Why did Benedict mention the Eucharist in his abuse essay?
It may seem like an aside, but the Eucharist is essential to understanding the problem
In the third part of Benedict XVI’s letter on the theological roots of the abuse crisis in the Church and in culture, he relates two different kinds of abuse.
Benedict writes, “Let us consider this with regard to a central issue, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern.” The Pope Emeritus says that the Council Fathers were focused on keeping the Eucharist at the center of Christian life, but instead “a rather different attitude is prevalent.”
“What predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ’s death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery.”
Instead of increasing reverence for the Sacrificial Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, it has become for many a “mere ceremonial gesture,” in which we abuse the Eucharist to create “a Church of our own design.”
Without suggesting any causal relationship between liturgical and sexual abuse, Benedict takes into account the case of a young altar girl who was abused by a priest using the sacramental words, “This is my body which will be given up for you.” The sexual crimes of priests are always more heinous than others because they are always doubled by sacrilege, and nowhere is this more evident than in the case Benedict cites.
To some this sounds like “changing the subject.” And in a way, they are right. It is changing the subject from ourselves to Christ. But not in a way which diminishes the centrality of our concern for victims, but which positively places them with Christ at the center, uniting their suffering to the only other Victim who can heal such a wound.
Christ has been abused in the victims who each bear His image. Christ has been abused wherever the Most Holy Eucharist is not treated with the greatest reverence human beings are capable of offering.
This Holy Week we see all of our sins clearly. All the evil and wickedness of human history is heaped upon the Victim. “We must urgently implore the Lord for forgiveness, and first and foremost we must swear by Him and ask Him to teach us all anew to understand the greatness of His suffering, His sacrifice.” Surely this is the week that we, all of us, should fall prostrate before Jesus Christ. This is the week that begins with us crying “Crucify Him!” This is the week of the kiss of Judas, and the denial of Peter. Quo Vadis? Which way shall we go? There is only one direction we can go for healing. This is the week we can devote ourselves entirely, not to debates over the theological roots of the crisis, or the practical protocols which will prevent it ever happening again, but to His Passion, the only theological source of healing, purification and renewal. Increase our reverence, Lord, and heal us by your most sacred wounds.