The neglect of Sacraments and where it comes from.

The way forward.

“I never thought I’d see the day”, you will possibly think, but it is a fact that we live in a world where priests have to be encouraged to hear confessions and even to go to confession themselves. This being the situation, it is laudable that a Cardinal, Joachim Meisner, publicly tackles the issue and says a couple of uncomfortable things.

Cardinal Meisner puts the problem in clear terms:

“A priest that does not put himself frequently on one side or the other of the confessional screen experiences permanent damage to his soul and to his mission.”

A priest is there to be just that: a priest. The Church doesn’t need environmentalist priests, or revolutionary priests, or social worker priests. The Church needs priests whose first priority is to do their job. In the Cardinal’s words again:

“when the priest is no longer a confessor, he becomes a religious worker.”

As pointed out, some priests do not even regularly go to confession themselves. The mere idea makes one cringe and the Cardinal himself points out to the fact that the neglect of Confession is

“one of the most tragic ‘failures’ that the Church has experienced in the second half of the 20th century”.

Much needed words. Still, we should reflect that such problems did not arise simply because the years went by, but because something happened within the Church that caused them to happen.

Tutto si tiene. Everything is linked. You set aside your beautiful Mass and substitute it with a dumbed down version and you will cause a contagion of shallowness in all parts of the Church life, because what you do to the Liturgy, you do to the Church. You simplify and stultify the life of the faithful (depriving them of Vespers, Holy Hour and the like) and this stultification will unavoidably spread to the very priests in charge of them. You downplay the importance of being a Catholic in the economy of salvation and this will irresistibly lead to confusion among the faithful as to why sacramental life should be important. You neglect to explain and defend Catholic teaching – in your homilies and elsewhere – and your sheep will soon not know anymore what it is that makes them “Catholic”. You stress the kind of emasculated, woolly, fuzzy ecumenism beloved by so many priests and you invariably lead people to think that “provided they love Jesus” or “have their hearts in the right place” everything is fine.
Gandhi cum Dalai Lama (and some sugary songs): that’s what you’ll make of Catholicism.

All these modern errors, this shallow collection of common places very often mistaken for “Catholicism” have happened not because of some revolt from the pews, but because the clergy was in the first line in the effort to make them happen. The Church has been sabotaged from the inside, from the men at the foot of the altar who have refused to put Christ and the Church first and have started to put their popularity, or acceptance, or “going with the flow” first.

Bad theology. Bad catechesis. Socialist, or communist, or environmentalist priests. Neglect of the opus dei for mere social work (no, it’s not the same). Downplaying of the importance of sacraments. Neglect of sacraments. Loss of Catholic identity in the muddy pond of “be good-ism”….. All this has a cause. All this has been perhaps not directly created, but certainly made possible and positively encouraged by a clearly identifiable event: the Second Vatican Council.

I do hope that in time, Cardinal Meisner’s commendable analysis will not stop at the problems’ existence, but will look for the removal of their cause. It will not be easy – too many among the clergy are still emotionally invested in Vatican II – but in due course and with a lot of prayers I believe that we will get there.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.


Posted on July 23, 2010, in Catholicism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. What frightens me is the lack of uniformity within the Church. You can be one kind of Catholic in parish A and quite a different kind in parish B, depending on the priest in charge.

    The PP in my parish is very liberal and does not believe in personal confession. When I returned to the Church a couple of years ago, after an absence of many years, I went to see him to find out about making my confession. He expressed surprise that I was not receiving communion and seemed puzzled at my averring that I was hardly in a “state of grace” -I don’t think he knew what I meant. Eventually, after chatting, very pleasantly for a while, he asked if I would like him to give me absolution. He said I did not have to say anything and then he gave me absolution without my having to make any kind of confession!

    This is the sort of behaviour that causes immense confusion. At first, I was over the moon that it had all been so easy but as the weeks passed I began to have serious scruples as to the validity of my absolution. I finally went to confession at a different parish, where the priest said my priest had been wrong. I could have done without the uncertainty in my conscience.

    • Hello Misericordia,
      you have just sent a shiver down my spine. Such a nightmare of a priest will chase away dozens, in a lifetime probably hundreds of faithful from the sacraments. Not everyone will buy some good books and understand what an idiot the man is. Most will think that Catholicism is as much of a joke as he is.

  2. Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo et mundabor,
    Lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
    Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.

    In the Old Covenant, this was a pitiful prayer of entreaty. In the New Covenant, it is guaranteed to the truly contrite through the Sacrament of Confession. With the revival of Confession, there will be the healing and reinvigoration of the Western Church. If any priest is reading this, please honour the times on the newsletter for Confession. Who cares if perhaps few, or any, show up? But you show up on time, every time, please. There may be in that time one sinner who wishes to pluck up the courage to confess, waiting for the light on and the door ajar. Once in a lifetime courage. Be there for that person.

  3. Hello, Mundabor — Excellent post! More, please. You’re right, not a week goes by without some shocking bit of church news. There is something going on within the Church, agreed.

    One of the Catholic churches in our area is thinking of taking the door and curtains off the confessional to make a little shrine with statues and votive candles. Confession is done in the church in full view of everyone. Partly this is ‘for the children’ (obvious reasons there) but adults are expected to confess that way, too. Not sure that’s such a good idea.

    I have read of people having experiences similar to misericordia’s. The priests in question actively discourage people from confessing serious and mortal sins! On the other hand, there are some Anglo-Catholic (Anglican) and Lutheran churches which encourage annual (at least) confession, saying that it is a good spiritual discipline to follow. Some Anglican churches have confessionals. In the case of the Lutherans, the pastors encourage people to make a private appointment for a discussion, confession, prayer and absolution.

    I wrote about this topic last year, which generated a lively exchange in the comments. Priests ‘don’t want to get involved’ with sin 😯 —

    • This is very interesting, Churchmouse. Have you informed the bishop and the Vatican?
      The secrecy of the confessional is, I believe, very much central to the entire sacrament.
      I remember my first confession before first communion, and the priest remained alone with everyone of us, there was no exception to the secrecy of the confession, not even for little children. But those were less mad times than today’s.

  4. No, I haven’t, because I am working on the assumption that the priest has informed his bishop that he conducts confessions openly (we’re talking England here) and that his provisions are deemed adequate.

    Thank you for confirming that secrecy is paramount. I don’t understand what the issue is with children, either. No one ever goes in the priest’s door but the priest, and the full-length barrier should be enough ‘protection’ between priest and penitent.

    There are churches in this diocese where Confession prior to First Holy Communion is no longer required! The kids make their First Communion and make their first Confession a week or two later! What is wrong with priests? This is bang out of order.

    • I might be wrong here, but I have ceased a long time ago to consider an English bishop, any English bishop, to be a guarantee that things are made properly.
      The bishop might have been informed and have ignored the problem; or he might not have been informed; or more probably he has suggested to the relevant priest that he should not be informed.

      I think the competent Vatican authority is as follows:
      Palazzo delle Congregazioni
      Piazza Pio XII, 10

      You can obviously write in English. Anonimously if you wish to avoid retaliation, and stating so. A copy to the Bishop might be not a bad idea. If they think you have not written to the bishop yourself, they might do it themselves. Follow up after a while.

      “There are churches in this diocese where Confession prior to First Holy Communion is no longer required!”
      QED. Vatican, I would say, and forget the bishop.
      Next thing we know, we’ll have absolution before confession….

  5. Thanks for that, Mundabor! Much appreciated! 🙂

    • You know, someone may think that I am “uncharitable” (one is always the “uncharitable person” of someone else), but I am one of those who think that it is better to write a letter to the Vatican than not to write it. I am sure countless liturgical abuses have gone on for years because the parishioners have – not unnaturally – thought ” if Father does it, it means that he is allowed to”. Perhaps he has been allowed by the bishop and the bishop was wrong; perhaps he has been allowed by the bishop and the bishop is right; perhaps he is just another diva thinking that he is special.

      I personally find it very healthy that everytime something strange happens, the Vatican receives a letter. This sends two messages: 1) strange things happen: 2) we don’t trust the bishop to be doing the right thing.
      They deal with all such matters. If everything is fine, they will know. If everything is not fine, well they really must know….

      In this country a bishop has been forced to remove the imprimatur from a religious book for children, and he has been forced from the scandalised protests of the parents, much better Catholics than he will ever be.
      This particular bishop has recently been promoted. That’s how it is.

  6. Was that the children’s ‘catechism’ written about in Belgium?

    I do think there is fear of reprisals. Priests can be intimidating (I’ve personally known a few) who can ‘make your life difficult’. They can also get the other parishoners to dislike you, too. So, the whistleblower becomes the parish pariah. Most people would prefer to ‘go along to get along’. Yet, God will ask us one day, ‘Why did you not defend Christ’s Church? Why did you allow your pastor to get away with demeaning and subverting the Sacraments? Why didn’t you speak up to the proper authority?’

    It’s a difficult one that, a real moral dilemma — one I never thought I would have to face. It’s good to know that one can write in anonymity to the Vatican, though. I wonder how many people know that. It might be worth a post! 🙂

    • No, it was an English book for children. It got the imprimatur and the parents went berserk. The bishop said it was all right and nothing to get excited about, nice orthodox book and all that. He was subsequently summoned to Rome, where a Cardinal called Ratzinger forced him to backpedal and revoke the imprimatur.
      Chap is now bishop of Southwark. Goes to show that whatever mistakes you make, you can expect to be promoted as you grow in “seniority”.
      Amazingly, the book had been written by a personal friend and neighbour of the bishop in question. Yes, it is that bad.

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