What is the Church? Is it a place where I partake in specific rituals? Is it where I see people who are like me, whether that be race, ethnicity, or interests? Is it a social club? Is it where I learn about God? The fact is the Church is all of these things, but stopping there would fall short to define the Church in its entirety. The Church Fathers spoke of the Church as a hospital. Specifically, St. John Chrysostom said, “the Church is a hospital, and not a courtroom, for souls. She does not condemn on behalf of sins, but grants remission of sins.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem said, “your accumulated offenses surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies: your wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill. Only give yourself up in faith: tell the Physician your ailment.” Even Christ Himself uses this idea of being a doctor seeking out the sick when He spoke to the Pharisees. What does that mean, however? What does it mean for the Church to be a hospital?
Although I’ve deleted all my social media, some family and friends have been filling me in on the various things posted. Honestly, I was talking to my spiritual father, and we both found the fact that a priest molested and sexually assaulted a young girl disturbing. It is quite sad when the Church stops being a hospital to an individual. However, this is another reminder that the Church is still a hospital. You may have been distraught upon learning about everything that happened; however, I would like to ask a question. Is a doctor immune to sickness merely because they are a doctor? Is a surgeon above perhaps needing their coworker to do some invasive surgery? Is a pharmacist not in need of taking medication or a therapist going to their own therapy? Is a priest above sin?
If we are going to call the Church a hospital, then everyone is sick from top to bottom. Everyone needs healing and everyone in need of treatment. Remember, “hurt people, hurt people.” Allow me to share something personal. If you don’t know, after I graduated in 2014, I decided to study at St. Athanasius Boarding Seminary in St. Moses Abbey in Texas. It was a great opportunity where I always wanted to explore and deepen my faith more. Although we did not live with the monks, we interacted with the monks daily. I love the Abbey and the monks, a lot. But that doesn’t mean it was always this holy and fantastic interaction. There were times where I had issues or disagreements—in essence, living in the Abbey “re-humanized” clergy for me. They are humans just like you and me, and they are susceptible to sin, just like you and me.
I want to be clear, in any case. I do not believe this means allowing priests to do whatever they want or let them “off the hook.” I firmly believe that the priest who committed such outrageous things should be defrocked/laicized. But I’m not sure about excommunication. I do not know the extent of details as maybe everyone else does; however, this person is being called a pedophile. And pedophilia is an actual mental disorder found in the DSM-5. The DSM is a manual mental health professionals use to give a diagnosis of a mental disorder. It’s backed up with years of research and revised every 10 years or so. The following is the criteria for a person to meet this diagnosis.
- “Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
- The individual has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
- The individual is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.”
So is this priest a pedophile? Possibly, especially if he has repeatedly done this. Again, I’m not on social media, so feel free to contact me through the contact page and fill me in. But either way, this is a disease, and he needs treatment from a psychological and spiritual standpoint. This doesn’t mean he’s not held accountable but, if the Church is a hospital, would it make sense to cut someone off who is clearly sick? Excommunication doesn’t only mean not going to church; it also means not partaking of the Eucharist and the mysteries. That doesn’t mean you have to be friends with him or interact with him. Do I think I’m better than him because my sin is not “as bad”? Does God show partiality in sin or to the degree one is sick? Of course not. If we are going to call the Church a hospital, I have to be able to hold space for people who have done terrible things because they are as worthy of God’s love as you and me, because we are all sick.