Sins… absolved or offset?

There is a very funny image over at South Ashford Priest.  Be sure to go over and visit him and read his commentary about confession in crisis.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Alas, the sad truth is that in our culture the only real sin is to experience guilt, which shall be eliminated by therapy, not absolution in the sacrament of penance. So many sections of the church have capitulated to this as they do not wish to be countercultural and a sign of contradtiction, that is hated and despised by the world.

  2. Dave Wells says:

    Father Z,

    I believe there are a number of reasons why people have abandoned the sacrament of Reconciliation, as many of the posters on the original post noted.

    A major reason seems to be lack of emphasis by our pastors. I cannot recall ever hearing a homily on why we need to go to Confession, or the benefits of it. In my experience, it is usually relegated to a 30-minute time slot on Saturdays, or “By appointment.” It’s hard enough to work up the courage to enter into the confessional in the first place, but to have to call the parish and explain to the secretary that you need an appointment with a priest to confess your sins is asking a little too much for most people. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but there should be more public opportunities for the sacrament.

  3. mary says:

    Catechesis is clearly an issue, and I agree with Mr Wells on the availability of confession issue. Many people also avoid going to a priest they see regularly.

    But the biggest problem in my view is that most people who have tried to go to confession in the last few decades have almost invariably had a bad experience of it.

    Personally, I not infrequently find myself leaving the confessional wondering if I actually received the sacrament at all (being told to say the act of contrition as my penace rather than in the confessional, wondering whether there was anything that could reasonably be construed as a penance at all, the absolution formula didn’t sound quite right, etc).

    The advice given is not infrequently directly at odds with Church law and tradition.

    And super-light penances reinforce the idea that sin is not a serious matter (the worst story I heard was of someone who as an adult tearfully made their first confession, and received one Hail Mary as the penance).

    When I try and persuade lapsed catholics to return, they invariably have horror stories to tell of why they left (not being believed, being grilled unmercifully, etc). They are also often scandalised by public and apparently unrepentent sinners receiving the eucharist – a case if they can, I can.

    So if we are truly concerned about the sacrament (and I agree we should be), what is needed is:

    (1) A serious program to ensure priests hearing confessions treat it seriously. Those who abuse the sacrament in varius ways should have their faculties removed.

    (2) Serious, regular catechesis on the subject from the pulpit in all parishes.

    (3) Publication of set times for confession in each town or area, with a reasonable length of time provided, and where possible, a good spread of days and times. We need holy priests who are prepared to sit in the confessional even if nobody comes.

    (4) Restoration of public penance for some serious sins (politicians who vote for abortion or stem-cell research springs to mind!).

    (5) A lot of prayer for the above!

  4. David Andrew says:

    Alas, too, it would seem that the demise of a clear understanding of the real purpose for, and great respect of, the sacrament can be blamed pretty much on the multitude of poorly-formed (or liberally-inculcated) lay sacramental “prep” instructors one finds in the Amchurch today.

    There’s plenty of focus on the importance of full participation in the Eucharistic liturgy. Success in that regard is measured by how many people queue up to receive, regardless of their proper disposition to do so; and measured even moreso by the number of EMHC’s “needed” to minister the “cup.”

    It’s kind of like watching an old fakir feed a snake its own tail. I suppose for them (the newchurch types) the need for real sacramental reconciliation will disappear with a pop.

  5. Dustin says:

    The cartoon itself, I think, came from a Slate article about so-called “carbon offsets,” which allow individuals and companies to purchase credits that allow them to engage in work resulting in pollution. The cartoon references the old misunderstanding about indulgences, and how one would supposedly buy them as a permission to go on sinning (notice the money exchanging hands here).

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