From a reader…
I have often felt used and abused spiritually, psychologically and emotionally by bitchy, nosy, petty, likely psychopathic/narcissist church people. What was once a naive and blind trust and obedience was crushed by the sadistic cackling of Witch Hazel, Evil Genius and Marvin the Martian like characters from a Looney Tunes cartoon. I have attempted reconciliation through sacramental Confession several times, but each time I get the same result. Am I obliged to keep trying to go to Confession if there is a very high chance I will be abused again? Should I even bother going to church if Father Priest-Voice will play his little word games at Mass or in the homily surreptitiously maligning people like me with false crimes and sins (that mind you, were NOT confessed 20 minutes before) to keep control and a sense of careerist security in his little aging and geriatric suburban fiefdom? What just punishments would these types of people await in Dante’s version of hell, if any at all? Are they justified in this behavior? Is it really a matter of Millenial me having to crush my entitled sense of pride to submit to endless Boomerisms and Gen-X neuroses of seemingly evil church people or am I permitted to have even a sliver of dignity and self-worth as a believing Christian? What would it take for me to WANT to even start going to church again? Am I not allowed even one nice thing from the church founded by the same Jesus who healed the sick, raised the dead, gave the Sermon on the Mount? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Friend, I thought for quite a while about your missive and your string of questions – I explicitly ask people not to send strings of questions – which aren’t really questions, but implicit statements with which I suspect you think I ought to validate.
One of the questions, …
Am I obliged to keep trying to go to Confession if there is a very high chance I will be abused again?
Well, yes. You are, I am, we all are obliged to go to confession at least once a year.
That said, no one is bound to the impossible.
However, your situation is – I’ll go out on a limb here – not impossible.
A simple answer is GO TO CONFESSION… at another parish. 99.9% of priests are at least kind in the confession, even if they are a little stupid or have goofy notions.
Now, let’s address this:
What just punishments would these types of people await in Dante’s version of hell, if any at all?
I had a flash of Luke 18:9-14.
Here’s a mind exercise.
You don’t like going to a particular confessor because he is demeaning in the confessional and from the pulpit. Hence, knowing the need for the Sacrament of Penance, you refuse to go because you don’t like the priest, who can give you valid absolution whether you like his style or not.
You are hit by a meteor.
Moments later, after your encounter with your Judge and Creator, you find yourself in Hell because of your unconfessed and unshriven mortal sins.
Now the mind exercise:
Sit very still, away from the computer or any other distraction.
Try to imagine what goes through the mind of someone during those first 5 minutes of Hell.
Your Savior chose fragile, unworthy men to be His instruments of grace in your life. Forgive us if we fail in living up your expectations.
At the same time, you should get over yourself a little. Rather than framing yourself as a victim, you can chalk up your less than perfect encounters with priests and others in the Church by reflecting on the words of the immortal Gracie Allen: “People are funnier than anyone!”, and move on.
GO TO CONFESSION. Don’t play around with hellfire.
Two things for the PRIESTS who might be reading this.
Firstly, about the “priest voice”. Father… do you hear yourself? We all know exactly what the “priest voice” is. Knock it off. It rings false and you are fooling no one. It makes my flesh crawl and I’ll bet that at least three-quarters of the congregation find it slimy.
Fathers, if you are harsh, dismissive or too lax with people in the confessional, not compassionate but lax, or if you don’t hear confessions, or if you give counsel which you know is contrary to the Church’s teaching, you are probably going to go to Hell. As a priest. A priest… in Hell. That’ll be special. I have a mind exercise for you guys, too.
I want to kick this over to an answer from another priest with whom I shared this ASK FATHER submission.
My gut reaction, reading this, is that this gentleman is a bit of a drama queen. While yes, there are priests who are abusive in many ways, and its an awful thing, to feel oneself victimized “each time” one goes to confession is more than a bit much. Put on your big boy pants and stop being a victim. If the priest is unkind, or nasty, or abusive – give it right back to him then and there, tell him you don’t deserve to be treated like that and if it’s something actionable, call the bishop. Or, be satisfied knowing, as he states, that punishment awaits those who mistreat others.
Go to a different parish, even if you have to drive a ways out of your suburban fiefdom. Find a monastery, religious house.
Is one entitled to a sliver of dignity and self-worth as a believing Christian? Ego sum vermis et non homo.
My dignity and self-worth does not come from what anyone else thinks of me or says of me. My dignity and self-worth comes from the knowledge that, abject sinner though I am, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, deigned to debase Himself and lay down His life on the Cross for me. Let others call me foolish, or dumb, or ignorant, or whatever.