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Questions and Answers

I have been reading about the abuse scandals in the Church, specifically about how women/girls are victimized in greater numbers than males, a fact that gets overlooked given the frequency of abuse of women/girls in general. Not to discount the affects of ANY abuse on anyone. I read about a researcher studying celibacy in the priesthood who estimates that 20% of priests are engaged with sex relations with women at any one time, and only 2% of priests actually maintain their vows of celibacy. Not that the remaining 78% are gay, although I would guess a large number left are engaged in gay acts/relationships. I didn’t see it in the article, but I would guess that priests are breaking their vows through masturbation. These sort of facts are kind of depressing and discouraging to me as someone trying to find my way back to the Church; not that I would use their bad behavior to act badly myself. How can I find guidance if the odds are so pathetic I’m going to find a priest who truly practices the faith? Aside from the question of whether a priest masturbates or not, not that that isn’t significant, but my greater fear is how would I know that I’m not placing my trust in an abuser/rapist? Even if he is not exploitative to me, personally.

Outline of the Answer
• Am I Placing My Trust in an Abuser?
• Seeking a Priest Who Practices the Faith
• You Are Not Alone
• You Are There By Yourself
• It Will Break Your Heart
• Christ’s Broken Heart

Research such as this usually has some methodological flaws that must be carefully evaluated before accepting the conclusions at face value, so there may be more good priests than the article suggests. Still, I agree that there is good reason for dismay, and so I will address only the direct questions you ask.

“How would I know that I’m not placing my trust in an abuser/rapist?” Well, in short, you can never know for certain—except after the fact of his trying to abuse you. So you have to maintain an ongoing keen awareness of all emotional cues in your interactions—and it doesn’t help to discount any odd behavior out of a desire to be “non-judgmental.”


To tell someone that he is living in sin and is in grave danger of ending up in hell is a warning, not judgment. As for what will actually happen to this poor soul . . . well, only God can make that judgment.


So sometimes you need the courage to see sin as it slowly introduces itself. But take heart—your other question can actually lead us to something more tangible.

Seeking a Priest Who Practices the Faith

“How can I find guidance if the odds are so pathetic I’m going to find a priest who truly practices the faith?” The answer here is that you must find your guidance by yourself, but not alone. So let me explain.

You Are Not Alone

I say “not alone” because your guidance must begin with the sacraments of the Church. And right here you need to understand that the personal sanctity of the priest does not affect the validity of the sacraments. Theologically, Christ opened up this issue Himself: when His disciples came to Him in indignation that someone who did not follow them had been driving out demons in Jesus’ name, He told them, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My Name who can at the same time speak ill of Me”(Mark 10:38–39).

Ecclesiastically, Saint Augustine addressed the issue back in the fourth century when he said, “The spiritual power of the Sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive It in its purity, and if It should pass through defiled beings, It is not Itself defiled.” In fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes this passage from Augustine in support of its declaration, “Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting” (§ 1584). So when you’re in the Church, you’re not alone. Christ is always there with you, and so is the Holy Spirit.

But you are there by yourself.

You Are There By Yourself

The Catechism also says that the “power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister’s sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church” (§ 1550).


There is something else about the life of the shepherds . . . which discourages me greatly. . . . I speak of our absorption in external affairs; we accept the duties of office, but by our actions we show that we are attentive to other things. We abandon the ministry of preaching and, in my opinion, are called bishops to our detriment, for we retain the honourable office but fail to practice the virtues proper to it. Those who have been entrusted to us abandon God, and we are silent. They fall into sin, and we do not extend a hand of rebuke.
But how can we who neglect ourselves be able to correct someone else? We are wrapped up in worldly concerns, and the more we devote ourselves to external things, the more insensitive we become in spirit.


— from a homily on the Gospels by
Saint Gregory the Great, pope
(Office of Readings, Saturday
27th Week in Ordinary Time)

It Will Break Your Heart

Just as Saint Gregory said in his own time, you will find many priests today who fail to preach the truth. They might preach about Christ, but they fail to preach Christ. They might preach about patience and peace, but they are failing in patience and peace because their minds are overflowing with intellectual arrogance while their hearts are lacking in humble charity. And it will break your heart.

You will find many priests unwilling to speak about the need to put aside selfishness, competitiveness, rivalries, lawsuits, partying (“drinking bouts”), sexual promiscuity, lifestyles defiant of chastity, foul language, and angry outbursts. These are the things on which our society is now based. Many bishops and priests have too much to lose (like financial support from arrogant, cut-throat, hard-drinking, licentious patrons) by preaching the truth in its explicit fullness. And it will break your heart.

You will find many priests unwilling to preach chastity (for reasons you yourself have clearly articulated). And it will break your heart.

You will find bishops unwilling to root out dissension and heresy in their dioceses, all because they are afraid and unwilling to insist on fidelity to the Gospel and the very Tradition that martyrs have died to protect through the ages. And it will break your heart.

You will find so-called Catholic schools and universities not only unwilling to teach the Gospel truth but also eagerly and flagrantly teaching outright heresy. And it will break your heart.

You will find other Christians, and even Catholics, claiming with their words that they believe in Christ but who have no real belief in their hearts. And it will break your heart.

You will find yourself thirsting for holiness, and all around you will be an ocean of sin. And it will break your heart.

Christ’s Broken Heart

Therefore, if you are to find the truth, you must find it by yourself. You have to focus on your own desire for a holy life. There are many good priests and many good spiritual directors in this world, but you cannot recognize them unless you yourself make a preliminary effort to understand the very truth to which they should be leading you. Therefore, you will have to put as much attention into reading and prayer as most of the persons around you put into TV and movies, sports, shopping, and other frivolous entertainment. You have to stand opposed to the culture around you. Your friends and relatives will reject you. Very few will understand you. And it will break your heart. But you won’t be alone. Christ, too, died of a broken heart.

It sounds dismal, doesn’t it? Well, as I said, take heart: Christ’s broken heart. For if you want to be in the Church, it is Christ’s broken heart that you must seek.

This is not something to be taken lightly, even though too many of us—including many bishops, priests, and deacons—do take Christianity too lightly. Saint Teresa of Avila—who had her share of bad confessors—offered this warning to those who come seeking Christ:

And His Majesty, as one who knows our weakness, is enabling the soul through these afflictions and many others to have the courage to be joined with so great a Lord and to take Him as its Spouse.

You will laugh at my saying this and will think it’s foolishness. . . . but . . . I tell you there is need for more courage than you think.

— Saint Teresa of Avila
The Interior Castle

So take courage, seek purity of heart, and pray ardently for guidance—and you shall have it.


Who wrote this web page?


Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.

A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites is now available at your fingertips in book form with a comprehensive index.
Psychological defenses help to protect us from emotional injury, but if you cling to the defense mechanisms that were created in your childhood and carry them on into adulthood—as most everyone does unconsciously—your quest for spiritual healing will be thwarted by overwhelming resentments and conflicts.
Still, God has been trying to show you that there is more to life than resentment and conflict, something so beautiful and desirable that only one thing can resist its pull: hate.
So now, and in every moment until you die, you will have a profound choice between your enslavement to old defenses and the beauty of God. That decision has to come from you. You will go where you desire.

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