to visit all their flock, who can only participate in the celebration of the Eucharist once a month or less. It may be months before the priest is able to go to Confession. It just highlights the need to pray for priests.

  5. Very, very well done. And your comments show that you have a solid understanding of the Sacraments, particularly the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: the Eucharist. Thank you Friar.

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