I was reading through an examination of conscience before my last confession and am struggling with the reasoning behind a definition of a sin. Specifically this examination of conscience states that it is committing the sin of blasphemy, (while not said outright, context suggests gravely sinful) to say something/anything negative about a priest. While I understand how it can be blasphemy to speak out against the priesthood in general, a priest is just a man, one with a special vocation and the ability to give us the sacraments, but still a man, with the flaws of a man. It is not sinful, I think, to warn a new coworker that the boss is not fond of certain behaviors and reacts negatively to certain things that may be acceptable, even laudable, in other workplaces, or that he perpetuates certain abuses in his department so why is speaking similarity of a priest sinful? This didn’t fall under the heading of gossip (which again is different than speaking out about a priest’s preferences, or even warning others about the abuses that happen under this priests watch, I think). This was not speaking about lies, because it was referring to speaking truly, but negatively about a priest. It fell under blasphemy, and I don’t truly understand how this is a sin at all, but certainly how it could be any worse of a sin than speaking negatively about one’s boss (if that even is a sin). Can anyone explain this, perhaps in small words because my brain is obviously not understanding the concept behind this as a sin, much less a grave sin? Because I couldn’t accept it as sin, I didn’t confess it, and I may need to go back before Mass to confession again if that’s the case to get this off my conscience.

I think a lot of it comes down to what you said about the priest. Could you elaborate?

it is committing the sin of blasphemy… to say something/anything negative about a priest.

That statement is simply not correct.

Sure, I said (not all at once, and some only to my husband and my therapist during vent sessions) that my priest discourages praying the rosary, hates the Knights of Columbus, lied to me about the CCW, does not encourage reading of the Bible or other sources of Catholic doctrine/dogma/apologetics/history to RCIA candidates in or outside the classroom, says that retreats are useless and won’t post them, discourages any item from any apologist on this site, used my husband and I as part of a dog-and-pony show “Parish Council” to deceive the bishop, discourages people from joining “Right to Life,” prohibits Bible Study groups in the parish, discourages people from donating food or money to St. Vincent de Paul’s, requires CCD teachers to read from the teachers manual rather than teach, treats people like **** when they step down from serving all weekend masses to only one per weekend for medical reasons, and is a control freak about my acting as music director and organist, but gives no guidance except to say that I’m wrong. I also said that I wish he’d either get his diabetes under control or go see a psych professional because he acts just like certain narcissists I know, and that behavior, either from a mental health issue or out of control diabetes, is running people away from the parish.

Is everything I said nice or positive? No. Is it all true? Yes. Thus, why is it sinful, especially gravely sinful?

In that situation you have got to:

  • safeguard your own safety
  • warn others to do likewise

To do so is definitely NOT blasphemy.

You are not giving God’s representative a bad name - he gave it to himself. You are not gratuitously advertising the situation to whomever it doesn’t concern.

If even half of this is true, then you need to confront the priest. If he will not listen, then you need to let the bishop know.

It is not sinful to point out legitimate error.

It’s all true, the bishop knows if not all of it, most of it, and he says that he can’t do anything. We are stuck with this priest for the rest of his life (7 years until retirement and then he’ll retire here). Our diocese is too short on priests and money for the bishop to do anything for a non-contributing, non-active parish.

In that situation you have got to:

  • safeguard your own safety
  • warn others to do likewise

To do so is definitely NOT blasphemy.

You are not giving God’s representative a bad name - he gave it to himself. You are not gratuitously advertising the situation to whomever it doesn’t concern.

For your safety, do as little as possible that involves him. What you have described is CERTAINLY NOT sinful at all, let alone gravely.

Maybe this is God’s oblique prompting to you to worship Him in a stiller way (or at another location if within reach).

Be careful not to confuse legitimate sense of duty with excessive scruples.

I always try to stay away from talking about anyone, especially priests. You should confess and never talk about him again except to those in authority over him. Ask Jesus to help.

This part that I quoted is very concerning. You were legitimately trying to figure out what was causing his behavior, but you do not know what is causing it. He could be possessed, have malice, or any number of things. IF the purpose of you saying this was simply to point out his faults to someone, it would be gossip. If it was to talk to someone who could help correct the situation, it is not gossip.

Don’t forget that Satan knows the situation and wants to use it to tempt you to sin.

Ask Jesus to help. He might help in ways you don’t think of/can’t see. Have faith.

I’m not saying that you sinned. I don’t know your heart. I would recommend confessing though. If you did sin, it would potentially be grave.

Remember that God loves you.

I am dealing with a difficult situation at a certain parish in my area. I have to be very careful how I approach it because I know that Satan is looking to tempt me. So far all I have done is say something to someone who can help correct things and asked Jesus to help. Other people in the parish have mentioned things that might pertain to the situation to me, but I think it is best to try to change the subject. I don’t want anyone to sin.

Is it all true? You know he hates the KoC? Did he actually say he hates them? Unless he did you are committing the sin of rash judgment. A few other statements you made seem to me to be rash judgements. While I don’t know this is grave sin I would certainly confess it.

Father has never said he “hates” the Knights. However, these are truly things he has said often: the KofC are, “useless,” “figureheads led by sandbaggers,” “unable or unwilling to help the parish,” and “not worthy to be a brotherhood”. They are a “problem group… of stuck up old men who haven’t done anything useful to the church … since before (his father’s) generation.” He declares most of the members as bad Christians and warns people away from them. He prohibits them from participating in parish activities, and loudly proclaims his opinion that 4th degree knights are “never in it to help, just in it to wear their fancy uniforms, which they will never be permitted to do in my parish.” Any time the K of C are mentioned, he gets angry and stops all discussion. He actively sabotages every attempt by the Knights to do anything for the parish, has cancelled his membership/approval or whatever it is that the K of C need for guaranteed access to parish facilities and functions, and requested that the council be disbanded on the diocesan level. All of these statements were made in the presence of witnesses, and the actions are either witnessed by two or more or actually matters of public record. He never overtly said he hates the Knights, but his actions speak to extreme dislike. I don’t really see that as rashly judgemental. Is it?

BTW, the rest are paraphrased from things he has directly said in my presence.

OP, you obviously have a great deal of anger and frustration with your pastor. Is it sinful? It is certainly an occasion of sin. If I were you, I would be worried about that anger getting the best of me.

PaulfromIowa, though I’m not currently angry, I can hardly deny the frustration and near occasion of sin that the frustration leads to. (Now if it were only an avoidable one, but there is no other parish, so one must deal with Father and his eccentricities if one wants the Sacraments.) That is why I am concerned with what is sinful, especially regarding mortal sin. I certainly don’t want to commit blasphemy, but I also don’t want the new family in Church to make Father mad and start saying naughty things about them around the community because they want to start a rosary prayer group in the parish, which he is likely to do if they approach him on the issue. I also don’t want them in the position we were tricked into where Father practically forced us to lie to the Bishop when he came (above dog-and-pony show reference), and he is known for using new families for that, as we found out after the fact. I wish we had been warned. But if that warning is blasphemy, then I need to let them find out the hard way and not risk my soul. I also need to know if venting to close relatives or my therapist who know I’m venting to keep from rash action when I do get mad about the latest dictate from Father is blasphemy. I never intend to sully his reputation or anything, and those I vent to know him and his policies and don’t intend to let my venting affect their opinions of him. If I’m sinning or contemplating something that is sin, I need to go to confession, though it is really hard to go to a confessor with whom you have a major problem. (Yes, that is just an excuse, if I need to go, I need to go.)

Modern Catholic Dictionary:

BLASPHEMY. Speaking against God in a contemptuous, scornful, or abusive manner. Included under blasphemy are offenses committed by thought, word, or action. Serious contemptuous ridicule of the saints, sacred objects, or of persons consecrated to God is also blasphemous because God is indirectly attacked. Blasphemy is a grave violation of charity toward God. Its gravity may be judged by the capital punishment in the Old Testament, severe penalties of the Church, and in many cases also of the State for blasphemous speech or conduct. In order for a person to sin gravely in this manner, he must use blasphemous expressions and realize the contemptuous meaning of what he says or does. (Etym. Latin blasphemia, blasphemy; from Greek blasphēmein, to speak ill of.)

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