Confession is A Most Vital Sacrament in this Age of Mass Sin and Grievous Error January 30, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in abdication of duty, Admin, Basics, Dallas Diocese, different religion, episcopate, General Catholic, priests, Sacraments, self-serving, Spiritual Warfare, the struggle for the Church.
A few weeks ago, I did a post announcing Cardinal Burke coming to the Diocese of Dallas to offer Mass on 01/22. I received some hot criticism of this post, offline. Those upset over the post were either involved in bringing Cardinal Burke in, or were particular admirers of the pastor of the parish that hosted him.
So, what is at issue in this little local imbroglio? Confession, and whether I was unfairly harsh towards a local priest my local correspondents feel is very good. Admittedly, I was pointedly critical in a post that perhaps should have been both happier and more bland, simply announcing the good Cardinal’s upcoming arrival and congratulating those who arranged for his visit (both were in the post, along with some other more critical thoughts).
Now, everyone’s definition of good is relative. My definition of a good priest in these days starts with offering the TLM, or at least the Novus Ordo in Latin, or having serious aspirations to do either but being frustrated by episcopal obstinance/malfeasance. Frankly, a handful of exceptions aside, all the extraordinary priests I know are members of explicitly traditional orders.
Taking Confession extremely seriously is requirement #2. This is what separates the men from the boys in my mind. Confession is the great ignored, even inconvenient Sacrament of our time. It is inconvenient because it is a standing rebuke to much of the new theology and ecclesiology that has been imposed on the Church in the past several decades, beliefs that say that whether one is Catholic or not doesn’t count for much, that basically all men are saved, that virtually no one ever commits a mortal sin, etc. These kinds of beliefs are the primary reason why Confession is so little available.
There used to be a sort of rule of thumb in the Church, back in those dark unreconstructed manualist days before the “sainted” Council, that for every hour of Mass, there should be at least an equal number of hours of Confession. In fact, most pre-conciliar parishes had priests (plural) in the Confessional before, during, and after virtually every Mass, along with other set times. This was when the Church, and the souls within, took things like sin and Grace and damnation and redemption very seriously.
But today, in this Diocese as in almost every other, Confession is limited to perhaps an hour a week, if one is lucky, or “by appointment only,” if one is not. This in spite of the fact that our former Bishop, now Cardinal, Kevin Farrell, repeatedly (and a bit uncharacteristically) exhorted his priests and especially pastors to have more REGULAR hours of Confession. Many pastors responded to these exhortations, by adding one more hour weekly to the one they already had (such generosity!), while some did not. A few relative heroes did even more, adding maybe 2 or 3 hours more Confession, and staffing those hours with more than one priest.
In the dearth of Confession, the tyranny is in the numbers. If there is only one priest hearing confessions for one hour a week, and each soul has only 3 minutes with the confessor and there are no gaps in people in the confessional, that one priest can hear 20 confessions a week or 1040 a year. That may sound like quite a lot, but when you have numerous parishes with 7,000, 8,000, 10,000 souls ostensibly belonging, one can instantly see the problem. Of course, the reality is different. What tends to happen is that the same handful of relatively serious souls go to Confession with at least some regularity, while the great mass never go at all.
Couple this with what is known of Catholic belief, even among self-described regular Mass attendees, and the crisis grows into stark relief. The vast majority of Catholics, regular Mass-goers or not, find nothing immoral in contraceptive use or fornication. A near majority even think abortion is morally permissible in at least some cases. The large majority are fine with pseudo-sodo-marriage and think divorce and remarriage are perfectly acceptable. The vast majority believe the Blessed Sacrament to be nothing more than a symbol. The former, if engaged in personally, constitute grave sins requiring sacramental Confession before the Blessed Sacrament is received (recent emanations from Rome notwithstanding). The latter places one outside the community of the faithful; reception of the Blessed Sacrament in this state constitutes the horrible sin of sacrilege and again immediate recourse to Confession is vitally necessary.
Taken together, what we have in the Church today is a great mass of people regularly receiving the Blessed Sacrament in a state that St. Paul decried perfectly in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (a bit of Scripture infamously and deliberately excluded from the readings of the Novus Ordo Mass), and with little to no means to correct this dire condition. Adding to that, the very lack of Confession time communicates to the faithful that this is something that isn’t to be taken very seriously. Writ large, this is very close to what Pope Saint John Paul II decried as the “fundamental option,” the idea that God is infinitely loving (and apparently no longer just) and that virtually no one, if anyone (short of evil right wingers like me) is damned. That this is utterly contrary to our Blessed Lord’s clear Word as revealed repeatedly in Sacred Scripture and the guidance of vast numbers of Saints and Fathers seems to count for very little these days. Confession remains generally unavailable.
Not only that, but we have numerous warnings from the Blessed Mother and many of these same Saints about the number of souls condemned to hell. While such warnings are widely viewed as quaint relics from a benighted age to most priests and prelates in the Church today, they have been so numerous, so consistent, and so emphatic that to doubt or deny them is a fool’s errand. I certainly do not. I take these warnings deadly seriously, as I take the biblical types that reveal to us the very small number of the elect, and the great number of the damned.
So, yes, I take Confession very seriously, and its lack of availability as one of the greatest scandals afflicting the Church today. In fact, lack of Confession and unwillingness to take its vital necessity seriously constitute very large elements of the present crisis in the Faith. Thus, the great number of souls falling to hell like so many snowflakes, to quote Our Lady of Fatima.
Several years ago, at the time when former Bishop Farrell was making his exhortations, I did a post that summarized the availability of Confession in the Diocese. I checked most every parish. Some had zero regular hours for Confession. Most had one. A few had two. A tiny handful had somewhat more. Two parishes stood out as placing a great (or, one might say, adequate) emphasis on Confession. I’m sure locals know which two those are (Mater Dei, and St. William in Greenville).
So, even as someone who has admitted mistakes and made public apologies in the past, I don’t feel particularly bad about the post announcing +Burke’s visit and Mass. I didn’t criticize Cardinal Burke in the slightest (in fact I praised him quite a bit), all my critical comments were directed towards confession and the probability, the virtual certitude, that, on a daily basis, souls with unconfessed mortal sins receive the Blessed Sacrament – and the role the diminution of the importance of Confession plays in that. Perhaps I erred in prudence in combining critical commentary in an announcement post for a happy event. Perhaps I could have chosen more artful phrases. But if I erred in charity, it was for the souls of those in gravest risk of eternal damnation, preferring their eternal destiny over more human concerns like the feelings of my correspondents or the pastor of the parish I criticized. Of course, even that may be argued as simply misplaced zeal, but that was my intent, nonetheless.
PS – There were claims I had erred in stating Mary Immaculate – the parish that hosted Cardinal Burke – had only one hour of Confession a week. That was all that was listed on their website (in addition to “by appointment”). I also perused a few bulletins. I saw no other times listed. But apparently, there is a monthly meeting/confab called “Arise” (not entirely unproblematic in its own right) where priests hear Confession. I have no details as to how many priests are present, or for how long Confession is available. Whether this constitutes “regular” Confession or not is arguable. But I thought I’d include this only substantive rebuttal of my arguments for completeness’ sake.
I certainly welcome your comments and appraisal of the matter, if you have any. Thank you.