Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Catholic faith
What’s your besetting sin?
Something to think and pray about and a help in making a good confession

From Cacœthes Scribendi
On examination of conscience
Some Protestants twig that they’re missing something

From Slate
On the decline of the practice of the confessional
...the one sacrament casual Catholics feel free to skip. We'll get married in church, we'll be buried from church, and we'll take Communion at Mass. But regularly confessing one's sins to God and the parish priest seems to be a part of fewer and fewer Catholic lives. Where have all the sinners gone?
Two words: bad catechesis. Communion all the time, Confession none of the time is the giveaway: it’s Protestant.

All confession is to God; venial sins are taken care in your own prayer life. Grave matter — what’s objectively mortal sin — is to God with the priest as a kind of witness. So you’re not really confessing to Fr Smith.

‘Why do it then?’ you might ask. ‘Isn’t God everywhere?’ Of course, but having Fr S hear your confession gives you accountability, responsibility. It’s harder to fool yourself about your faults and sorrow for them that way.
To congregations scarred by the recent sex-abuse scandal, the thought of turning to a priest for forgiveness might not hold the attraction that it once did.
Again the solution is good instruction. To avoid the confessional because of the gay-priest fiasco is understandable but Catholics know that ‘if Peter baptises (or absolves — Confession/Absolution is a renewal of Baptism, a second plank to grab for dear life as the Church Fathers put it), Christ baptises; if Judas baptises, Christ baptises’. To tie the grace of a sacrament to the worthiness of the minister is the heresy of Donatism.
But it's strange that so many lay Catholics should have abandoned the confessional even while secular culture is increasingly awash in confession, apology, and acts of contrition of every sort.
See how hip the church liberals aren’t.
The Catholic tradition of listing the number and kinds of one's sins in regular, private confessions became standard practice after the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215.
An application of dogma (not dogma in itself) that’s a gift to the whole church. It was also to do with the early Irish practice of going to monks one-on-one for spiritual direction like the Christian East does.
...expressing contrition in confession could mean the difference between going to heaven or hell: Dying with unconfessed mortal sin on your soul meant eternal torment.
It still does meant that. Some missing nuances are that only God knows who objectively is in mortal sin, and perfect contrition, which only he know one has, means forgiveness even if one doesn’t get a chance to use the sacrament.
As recently as 40 years ago, many Catholics would not have thought of accepting the Eucharist until after they'd cleansed their souls.
If we’re talking about cleansing them of mortal sins that’s entirely correct and standard Catholic practice, full stop.
Today the situation is almost exactly the reverse: Entire congregations receive Communion, while the confessionals remain mostly empty.
Again, bad catechesis. The same reason why only 30 per cent of American RCs even know what they’re receiving. So actually you’ve got mainline Protestantism in a non-Anglo-Saxon style (without nice buildings, prose or hymns or even Protestant manners or friendliness), not Catholicism.

I am thinking more and more that one has to go wherever the Roman Catholic religion is adhered to. Even if it isn’t Rome.
- Hilary

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