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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

The Roman Rite of Degradation

They start to work on you by stripping you of all the symbols of your office, and even scrape your hands with a glass shard or knife to get the chrism off. They do the same for a priest, like a reverse ordination, taking away the chalice, vestment, scraping the fingers again. From deacons they take the dalmatic and book.
— Fr. Z’s Blog (http://wdtprs.com/blog/2018/08/the-rite-of-degradation-from-the-order-of-priesthood-wherein-fr-z-rants/)
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The ministers put a Chalice with wine, water, and a Paten and Host into the hands of the Degradandus [the priest to be degraded], which the Bishop Degrader wihdraws from the hands of the Degradandus, saying:

We take away from you, nay rather we show that it was already removed, the power of offering sacrifice to God, and of celebrating Mass either for the living or for the dead.
— Fr. Z’s Blog (http://wdtprs.com/blog/2018/08/the-rite-of-degradation-from-the-order-of-priesthood-wherein-fr-z-rants/)
Then the Bishop Degrader lightly scrapes with a knife or shard of glass, the thumbs and index fingers of both the hands of the Degrandandus, saying:

By this scraping we remove from you the power of sacrificing, consecrating and blessing which you received in the anointing of your hands and thumbs.
— Fr. Z’s Blog (http://wdtprs.com/blog/2018/08/the-rite-of-degradation-from-the-order-of-priesthood-wherein-fr-z-rants/)

Despite the obvious theological differences between the Papists and the Lutherans on the nature, authority, and duties of the office of the holy ministry, I can’t but help think that this rite (or rather, a Lutheranized version of it), if used, is a helpful antidote to the clergy-related sexual scandals of the Church universal. For it would not only deter, as a curb, those who are tempted by such things, but it would also make clear (with no innuendo or subterfuge) why a man is no longer on the clergy roster of the LCMS. It is to our great shame that instead of a rite like this, we simply allow a man to resign from the roster who has committed gross manifest sin. And the notice that is given to the church is this: One line in the Lutheran Witness: So-and-so resigned. 

Our God is a God of order and not chaos. He brings form and substance to that which is formless and void. He is not vague. He does not leave things to our imagination. He is clear. It is the serpent who is crafty and seeks to deceive. He is the one who asks “Did God really say?” And when we allow men simply to resign instead of being publicly removed, we are the voice not of God’s mercy, but of the serpent’s deceit. 

This leads to two things. The first is that these men are allowed to retain some authority within the church to speak and teach. But they teach on their own authority without that of the office and the Word of God, misleading the flock because they have "gifts that need to be used." 

And as bad as that is, that isn’t all. For in so doing, we also taint all those men who resign for noble reasons—such as a man resigning in order to take care of his ailing or even dying wife or a man resigning because he realizes that he does not have the ability (either mentally, emotionally, or physically) to carry out the duties of the office. This is to our great shame, and we will be held accountable for besmirching their nobility because of our weakness in calling a thing what it is. 

Are these men forgiven? Yes, if they are repentant. In that sense there is grace for the disgraced. But grace does not entail the full removal of temporal consequences. And part of those consequences is being willing to call a thing what it is and not profit from moral failures.