From a reader:
I was reading your blog entry on "Graviora Delicta" and started to get a bit nervous.
Awhile ago, I served as sacristan at a Jesuit high school. With no disrespect to the Society of Jesus, you can imagine that the Masses were full of liturgical abuses. [Yes, I can imagine that.] After Mass, I was often asked by the campus minister and/or priest to purify the vessels. Also, after every all-school Mass there was always a considerable amount of Precious Blood remaining; [That is the first mistake.] when I began to consume the Precious Blood remaining, I was told by the campus minister and priest to "just pour it down the sacrarium; that’s what it’s there for." [ARG!]
Now I knew that purifying vessels was reserved to the priest/deacon, and I wasn’t positive–but fairly sure–that the Precious Blood should not be poured down the sacrarium. But, out of confusion and fear, I did what they asked me to do (only once, however, did I pour the Precious Blood down the sacrarium; after that one time, I refused to).
I brought these sins to confession, and received absolution. However, I now fear that I have incurred a greatly penalty than I originally thought. I know it wasn’t intentional, but would this situation still be considered "desecration or profanation of the Blessed Sacrament"). And if so, how would I resolve this? Write to the CDF? Or my bishop? While I don’t want to be overly scrupulous about this, at the same time I want to make sure I do the right thing.
From what you wrote I would say No, you did not incur the penalty. You were following the direction of another person who you deemed had authority. You also cite confusion and fear. To incur such a penalty, you had to have committed a mortal sin in doing what you did. You did not have the obligation to know the truth of the matter (but the sacristan and the priests do!). You were working from innocent ignorance. The sacristan and priests, if they don’t know the law and theology of this matter, are in a state of culpable ignorance.
I suspect that someone has incurred a censure, but not you.
But, for a moment let’s assume that you did incur the censure, which is automatic excommunication. Another result would be that you are irregular (if male) to receive Holy Orders licitly.
The sin is forgiven in confession (since there are no more reserved sins). The censure, however, is reserved to the Holy See.
You could go to Rome and go to the offices of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, which has competence in this and the authority to lift the censure making you regular to receive Holy Orders licitly. Otherwise, you could explain the situation to a savvy priest confessor who knows how to write to the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary. He would write a letter to describe the situation – using total anonymity in your regard – and then receive back from them the faculty to lift the censure the next time you come back to him as a confessor.
However… if you were already a cleric and you poured the Precious Blood of GOD down a SINK, and you incurred the censure of excommunication, you would be suspended instantly by the very fact of doing it if, in doing it, you committed the mortal sin in full knowledge and will. You could function as a cleric, for example say Mass and hear confessions if a priest, only if you have started the process of getting that censure lifted. That is all well and good if this was a private act, unknown to anyone else.
BUT… if other people saw you do it, saw you doing it all the time, and they knew you knew it was wrong because you were told or you had read it, etc., then it would be possible that someone could denounce you to the CDF. A canonical process could started in your regard, under the new norms for graviora delicta. You could be removed from the clerical state and "laicized", if the tribunal of the CDF determined that was the best remedy for you and for others… for the good of your souls.