From the Pastor: Feeling Pain for Sin is Essential to Faith
A couple of weeks ago I gave a sermon on mortal sin. I specifically pointed out that a priest celebrating Mass while in the state of mortal sin still confects the Eucharist. That is absolutely necessary to know and hold onto as a truth. But I also pointed out that in celebrating with mortal sin on his soul, it pains a priest beyond imagining. Unlike a layman who, knowing that he is in mortal sin, may attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass without receiving Holy Communion, the priest celebrant must always receive. He, the priest, must not only offer the Sacrifice, he must also consume the Offering in order to complete the Sacrifice. If the priest does not consume, the Sacrifice is not completed. But if the priest is in mortal sin and cannot confess before he is bound to celebrate a Mass (which means that no other priest is available to take his place, no concelebration, etc.), he must make an act of perfect contrition and continue with his duties even knowing that it is not certain that his contrition was perfect. He knows that he must offer, while standing in the place of the sinless God/man Jesus, Our Lord’s Perfect Sacrifice of His life to the Father for the salvation of many, that is, for those who accept and live in that infinite grace, persevering in unity with God to the end of life. He must do this while knowing that, in committing mortal sin, he had rejected that very grace that he was bringing to the world and was, at that very moment, quite possibly (the word “possibly” being used instead of “certainly” because he may, indeed, have achieved perfect contrition, which would then bring him back into grace) committing a sacrilegious act by celebrating Mass in mortal sin.
A priest in such a situation should have mental and spiritual—perhaps even physical—pain from committing such an act. The priest, after all, knows his Mass schedule. He generally knows the possibilities of lack thereof of confession. (He also knows that if he weighs up the possibilities that he can sin and then get to confession before he has to celebrate Mass, he is committing the mortal sin of presumption and his confession under such circumstances will be both sacrilegious and invalid!) He certainly knows the reality that he stands in persona Christi —in the very Person of Christ— when he celebrates the Mass. And yet he chose, whether due to carelessness, malice, or weakness, to cut himself off from God’s grace anyway. Once again, I point out that the Mass is still valid, the Eucharist is still confected, but the priest (not the people, who may be oblivious to his state of being) is doing just about the most damning thing that he could possibly do in his state of life. He knows that this act is worse than the mortal sin which he committed which cut him off from God’s grace, for this sin is not only directly against God, but also “forces”, so to speak, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to work miracles (as all sacraments truly are) through such a vile creature as he has turned himself into. Yes, the priest knows all of this and he should agonize over committing such a despicable act.
There are two remedies for such pain. The first is true contrition, confession, and a firm resolution to amend his life. That does not mean that the priest will not fall again but it certainly should be that he fully intends to never commit such sins again, even to desire death before repeating such evils. The second remedy for such pain is to numb it. This is done through various means, much as any layman does to numb his own pain when he sins. Drugs. Alcohol. Physical pleasures of all sorts. Denial. That last one is where all the others end up. The pain is alleviated or at least partially ignored by denying that the sin was really a sin. Excuses begin. Everybody else is doing it. It wasn’t really that bad. It wasn’t my fault. The Church really didn’t know what She was doing when She outlawed this. If only God were as smart and holy as I am, He would understand. Yes, in this scenario the priest has to convince himself that sin is not sin. Or that it is sin but is not really a mortal sin. Or that mortal sin does not really mean “mortal.” Or that there is no real punishment for sin, and certainly not an eternal punishment for mortal sin. Or that there is no hell. And it ultimately leads to the conclusion that there is no God.
Why did I preach about it and why bring it back up? Because it is imperative that you understand how the "nice guy" priests can do their evil deeds and yet "happily" (if shabbily) celebrate Mass, hear confessions, and do all their other priestly duties while committing/accepting/promoting mortal sin. They feel no pain, no anguish, no remorse, and, ultimately, no love. They will preach that sin is not so bad for they have lost their faith. They will generally strip all vestiges of beauty, truth, and reverence from liturgies to make them as “easy, fun and quickly done” as possible, just to get it over with. They will downplay holiness, ridicule piety, and persecute all who remind themselves of what they have lost. They anesthetize themselves with worldly adulation. You will recognize them and rightfully refuse to follow them once you understand this.
This also applies to Religious and laity in their own vocational realms.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka