rodin gates of hell with thinker detail 05In a story I don’t know what to make of, a Vatican official has declared that abusive priests are damned to hellfire. CBS News reports on this declaration (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican prosecutor of clerical sex abuse warned perpetrators on Saturday that they would suffer damnation in hell that would be worse than the death penalty.

The Rev. Charles Scicluna, a Maltese priest who is a top official at the Vatican’s morality office, led a special “make amends” prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica. …

“It would be really better” for priests who sexually abuse minors that their crimes “cause them death” because for them, “damnation will be more terrible” in hell, Il Sole 24 Ore online news reported. …

Scicluna, who could not immediately be reached for comment, began with a meditation from St. Mark’s Gospel saying those who harm children would be better off tying a millstone to their neck and throwing themselves into the sea.

In case you’re not familiar with the passage in question, here it is, including as much of its context as I can reasonably provide in this space:

Sitting down, He [Jesus] called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:35-50)

Scicluna’s rhetoric, therefore, is a bit harsh, especially given the Church has only recently — as in, just over the past couple of months — begun the slow process of acknowledging that its clergy have actually done something wrong and that this scandal is not merely the invention of “masonic secularists” or “Jews” or “great newspapers” or any of the rest of the denials they’ve offered.

Photo credit: Jon Himoff via Flickr.

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