The Worst Punishment There Could Ever Be

The Worst Punishment There Could Ever Be February 23, 2019
You won’t be believed if he does. You’re not an altar boy. That’s the only kind of victim people are willing to believe exists, and often not even that. You’ll start to tell somebody what happened and they’ll say “It’s important to pray for priests” in that warning voice that means you’d better not go on. How “pray for priests” became code for “don’t talk about priests” is something you’ll never understand, but you know it is, the way you know to say “Lord, I am not worthy.” It’s one of those things you absorb from the culture you were raised in. To attack a priest is to attack Christ. Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but telling the truth is considered an attack on Christ. This is a contradiction and it makes no sense. Still, you know the rules.
And if you don’t take the hint, if you do keep talking anyway? God help you. The other members of the laity are not going to be on your side. The whole parish will turn against you. They like the priest. He’s a good man, a man of God. He gave up his whole life to stand at the altar of God and plead forgiveness for your sins. And who are you? God didn’t choose you for this glorious vocation. God made you a lay person with a lesser gift. Gossip is a sin and here you are talking. What other sins have you committed? Did you seduce him? Did you do something to him, to make him touch you? You must have, and here you’re playing the victim. Go to confession, if you can find a priest who’ll have mercy after what you’ve done.
That and worse are some of the things that can happen to you, when you’re a lay person.
And then there are all the other things a priest can do that a lay person can’t, to hurt you, and they’ll never be punished at all. A priest can gossip about you and it’s just iron sharpening iron. A priest can wreck your reputation with the parish and it’s just protecting the people of God. A priest can overlook you at Communion so the whole congregation thinks you’re a heretic, and who will stand up for you?  Who would dare? He’s a priest.
Sometimes, when the priest is berating you in front of everyone, you catch the eyes of people in the congregation– your fellow laymen and women. Some smile triumphantly at you, but some look genuinely sorry. They’re sorry this is being done to you. Maybe it’s been done to them too. They wish they could help if they dared, but they don’t. No one intervenes. They don’t tell the priest to stop, because then he might turn on them next.
Maybe one of your fellow laymen approaches you afterwards, to tell you he’s sorry that happened and that he’ll give you the contact information to write to the diocese about it, but of course he doesn’t. And of course you don’t write. It wouldn’t do any good if you did. You won’t be shielded. You’re not a priest.
These are some of the the other things that can happen to you, when you’re a lay person.
Not all priests do that of course. I’ve known some beautiful, saintly priests; most people have. But to never know which kind of priest you’re going to pull out of the mixed bag next, because nobody’s keeping their eye on the priests to make sure they don’t abuse. Only in the rarest of circumstances will there ever be consequences if they abuse in any way, from bullying all the way up to rape. And if they do get punished, so will you, for speaking out.
To not be in persona Christi as the Head. To be in the Body of Christ by virtue of your baptism, but in some other way, at the mercy of that Head. And if the one who is in persona Christi as the Head starts breaking the Body of Christ– not up on the altar as part of the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass; I mean breaking people who are in the Body of Christ and can feel the pain– no one will stop him.
To be that kind of person: a lay person, instead of a priest.
Maybe they’re onto something.
Maybe this is the worst punishment there could ever be– to be a lay person, like us.
And if that’s true, maybe that’s the problem.
(image via Pixabay) 
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