From the Example of Bad Priests, the Contamination of Vice Spreads Among the People – By Saint Thomas More

Christ is also betrayed into the hands of sinners when his most holy body in the sacrament is consecrated and handled by unchaste, profligate and sacrilegious priests.

When we see such things happen ( and they happen only too often alas) let us imagine that Christ Himself again says to us ”Why are you sleeping? Stay awake, get up, and pray that you may not enter into temptation, for the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners”.

From the example of bad priests, the contamination of vice spreads easily among the people.

And the less suitable for obtaining grace those persons are whose duty it is to watch and pray for the people, the more necessary it is for the people to stay awake, get up, and pray all the more earnestly for themselves – and not only for themselves but also for priests of this sort.

For it will be much to the advantage of the people if bad priests improve.

Finally, Christ is betrayed into the hands of sinners in a special way among those of a certain sect: these people, though they receive the venerable sacrament of the eucharist more frequently and wish to give the impression of honouring it more piously by receiving it under both species (contrary to public custom, without any necessity, but not without a great affront to the Catholic Church), nevertheless these people blaspheme against what they have received under a show of honour, some of them by calling it true bread and true wine, some of them – and this is far worse - by calling it not only true but also mere bread and wine.

For they altogether deny that the real body of Christ (Corpus Christi) is contained in the sacrament though they call it by that name.

When at this late date they set out to do such a thing, against the most open passages of scripture, against the clearest interpretations of all the saints, against the most constant faith of the whole Church for so many centuries, against the truth most amply witnessed to by so many thousands of miracles – this group that labours under the second kind of infidelity (by far the worse), how little difference is there, I ask you, between them and those who took Christ captive that night?

How little difference between them and those troops of Pilate who in jest bent their knees before Christ as if they were honouring Him, while they insulted Him and called Him the king of the Jews, just as these people kneel before the eucharist and call it the body of Christ – which according to their own profession they no more believe than the soldiers of Pilate believed Christ was a king.

Excerpts from St Thomas More, De Tristitia Christi, composed in the Tower of London shortly before he was beheaded for the faith.