bless me, father

By Diogenes (articles) | Jan 15, 2007

Jeff Miller posts this confessional query that appeared in a syndicated newspaper column. Sound familiar?

Q. On a couple of occasions at our church, we've had a "general confession." The priest told us to examine our consciences and then proceed to one of several priests in different parts of the church. He then told us to confess one of the sins we'd committed to the priest and return to our pew. All of our sins were forgiven.

Also, twice when I was sick and in the hospital, a priest came to my bedside and did not ask me to confess my sins. He simply gave me absolution saying, "your sins are forgiven you." -- A.M., Plattsburgh, N.Y.

The un-named expert gives A.M. the standard bedwetter's response: "Only mortal sins that imperil a person's soul need be confessed." Right. As if any priest inclined to the one-sin-and-out McSacrament model will have carefully catechized his parish on mortal versus venial sin.

Leaving the sacramental theology to one side, what does the Don't Bother Me approach to confession of sins say about the spiritual worldview of the priests that offer it? In the simplest psychological terms, is it possible that such men could have hidden depths of prayer or ascesis or moral earnestness? That beneath the surface impatience and condescension there might be a John Vianney or Alphonsus Liguori striving to bring their people to God?

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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