Sunday, August 22, 2010

Confession: We've Got Rules About That, Too

Jokes about the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession, are endemic in American culture. The ones I've heard generally involve a distorted view of priestly celibacy. Which is another topic.

Then there's the idea that it's somehow wrong to think that sin exists - or, among those who admit the possibility, that confession involving another living person isn't necessary. Which is (almost) yet another topic.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses Confession here and there. Article 4 | The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation 1422-1484 might be a good place to start.

I don't, by the way, think that the priest I spoke with on Saturday can forgive my sins. Only God can. (Catechism, 1441-1442) So why do I go to a priest for this sacrament? He's a duly deputized agent of my Lord, and has the authority which was passed along to him - tracking back to Jesus.

I am Not Mary Poppins

I "went to Confession," as we say in this community, yesterday. I'd have gone on Friday, with the rest of the family, but didn't realize we were going until I'd booked myself up with other tasks.

Some major get-together was letting out as I approached St. Paul's. A wedding, I think. By the time I got into the church, things were quiet. Apart from another fellow who was probably waiting for the priest to show up, too.

Why would I go to Confession and admit what I'd fouled up on since last time?

St. Paul's Church's confessional. August 21, 2010.

Mostly it's because I'm not "Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way." (

I'm definitely included in that verse: "all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) I'm more familiar with the "all have sinned and falls short of the glory of God" translation used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, though. (Catechism, 1922)

The point is, I am not perfect.

Am I writhing in self-disgust and abject horror at the awfulness that is me? No. That's not required.

I am, however, aware of the truth of that part of the missal that (currently) says:
"I confess to almighty God,
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned
through my own fault,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;

"and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the angels and saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord, our God.
(The Assembly, Roman Missal, Third Edition, via USCCB)
Turns out, by the way, that part's apparently going to go back to what I'm a little more familiar with:
"I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
(The Assembly, Roman Missal, Third Edition, via USCCB)
Doesn't sound much like a self-affirming, feel-good, uplifting vibe does it?

On the other hand, I think it's a pretty good description of where I'm at, in relation to God.

Confession Doesn't Solve Everything?

So, why did I say those lines from Assembly during Mass this morning? Partly because it's part of the routine: but also because it's true.

Hold on: I went to Confession Saturday afternoon, and I'm crawling back Sunday morning, asking forgiveness? What was I up to?

No, I didn't have a wild Saturday night out. I did, however, breathe in and out quite a few times and had the usual experiences of my life. Nothing spectacular: but no golden bubble keeping my fallen nature away from me, either.

Which is threatening to send me off on yet another topic again.

It's not the the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance doesn't "do anything" for me. The way I see it, things take time. Or, using a pharmaceutical metaphor, that sacrament is a series of booster shots. I'm not at all convinced that the metaphor will hold up.

Bottom line? The rules say I should participate in the sacrament of reconciliation and penance regularly: so I do. Not as often as I should: I let it slide well over a month this time.

If I thought I was smarter than God, and wiser than some of the greatest minds the world has seen over the last two millennia: I might consider giving this particular rule of the Catholic Churth a miss.

Since my opinion of myself isn't quite that good: I think I'll follow the rules.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.