Shameful Behaviour of Some Priests
Sr Sue Rakoczy IHM – The spiritual and psychological abuse that women experience in the Church is often hidden and the woman suffers alone. This is a very sad and scandalous story of clerical abuse against a vulnerable woman.
Picture this true scenario: A young unmarried Catholic woman realises that she is pregnant. She is shocked, fearful and confused. Being a single mother is not how she planned her future.
She carries the baby to term and her child is born. She is a devoted lifelong Catholic and active in her parish.
Excommunicated by Parish Priest
Enter the parish priest who learns she is pregnant. He excommunicates her — forbids her to receive the Eucharist — and bars her from all parish groups, sodalities and liturgical ministries.
Excommunication is a severe penalty which in canon law is imposed for actions such as a priest who breaks the seal of the sacrament of reconciliation or for active participation in an abortion.
I consulted the text of canon law and there is no link between pregnancy and excommunication. The priest, in this case, acted out of clericalism which allows priests to do as they wish, imposing severe psychological and spiritual abuse.
The woman is devastated and since the Church — in the person of this priest — has left her, she leaves the Catholic Church and is welcomed into another Christian church.
All this happened during the Year of Mercy. No mercy, no compassion from this priest!
Horror Stories of Clerical Abuses
My colleagues at St Joseph’s Theological Institute in Cedara, KwaZulu-Natal, told me that this priest’s action of excommunication is not unusual. This is not what young men are taught during their theological studies but once ordained, some do as they please.
And it goes without saying that the fathers of these children are never excommunicated.
This example of clerical abuse is one of many types. My students at St Joseph’s have told me of others:
- The priest who demands that at the end of the Sunday liturgy the people must come and kiss his feet!
- The priests in some parishes who make the unmarried pregnant daughter and her mother stand outside the church asking for prayers and are barred from receiving the Eucharist.
- Widows who cannot receive the Eucharist for one year after their husbands die in penance for causing their husbands’ deaths — no matter how he died.
Do the bishops know what their priests are doing? If so, what do they do? Has the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference discussed this?
These actions are scandalous and totally against the Gospel. Pope Francis has said that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”.
Exactly when this woman needed the Eucharist and the support of the Christian community, she was cast out.
Cry, the beloved Church!