Man pepper sprays priest during confession at Texas church

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A Catholic Church in Texas is suspending confessions indefinitely after a priest was doused with pepper spray while administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation to the public. 

St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Amarillo, Texas, announced on its Facebook page on April 10 that “this evening someone dealing with mental health issues pepper sprayed Fr. Tony while he was hearing confessions.” The post, written by the church’s pastor, the Rev. Tony Neusch, stressed that he was “okay” and did not require “medical attention.” 

He added, “We will suspend confessions, except by appointment, until security cameras can be installed in the Chapel.

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The priest expressed regret for “any inconvenience this may cause,” adding, “the safety of our confessors and those wanting to receive the Sacrament needs to be preserved.”

Neusch did not provide an estimate for when the installation of security cameras would be complete or when regularly scheduled confessions would resume. 

The Facebook post noted that “police have been informed and will be investigating” but did not provide further details, such as whether the assailant was a parishioner. Besides stating that the perpetrator had “mental health issues,” the church did not elaborate on the motivation behind the assault. The incident at St. Mary’s last week comes at a time when Catholic churches have found themselves subject to violence and vandalism

The Sacrament of Reconciliation, also referred to as penance, is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. It involves practicing Catholics confessing their sins to a priest, who then absolves them “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 

The practice of confession varies from church to church. In some cases, the penitent faces the priest directly in the same room. In other cases, the sacrament takes place in a booth referred to as a confessional where the priest and penitent sit on opposite sides of a wall and do not face each other directly.

Churches typically set aside at least one time window every week where the public can receive confessions. In the case of St. Mary’s in Amarillo, confessions are usually held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, meaning that the assault against Neusch took place during regularly scheduled confession times. Additionally, confessions are often available by appointment at the request of parishioners. 

Catholics are required to go to confession before receiving communion if they have committed a mortal sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a mortal sin as an act that “results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace.” The Catechism states that if a mortal sin “is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell.”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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