This past week, a Florida pastor was arrested for failing to report the suspected sexual abuse of a child. Over a year ago, one of the three young victims informed the pastor of the ongoing abuse. Though he provided the victim with counseling, the pastor never reported the crime to the police because he “didn’t have proof”.

How does a pastor respond when informed of allegations concerning child sexual abuse? All too often the responses by pastors are too little too late.   Here is a simple rule that should be followed by pastors and everyone else: Immediately report allegations of child sexual abuse.   Not only will you potentially save the life of a child and stop the heinous acts of a predator, but you will also most likely be following the law.

Approximately 27 states specifically designate members of the clergy (pastors) as mandated reporters. Another 18 states designate all adults to be mandated reporters of suspected child abuse. This means that in almost every state of the country, pastors are mandated by law to report suspected child abuse or face criminal prosecution. Even in those limited circumstances when a pastor is not a mandated reporter, nothing prevents him/her from voluntarily reporting suspected abuse to the authorities.

Confessional - photo courtesy of Brian Allen via Flickr

Confessional – photo courtesy of Brian Allen via Flickr (Image source)

Perhaps the most confusing issue for most pastors related to reporting child sexual abuse is what to do when a perpetrator is the one who discloses the abuse. If a perpetrator confesses to sexually abusing a child to a pastor, every effort should be made by the pastor to insure that the offender immediately reports his/her crime to the authorities. This should certainly be the expectation if the perpetrator has expressed a desire to demonstrate repentance. Expressing repentance for a crime without voluntarily submitting to the civil authorities is manipulation, not repentance. The dark reality is that most offenders who confess abuse to a pastor won’t report themselves to the authorities. In those circumstances, the pastor has a fundamental decision to make; remain silent and protect a perpetrator, or report the abuse and protect a vulnerable child.

In the past few years, I have discovered that many pastors have mistaken beliefs about reporting child sexual abuse disclosures made by perpetrators who refuse to report their crimes to the authorities. I want to briefly highlight three common mistaken beliefs:

Mistaken Belief #1: Mandated reporting exceptions prohibit pastors from reporting

Many jurisdictions that designate pastors as mandated reporters do make an exception if the disclosure was made during a confidential conversation between the perpetrator and the pastor. This exception is based upon the age-old clergy-parishioner privilege that holds sacred the private communications between a parishioner and member of the clergy.  This exception does not mean that a pastor is prohibited from making the report. All it means is that a pastor who fails to report a child sexual abuse disclosure made by an alleged perpetrator will not be prosecuted for violating the mandated reporting law. Nothing prohibits the pastor from voluntarily reporting the crime to the authorities out of concern for the life and safety of a child.

Mistaken Belief #2: Clergy-parishioner privilege prohibits pastors from reporting

A pastor is never prohibited by law from reporting known or suspected child abuse to the authorities. Though the law may not prohibit such a report, a pastor who reports abuse learned during a conversation with the alleged offender may violate the clergy-parishioner privilege. However, in these circumstances such a privilege must be formally recognized by the particular church or denomination. A pastor who violates a recognized privilege could be subject to civil legal action.

The reality is that except for the Catholic Church, most churches have not formally recognized a clergy-parishioner privilege. This means that the pastor can freely report a disclosure of sexual abuse made by a perpetrator with little concern about civil legal consequences. What ultimately determines whether a pastor reports the admitted sexual abuse of a child should not be whether or not the church has a formally recognized clergy-parishioner privilege. Neither should it be whether or not the pastor may one day be sued for violating a recognized privilege. What should ultimately determine whether a pastor voluntarily reports abuse is the life and safety of a precious child made in the image of God.

Mistaken Belief #3: Rules of Evidence prohibit pastors from reporting

Rules of evidence are the rules each court follows in determining the admissibility of evidence in hearings and trials. Almost every state jurisdiction in this country recognizes some type of clergy-penitent privilege as part of its rules of evidence. All this means is that certain conversations between an offender and a member of the clergy may not be admissible in a judicial hearing or trial. Rules of evidence that exclude these communications do not prevent pastors from reporting admitted abuse to the authorities. Whether or not a conversation between a pastor and an offender is admissible in a court of law is the exclusive role of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges, not pastors.

Regardless of whether the conversation is ultimately admitted into evidence, a pastor who reports the confessed sexual abuse will protect the child by providing law enforcement the opportunity to collect additional corroborating evidence. In those circumstances, even if the court decides to exclude the “confession” from trial, there may still be sufficient evidence to convict the perpetrator. I remember prosecuting a child sexual abuse case in which the court did not allow me to admit into evidence the implicating conversation between the pastor and the defendant. Fortunately, we were still able to secure a conviction because the police had collected additional implicating evidence as a result of a brave pastor’s decision to report what he had been told.

When pastors are told about the abuse of a child, all too often too much time is spent evaluating and analyzing, instead of reporting. As the evaluations and analysis go on and on, the child is the one that pays the highest price. Just ask the three young victims in Florida.

Minimizing mistaken beliefs will prayerfully lead to maximizing the protection of little ones.

 

38 Comments

  1. Boz:

    Unfortunately, it is going to take more then a few blogs and an arrest here and there to break the code of the three monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) policy engrained in church leadership with regard to this specific crime. It will take VERY PUBLIC arrests and national news coverage along with HUGE FINANCIAL LOSSES before leadership stops helping the perpetrators of this crime. Also, church leaders need to be taught how Christ views the crime as part of seminary instruction.

  2. Thank you Boz, for spelling this out so clearly. I hope pastors and other religious authority figures everywhere will read this, take note, and apply what you have explained.

    “Expressing repentance for a crime without voluntarily submitting to the civil authorities is manipulation, not repentance.”

    This is so very true. I know a man who molested numerous children overseas, and publicly admits to it. Yet he has never voluntarily turned himself over to US law enforcement, brazen in his confidence that he is legally untouchable.

    There is no true repentance there. And this man professes to be a Christian.

      • Marie, he has been reported. Americans who committed crimes against children overseas before the Protect Act of 2003 cannot be prosecuted. This is the obstacle we face in trying to get justice in the many cases of sexual abuse of missionaries’ children that occurred in decades past. It is very frustrating. See Boz’s July 18 post on this blog.
        http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/07/18/abuse-mission-field-treasuring-institution-instead-little-ones/

      • Learning to be a survivor

        Marie,
        I know you directed your question to Raz, but reporting legally often doesn’t change anything. I know one offender against children who was convicted of sexual crimes against a child. He continued offending against that child and others here in the US. That state has a statute of limitation and none of his known victims can do anything about it. Even though the police know his record and know he is alone with children, we have been told that they can do nothing unless a current victim comes forward. As most don’t report while it is happening, it is unlikely that anything will ever happen. In the meantime, he freely works in children’s ministries with his church. His pastor is not concerned. His wife who has personally seen him sexually assaulting a child on multiple occasions is not concerned.
        While I would always encourage a victim to report, I have learned that it is an incredibly painful process for the victim and is highly unlikely to result in any sort of legal consequence for the perpetrator. I wish that I would have known that before reporting.

    • Learning to be a survivor

      Yes, “brazen in his confidence that he is legally untouchable.” This is what I have found. Offenders within religious communities are SURE they will be protected. They don’t seem to even fear admitting their crimes.
      There is some sort of code that the religious world seems to have where an offender can actually admit his crime and somehow the admission itself gains him protection by the religious world. It is seen as proof of repentance. It doesn’t matter if the offender was forced to “confess” because of evidence. It just matters that he confesses and says he has repented. That will guarantee him a pass and complete protection.

      • Being a SNAP leader and a survivor I have had some contact with the “brazen”. One member here in Mississippi ask me to assist him in calling his perpetrator. I did. First some back ground, the perpetrator moved back to his hometown of Rochester, NY after being de-frocked in Mississippi. He had raped the victim in which I was assisting when the victim was 8 years old and did so over and over. When we discussed this with the perpetrator his response was “because you were easy”. And made no apologies for his actions. He now lives within a few blocks of a school and I have contacted the police.

        • Mark:

          Can you tell us what the response of the police was in this matter? I am asking because I have contacted a number of official federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies with regard to a crime perpetrated on me sometime ago. All, categorically all, have refused to open any investigation even though the perpetrator boasts of children and youth ministries on his webpage claiming 52 years of faithful service.

    • They all profess to be Christians and the missions that send them out claim they have a mandate from God!
      The mission I was associated with has had child sex offender after child sex offender exposed. They have messed up MKs all round the globe.
      They say they care, but their actions say otherwise as they employ lawyers. They say it will never happen again, but it did and the offender was sentenced to 58 years for his vile crimes last year! And they did absolutely nothing for his victims, just washed their hands of him as fast as they could.

      God will serve justice on these fake Christians who are nothing more than wolves in sheeps clothing. But while we are waiting for the inevitable judgement of their crimes, it is time to make noises that let the lawmakers, churches and lawenforcers that these wolves are still devouring the innocent while pulling the wool over the eyes of gullible pastors and religious leaders. Whatever it takes, we should be doing it or risk the lives of more children being ruined.

      Don’t give up, sometimes help comes from the least expected quarters :)

  3. Learning to be a survivor

    I truly believe that very little will change in the area of sexual abuse unless / until pastors and other religious leaders understand these things.
    I personally know two offenders currently in ministry. One has a long history of sexual offenses (including rape) of minors and is currently involved in church ministries where he is permitted to be alone and unsupervised around children. When concerns were brought to his pastor’s attention, his response was that he did not know about this man’s past (there are legal convictions and confessions by the perpetrator to substantiate the allegations). Once the pastor learned of this man’s history, he simply stated that this man’s past victims would likely be very surprised if they were to meet him now. He is “very religious.” He often finds interesting verses during the week that he passes on to the pastor for sermon illustrations. This is “proof” that he is not the same person he was during the decades of his known offenses against children. The offender’s wife is in full time ministry. When she was approached by a victim about safety protocols, she stated that she had heard rumors that her husband had other victims, but that he has changed and any victim who speaks about the past will not be forgiven by God. She cautioned that God is coming soon and will judge anyone who hasn’t forgiven and speaks about the past.
    The second offender is a current missionary who confessed to raping an adult. While his first known offense was not against a child, he has been protected by multiple christian ministries from facing legal consequences. Those over his mission believe that “cooperating” with legal authorities means hiring a lawyer for him to ensure that he never have to face any legal consequences. They state that it would be wrong to permit him to turn himself into the police as he is a man of God and should be protected.
    You stated, “Expressing repentance for a crime without voluntarily submitting to the civil authorities is manipulation, not repentance. The dark reality is that most offenders who confess abuse to a pastor won’t report themselves to the authorities.” This specific mission board interprets those words to mean that the offender/his church/his mission should hire a lawyer to ensure that the offender never face legal consequences. They state that since he admitted his crime to them (after it was reported to them by the victim) and asked the victim for forgiveness, he is free before God. “Voluntarily submitting to the civil authorities” was translated into hiring a lawyer to protect his rights and ensure that he will never face any legal consequences for his crime. He and his ministry must be protected at all costs.

  4. Concerning the statement,’every effort should be made by the pastor to insure that the offender immediately report his/her crime to the authorities.’

    Some describe child abuse as ‘murder of the individual’.

    In the case of Saint Paul, before becoming an apostle,he took an active part in the martyrdom of Stephen and others.

    The Bible speaks of him being called by Jesus. While not a molester, was Saint Paul told to,’report his crime to the authorities’ by Jesus before preaching to the nations? Or was three days of blindness enough punishment for him?

    Or maybe it was the culture back then, being barbaric had its place and those in power didn’t complain.

    Just wondering about the biblical basis for a molester to turn themselves in?

    Acts 26:10-11 (New Revised Standard)

    10 And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. 11 By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.

    • Wondering: You’re looking for a loophole. That causes me to suspect that you are a perpetrator. If you’re looking for a statement in the Bible: “Turn yourself in,” you probably won’t find it. But if you look at the overall message of the Bible, then you will turn yourself in.
      *******************
      My church performs a background check on volunteers when they first become involved in children’s ministry. I think it needs to be done on a regular basis, but at least it’s being done at all.

    • Wondering:

      In an effort to try and expand your understanding relative to Paul’s behavior, please except the following: the temple/the great Sanhedrin took responsibility for matters of religious heresy. Paul was working under the direction of the Sanhedrin when he was involved in persecution and murdering. In the time of Herod Paul would have been reporting to “authorities” with regard to his behavior. As to his conversion, Paul immediately believed as he has written in many of his epistles. His change in heart and behavior was complete renovation of understanding and his work of church building and Christian organizing was often interrupted by murderous attempts upon his own life. He suffered Gladly for the kingdom of heaven while viewing himself the chief among sinners. He acknowledged the wrongdoing of his youth, by open public confession, and the passion of his heart became winning souls for Christ. His conversion caused a radical change in his behavior. The Bible teaches us that we will know “Christians” by their love and by the fruits of their behavior. Pedophiles who reoffend after some “closet confession” are clearly not Christians!

    • > “Just wondering about the biblical basis for a molester to turn themselves in?”

      Start with Proverbs 28:13– “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

      Obviously, to refuse to turn oneself in to authorities for committing a crime is to show that one is not truly willing to accept the consequences for their sin, and therefore they haven’t truly “confessed and renounced” it.

      When Saul/Paul was complicit in abuse of Christians he was an authority and cooperating with authorities, so a comparison between these two scenarios is a false analogy. However, he did indeed publicly confess and renounce those sins on many occasions, as your quote demonstrates among others. St. Paul’s words in Romans 13 indicate that he strongly believed in the role of civil authorities to prosecute criminals:

      “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. [...] Rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

  5. When my husband was a youth pastor, a youth volunteer of over 20 years came to him and confessed that he had sexually abused children/teens in the church (over that entire time he had been a volunteer). My husband took him directly to the police station. Long story short, he’ll be in prison the rest of his life.

  6. Please let us not limit this to child sexual abuse. Physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect are serious issues. You don’t need proof to report, only reasonable suspicion of abuse. Let CPS and law enforcement investigate and follow up on the matter. Protect the life of a child.

    http://jeremiahgibbs.com/2014/07/23/how-to-pastor-when-you-have-to-report-child-abuse/?utm_content=buffer330c8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    • Learning to be a survivor

      Kaity,
      Yes!! I agree! And I don’t think it is just limited to children, either. An offender who thinks it is okay to rape adult women and/or physically abuse his wife or girlfriend, is not safe! He doesn’t somehow have a pass simply because his victim is an adult!! If he is comfortable abusing an adult, then a child doesn’t stand a chance. Even if is sexual deviancy is adult oriented, if he believes it is okay to satisfy his desires by humiliating and degrading another adult, how much value does he place on the rights of children?
      I have never found one who It isn’t okay to abuse others, period. Churches should NEVER ignore or excuse any form of abuse.

      • Learning to be a survivor

        Was editing and posted by accident. That last paragraph was supposed to be, “I have never found one who is comfortable abusing adults, who does not also behave in abusive ways towards children…”

  7. It was mentioned in passing by the author, but I wanted to elaborate and make something crystal clear for any Catholic in the readership:
    Your confession, REGARDLESS OF CONTENT, may never be disclosed by your confessor, nor may information obtained in that confession be acted upon. Period, end statement.
    Revealing the content of a confession warrants defrocking and excommunication on the first offense. The Church is VERY committed to the sanctity of the confessional, so you need never fear for an instant that your sins, whatever they may be, are outside the scope of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confessors are also forbidden to require you to expose your sin to anyone as a condition of forgiveness, even in the case of a serious crime.
    Whatever you may have done, please do not be afraid to come to confession; it WILL remain confidential.

      • The ministry of reconciliation is one the Church takes very seriously, so much so that she takes extraordinary effort to ensure that what the penitent confesses to his confessor remains between him and God.
        Bringing criminals to social justice is viewed as subordinate to the salvation of a soul through the absolution of the confessional, and the Church in her wisdom places no stumbling block before any penitent which might potentially deter him from seeking the pardon of his sins.
        I for one am grateful for the Church’s steadfast resolution in such an important matter, and I pray that she remains strong in her refusal to be conformed to the world to the detriment of the Kingdom of God.
        “Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

        • You’ll have to explain to me how a person can be considered repentant of child abuse if they confess but do not turn themselves in? Is this what happened with the priests who abused children? Did they confess and then were sent to a new position because the confessor could not turn them in, according to your church? How does this square with your church’s position on the sanctity of life? Are unborn children more worthy of life and safety than children suffering at the hands of abusers? You’re essentially saying that a priest will let an abuser or murderer or thief, etc., go on to commit further crimes against others.

          The murderer on the cross next to Jesus was forgiven by Jesus, but still punished for his crime. Jesus didn’t seem to have a problem that the man was punished this side of heaven.

          • The proper moral thing to do is to turn oneself in, and the priest will strongly counsel the penitent to do so. This is a moral decision however, and must be made by the individual; the priest will not turn the penitent in to the law, nor may he require that the penitent do so as a condition of forgiveness.
            The priesthood has the authority to forgive sins on behalf of God, His Church, and humanity in general, and this is the ministry he carries out. The forgiveness of sins is unconditional for the truly penitent, and if the priest, upon hearing the confession, believes the penitent to be truly repentant, he offers this forgiveness in humble obedience to God.
            Zealots like Mr. Newmiller would have the priesthood become agents of the state, turning in members of their flock who come to them for forgiveness. The obvious result of this shackling of the Church by the state isn’t hard to predict: if the seal of the confessional were no longer inviolable, fewer would make use of it for fear of exposure, and those most in need of the Church’s sacramental healing of souls would go without it, and all to assuage the shifting pseudomorality of the secular world.

          • Robert Newmiller

            S: Keegan:

            I appreciate you bringing me back into this conversation by referring to me as a zealot in your last comment. If I am Zealous for anything, it is to see that God’s word is delivered to the people in a pure form. As a priest, which I now assume you are, you have been fooled into believing that you were given authority to forgive sins on earth. The work to obtain that authority was completed by Christ on the cross when he said: “It Is Finished!” He alone did the work and we can refer to Isaiah as well as the spirit of Isaiah found within John the Baptist when John proclaimed “behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Even the great Sanhedrin of Old Testament renowned, by and through its most senior members, never assumed authority to forgive sin! When they entered the holy of holies within the temple at Jerusalem, they entered praying on behalf of The people anticipating that God alone would forgive them. I challenge you to produce scripture text that authorizes you to act on God’s behalf in the work of forgiveness with regard to sin. If you have any authority at all, directly from God, it is the authority to preach the gospel message and the kingdom of heaven. None of the apostles were ever so presumptuous as to say: “I grant you forgiveness.” In fact, when the people intimated a desire to worship Peter he made it crystal clear that he was not a forgiving power. Peter pointed them directly to Jesus Christ. In no way did he presume to act in Christs’ stead. Unfortunately, I am confident that you have fooled many. However, I understand it is because of your basic misunderstanding of the totality of the work of redemption having been completed in Christ by His words and works. He alone sits at the right hand of the father making intercession for the Penitent man or woman. He alone can judge, he alone can pronounce freedom from the consequences of individual sin. You are not a part of that equation just as Mary, the very mother of The Redeemer, was not. The chemistry of that equation is the disposition of each individual heart towards the work and person of Jesus Christ. Finally, as to your comments with regard to “agents of the state” has not the Vatican itself tried to persuade such an arrangement between Christians and our God? (Vatican meaning “state”)

        • S. Keegan:

          I’m afraid you overlooked a large portion of your scripture quote…” Take my yoke upon you.” The rest is not available without the responsibility. Please dispense with the nonsense of absolution. Often the very priests who are molesting children and engaged in gross homosexual behavior are standing on the other side of the confessional offering absolution as if they have the authority to do so. No man, born of men, has the authority to forgive sin! For, the authority of eternal judgment rest in the hands of Jesus Christ alone. Even your own pope, Pope Francis, the supposed representative of Jesus on earth stated that the corruption within the Catholic Church is now seizing from within. Please take the time to watch: PBS.org/secrets of the Vatican. It is time you stop believing that such corrupt men have the authority to offer forgiveness at any level. The reality is that pedophiles have their best shot at redemption if they are restrained.

          • Robert Newmiller

            S. Keegan:

            Please correct my last reply. where I used the word “seizing” I meant to put “festering.”

          • No man born has the authority to forgive sin… now where have I heard that before? Oh yes…
            “Why does this man [Jesus] speak blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
            Give up? That was the Pharisees speaking.
            As for what Our Lord has to say on the subject…
            “Receive the Holy Spirit: Whosoever’s sins you remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever’s sins you retain, they are retained.”

          • Robert Newmiller

            S. Keegan:

            You’re an expert at misquoting. I am hopeful that the other visitors to this conversation will see that. What I said was, “no man born OF MEN.” This of course means by the will of man as opposed to the will of The Spirit of God. Jesus was not born “of men.” He was born by The Spirit of the everlasting God.
            As to your partial scripture quote, go back to your Greek lexicon and check the tenses. Already forgiven already bound in heaven.

          • The disciples to whom Jesus conferred this authority to forgive sins were entirely human, and yet Our Lord grants them the ability to forgive sins on His behalf. The conditional is crystal clear, and only a tremendous feat of verbal gymnastics can possibly spin this any other way than Jesus telling His disciples that they, mere men, now have the authority to forgive sins. This is a well established facet of the Faith, and to deny it is to do a disservice to the Scriptures.

          • Robert Newmlller

            S. Keegan:

            the authority given to the apostles and then Beliving disciples as it relates to forgiveness is the authority to forgive one another for the offenses that come between the members of the body of Christ and from their outward to the offenses perpetrated against believers by the world. This is universally accepted within the church Catholic ( not Roman Catholic). As I will assume you are aware, I have the authority to forgive those that have offended me and those whom I have offended have the authority to forgive me. However, perhaps you can explain how the authority to forgive sin eternally is vested in the Roman Catholic priesthood exclusively as you teach? Finally, before you answer that question please let me know whether I may receive communion from you being a non-Roman Catholic.

          • Whosesoever means whosesoever. You claim to strive for the setting forth of God’s word in its purest form; any such attempt rings hollow without acknowledging that this understanding has been accepted with near universality throughout Christendom for all but the past couple hundred years, and is still accepted universally by upwards of 95% of Christianity today.
            Deep convictions notwithstanding, Protestantism remains a fairly small group of increasingly fractious sects, and is a relatively new innovation in the Faith. To claim that this is the proper understanding of Christianity is to declare oneself more knowledgeable than the centuries of saints, doctors and theologians of the Church which have gone before. It smacks of hubris, and has a far weaker claim than Catholicism to the historically authentic Faith.
            I do not claim that only Roman Catholic priests have the authority to forgive sins; all those who are validly ordained apostolic ministers in the apostolic succession have this authority. This includes Roman Catholic priests and bishops, Orthodox priests and bishops, a portion of Anglican priests and bishops, a portion of Old Catholic priests and bishops, and a smattering of random groups here and there who have maintained both the apostolic succession and apostolic ministries.

          • Robert Newmiller

            Please, let’s not try to use the weight of authority haphazardly. 95% of Muslims believe The Koran to be God’s word. Does that make it correct? Finally, as to your comment relative to Protestantism being a relatively new sect I would point you to Calvin, Who came from the very ranks of Catholicism (Roman), Eusebius, Who wrote in the third century and a virtual ocean of other authors who spoke of the church Catholic and spoke of Rome as a place where many Christians believed and were martyred with no mention of a Roman Catholic church body. Christianity, as a religion, is the ardent belief and resulting behavior of a hope in the divinity of Christ alone here on earth. No one approaches God the Father except through Jesus the Son. If it is your wish to boost in numbers and a body swayed by a teaching, you should bear in mind that Jesus said “Stright is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.” He is the gate, He is the way, and He is the leader.

          • As for reception of the Blessed Sacrament, you couldn’t receive it from me since I’m neither an ordained priest nor am I Roman Catholic.
            Whether or not you should receive would greatly depend on your own church. The Sacrament becomes, in full actuality of substance beneath the accidents of the matter, the true body and blood of Christ. Those who receive take within themselves the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord; if you do not accept this, you should not receive, as reception of the Sacrament in an unworthy manner or without perceiving the Body and Blood in the matter can be dangerous to both spiritual and bodily health. If, on the other hand, you are an Orthodox Christian, or a member of some other branch which acknowledges the efficacy of the Sacraments, it would be a matter of private conscience whether or not to receive. You would go into the Sacrament in full realization of the import of what is occurring, but communal reception implies unbroken communion with your fellow worshippers, which in this case would be absent.

          • I merely point out the numbers to show that, your comments notwithstanding, the vast majority of the Christian Faith throughout history and the world today is highly at odds with the kind of non-hierarchical sola scriptura approach you favor. Make of the statistics what you will, but Catholicism clearly has the greater claim to historical authenticity.
            Of course no 3rd century writer would recognize any special importance to Rome; prior to the Great Schism in the 11th century, the See of Rome was in full communion with Constantinople and the other Eastern patriarchates in the single, undivided Christian Church. After that, the Church split into the Church in the East and the Church in the West. It wasn’t until five centuries after that, following the Church of England’s break from the Rome-dominated West, and the Protestant reformation thereafter, that the Roman Catholic Church and the rest of Western Christianity began to identify separately.
            This is an excellent example of why Church history is so valuable to study; the more one delves into the history of the Faith, the clearer it becomes how shaky is the ground on which the various Protestant sects are founded.

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