Catholicism is logical. It is a coherent set of rules which fit into each other. They fit so, that if you try to manipulate one of the rules you soon discover this has a domino effect and other rules are affected, creating greater and greater damage.
The Church has always maintained that one who lives in public sin cannot be admitted to the sacrament of confession. The reason is obvious: the Sacrament is not an automatic dispenser of absolution; on the contrary, repentance and firm purpose of amendment are required.
The Church rules are logical. They are merciful, but not dumb. They aren't made for Jesuits, but for Catholics. It being utterly ridiculous that a public sinner may obtain an absolution presupposing a firm purpose of amendment that goes on for exactly the five seconds necessary to get out of the confessional, and then simply goes home to keep living in public sin the Church has always states that, as they say in Italy, here nobody is stupid: first you put an end to the public scandal, then and only then you approach the confessional to obtain absolution for your still not absolved sins of adultery and public scandal.
Nor can any sensible Catholic think even for one second that a person dead to grace (this is what being in mortal sin is) would need, or have any right to ask, that he be absolved from other mortal sins even as he chooses to remains in mortal sin anyway.
It's not a point system. It's not that a major sinner may think he can “improve his mortal sin score” by getting rid of some as he keeps accepting others. To be in mortal sin is to be dead to grace. Dead is dead, and there is no state of being “less dead” because some of the sins are – in hypothesis – absolved. Therefore, there is not only no need at all to have the public adulterer “confess other sins”, but this would be even counterproductive as there is no way this sinner would not go out of the confessional thinking either “absolved is absolved; therefore, I am now in the state of grace” or “I have my mortal sin counts down to one; hey, it could be much worse”. Then the question would pose itself how can a person dead to grace, and who chooses to remain dead to grace, obtain the grace of sincere repentance. Similarly the other question would pose itself on how the priest could, in hypothesis, absolve such a sinner. “Ego the absolvo”, but no communion? What absolution it is, one that leaves the penitent in mortal sin? How can a priest absolve anyone of any sin, who chooses to remain dead to grace?
A person in mortal sin is separated from Christ. The Chuch has always – charitably, and therefore firmly – maintained that such a person has no business trying to go around the point, and must be reminded at all times that when one is in mortal sin there is no fluffing around, and there only one thing to do: put an end to the state of mortal sin. Every other solution would not help the sinner to abandon his sinfulness in the least; on the contrary, it would reinforce him in his deluded idea that he is “almost all right”.
The public sinner must be excluded from communion. He must actually also be excluded from social life, and treated like a pariah in his own environment. He is a public sinner: not only bent for hell himself, but uncaring of the fact his scandal helps Satan to get other souls, too.
There is no way of making a tip-tap dance around this. Public sinner, in mortal sin, dead to grace, and bent for hell. The enforcement of such basic concepts, both on a sacramental and social level, provides the best chance for the sinner to see the error of his way and repent. Every false “acceptance” (and much more so: tampering with the sacraments in any way, shape or form) makes the work of the devil.
Mortal sin and public scandal? No confession unit the scandal has ceased. This is how the Church has always dealt with the matter when Truth came before niceness.
You can listen to the latest heresy (in a broad sense) of our extremely disgraceful Pontiff here.
Truly, this man has to go. This nonsense is every bit as savage as the attack to Communion already attempted by the man. A Sacrament fully devoided of… everything is not a Sacrament anymore. Besides being absurd in itself, the consequences would be devastating in the practice: from public concubines (who today cannot even approach the confessional) just making a stop on the Sunday mass on their way to Communion, to atheists, unrepentant perverts, even satanists just “playing sacrament” for the fun of it, in front of everyone, quietly smiling as they remain silent in the confessional.
It is ayt this point too generous even to say that Francis has no sensus catholicus.
Francis has an obvious, very real, and continuously exhibited sensus diabolicus.
The Remnant has recently repeated the invitation to Pope Francis to change his tune or go, and excellent step. However, I personally agree with Barnhardt, that at this point the man should be made to go.
Seriously, this cannot go on unchallenged, and at this point the only way to challenge the man is to say urbi et orbi that he an evil clown, and has to pack.
And at this point is seems futile to me to discuss whether we are in the presence of formal or material heresy. We are in front of a walking heresy, and I would say it’s enough.
Honorius was condemned for far less than Francis has dared to state, very publicly, for all the world to see. If a letter is enough to get you condemned for heresy, all Francis has publicly done should be enough to have him pulverised.
And it came to pass the Bishop of Rome was supposed to act as confessor, in order to encourage people to avail themselves of a sacrament for which in his own personal “off-the-cuff” theology there seem to be no need; still, a laudable initiative in itself, as it goes towards putting a partial patch over the mess Francis himself causes with his reckless talk about salvation through following one's conscience, and being a mafioso as a requirement for going to hell.
The only problem in that is that a confessional is a rather discreet place, and the photo-op would not have been so good.
And then the man sees acamera lens, and another confessional, and promptly seizes the moment; once again showing to us devout fans what a humbling effect a camera lens has on him. The world, which loves these little stunts, is pleasantly surprised. The Pope goes to confession! You don't say?! But wait, was he not infallible? Or is that infrangible? And look, he asked to be confessed by a simple priest! I thought it had to be a Cardinal Archbishop! At least! …. Whatever…..What a man of the people! He doesn't judge gays, you know…
Another day. Another step towards decline and persecution. Another camera lens. Another cheap papal stunt.
With all his shortcomings, boy, how I miss Benedict…
The latest initiative taken by Francis for Lent is certainly laudable. In Rome and elsewhere, a special effort will be made, keeping some churches open in the evening and providing for confession opportunities at that late hour. A beautiful way to remind the faithful of the Sacrament of Confession, and to encourage them to avail themselves of it in this Lenten time.
Unfortunately, this being Francis-The-Bishop-of-Rome the initiative is diluted by the usual, exaggerated expectation for mercy. Therefore, with one corner of his mouth Francis tells you that it is good to go to Confession, whilst with the other he implies that God's inexhaustible mercy doesn't make it necessary; because hey, if you have good will and follow your conscience you will be just fine.
In this, I notice once again the “layer Church” so evident in this year of Pontificate: one layer is the traditional Catholic teaching to which Francis must, being the Pope, pay some sort of lip service. The other layer is the new homemade religion Francis concocted for himself instead of providing himself with a solid Catholic education; this is the religion in which faith is not necessary for salvation because conscience saves, sodomite priests are not to be judged, God slaps one in the wrist at most, being a good Catholic who follows the rules makes one suspicious, and counting your rosaries makes one positively ridiculous, Neo-Pelagian and a lot of other things, none of them positive.
My suspicion is that the former layer comes mainly from his advisors, who suggest to him that he does something Catholic for a change; whilst the latter is obviously the fruit of Francis' decade-long neglect for basic Catholicism and its substitution for a vaguely resentful, and more than vaguely dirty, social gospel.
Francis wasn't born a genius, but like every Modernist he understands if he wants to spread his own gospel – the gospel that makes him so popular among people without the least intention of converting to Catholic values – he must also play the Catholic pope every now and then, and affirm today what he has happily denied yesterday. This latest Confession initiative is just the most recent example: conscience saves, but please go to confession, it's good for the blood pressure.
The antidote for Francis' poison is very simple: we must make an extra effort of learning of sound Catholic teaching; so that every time Francis speaks we may easily recognise what is legitimate Catholicism and what is homemade “Che” religion. It is not really difficult, because Francis' love for headlines and novelty will allow a properly instructed Catholic to almost instantly recognise those concept sounding “off”.
I can at least see no other way we can react to this than by making Francis' antics work for us – in that we use them to root ourselves deeper in the Truth – rather than against us.
Many others will be confused by Francis' Layer Church. But you, dear reader, who are more Catholic than that, will see the danger and instruct others in the proper way to eat it; discarding the mix of sugar and poison Francis has put on top of it; but for heaven's sake, without throwing away the entire cake.
Predictably, the Francis effect is unfolding.
Not only there is an army of Catholics openly at variance with the Church, but in the new Age of Stupidity this army more and more gets to believe that Francis and his successors will move things in their direction. The perception clearly generated is that Francis will demolish all he can demolish himself, and pave the way for further demolitions after him.
The wrecking ball humbly devastating Catholicism is, predictably, also showing its destructive effect on the sacraments. Five percent say they now go to confession more often, twenty two percent less. Is it surprising? With a Pope treating all sacraments like something that does nothing else than improving your day – remember: he cannot imagine God doing more than slapping one on the wrist; salvation is open even to atheists; Muslims should cling to their own religion; Jews have their own reserved lane to Jesus – how can one be surprised that the sacraments are neglected?
I suspect the five percent going to confession more often do it rather as a reaction to Francis than because they like him. Those who like him have no reason to do anything than feel pleased with themselves: no judging anymore, no fear of the Lord. Converting others no Catholicism? No, no, no!
Sit back and relax: the Humble Pope will tell you everything you need to hear.
One year later, the damage made by the Age of Stupidity cannot be ignored. The demolition is not even subtle. It's brutally explicit, vulgar, unashamed of its own irreligiousness, shouted from the rooftops.
Please, Lord, free us from this scourge.
SECOND UPDATE! IMPORTANT!!
La vera riconciliazione è che Dio, in Cristo, ha preso i nostri peccati e Lui si è fatto peccato per noi. E quando noi andiamo a confessarci, per esempio, non è che diciamo il peccato e Dio ci perdona. No, non è quello! Noi troviamo Gesù Cristo e gli diciamo: ‘Questo è tuo e io ti faccio peccato un’altra volta’. E a Lui piace quello, perché è stata la sua missione: farsi peccato per noi, per liberare a noi”.
This is the Italian.
It is much different from the English translation. Whoever made the translation should convert to Catholicism, or ask someone before translating.
“La vera riconciliazione è che Dio, in Cristo, ha preso i nostri peccati e Lui si è fatto peccato per noi.”
“The true reconciliation is that God, in Christ, took on our sins and He made Himself sin for us.”
This is worlds apart from “became the sinner”. It simply means that Christ took our sins. This is a common expression. There is nothing scandalous in that. Whilst “became the sinner” sounds (and is) blasphemous and would sound in Italian just as atrocious as in English, the expression clearly used by Francis is common fare in Italian. The expression is repeated at the end of the period, and the same considerations apply.
On this: cessato allarme, “alarm ceased”. The translator should get twenty lashes, though.
Pretty much the same happens for the second scandalous part, the one about the confession:
“Noi troviamo Gesù Cristo e gli diciamo: ‘Questo è tuo e io ti faccio peccato un’altra volta’ “.
This is not a very brilliant Italian. It is a somewhat uncertain Italian, perhaps with dialectal nuances, but one understands the meaning. What he means to say is this:
1. “We find Jesus Christ (in confession) and say to him: “This is yours, I have sinned against you once again” “. Again, this is a world apart from saying “this is your sin, and I will sin again”. The first expression does indicate contrition, and the ashamed consciousness of having offended Christ. The second indicates total absence of contrition, and the shamelessly announced intention to offend Him again.
2. Alternatively, he might link to the expression used before, and say “through my sin I cause You to make Yourself sin for us again“.
It is difficult to say which is which, because in normal parlance no one become a thing (a sin), the expression being used only when speaking of Christ. I tend for the first because it seems to me to point out to contrition, the natural attitude in the confessional. The second, though, links directly to the theme of Jesus taking on Himself the burden of our sins.
Once again, the “ti” is slightly misleading, but in the context the orthodox meaning is clear to a mother tongue whatever the exact meaning of the phrase. I would have said “faccio peccato contro di te (un’altra volta)” (first version) or “ti faccio diventare peccato per noi (un’altra volta)” (second version) instead of “ti faccio peccato (un’altra volta)”. Bergoglio’s use sounds like a dialectal expression to me, or a colloquial regional way, or a slight imprecision. Francis is probably misled by similar usages of the Italian language (“ti faccio male”, “I (will) hurt you”; “ti faccio vedere”, colloquial for “you’ll see”; “ti faccio arrossire”, “I make you blush”, and the like). Perhaps Spanish has similar ways he “imported” in Italian.
No, there is no scandal here. There are a lot of scandals with this Pope. This Pope is a walking and talking scandal. But I cannot see any scandal here in what Francis has said.
Obviously, if we reflect this is the translation of the Vatican site, and apparently the German has the same blunders, we understand how the scandal was born. But no, you can go to sleep (I will do it presently) safe in the knowledge that a mother tongue Italian blogger, who took great scandal at the English version, finds the original a tad “uncommon” or “unclean” in the expression (not the “President’s Italian”, so to speak), but certainly understandable in a way that does not create scandal.
Semel in anno, we can say this is not his fault.
The most atrocious translation I have ever read, though. Particularly because it gave the speech a sort of inner, satanic coherence with the heretical or blasphemous double whammy. It goes to show once again the dangers of these off-the-cuff statements which, even when they are not utter bollocks out of Francis’ mouth, can become it out of hurried translations perhaps from people who do not really know what Confession is. One who goes to confession thinks thrice before writing a translation like that, but again in today’s Radio Vaticana the translator might belong to any religion, or none.
I will, therefore, now proceed to cancel my entire post, and all our comments.
I would say “rejoice”, but there is nothing to rejoice.
Francis remains as bad as he already was. He has always mixed orthodox statements with heterodox or heretical ones. It’s not that he has now magically transformed himself in an orthodox Pope. This statement was was orthodox in the original and became heretical in the translation, is all.
Laudably, Bishop Francis invites us to go to confession; and in an interesting turn of events even seems to insist in calling it “confession” rather than with its V II correct name of “reconciliation”. Still, as Francis is polluted through and through with the evil ideology of V II, he regularly fails to stress and impress upon his readers what once upon a time would have been hammered in the faithful’s head by the most mediocre of priests: that there is an obligation to go to confession.
This is indicative of the entire V II mentality, even in those cases when the steroids of Francis’ South-American Jesuitism are, for the time being, blessedly absent. Whenever I read Francis’ exhortations, I am reminded of those newspaper articles gently encouraging us to eat more carrots, or reminding us of the virtues of Brussels Sprouts: you should do this, because you see, it’s good.
The not-so-small difference is that there is no Sacrament Of Carrots, nor is it necessary to eat Brussels Sprouts to have one’s mortal sins forgiven; and as importantly, that God does not tell me to eat carrots, but He commands me to go to Confession. I am sure Francis is aware of this, but from the way he talks this is not very evident.
“Oh, but he is talking to Catholics – some will say – they know that! They do not need to be reminded!”
Really? Have you noticed any trend in Confession frequency in the last, say, fifty years? And by the way, how come the faithful never have to be reminded about their obligation to attend Mass, go to confession, not contracept, & Co., but must be always reminded about poverty, as if they did not know about their obligations in that respect?
Well, I can tell you how come: because for Francis the things of Heaven are fully secondary to the things of earth. His gaze is fully fixed on the favela, and he constantly gives the impression to him religion is just a way to improve people’s condition here on earth.
As if God were there to serve Man, rather than the other way round.
Go to confession, folks. You’ll feel so good when you get out of the confessional.
One of the most evident manifestations of the “Francis effect” is the frequency with which prelates think they must make known to the world their outlandish views. They did it before too, of course, but as there was no “make a mess”-climate they did have to be more prudent. That’s all gone now.
Cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Connor is one of the biggest culprits for the continued decline of Catholic thinking, practice and influence in England. Predictably, this also led to a decrease in confessions. Faced with such a phenomenon, the Cardinal does not ask himself what he can do to let people change their mind and go to confession; no, he wonders how confession can be changed to adapt it to the changed mindset of the people instead.
A “proper reform” is now needed. Can’t you see, he seems to say, that confession is goign out of fashion?
When such is the thinking, hell is truly the limit. Shall we allow Skype confessions? What about an Internet chat room for two? Or should we perhaps put classical music in the confessional? No, wait, some Tango music would be more in touch with the times, and a fitting tribute to the humble Francis ….
Or we might put up ads in the local newspaper, you know… A friendly priest’s face saying: “Who am I to judge?” could be just the ticket…
There there is the problem of the confession being allegedly used by predatory priests to prey on their designated targets. What to do? Evidently, the man is so confused that he does not see that the biggest technical problem of today’s confession is in… the innovations post V II.
Traditionally, a grate separated the priest from the faithful. The priest couldn’t see – though in small communities he would certainly recognise from the voice – who was on the other side. No mother needed to be concerned for her own daughter, her own child, or herself. The physical separation was strong enough, and in most confessionals – like the Italian ones, often open to the faithful’s side rather than locking the faithful in a cubicle – the possibility of being overheard always there. Even the most evil predatory priest would, in such circumstances, decide the setting does not work for his evil intent.
Enter the “closed room” confessionals of the new era, and in the same years the predatory priests produced by the post V II seminars. He will now be in a closed space with his victim, eye to eye, perhaps in physical knee-to-knee contact, in a “relaxed” and “confidential” environment; no one else around him but the child or girl he has set his eyes on…
Then we complain some priests might have abused of the confessional to prey on their victim…
Has the Cardinal ever thought about it? I doubt. Plenty of questionable “confession rooms” in his old diocese, and no sign of the man having ever ordered the return of the grate. But we are now curious to know what the man will propose to bring the faithful back to confession. Introductory video games, perhaps…or collective confession, when the crowd says “we are all oh so sorry” and the priests absolves everyone, as if they were about to go to battle…
If CMOC and those like him would at least shut up and quietly enjoy their remaining years of utterly undeserved prestige and privilege, it would be something already.
But no, they must have the headlines.
And it came to pass that yours truly went to confession, and after some very wise words of consolation and counsel from the other side of the grate I was asked to recite the Act of Contrition. After I finished the good man asked, for obvious reasons: “Italian”?
I answered this was the case, and Father extracted from his pocket a booklet where he had written the formula of absolution in several languages. I did not consider it fitting to ask if he had any Latin version, so Italian it was; and a more than passable pronunciation, too.
In the end, he even asked me – in Italian – to pray for him; something I always like, because it shows your Novus Ordo confessor believes in God, which nowadays isn't automatic at all.
This I happily did. May I kindly ask you to do the same.
Some recent posts on the usefulness of traditional confessionals rather than those strange, vaguely creepy rooms where the priest is locked in with the penitent – who could be a woman, or a young girl – are probably a fitting occasion to make some consideration about different perceptions of the Confession.
I do not doubt most among the V II priests who hear confession believe in the sacrament, and my experience of Novus Ordo confessors is actually, on the whole, reassuring (the only serious exception was… a Jesuit). Still, even the most conservatively minded priest cannot escape the pernicious effect of the environment created by the modern confessionals.
Sitting in front of each other unavoidably creates the wrong atmosphere: the accent is on a chat about our sins rather than our sincere repentance. It certainly doesn't do much for perfect contrition.
Then there is the matter with the posture: in a well-made confessional you kneel, and the priest sits. This isn't casual. It isn't two friends having a chat here, but one wretched sinner utterly ashamed of his inadequacy, and another one acting on Christ's behalf. The difference is substantial.
Then there is the separation: it is nothing less than shocking how simple devices like the grate could be abandoned. Not to see the priest on the other side (which in a big church often means not knowing who he is) helps the penitent to think that on the other side of the grate is, in a very concrete way, Christ Himself. Again, this helps to reach perfect contrition greatly. Compare with the smiling bloke and think what helps you more…
It is no surprise to me that the confessional itself has been attacked after V II, because I do not labour under the misapprehension that V II was anything good. In fact, what has happened to the confessionals and the practice of going to confession shows once more that V II was the work of the Devil, enabling and even encouraging all the abuses subsequently made in its name, and of which V II was indubitably the cause. If you want to attack the Sacraments, you must attack the ways they are executed, so that their sacredness and the grace they impart is at least diminished.
The Devil, who used V II to enter the doors of the Church, made himself comfortable inside and started to attack pretty much everything Catholic; it would have been unrealistic to expect that Confession would be spared.
As to building new confessionals (you will see beautiful pieces of craftsmanship around), I think at least in England good results can be achieved fast, and at little expense. I have often noticed that in the London area confessionals were often “built in”, with a room divided into three: the central part for the priests and the two lateral ones for the penitents, with grate and all. The “chatting rooms” you find around are very often the same room, with the grates and barriers removed. It would therefore be very cheap to reinstall the grates, with a suitable place to kneel, and have things exactly as they were, and should be.
The answer to the present mess is, if you ask me, not only to go back fast to a more traditionally oriented practice concerning confessionals and confessions; but also to grasp whence the problems came and why. Unless we understand that the evil inbuilt in VII is the cause of pretty much every problem plaguing the Church nowadays – including the darling of the secular media: the pedophile priest scandal – we are going to wander in darkness as to the appropriate remedies.
The return to sanity – in this as in every other matter – goes through the demolition of all the innovations of V II; then I would be at a loss to mention to you one single “improvement” introduced after Vatican II that was not damaging to the Church and to the spiritual lives of the faithful.
Vatican II must go, and good riddance. There can be no middle way. A tree is judged by its fruits, and it astonishes me we see poisoned fruits wherever we turn, but there are those who insist the tree in itself is good.
There is a truly beautiful post on Father Z’s blog about the validity of confession from an SSPX priest. You already know yours truly is a great fan of the organisation, and considers them better Catholics than your average Cardinal (let alone bishop) by a mile. Still, I try not to descend into Sedevacantism only because of the obscenely bad quality of the clergy in good standing I (more than) sometimes see around me, and one of the reasons I go around and regularly “try” different churches is to hammer into my head that even the bad Mass is a valid Mass and even the stupid priest has valid orders; then if I were to start questioning the validity of the Mass according to the quality of the priest, Sedevacantism would not be far away.
The same reasoning, and the same praxis, I apply to confession. I “shop around” to take the temperature of the local Church: are people there queuing? Is the priest timely? )(Ha!) Is the confessional a traditional one? Does the priest encourage me to repentance or – as many do – to complacency? & Co., & Co.
Many of the priests who have confessed me in the last five years have left me with a strange feeling to say the least. Like eating artificial food, or drinking Diet Coke. Still, as long as the priest says the absolution formula and I can see he is doing what the Church says he should be doing I never doubted (though at times it didn’t come natural, see below) that the confession and the absolution were validly given; even in those cases in which I thought the priest was a waste of space, a robbery of Church bread, and arms stolen to agricultural work.
For the exact same reason, I never went to confession at a SSPX chapel. It’s not that I do think the priest confessing there is a bad priest (I think his chances of heaven are, in fact, extremely high, and I seriously can’t say the same of a couple of confessors I have experienced), but rather that whilst this priest has a granitic conviction he must do it, I know and cannot pretend not to know he is not authorised to hear confessions. This is unfortunate, then I do have more than a mild curiosity to experience the difference with your average V II priest, not knowing whether a torrential rain of fire and brimstone would fall unto me or whether, as it is traditionally said, the priest who is a lion from the pulpit is also a lamb in the confessional.
One thing is clear to me: even if I had doubts about the validity of the confession of many priests of the V II church, I would still go to confession to a priest of the V II, because even the V II church is my church, and the only one there is.
As I have said, this doesn’t come natural to me. A couple of times, I must admit, I was tempted to think: “this was not a confession, this was a joke; I’d better repeat it somewhere else as soon as I can”, but then I immediately reflected about the gravity of my thought, and started to realise the devil uses bad priests to lead us to doubt the institutions and the sacraments of the Church; then again, if I start to think I can decide whether a confession was valid – even if the usual and expected elements of the confession were there – Sedevacantism can’t be very far away.
This does not mean that the SSPX priest is a bad priest, as he believes the state of necessity does extend to confession. But I simply cannot agree with him on that, and whilst I am rather sure he’ll rank far higher than me in Paradise (if I make it there) I do not think going to confession to him would help me one iota in this respect.
Mundabor: “Excuse me, Sir: is the Confession here”?
Chap: “Yes I think it’s here”.
Mundabor: “It starts at 5:30, right?”
Chap: “Yes, I think it does”.
Mundabor: “Is there anyone I can ask?”
Chap: “Try in the sacristy perhaps?”.
Mundabor: “Good afternoon, Father. Is Confession today?”
Father: “Yes, it is”.
Mundabor: “I think it’s at 5:30, right?”
Father: “Yes, it’s at 5:30”.
Mundabor: “Erm, ah, well, no one is there…”
Father: “I’ll be there in a few minutes”.
He arrives at 5:45.
He goes away at 5:55 and celebrates the Mass at 6 pm himself.
I do not know you, but I have had several of these conversations and I start to think a priest must organise his own life around having time for Confession and Mass, not the contrary. Particularly when Confession is only 30 minutes a week.
The important things are those for which we have time. If we haven’t time for them, it means we do not consider them important.
Am I wrong, Father?
The first time, I thought I hadn’t heard correctly. I’m a Foreigner, you know, and all that.
The priest ( a Novus Ordo priest; worse still, a Franciscan) went on blabbering as to how we have already been saved and the only think we have to do is to rejoice in the Lord, and that kind of stuff. “Sit back and relax, it’s all good”-wannabe theology for the gullible.
I knew this was a Franciscan and therefore I’d have to make allowances for the underlying heresy of their thinking, but I thought in some way some part of the homily which (perhaps; in a way; so to speak) maintains what Catholicism has always held might not have been understood correctly by me. The prevalently sixty-eighter audience (you know the type) seemed rather pleased with both the priest and themselves.
Then there was the Jesuit from that beautiful church located in that well-known locality in the outskirts of London. The Gospel reading of the day included one of Our Lords’ (actually rather frequent) mentions of Hell, and in order to avoid the sensitivities of the present to be “hurt” our man hastened to point out that when Jesus spoke about Hell he meant we should not be happy with second best (or with imperfect choices, or the like; I don’t remember the exact words, but I certainly remember their exact meaning). That left me breathless; but again, this was a Jesuit, and they know how to do heresy in the oiliest of ways. I was angry and upset, but not surprised.
Recently – at another one of those NO churches where yours truly occasionally attends to in order to take the temperature of modern everyday, wannabe cool Catholicism – it happened again, and it was not pleasant. Also, this time as soon as I smelled the theological rat I went to extraordinary extents of concentration, so I can tell you I am positive I am reporting about the homily very accurately.
Frankly, what I heard was somewhere between scary and satanic.
The Church was very well-frequented, I would call them between 350 and 400 without any doubt, and we are talking of one mass. The priest performed the longest homily I have ever heard, and at some point I thought he wanted all the people on the pews to fall asleep so as not to hear what he was saying; or, alternatively, that the good Lord had made the man so in love with himself the pewsitters fall asleep before they can be attacked by the father of lies.
I was not asleep, though, and actually I got increasingly more nervous as the never-ending blabber went on. The main points:
1) We are all saved when we are baptised, and we are saved because we are baptised. I awaited eagerly for some qualification of this statement. It did not come. The logical thinking (insofar as such a thinking can be called logical; it is actually very stupid) was as follows: Christ came to save us – when we are baptised we are saved – Jesus and the Church are there to ensure we are all saved – therefore all those who are baptised are saved – let us rejoice and be oh so good to the neighbour’s cat.
You’d think there would be the smallest caveat about damnation, mortal sin, hell, the lot. I don’t say an open reminder (that goes clearly beyond these people), but I listened with the acutest attention in order to try to spot one small hint.
It did not come.
The day I die, I hope I’ll have a better hand of cards than this chap has today.
2) The strangest kindergarten vision of humanity was depicted. It can be summarised with these concepts: we are all saved – but we are imperfect – therefore we fall short of what the Lord expects from us – so we are sorrow for our imperfections – and we march in charity toward the end of our life which is, of course, salvation, see 1) . The idea people might be, or desire, or do evil was not even contemplated.
Once again, I was eagerly awaiting for one word referring to confession. One only.
Nothing. Nada. Nil Return.
Basically, the chap blabbered about for twenty minutes and the only result he clearly achieved is to endanger the souls of those who were still awake by clearly prospecting to them a salvation already achieved several decades ago and which, therefore, doesn’t need confession or knows what to do with the very concept of mortal sin. Which, in this pervert logic, makes sense: if you think you are saved because you’re baptised, then there can be no place for mortal sin, and there is no need for confession.
It would sound like Protestantism, but I doubt even Protestants are so shallow and stupid. It is like the announcement of the Great Salvation Sale: just answer one or two short questions and you are qualified to profit from the unbelievable occasion Our Lord has in store for you.
This happened on a sunny April morning in the Year of the Lord 2012, 50 years after the opening of that Glorious Work, the Second Vatican Council.
Whilst I don’t like Luther at all, there’s one favourite saying of him I actually rather like: the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. If the fruits are so egregiously bad, the tree of V II can’t be that good, either.
“I stopped going to Mass because the priest was not inclusive of my own oh so very sensitive nature”. “I stopped going to confession because I didn’t react what the confessor said to me”. “I will not convert to the Church because you Catholics are all so insensitive you won’t allow me to have my own theology as I’ve always done”. The list is very long.
You go around the Internet, you read a lot of this: it’s not really my fault, because another made me do it. It seems the culture of refusal of responsibility for pretty much everything (from one’s own sins to one’s own weight) does not stop in front of the keyboard, rather finds a new elan through it.
I profit of this occasion (rather fitting, as Good Friday has just begun) to say for the avoidance of doubt it was my fault when I stopped going to Mass; it was my fault when I stopped going to confession; it was my fault when I refused – or thought I did not need to – seriously examine Catholic teaching. And it was, most grievously, my fault when I refused to face the problem of abortion, thinking I could solve the moral issue just by avoiding it staring at me in the face.
Of course, there are extenuating circumstances. Still, pretty much everyone has them, most thieves and most prostitutes among them; do we excuse the thief or the prostitute when they tell us “I stole because the priest refused to tell me what a unique and wonderful being I am”, or “I prostituted myself because the priest told me sex outside of marriage is a sin and made me feel a slut”? Thought not…
In my modest opinion, the day we learn to face our faults in this most important of matters (our soul) we have made a great step toward salvation. But please let us stop saying others caused us to do something.
The cause of what we do is always us.
P.s. by the way, it is I who nailed Christ on the Cross. Not physically of course but no, seriously, really, yes it is I. I do it, actually, every day in some way or other. And strangely enough, I can’t even find ways to stop hammering those nails.
Still my fault.
There is a very interesting article about confession on the “New Theological Movement” blog . The article gives the “layman” some idea of the difficulties every confessor must face, difficulties that we are perhaps not entirely aware of.
At the same time, the author of the article tries to strike a balance between the need for spiritual direction and the need to not let people wait in vain for a confession. This last problem strikes me as a rather rare one, as in my experience the priest who hasn’t the time to hear all the people who want to be confessed by him is doing things extremely well (Padre Pio, St. Philip Neri, St. John Vianney come to mind) or, more probably, very badly. Generally, confession lines are very short; which would indicate that, in case of problems, confession times are even shorter.
What I notice is that in many churches here in the UK confession time is limited to 30 minutes a week, one hour at the maximum. This creates in my eyes a vicious circle in which the limited possibility to go to confession will reduce the number of those seeking it – bear in mind that most Catholics do not think very clearly about that and will take every excuse to postpone – and, more strikingly, send the message that confession is not such a big deal after all, which will again act as a further deterrent to confession. The result will be fewer people queuing at the confessional, and perhaps the decision of the priest to further reduce confession time because…. no one’s there.
In my eyes, the time management problems mentioned in the article would be solved if the priest would act as follows:
1) stress from the pulpit the need for confession
2) make confession easily available.
Some priest might say that he is, in fact, always available for confession, but this seems to me a very disingenuous statement and, actually, one of the clearest signs of a mediocre priest. A priest who has already shouted to the world (through his confession times) that he can’t dedicate more than 30 minutes a week to confession is not exactly encouraging the faithful to knock at his door trying to get one. This reminds me of those company bosses saying “my door is always open”.
Similarly, a priest claiming that he hasn’t time to hear confessions because of his various social engagement, parish committees etc. would be well advised to rearrange his priorities starting from the fact that he is a priest first, and a social worker fifth, or seventh.
Looking at today’s UK, I can’t avoid thinking that the confession problem is largely a priestly creation, originated through: a) lack of encouragement to go to confession during the homily; b) short and “strange” confession times (eg. 30 minutes, and then the confessor has to go to celebrate Mass); c) priests often showing up late for confession time, so the 30 minutes are rather 25; d) in the sum of all this, the unspoken message that confession is not really so important.
If there was the habit – or perhaps, the obligation – for priests to dedicate more time to confession (say: at least two hours a week, divided in at least three days during the week, of which at least one suitably late after working hours) and the correspondent encouragement, frequently repeated, to go to confession, I think things would change rather rapidly. I may be too optimistic here, but I think that the biggest problem is not one of lack of will, but lack of encouragement. The sheep are not very intelligent animals, or particularly active. They must be encouraged and guided frequently, perhaps with a bit of a rod and staff here and there; but then they react, and go in the desired direction.
Let me conclude this with a short message to those among my readers who might be thinking about conversion, or thinking to come back to the sacraments, but are scared to present themselves in front of the confessor, fearing that he will skin them alive. Every practising Catholic will confirm to you that this is very, very unlikely to be the case. Even most priest who are lions from the pulpits are lambs in the confessional. If you go there with the right spirit, you’ll be absolutely fine and will get out of the confessional enriched by a beautiful spiritual experience, and wondering what the worries were all about.
From Domine, Da Mihi Hanc Aquam an interesting observation (mentioned also by others) about the IPhone application meant to prepare one for confession.
Typically, the worst part of the press has not lost the occasion to be misleading and superficial, possibly engendering in the most acutely lapsed Catholics the idea that it be now possible to, so to speak, self-confess and self-absolve oneself with the help of an iPhone application.
Of course, the readers of this blog very well know how things stand. But it might be useful to be vigilant and decidedly refute every opinion set in circulation by the uninformed. It might be even better to try to casually throw the app in as preparation to confession, just to have a good thing mentioned… 😉
If we remember the confusion generated by Pope Benedict’s careless words about condoms, we have the idea of what damage can be created among the very many for whom Catholicism is only as a distant voice, and who will receive Catholicism as a distant and often distorted echo. They shouldn’t be neglected and the effort to have as many doctrinal points as possible right among the majority of the general public is, in my eyes, essential if we want these lost sheep to come back to the fold.
Father Zuhlsdorf has an interesting entry about the issue of lacking, or strange, confession times. One learns there interesting things (thankfully never happened to me, not even in liberal churches) like the existence of churches where confession time is scheduled for 30 minutes before beginning of the mass, with the same priest having to do both and managing to show up late. One truly wonders whether for some priests sacraments are just a bothersome task they have to pretend to do in order to stay in employment.
This issue is in my eyes a very apposite one to say two words about the priest’s duties. If a parishioner would ask the priest why he doesn’t have longer/better organised/ more convenient confession times, many priests would probably answer that this is not possible, because they have many other things to do.
Exactly this is the issue: that nowadays many priests’ priorities are upside down. It is not confession having to adapt to the social activities of the priest, but his social work having to bow to his more important duties. Not only saying Mass, but caring for proper administration of the sacraments and for scrupulous adherence to one’s duty of reciting the divine office come before every “social” activity, because they are what the priest is there for in the first place.
I wonder how many priests nowadays neglect their obligation to recite the divine office and how many of them try to justify themselves saying that they fulfil their priestly duties by caring for their parishioners. But when a priest starts to downplay his obligation to recite the holy office it is no surprise that he will, in time, start to downplay his obligation to hear confession; if he starts downplaying confession it is no surprise that he will, in time, start to think that he can “experiment” with the Mass; if he starts detaching himself from the sacraments it is no suprise that he will slowly but surely drift toward a secular outlook on this world, in which his service towards those who suffer comes before his duties to God. He will probably say to himself that to help those who suffer is to serve God, but this is exactly the wrong perspective that has led so many people out of the churches. God always comes first, all the rest comes as a result of one’s (and particularly: a priest’s) service to God. Charity is first of all love of God, and love of neighbour because he is God’s creature.
The Church of the past was not neglecting the poor and those who suffered, but she had Her priorities right.
“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.