Wherein Fr. Z responds to a lie

I’ve sat on this for two days now.  I shared the draft with trusted experts for review.

I was told that, at PrayTell – a disaster of a blog which most of you should simply ignore – there was a personal attack on me by name by a Franciscan who runs the liturgy office of the Diocese of Raleigh, Fr. Jim Sabak, OFM.   Sabak rightly took heat for issuing guidelines for that diocese for administration of the Sacraments of Penance and of Anointing during this pandemic.  Some of those guidelines – issued I believe in March – were not well conceived, to put it mildly.  When I wrote about those guidelines, I did not identify the diocese.  My post HERE

Sabak’s new offending post at PrayTell is entitled “Clericalism and the Pandemic”.  The projection of “clericalism”, by someone like this, lines up in an almost perfect parallel with how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez flings out “racism”.

I strive to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I don’t enjoy this. I would have just ignored his goofy notions and his distortions of what happened about his guidelines if he hadn’t lied about what I wrote.

At PrayTell on 18 April, after getting heat for his bad guidelines, he whines:

For Penance, we asked clergy to discontinue “drive-up” celebrations as not the most appropriate way to celebrate the sacrament. Additionally, we noted that spacing a penitent six feet from a confessor did not provide for the essential privacy for individual celebration of the sacrament. For Anointing of the Sick we struggled to envision a manner by which to celebrate the sacrament especially with the terminally ill who had succumbed to the virus. We decided that prayer over the sick and with family would be best, given the problematic situation involved with touching the forehead and palms with the Oil of the Sick.

Within minutes of receiving the memo my email inbox exploded with question after question after question. Some only asked for clarity and expansion on what the memo contained. Other correspondence, however, contained an anger, which source was difficult to discern. [How about, YOU GOT IT WRONG?]

One of the ordained wrote that my suggestions made him question why he ever became a priest in the first place, and that he should have stayed in immigration law. [Thus identifying that priest.] Another sent the memo to the blog of the infamous Fr. Z, who proceeded to “rant,” as he is want. [The word you are looking for is “wont”.] Fr. Z raved on that these guidelines left the faithful to eternal condemnation because they prohibited the faithful from receiving the necessary sacraments before death.

That’s just a plain lie.

Firstly, in those bad guidelines issued back in March he – presumably Sabak – wrote that there shouldn’t be “drive up” confessions, not because of privacy but because “The necessary human interaction crucial to the celebration of the sacrament is impeded through the lack of full proximity and the ability to offer counsel and direction is hampered by the distance between the confessor and the penitent.”  Note: no mention of privacy.

The problem with this is that the necessary human interaction possible in a drive up confession is not at all impeded.  A penitent can confess and a priest can absolve easily at the range.  And if they aren’t shouting at each other, and if no one else is nearby, it is not obvious that there would be a problem for privacy.

Maybe Sabak thinks priests have to touch penitents.  I don’t know.  That was a fad for a while.

And I find it ironic that this fellow should NOW be interested in privacy after his apparent violation the Seal by identifying a penitent and the content of his confession on the same PrayTell blog!  I checked with canonists on that one and they were quite simply horrified.  I held myself in check then.  But … now?

In that Seal violating post he wrote on 4 November 2019:

For example, an elderly parishioner, at about eight minutes before Mass, regularly knocks on the sacristy door, and each time asks, “Father can you hear my confession?” [NB: age… time… place…] Again, this exchange occurs less than ten minutes before Mass begins. To refuse would place the parishioner in a state of distress, having been raised with a particularly insufficient understand the sacrament. Without any other time to attend to it, I quickly celebrate the sacrament with themTheir confession…masturbation (with frequency that week); again and again, week after week, the same confession always with the number of times[content of what was confession in the Sacrament of penance] I could have been impressed by their stamina, but did the celebration of the sacrament truly provide any peace? I cannot say, but for them it is necessary, if only mechanical, week after week. It is retributive, but did it achieve the purpose of the sacramental encounter?

This is not a hypothetical situation.  In a comment below that post, a reader raised the point of violation of the Seal.  Sabak responded: “In response to your concern, though, I’ve revised the language of the post.”  So, what we see at PrayTell is the “revised” version. It still identifies the penitent and of the content confessed.  I shudder to imagine what it was like before.  There is sufficient information in Sabak’s PrayTell post to identify the penitent by his “regular” pattern of behavior and his age and what he does and the explicit public revelation of the content of his confession.

And he is director of liturgy in a diocese.

Moving on…

In those March diocesan guidelines Sabak – presumably – wrote that the Sacrament of Anointing could not be administered with a gloved hand.  “In the current state of the pandemic, the celebration of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick cannot be fully administered as a gloved hand cannot administer the anointing.”

“Fully” administered?  You don’t partially administer a sacrament.  Also, in the recent PrayTell post he said that they were concerned about touching the patient’s skin with the thumb.  He glossed over his ignorant and erroneous claim that the sacrament couldn’t be administered with a gloved hand.

YES, a priest CAN anoint with a gloved hand or an instrument.   I explained that thoroughly HERE, in the post Sabak lied about.

Sabak claimed in the recent 18 April PrayTell blog post that

“Fr. Z raved on that these guidelines left the faithful to eternal condemnation because they prohibited the faithful from receiving the necessary sacraments before death.”

That’s a blatant falsehood.

I did NOT write that the guidelines “left the faithful to eternal condemnation”.  I did not suggest that or hint at it or anything like that.

I did write: “[T]his is not the time for restricting the sacraments that can otherwise easily be administered without danger of contagion.”

To be clear: When a person is in danger of death, that’s certainly when he needs the sacraments the most!  Does Sabak deny that?

It seems that that is a view that foreign to Sabak.  Later in his recent PrayTell post wrote about the criticism he received:

Nothing in any of these conversations [critical of his guidelines] reflected an understanding of sacrament as communal, as an encounter with God, with Christ, for building up of the Reign of God, for the transformation of our lives here and now. While the concern for the faithful and their reception of the sacraments is sincere, this concern emphasized the immortal salvation obtained through sacramental reception and the role of the ordained in providing the means for that salvation. [Imagine!  A priest being concerned about a person’s “immortal salvation” IN TIME OF PANDEMIC!  How backward is that?] It was cultic in scope, approaching the position that without the clergy there can be no sacramental experience, and thereby no possibility of salvation. [“No possibility of salvation”?  Where did this guy go to school?   No well-educated priest leaps from “unable to receive sacraments” to automatic “no possibility of salvation”.  But, I’ll tell you what: I’d rather have the last sacraments than not have them.  For many centuries the Church has prayed and still prays for God to preserve us from a “sudden and unprovided death”.  For that Franciscan, and people in Columbia Heights, that means, the Last Rites.  Our merciful Savior Himself instituted the Sacrament of Penance and gave His own power and authority to His priests to forgive post-baptismal sins.  Why?  So we would not have to wonder about forgiveness, provided we are sincere.]

Such interpretations and emphases around sacramental engagement fly in the face of reformed theology [?] after the Second Vatican Council.  The ordained sincerely aspire to exercise their role as ministers in this difficult period of social restrictions, but they seek to do so in an almost magical way. This approach projects a view of God who will not suffer the inconveniences of a pandemic to get what this God deserves by way of sacramental obligations.

Magic!   Reformed theology!  Cultic!  If you don’t think like Fr. Jim “the reformed” Sabak, then you are backward shaman of some kind.

Speaking of “magic”, try to get your head around this.

Such perspectives and reactions seemed to emphasize a rubricism and legalism, popular in some circles of the Church today. What was most troubling, though, was the primarily supernatural and almost magical approach toward engagement and efficacy of the sacraments. In a fascinating manner, the pandemic seems to have unearthed a Counter-Reformation image of sacramental understanding as medicinal where the clergy act as the earthly physicians of the “Heavenly Physician.” The faithful, because they are fundamentally sinners, need the sacraments to heal them and to maintain an appropriate relationship with God. They also give them a fighting chance for eternal life should they die. The proliferation of an 18th century prayer by Alphonsus Ligouri to alleviate anxiety over the inability to receive Eucharist in these days, which prayer is theologically problematic [?] – it is not Jesus, whom we receive, but the risen Christ – testifies to this.

On the other hand, St. Paul writes in 1 Cor 11:28-30:

Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

I’m truly embarrassed for Sabak.   He seems to be a Vatican II as Super-Council discontinuity fundamentalist.  He seems, from his language, to be perfectly willing to reduce the supernatural to the natural, which would make him a modernist.  He shows contempt for the faithful who have a solid understanding of the Faith as rooted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  

Leaving apart the dopey shot at one of the great Doctors of the Church, what does this line even mean?  Read carefully: “The proliferation of an 18th century prayer by Alphonsus Ligouri to alleviate anxiety over the inability to receive Eucharist in these days, which prayer is theologically problematic – it is not Jesus, whom we receive, but the risen Christ – testifies to this.”

When we receive the Eucharist, according to Sabak: ” it is not Jesus, whom we receive, but the risen Christ”.

It is NOT Jesus.  It is the Risen Christ.  Hence: The Risen Christ is NOT Jesus.

Look.  Before the Incarnation, the Second Person of the Trinity wasn’t Jesus.  Jesus is a divine Person with two natures, divine and human.  After the Incarnation and Nativity we have with us on earth Jesus, born of the Virgin at Bethlehem.  The bond of those two natures, divine and human, in one divine Person, Jesus, is indestructible.  Jesus, who is Messiah, King, Priest, Prophet, New Adam, etc., all the beautiful titles and roles he has, is still Jesus, now gloriously risen.   Our humanity, which He took into that indestructible bond, is now glorious.  But He is still Jesus, the Son of Mary the Mother of God.

But Sabak seems to think that Jesus and Risen Christ are two different people.  Go back and read that strange line again.  Sabak, the guy who doesn’t know how to anoint people, and who revealed the content of a concrete confession on a blog, thinks that St. Alphonsus’ Spiritual Communion prayer is “theologically problematic” because, as Sabak puts it, “it is not Jesus, whom we receive, but the risen Christ”.

I would have just ignored all these goofy notions and his distortions of what happened about his guidelines if he hadn’t lied about what I wrote.

Meanwhile, I am getting emails from priests who know him on the East coast, relaying, along with links to his condescending April hit piece at PrayTell, other amazing things he has uttered.  While it wouldn’t be fair to detail at 3rd hand what I’ve read, I am shocked.

And he is the liturgy director of a diocese.  Ponder that.

And another thing.  In my post about these bad guidelines I purposely did not identify the diocese he works for.   But now that this guy has attacked me by name with a lie about what I wrote, I am compelled to clarify things.

By the way, if it weren’t so serious, I might find humor in his insinuation that we dumb retrograde priests out here lack an “understanding of sacrament as communal”.  For Sabak, however, “communal” seems also to mean revealing the identity of a penitent and what he confesses on a blog.  

Behold the fruits of post-Conciliar “reformed” theology.

I have been asking people to pray for priests who are really annoying or who are doing harm.  I will pray for Fr. Sabak.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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48 Responses to Wherein Fr. Z responds to a lie

  1. thomistking says:

    “In a fascinating manner, the pandemic seems to have unearthed a Counter-Reformation image of sacramental understanding as medicinal where the clergy act as the earthly physicians of the “Heavenly Physician.” The faithful, because they are fundamentally sinners, need the sacraments to heal them and to maintain an appropriate relationship with God.”

    The funniest part about this is that it is a pretty decent summary of the correct position.

  2. Ms. M-S says:

    To the infamous Fr. Z: Matthew 5:11. My conviction of the wisdom of your suggestion that we pray daily for annoying priests, harmful priests, and presumably those who manage to be both is reconfirmed.

  3. makreitzer says:

    All I can say is WOW! Poor Holy Mother Church! I’m going to pray for the intercession of St. Jean Vianny for Fr. Sabak. I want to once again thank you for your clear explanation about issues surrounding the SSPX. Those of us out here trying to do the best we can during the pandemic need that. My diocese is still offering confessions with the various parishes deciding how to handle it. Several parishes I’m familiar with are focusing on the distancing. In my own parish the priest sits in the sacristy and the penitent sits in the foyer 6-8 feet away which is closed to anyone else to protect privacy. Our two priests offered many times for Confession during Lent, praise God. I’m not sure how they are handling visits to the dying, but I would be surprised if they refused to anoint the person. Our churches are also open. In fact in my parish people may come and pray from early in the morning until 7 or 8 in the evening and we still have Eucharistic adoration for about 36 hours from Tuesday morning until Wednesday at 8 p.m. Thank God for our good priests.

  4. lawoski says:

    If Father Sabak, as director of liturgy, doesn’t prove The Peter Principle, I don’t know who does.

  5. Coach says:

    I thought that breaking the seal of confession resulted in automatic excommunication. Am I wrong to assume that Fr. Sabak has incurred that penalty?

    The Catechism (#1467) cites the Code of Canon Law (#1388.1) in addressing this issue, which states, “A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See (Catholic Straight Answers by Fr. Paul Saunders)

  6. Pat says:

    That blog was like the fever-dream-phantasm version of this blog; it was eye-opening in a really disinterested and sad way. One of the comments, seemingly posted by a cleric, agreed with Fr. Sabak’s comment about how St. Alphonsus’ prayer is erroneous, and the “Christological distinction” he was making [1st degree of abstraction from reality]. But then said it was probably okay because it “might not matter for the faithful” [2nd degree of abstraction from reality]. If it doesn’t matter whether the most powerful “substitute” of the Eucharist is or is not efficacious, rather it is about the “impression” of the faithful of…something [?]…why would one regard that which is being “substituted” [i.e. the Eucharist and sacramental Communion] in a dissimilar way? If B is the effects of A, but there are no effects in B, or that are B, then what is A to begin with? Fr. Z how do these antechambers of flat-circle theology form?

  7. JustaSinner says:

    Is this what is referred to as scandalous behavior?

  8. jhogan says:

    First, I am appalled that any priest would break the Seal of Confession. His soul is in great peril. I wonder if he had been trained in the 70’s; it sounds as though he has a 70’s outlook on the sacraments.

    As to your first post on the SSPX, I am most grateful. I attended a Mass at one of their missions after my diocese suspended public Masses as they were still celebrating public Masses under the guidance of their superiors. I became personally concerned when at end of the public rosary before Mass, the congregation omitted the customary prayers for the pope. I wondered what was going on there having heard many less than positive things about the Society. But your post cleared matters up for me: the laity attached to a SSPX mission are *not* the same as the Society. I am most relieved and hope the Society can eventually get things straightened out as I believe they have much to offer the Church. As to the laity there, I will pray for them just as I, a sinner, hope others are praying for me.
    Again thank you clearing matters up for me.

  9. Matt R says:

    The Wayback Machine crawled the day that the priest edited the post, but he was too late. He specifically refers to the man as an “octogenarian who lived to be 92.”

    Big yikes!!!
    https://web.archive.org/web/20191106003750/https://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2019/11/04/is-the-sacrament-of-penance-really-serving-the-faithful/

  10. mpsguard says:

    If I were that penitent, I’d be contacting a Canon Lawyer to figure out how to redress this. The next question would be how to contact a Canon Lawyer. I guess the first step, though, is to contact the Diocesan Ordinary.

  11. Chonak says:

    And to think that Pope Francis has been reciting the prayer of St. Alphonsus during his morning Masses at the Santa Marta chapel:
    http://www.cssr.news/2020/04/pope-francis-recalls-st-alphonsus-prayer-for-spiritual-communion/
    Friar Jim should set him straight about that.

  12. kat says:

    It could just be an error, or maybe they say them at different times. The pope is prayed for in SSPX ceremonies, including Benediction with the special hymn, and announced at beginning of public rosaries in the intentions. These are examples, not all the times. Wherever in liturgy it is required, the SSPX priests always say the pope’s name; and the diocesan bishop’s as well where required.

  13. monstrance says:

    Ever notice these fellows seem to gravitate to these positions ?
    As to Fr Z‘s earlier quip – “There goes the future Chief of Police “.
    Or – future Bishop of Raleigh.

  14. Jacob says:

    First, I am appalled that any priest would break the Seal of Confession. His soul is in great peril. I wonder if he had been trained in the 70’s; it sounds as though he has a 70’s outlook on the sacraments.

    According to that post about confession, he’s been a priest for twenty years.

    I am now three years in a parish assignment after temporarily leaving academia. I am twenty years in ordained ministry and twenty-five years a professed member of my religious community. During this period, I have celebrated the Sacrament of Penance in a variety of context and through a variety of mediums.

  15. Charles E Flynn says:

    In an ideal world, Father Z would be commissioned to compose a multiple-choice test designed to weed out such men prior to ordination.

  16. DelRayVA says:

    A sad situation, and the PrayTell writer is clearly wrong. What he says, however, is wholly consistent with the theology presented in my undergraduate sacraments class at an East coast Catholic college. He didn’t just make up this bad theology, it was taught to him. And now he teaches it. So sad.

  17. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Speaking of Confession and privacy, I heard a talk by the Extraordinary Ordinary Bishop Robert Morlino, RIP. He was talking about his experience in a Jesuit high school, back in the day. The Fathers understood their charges and so every Monday afternoon the boys were taken into church for Confession. One of the regular confessors was a crusty old priest. The Bishop recounted how he went in with his usual list and was shocked when the priest shouted for all to hear, “What do you think this is, Morlino, a car wash?”

  18. excalibur says:

    The ONLY mitigating circumstance is he did not name the person who was confessing. But in giving so much specificity, and then even naming the sins confessed, he should automatically be excommunicated per canon law. Whither his bishop?

  19. William Cody says:

    Is he a former Jehovah Witness or something? I think that believe is pretty similar to theirs: Jesus died on the cross, and the risen Christ is a different being, Michael the Archangel, maybe.

  20. exNOAAman says:

    “The word you are looking for is “wont””. Sorry, but I couldn’t stop laughing. No wonder you’re “infamous” padre.
    In my long proven kindness, I’ll presume that the gentleman wrote his screed hastily and without benefit of review or edit. But, these types often double down on crazy at a later date, so let’s just see.

  21. Charles Sercer says:

    When you wrote, “ommitted the customary prayers for the pope,” do you mean that you have been there when they have prayed these prayers in the past but did not pray them this time? Or do you mean that they are customary at the parish you usually attend?

    I just want to throw out there that prayers for the pope are not required as part of the rosary, and that I doubt everyone who prays a rosary includes them every time they pray a rosary. I am aware that they are required if one is trying to gain an indulgence through the recitation of a public rosary; it would be natural, knowing this, to include them for anyone praying a public rosary who is trying to gain an indulgence, but there could be a number of reasons why one would not say them, reasons other than “I do not believe Francis is pope.” You could have asked someone if there if they know a particular reason why they were not included.

    Yes, there is a distinction to be made between the priests of the SSPX and the faithful who attend, but Father did outline in one of his posts what the SSPX priests are NOT – and they are not sedes. So again, I am merely posting to suggest that it should not be a major concern that no “prayers for the pope” were included at their recitation of the rosary, and that they were not excluded because the society priest there is a secret sedevacantist who thinks Pope Francis doesn’t need praying for.

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  23. Fr_Andrew says:

    Poor priest. I’d hate for him to meet the Risen Christ right now and have to explain his comments.

    I will say a Mass for his conversion and in reparation for what he’s written and those he’s scandalized and will pledge my next 15-decade Rosary for that intention as well.

    While you are absolutely right to call this jaberwocky out, Father, I think those of us who read about these kinds of things need to ensure that we don’t just get outraged (as we should), but that we have a righteous anger—a virtuous anger that pushes us to not just moan but also step in and make reparation and ask that Heavenly Physician to heal such souls by prayer and penance. We need to, because poor Fr Jim isn’t going to do it for himself.

  24. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I had always hoped that deep down in the heart of every priest was that holy and generous pity that the Good Lord toward exhibited to all of us sinners in His time on the Cross for us.

    This priests words about that particular penitent seem to belie outright contempt from this priest toward the old man. It is likely that the old man suffered from this particular vice for the majority of his 92 years. How sad that this priest looks down so much on his sheep who again and again share their deepest shame and vulnerability with him in the Confessional.

  25. Percusio says:

    For me, clarification is just a word or two away.
    As regards the breaking the Seal of the Confessional, and, this is important, not being someone local to this priest’s rectory, I cannot be certain of the breaking of the seal, and that because of one word or two. Fr. Sabak writes, “For example, an elderly parishioner…” If for clarification he had written, “For example, suppose an elderly parishioner…” This gives it more of an hypothetical form. On the other hand if Fr. Sabak wrote, “For example, an elderly parishioner of mine…” That would bring about the breaking of the Seal. Or the continued obscurity in writing, “regularly knocks on the sacristy door…” Is it actually the church’s sacristy door or the sacristy door in the “For example…” scenario. But you know what, all this means nothing if you are a parishioner at his parish and know that in fact before Mass and elderly person does come to the sacristy about 8 minutes before Mass to the sacristy to have the priest hear his confession. If this is true then the elderly person is in quite a quandary about the possible revelation of his sins to the public. Even if the sins are supposed, given the other truths abut this person, one is going to be led to the conclusion that these are the sins this person brings before our Lord, even if they are not. Quite the damage to this person. As regards everything else that is said, it makes a person “understand” another suffering in Hell, that of total confusion, the inability to ever grasp on to anything solid as the truth. Satan and his cohorts will never allow any kind of peace one has in the solid foundation of the truth. It makes me so nauseous it makes me want to puke, which is probably another characteristic of the stench in Hell. Obscurity and darkness is a sign of the times.

  26. Percusio says:

    Sorry padre for the misspelling and lack of agreement in number in the use of “is” and “are”. Mea culpa. Wish you had an edit button after initial posting.

    [Well… this is a combox of a blog, not a doctoral dissertation. Not to worry.   o{]:¬)   ]

  27. Athelstan says:

    “The necessary human interaction crucial to the celebration of the sacrament is impeded through the lack of full proximity and the ability to offer counsel and direction is hampered by the distance between the confessor and the penitent.”

    Perplexing. I thought that when I went in for the sacrament of confession, I was looking for sacramental absolution for my sins, not a therapy session.

    If the good father means spiritual direction, there’s a time and place for that, and it’s really not in the confessional.

  28. Athelstan says:

    jhogan,

    His soul is in great peril. I wonder if he had been trained in the 70’s; it sounds as though he has a 70’s outlook on the sacraments.

    He doesn’t appear to be *quite* that old – he matriculated at Catholic University of America in 1981, which suggests he was born in 1962 or 1963, which makes him a young end Baby Boomer. Presumably his priestly formation came long long after that.

    But that formation sure does sound very 70’s. As Fr Z knows, the 70’s had a very long run in most seminaries in the West.

  29. Ed the Roman says:

    Father Sabak’s self own is so thorough as to have misspelled St. Alphonsus’ surname.

    [I’m surprised I didn’t notice that. On the other hand, the sheer number of distractions in that piece perhaps clouded my eye for a moment.]

  30. robtbrown says:

    William Cody,

    William Frederick Cody was from my hometown. And there is a small herd (c. 12) of buffalo.

    He was, btw, a Catholic convert.

  31. TonyO says:

    How shocking and horrifying! This priest Fr. Jim needs to be reined in and re-taught according to proper catechetics and proper sacramental concepts.

    Fr. Z, I wish that you had not repeated even the slim amount of particulars that Fr. Jim put out in public. I understand that doing so helps us understand more clearly how awful it was for Fr. Jim to say what he said…but couldn’t you have done it indirectly? I feel a little besmirched by having read it.

    I have no clue why parishes in regions where the civil authorities were demanding heavy restrictions could not come up with methods of having confession that satisfied both the civil rules and the Church’s requirement for privacy. Nearly every Church in America has a distance of at least 80 feet from one end to the other: put the confessional at one end, and the line for confession at the other. If the priest and penitent are 6 feet away, they won’t be heard 80 feet away at ordinary spoken volumes. (And if they STILL have trouble hearing each other, they can use either the hearing devices for the hard-of-hearing or call on a cell phone.) And if you need even greater separation, just do it outside where there are ambient noises to interfere with hearing words over a long distance.

    And for heavens sake, you can use internet methods (such as “Sign-up Genius”) to schedule a 5 or 6 minute slot for each person anonymously so that only 3 or 4 penitents are in line at any one time – so they can be well separated.

    Fr. Jim’s idiocy about the priest connecting with the penitent is the stuff of magic and foolishness: the action of the sacramental grace is God acting on the soul, which may or may not be felt or perceived, but really happens regardless. The experience of closeness to God is a nice side-bennie, but it is utterly distinct from the essential sacramental action. I wonder whether Fr. Jim believes in sanctifying grace, and that it is in some in the Church but not in others due to their sins?

  32. JPCahill says:

    PrayTell, huh. Puts a whole new spin on that blog title doesn’t he.

  33. Fr. Sabak’s criticism here is particularly inaccurate:

    In a fascinating manner, the pandemic seems to have unearthed a Counter-Reformation image of sacramental understanding as medicinal where the clergy act as the earthly physicians of the “Heavenly Physician.”

    It’s misleading to describe this as a “Counter-Reformation image.” It’s patristic. Origen, for example, describes Christ as the “master physician” and priests as “physicians of souls” (see among many sources, Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B. Psalmody and Prayer in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus, p. 107).

    The idea of the priest as (spiritual) healer of the sick is, of course, biblical:

    Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:114-15, RSV

    [And of course the great St. Augustine has a whole astonishing line of thought about Christus Medicus.]

  34. Eoin OBolguidhir says:

    “Reformed” here is pure Hegelianism; even the leaders of the protestant deformation would have been sickened by this man’s lying and futile soteriology.

  35. What Father Sabak did with the example of someone coming to confession horrifies me. It boggles the mind.

    Long ago, I decided that I would avoid all but the most general references to what happens in confession. Occasionally I will repeat something *I* have said, and even then, only something very, very general. It occurred to me that if Father Flapmouth is going on about what this or that unnamed person said in confession, that can only cause uneasiness, no matter how careful the priest is to avoid any technical violations of Canon Law.

  36. I’m reminded of the priest (I can’t recall the character’s name) in Benson’s Lord of the World who apostasizes, after having been a career liturgist, and goes on to arrange the ceremonies for the Antichrist’s mockeries of the Mass.

    [I wouldn’t go that far. It is better to look for simpler explanations.]

  37. The Astronomer says:

    As a “Vatican II as Super-Council discontinuity fundamentalist,” his problematic line of thought is part of the reason(s) why people are putting those McCarrick Bucks or nothing, into the collection plate (and supporting solid priests like YOU, FrZ, instead).

    Fr. Sabak is probably not used to being challenged on what he likely sees as his secure home turf. I’ve encountered this “how DARE you…” attitude many times in Modernist priests.

    Is there a canonical penalty for revealing the contents of a confession and identifying the penitent? [Ohhhhh yes!]

  38. MrsBridge says:

    Fr. Sabak did, at least, use “them/they/their” pronouns to disguise the gender of the penitent. I think he gives it away though when he admires their stamina. (And I always thought priests had no opinions about the people whose confessions they hear. This comment reeks of bar-room sarcasm. Fr. Sabak does not seem to be a very nice man.)

  39. dave821319 says:

    This reminded me of a priest who was briefly the pastor of our parish. When our 2nd graders were doing their first confession, he insisted they do it before mass, when the entire congregation was assembled, and that they wait in line at the alter to go into the sacristy. He came out afterwards and commented to the entire congregation, “It sure is funny how all they all confessed the same thing!” If I had been one of those 8-year-olds, that experience would have been more than enough to keep me away from confession for a VERY long time.

    If I were new to the Church, or not solid in my faith, Fr. Jim’s commentary would have a similar effect. The holiest priests I’ve met have said something to the effect of, “I don’t remember, nor do I want to remember, anyone’s sins after confession. I’m like a spiritual garbage man; I don’t want to go through your trash.” It pains me to know that Fr. Jim was critical of this man confessing the same sin every week, especially a sin that many men continually struggle with. I know a lot of people, myself included, tend to confess the same sins every time we go to confession. Is it because I view the sacrament as “mechanical”, or magical, or is it simply a meaningless habit? No–it’s because vice, like virtue, is habitual, and I know the only way back to God is through the sacrament of penance.

    I also wonder, does he think to ASK the penitent if he understands contrition and presumption, and to offer him some counsel and formation to aid him in avoiding this sin and its near occasion? He doesn’t say, but based on his tone I have to assume that he does not.

  40. SemperServusDei says:

    Which is why you should try to avoid confessing to a modernist-leaning priest, unless of course it is your only option (it’s still a valid confession, assuming he follows form). Every story like this pushes me closer to the SSPX, which for me would be little more than an hour’s drive away.

  41. robtbrown says:

    Maybe it would have been easier for the OFM if he had uploaded a photo of the penitent.

    His use of ‘communal” is a common error of the present approach–“corporate” is also used. The correct word is “ecclesial”, which refers not only to those physically present (communal) but also to all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, living and dead.

  42. mpsguard says:

    I wonder if it’s something in the OFM “water”. I witnessed another OFM at St Peter’s/Chicago Loop in a weekly Lenten seminar on the Sacrament of Penance mention someone’s confessing a particular sin (he mentioned the sin), then mentioning that he wanted to reach through the screen and punch him in the mouth. The specific topic of this particular seminar was learning to forgive oneself in order to make it easier to approach Confession. The sin was particularly onerous, the kind I imagined could cause someone excessive shame, sufficient to cause him to avoid confession.

    The rational side of me saw that statement about a penitent’s particular sin and his reaction to that sin as ironic and as defeating the whole purpose of that seminar. The cynical side of me caused me to think that a confessor should post a sign outside the confessional indicating what sins would anger him, along with the suggestion to go to a different confessor (not a serious thought, btw, but one that I was tempted to bring up at the time to illustrate the irony).

    How a priest approaches the Sacrament of Penance has a profound and often inestimable influence on potential penitents, e.g., I would have a hard time confessing to Fr. Sabak even in my last dying breath knowing his predilection for blabbing.

  43. majuscule says:

    I’ve never heard the word “celebrated” used in conjunction with the sacrament of confession. Possibly it’s my ignorance but I’m a cradle Catholic, educated in the 1950s.

    But I sure felt like celebrating after my first confession in many years when I returned to the church!

  44. andromedaregina says:

    This whole Frankenstein experiment of attempting to graft a cloven hoof onto the body of Christ, and trying to convince everyone it’s just an original limb, only with improvements, has been the most absurd falsehood in the history of the Church. There have been charlatans, heretics, usurpers and deniers throughout – but this time, the reigns of the Church herself are in the hands of perverted, drunken, worldly, and/or faithless liars, who have taken the Kingdom of God by force – and have made great outward strides thus far.

    However, as wisdom has said, we were not deceived by the strength of their arguments, but we have been deceived because we wanted to be deceived – we did not want to hear the truth, that sometimes hurt us, and made us feel bad, so we preferred the lie. We preferred soothing words from effeminate men, instead of saving truths from strong men who scraped away at our vices. We have evil shepherds over us because, as Sr. Lucia was told by the Virgin Mary, God had used the means of holy pastors, and we rejected them and would not turn from our evil ways. (Think of St. Pius X)

    But God’s Will stands forever, and His word will not return to Him empty.

    At some point a reckoning will intensify (strong signs that it has already begun), at which point all will suffer, the good with the bad, but by this winnowing shall the wheat be sifted out from the chaff, and the number of the Saints be filled.

    Pray for your priests! Pray for the conversion of poor sinners! Pray for final perseverance! Stay in a state of sanctifying grace – Please God, that we would run as to win the eternal crown!

  45. rhhenry says:

    One positive that can come of all this is that we — none of whom had ever met this poor 92-year old man — can now pray for his soul.

    I pray that God look mercifully upon him whose habitual sin led him to habitual confession.

  46. robtbrown says:

    majuscule says:

    I’ve never heard the word “celebrated” used in conjunction with the sacrament of confession.

    It’s like the GPS on my phone. If I say, “Navigate to Sam’s Club,” it replies with an enthusiastic “OK, let’s go!” But if I say, “Navigate to Davis Funeral Home”, I get the same bubbly response.

  47. Alex says:

    Here’s hoping the good father finds himself obliged to defend his good name again soon. What a post!

  48. Felipe says:

    I’m just a Catholic tradesman who doesn’t have any formal Catholic education of any kind and even I know what he wrote compromised the seal of confession. That’s not very pastOral and I wouldn’t think that’s how you embrace community either.

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