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?

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  • Posted by: Art Kelly - Jan. 19, 2007 12:13 AM ET USA

    Give a copy of the Pope's directive against general absolution (except in emergency situations) to your pastor and/or bishop. Following the Pope's edict is not optional. He wrote, "I decree that everything I have set down in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio shall have full and lasting force and be observed from this day forth, notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary."

  • Posted by: - Jan. 18, 2007 4:13 PM ET USA

    Confession is under attack from within the Church. The confessional has been abandoned in some parishes. Face to face confessions are promoted. For priests who have a weakness for sins of the flesh this becomes a problem. It allows them to identify women or men who have a proclivity to fall into a sin that the priest in his weakness might take advantage of. The confessional was somewhat of a protection against that happening. There was no need to "reform" the sacrament. Why the change?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 18, 2007 11:50 AM ET USA

    "... Such practices should definitely be reported to the bishop." Art Kelly, you must live in Lincoln. Nebraska. Many (if not most) U.S. Bishops discourage "pre-VII style" one-on-one confessions.

  • Posted by: Art Kelly - Jan. 16, 2007 12:40 AM ET USA

    Pope John Paul II issued an order cracking down on abuses of general absolution at Nevertheless, it can used in war. It can also be used in certain other emergency circumstances. And, yes, in a hospital room shared by other persons, general absolution is permissible. However, it would be in direct violation of the Pope's directives for a parish to routinely utilize general absolution. Such practices should definitely be reported to the bishop.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 15, 2007 8:20 PM ET USA

    I called the parish office to ask for a confession and the person who answered the phone told me to come to the church at the time (very brief) listed in the parish bulletin--"But it also says 'by appointment'"--I replied. A long, awkward silence on the other end.....then, "Oh, yes, well I guess I should put you through to Father..." What does that say about the parish staff?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 15, 2007 5:58 PM ET USA

    I'm like most Catholic converts -- I go get my confession from an old (72 years old) priest at a traditional parish. He gives real penance and is easy to track down for confession because he's in there before and after Mass at every Mass during the week and weekends. I should also point out that the "phone for an appointment" confessional model is a violation of the penitent's canonical right to an anonymous confession. Please stand for the Creed.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 15, 2007 4:40 PM ET USA

    The devil would like to see no confession at all. It must be licking its chops in many of our parishes today. On a busy confession Saturday, I've has seen 10 or 15 penitents lined up for confession. Yet everyone in the church receives Holy Communion. This goes on week in and week out. Ask anyone of the people exiting the church after Mass if they are Catholic and they will answer "Yes" of course. Yet many voted for Kerry and Blagojevich.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 15, 2007 2:55 PM ET USA

    "McSacrament model" :-D Bless me, Father, for I have laughed silly at another Uncle Di post!

  • Posted by: Sidonius - Jan. 15, 2007 1:21 PM ET USA

    A priest who downplays the need to confess is being terribly cruel to the penitent. He trivializes sins which the penitent knows imperil salvation. This cavalier attitude goes with the tendency to ignore the mortification of the flesh by, say, giving up something for Lent, fasting and abstaining on Fridays. Grace anyone?

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Jan. 15, 2007 12:46 PM ET USA

    Priests who instruct people to "tell only one sin," are, themselves, committing a serious/grave sin, for they are possibly jeapordizing the souls of parishioners with such misleading "guidance." Such priests need to re-read the Rite of Penance & the Catechism & need to be disciplined by their bishop &/or the Holy Father. Such priests who exhibit such impatience & condescension need catechesis about this Sacrament of forgiveness, healing & conversion... & need the intercession of the saints.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Jan. 15, 2007 12:36 PM ET USA

    Hearing confessions, while at times is very consoling because it gives an open window to see how the Holy Spirit works in the soul, it is more often hard, difficult, often painful work. Human beings tend to avoid pain and seek pleasure. It is human nature for priest to avoid hearing confessions, it is Divine Grace that impells him to do it. Pray for your priests, especially the bad ones.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 15, 2007 11:52 AM ET USA

    The attitude of many priests toward confession whom I encountered during my conversion to the Catholic Church was so contrary to Church Teaching I wondered why they remained in the Catholic Church. I was fortunate to have been well versed in the Church Fathers, the documents of Vatican II, and the teaching of Pope JP II and I insisted that they take seriously the sins I was trying to confess. One priest actually told me not to bother him about it since another priest had already told me it was

  • Posted by: - Jan. 15, 2007 11:47 AM ET USA

    Its about time, treasure and talent, of course.