Unwittingly party to sacrilege. Am I guilty?

Approximately 8 years ago I began my journey back to the Catholic Faith after spending my teenage years living to a greater or lesser extent as a heathen. I received almost no instruction in the Faith beyond simple things like making the Sign of the Cross or saying the Hail Mary. When I first returned to the Faith I was a cafeteria Catholic. I had never even seen a Catechism (let alone read one) and I basically tried to marry the Faith to the erroneous liberal political beliefs I held then.

Sorry if all that seemed unnecessary, but I wanted to give some perspective on the situation that I’m about to describe.

The parish I first came to at that point in my life was a campus Newman Center. It was run by a “spirit of Vatican II” priest (who has since left the priesthood and the Church after creating a great deal of scandal). He was assisted by a very liberal (old hippies) staff.

One day after Mass I was acting as sacristan (this job was given to me without any formal training whatsoever) when I discovered that there was a large amount of the Precious Blood left in the chalice. I asked the “campus minister” (assistant to the priest who always left immediately after each Mass was over) what to do with the remaining Precious Blood. She told me to either consume all of the Precious Blood or to pour it out into the ground next to a bush that grew on the side of the Newman Center. She told me that pouring the Precious Blood into the earth was an acceptable practice.

Since I did not know any better and trusted her I did as she suggested and poured the Precious Blood into the earth next to the bush.

As I grew in faith and educated myself on what Christ and His Church actually teach I became increasingly shocked at what took place at that Newman Center and long since stopped going there. I also repented of my many past sins and even made a General Confession (though I still didn’t recall this incident at that time).

All that said, since so many horrible liturgical abuses took place at that Newman Center I had forgotten this particular incident until I recently came across this statement which jogged my memory immediately:

[107.] In accordance with what is laid down by the canons, “one who throws away the consecrated species or takes them away or keeps them for a sacrilegious purpose, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished by another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state”.[194] To be regarded as pertaining to this case is any action that is voluntarily and gravely disrespectful of the sacred species. Anyone, therefore, who acts contrary to these norms, for example casting the sacred species into the sacrarium or in an unworthy place or on the ground, incurs the penalties laid down.[195] Furthermore all will remember that once the distribution of Holy Communion during the celebration of Mass has been completed, the prescriptions of the Roman Missal are to be observed, and in particular, whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ must be entirely and immediately consumed by the Priest or by another minister, according to the norms, while the consecrated hosts that are left are to be consumed by the Priest at the altar or carried to the place for the reservation of the Eucharist.[196]

My question is simple. Since I had no idea what I was doing was sinful at that time and was instructed to do so by a trusted superior am I guilty or not? Am I excommunicated for this action committed at that time? Or would this only apply if I knowingly committed this sin?

(I posted this in the Liturgy and Sacraments section too, but I think perhaps it fits here better.)

No, you are not guilty here and you are certainly not excommunicated.

Latae sententiae excommunication only applies to those who actually know about this canonical penalty. Since you did not know that what you were doing was wrong, and certainly didn’t know about the penalty of excommunication, you are free from guilt in the matter.

Rest easy. This was not your fault!

The previous poster is correct. You need to have intent before you commit any type of sin. You were taking advice from a person you considered an authority in this area and had no intention to blaspheme.
You are completely innocent and it is goof to see that you are educating yourself in your faith.

The parish that I attended during my conversion had a special sink used to wash the vessels after use during the mass, and I believe the drain of this sink led out into the garden outside the church. Is this contrary to the practice as well?

That would be the sacrarium, which is noted in the section the OP cites. The blood cannot be poured into the sacrarium, as directly noted. It is only for water that has been used in cleaning communion vessels, washing linen used in the mass, and a few other uses.

Not to sound scrupulous… but the vessels that are cleaned still have traces of the precious blood, right? Is it ok then that this is going to the ground as it is a lesser quantity? It’s ok so long as a ‘pourable’ quantity of precious blood is not poured down the sacrarium?

When the species no longer have the appearance of bread or wine (as with minute particles that disolve in water, or small amounts of wine dilluted in water), they no longer contain the real presence, and thus are properly disposed of in the sacrarium.

Cool beans. Thanks

Thank you all for your responses.

I was trying not to be too legalistic when considering this situation, but considering the gravity of what happened I just wanted to get some additional feedback from others. As I posted this question yesterday I asked myself “If you had to answer this question for someone else what would you say to them?” and my opinion on culpability corresponded with the responses that others gave here.

Thanks again for helping to put my conscience at ease concerning this incident.

I’ve never heard that expression before but this is the 2nd time today that I came across it. Weird :smiley:

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