Confession and the Catholic Church

February 23, 2009 at 1:11 am (Catholic Church) (, )

The Confession that changed everything

Why do so few of us seem to go to confession these days?

BY DAN CONNORS

 

When my friend Robert was young, he went to Confession a lot. Through high school and college the sacrament remained a regular part of his life. But one day when he was in his early 20s, one Confession changed everything.
The priest was clearly having a bad day. He seemed annoyed at Robert for even being there, appeared impatient with his list of sins, and yelled at him for messing up a couple of the words in the “Oh my God I am heartily sorry” prayer. “The next time you come to my church,” the priest scolded, “come prepared!”

There was no next time. More than 30 years later Robert still goes to Mass every Sunday and takes an active part in his parish’s life, but he’s never been back to Confession.

He and I talked about it recently. “You’re not still mad at that priest, are you?” I asked.

“No, of course not,” he said. “I forgave him a long time ago. We all have our bad moods.”

“Then why have you never been back to Confession?” I asked, one friend to another.

Robert thought for a moment. “I don’t know,” he said. “At first I stayed away because I was mad. But as time went by I just got out of the habit. I found I didn’t miss it, and maybe didn’t need it. I’m a good person,” he added.

Robert isn’t alone. Catholics don’t go to Confession as often as they used to. Maybe our ideas of sin have changed. Maybe some got out of the habit of confessing. Maybe some had bad experiences with the Church that they haven’t gotten over. Maybe some feel that what they do in their lives is none of the Church’s business. All of them probably see themselves, like Robert, as “good persons.” And generally they are.

“But you know Penance isn’t just for great sinners,” I said to Robert. “It’s a sacramental encounter with the Lord that can help everyone, even saints!”

“Yeah, I know,” he replied. “And,” he added before I could say it, “if we are all such ‘good persons,’ why is our world such a mess?” He thought for a minute. “I know I’ve hurt people when I’ve been in bad moods, too. Am I any better than that priest was?”

Robert is thinking about all this. His parish’s Lenten Penance service is coming up soon. Who knows? He might show up.

I’d also love to hear your thoughts about Penance today. Why do you — or why don’t you — go? What advice would you give Robert? Please write to me at Catholic Digest, P.O. Box 6015, New London, CT 06320 or e-mail me at dconnors@catholicdigest.comCD

 

 

 

 

On Feb 14, 2009, at 9:22 PM, David Wall wrote:

 

 

Dan,
I think that Western-present-day Catholics have mainly fallen away from regular confession, or no confession at all, because of the Church’s obsession with sins of the flesh.

This fixation encompasses many so- called sins that are no longer considered sinful by the average Catholic. Take, for example, the practice of artificial birth control by Catholic married couples.

I recently attended Mass and listened to a sermon haranguing the congregation to go to Confession. The sins uppermost in the priest’s mind ranged from birth control to abortion with the unworthy reception of Communion by those who had not confessed being specially mentioned.

The fact is that since Vatican II the average Catholic has changed but not the official position of the Church on anything of significance. 

I myself still try to confess at least once a year, but I must say, not out of any deep commitment to Auricular Confession, but I think more out of a sense of guilt that still remains from my early pre-Vatican II religious indoctrination.

Just a few thoughts on the subject that I hope are relevant.

With all good wishes,

David

 

 

Thank you, David, I appreciate your thoughts!

 

Dan

 

Dan Connors

Editor-in-Chief

Catholic Digest

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2 Comments

  1. deberigny said,

    James Ward goes to Confession
    November 3, 2008 at 5:15 am (Fiction) (Add new tag, Confession, Fictional stories about Angoram, Fictional stories about PNG, PNG Fiction) · Edit

    The next morning, Christmas day, James awoke and his first sense was a strong awareness of Laura. He felt and smelt her presence around him. He looked at his watch, 9:15, and then he remembered Paul Kirshner telling him about Mass at 10:00. As it was Christmas, he considered that he had better go to Mass. So he got ready and made his way down to the wharf, where the Christopher was docked.

    He arrived early and he noticed Paul hearing confessions on a secluded part of the deck. Paul was wearing his cassock with a stole around his neck and seated on an upturned box. The penitent was kneeling in front of him. This scene created mixed emotions in James. His first inclination was to run away. He was in no mood for confession and in his relations with Laura he certainly had no firm purpose of amendment. He was, as he said to Laura later, “suffering with grief about past sexual sins.”

    While all these thoughts were going through his mind, Paul looked up after giving a penitent absolution, and his eyes met James’s for a brief moment. For some reason this look from Paul profoundly moved him. It seemed to be a saintly invitation that the nature of his being impelled him to accept. It was as if Paul was extending a life-line to him. Almost as an automaton, James joined the line of those waiting to have their confession heard.

    He kneeled in front of Paul and started his confession:

    “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It is about two years since my last confession and I accuse myself of the following sins:

    I’ve had sexual relations with a number of women and I’m now carrying on an affair with a married woman. I’m also guilty of self-abuse once or perhaps twice.”

    Paul then said to James: “Are you sorry for these sins?”

    James answered: “Father, that’s the trouble: I’m not sure that I am.”

    Paul replied: “James, the mere fact that you have come to confession shows a desire for forgiveness and at the very least you are sorry that you are not sorry. Your sins are sins of the flesh. You have given in to desires that every man has. This is not to excuse you, but we must all put our lives into a context and perhaps where you have sinned against charity to others, greater sins have been committed and this is where sexual sins sometimes lead us. I’m sure that you are trying to do your best and I have no hesitation in giving you absolution. For your penance say the Our Father and three Hail Marys and now make an act of contrition.”

    James proceeded to mumble the contrition: “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I resolve with the help of Thy grace, to amend my life. Amen.”

    Paul gave him absolution: “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

    James answered: “Amen.”

    Paul said: “Go in peace.”

    James answered: “Thank you, Father.”

    James then heard Mass and received communion on board and shortly after the MV Christopher up anchored and went down river to Marienberg.

    Excerpt from “Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk”

  2. Tracey said,

    I never saw the point of going to Confession. If I’m sorry, I can go directly to God and tell him so. What do I need a middleman for?

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