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Confession is really important March 11, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, foolishness, General Catholic.

As Sacraments go, there are two that are intended to be a regular part of our lives.  While we only get baptized and receive Holy Orders once (and married once), Confession and Eucharist should be something that we do regularly.  The Church mandates that we attend Mass at least weekly, with the idea being that we will be in a state of grace and be able to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  But, because we are frail human beings, and all of us sinners (me being one of the worst), we may tend to cut ourselves off from God’s saving grace through our sinful actions.  It being a very grave sin to receive the Eucharist unworthily (i.e., in a state of mortal sin), we should all avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Penance regularly.  Since I’m such a terrible sinner and unworthy of God’s grace, I go to confession almost every week. 

Not so in Bean Town!   A new initiative by Cardinal O’Malley, he who was convinced to allow and attend a celebratory funeral Mass for Ted Kennedy, to institute more confession hours and exhort the faithful to avail themselves of this Sacrament, has apparently been a signal failure.  According to a Boston Globe article on the initiative, not many are availing themselves of these longer confession hours.  But not just that!  According to “one veteran priest”:

One veteran priest says he hardly ever hears confessions and hasn’t had a single person come to the Wednesday night sessions – “which I consider the sign of a healthy parish.’ The priest, who asked not to be identified because he doesn’t want to alienate the archdiocese, says he thinks that many Catholics today have a more modern view of forgiveness.

Oh, a more modern view of forgiveness?  What a load of tripe.  There is no “modern” view of forgiveness, just like there is no such thing as “modern man.”  Both were tropes dreamed up by dissenters to justify their deviation from established Church doctrine.  After Vatican II, many working with its ‘spirit,’ decided that man was now oh so sophisticated that he didn’t need silly, superstitious, medieval practices like confession and adoration.  No, we could be like the protestants (which was the goal), and just go ‘straight to Jesus’ for all our needs.

Too bad this discounts not only 2000 years of Church tradition, but also plain exhortations from Sacred Scripture.  James 5:14-17 and John 20:21-23 form the Biblical basis for this Sacrament, but it was also common practice in OT Judaism to publically proclaim one’s sins before the priests.  Since the Catholic Church is the perfection of the Old Testament covenant, it makes sense that similar practices, perfected, would continue.  There are also great practical reasons to confess your sins to a priest.  For one, some will say “I just have to confess my sin to Jesus and I’m good,” but when was the last time they actually did so?  Secondly, having to say your sins out loud to someone else, especially an authority figure you respect, is a powerful deterrent to future sin.  Third, the feeling of release and forgiveness after the priest says “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…..” is incredibly powerful.  You don’t get that when you do a self-confession.  Finally, confessing your sins regularly tends to make one more aware of sin in general, and you become aware of deeper levels of sin that need to be cleaned out.  This is a process of sanctification through God’s grace.

In truth, what the priest above has is not a modern vision of sin, but a lack of faith.  He’s broken faith with the Church and with Christ.  Christ didn’t waste any words.  When He said “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained,” He meant it.  He also meant for us to make use of this Sacrament regularly.  The priest above, and apparently many in the Boston diocese, have lost the understanding of what sin is, and many are probably mired in mortal sin without being aware of it.  Pray for them – if such is the case, their very souls are at stake.

h/t http://culturewarnotes.com



1. Rev. Clifford G. Smith - March 13, 2010

I hear roughly 60 to 100 confessions a week, as does my parochial vicar; during Advent slightly more; in Lent usually double that. We offer the Sacrament three days a week throughout the year, and add extra days with additional priests during Advent and Lent. I find the statement by a “veteran” priest deeply troubling, and certainly do not think the lack of Catholics availing themselves of the Sacrament of Penance a sign of a “healthy parish.” What it signals is a failure to understand the Sacrament. Clearly the Sacrament came into play in the early centuries of the Church as an occasion for the forgiveness of grave/mortal sins committed after Baptism. That remains its primary function. If by “a more modern view of forgiveness” the priest means that we may go before God directly for our lesser/venial sins, he is correct. But unless there has been a philosophical change of which I’m unaware, regular confession of sins before a priest in the Sacrament of Penance operates as part of our on-going formation in the faith. Even in the event we have no serious/grave/mortal sins to confess, it is a primary source of Sanctifying Grace that helps us avoid serious sin. By “regular confession of sins” I mean at least twice a year. I suggest three times a year is even better. I’m not necessarily advocating monthly confession, as was the practice when I was growing up, although I have no trouble with that practice. Those who come weekly or more often are usually suffering from OCD or hyper-scrupulosity or not seriously working, with the grace of the sacrament, on changing habits that lead to sin. There is such a thing as going to confession too often.

2. tantamergo - March 14, 2010

Yes, and I appreciate the generous hours for Confession at St. Mark. I have a belief, that with Confession, “if you build it, they will come.” That is to say, if a parish has more Confession hours, the demand will tend to grow to fill that time. When a parish has very minimal hours, few people tend to avail themselves of it. I think folks pick up on the message – if a parish makes confession frequently available, it indicates the importance the pastor places on that sacrament. If only a half hour a week is available, that tends to say the opposite. Anecdotal evidence seems to support the above, anyway.

I searched the web to see if I could find some coverage up in Boston contraindicating that in the article – I didn’t find any. The diocese hasn’t issued any kind of rebuttal, at least as of late yesterday (I haven’t looked today). The surface meaning of what that anonymous priest stated up in Boston doesn’t seem consistent with what the Church teaches. That’s being charitable, his statement indicates a rejection of a core doctrine of the faith.

Some folks struggle more than others. Some people may need more Confession. Some of us come from really, really wayward backgrounds (I’m raising my hand). Since it is a grave sin to receive Communion unworthily, some people may need that Sacrament to be able to receive their Lord in a state of grace. And, I know people who go to Confession regularly and have found great spiritual value from such frequent reception of that Sacrament. They feel they have grown in their faith. Knowing some of these people, they don’t seem to give an outward sign of over scrupulosity. They simply feel that they need the Sacrament, and it brings them great growth. They become more aware of their sinful nature.

I don’t know about only going once or twice a year. I don’t know too many adults who can go 6 months or a year at a time without committing a mortal sin. With so much porn around, with so many people having problems with drugs and alcohol, with the vast majority of US adults admitting to engaging in self-pleasuring at least weekly, it seems that more frequent Confession would appear to be necessary. Pope John Paul II went to Confession every day.

3. WalkingWithChrist - March 14, 2010

I remind myself of that fact – that Pope John Paul II went to confession daily – and it humbles me and I am reminded of my many sins, really moment to moment.

“Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29). In line with this admonition of Saint Paul is the principle which states that “anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion” (CCC, No. 1385).

From the late Pope, “the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most effective instruments of personal growth.” In talking about Zacheas’ meeting with Jesus, he says his home will be a ‘place of revelation, the scene of a miracle of mercy. True, this will not happen if Zacchaeus does not free his heart from the ligatures of egoism and from his unjust and fraudulent ways. But mercy has already come to him as a gratuitous and overflowing gift. Mercy has preceded him!’


I need that grace and mercy, frequently; I am far from perfect.

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