From a reader:
The pastor at a local parish has used a “super-soaker” water gun during the sprinkling rite at Mass on several occasions. In a conversation with a parishioner from the parish, I incorrectly described the act as “blasphemous.” I have two questions: (i) Do my remarks constitute grave sin?; and (ii) ought I to contact the other person and amend my description?
Super-soaker? What is this? A kiddie party? Did also he wear big red shoes and jump around like an idiot? Was there a cake?
Let’s not even mention damage to clothing, the parishes books, anger of the congregants, etc.
I am not entirely sure you have to correct your remarks.
Blasphemy involves words or gestures, also thoughts, which show contempt for God or dishonor God regardless of whether the person intends that contempt or dishonor or not. Blasphemy is against the virtue of religion and a mortal sin. Blasphemy is direct when it is aimed at God. It is indirect when aimed at Holy Church or the saints or any sacred thing or person or place. It seems to me that what that priest did, whether he intended it or not, by the mere fact of doing it, was a kind of indirect blasphemy. He detracted from God’s honor indirectly by debasing the rite and the people.
As an aside: a deadly sort of blasphemy concerns the Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 12, 31-32). This ghastly sin attributes God’s works to the Enemy and which also concerns the denial of the Holy Spirit the power or will to purify and forgive leading to final impenitence and hardness of heart. That sort of sin cannot be forgiven because the person rejects forgiveness. But that sort of blasphemy has nothing to do with what the questioner described. I hope.
Sacrilege, also a sin against the virtue of religion, is the improper or irreverent treatment of something sacred (persons, places, things, etc.). Sacrilege can take various forms including acts of violence, or vandalism, or purposeful harm, such as using something sacred for a sinful purpose or monetary gain.
Our Blessed Lord purified the sacred space of the Temple when he found improper things within and improper conduct. I think there is a touch of both of blasphemy and of sacrilege in the ordained priest, alter Christus, head of the Eucharistic assembly, using a “super-soaker” in church during the sacred action of Holy Church’s liturgical worship among the congregation of baptized members of Christ’s Mystical Body. The blasphemy would come from the gestures which would detract from the honor due to God, and the holy rites of the Church as well in an important matter. The sacrilege would lie in the mistreatment of the sacred rites of the church and the insulting, condescension with which he treated God’s holy people gathered within a sacred space. Beyond that, it was beneath everyone’s dignity.
Keep in mind that some single actions can result in more than one sin. This is important for your examination of conscience before confession. And there should be an app for that.
For example, if you belt a priest in the chops, and he is not at the moment physically attacking you, you commit the sin of unjustifiable violence against your neighbor, but also the sin of sacrilege. If someone else is present, you may have scandalized the person. If you do it during Mass, it is even worse.
Remember that when you are watching especially stupid and insulting liturgical abuses such using a super-soaker during Mass.