July 4, 2017 § 1 Comment
I somewhat hesitated sharing this video. Watch it first, if you are interested and want to avoid “spoilers”.
So you watched it?
Are you sure you don’t care about spoilers?
Ok – you have only yourself to blame at this point.
I loved this video. From the lady using confession to gossip about her snotty neighbor the the anguish of the priest when he realized that the penitent before him was the man who killed his father. And I get that he was lifting a burden by lying. But he was lying. I don’t think it was necessary for the story and there were other ways that it could have been dealt with.
When I considered sharing the video I hesitated. Do I really want to share this with such a problematic bit in the ending? It is human nature to pick these sorts of things apart and blow them up far past what the deserve. But in the end this video has several qualities that I think make it worthwhile.
First: the priest is just a guy — who at that moment is acting as God’s active conduit of mercy and love. It is a struggle for him, he does it (arguably) badly, but he does it. I think it is valuable for us to keep in mind that our priests are men, men who love and hate and weep and laugh. Media has a tendency to often either idolize priests or debase them. This video does neither.
Second: the penitent really needs confession and illustrates the need for confession. It is one of those common “Ask a Catholic Questions”: “Why do I need to confess to a priest, I can just confess to God.” Sure you can, but when you are heart torn and painfully aware of the magnitude of your sin, when you question the very possibility of redemption then you need to hear in the physical world the comfort of absolution. The penitent could have prayed for forgiveness a thousand times, but until he heard the words he would never be able to start letting go of the sin and the despair that accompanies it. One of Satan’s most successful lies is the idea that you don’t need to speak your sin to anyone but God. I chains us in despair and prevents us from acting forward in mercy and forgiveness.
Now for the problematic part.
We can look at the idea of lying to the penitent in a few ways. One rather artistic idea from the comments on the video was that our sins are washed away in confession to the point that in the eyes of God they never happen – so in a certain sense the priest’s father wasn’t killed by the penitent. But that is really an Obi Wan “certain point of view” moment and not really satisfactory.
We could also attempt to view it as just an act of Mercy. The priest lied to comfort a dying man There is no denying that the man who is relieved of this burden feels immense joy, but the joy was based on a lie. At the very end the priest even postulates that it might be worse that he lied as a priest. In the end if the priest had maintained honesty, forgiven the penitent both in the sacramental and in his own heart and had communicated that to the penitent we could have had a very powerful ending. Not the joy that the penitent shows, but a something based on reality and truth.
So in the end I decided to share this, not because it is perfect, but because its imperfections make me think and make for a good conversation. Is a lie ever worthwhile? If this is not such a case what would have been better and what would have looked like? How would Christ have approached this differently?
March 14, 2008 § 1 Comment
There has been a lot in the news the past week and even more in blogs written about confession, both the Sacrament and the basic concept. In the news there have been two stories which have caught my eye. The first was that horrible misreporting of the Vatican announcing new, more culturally relevant sins and the second was a report on the trend to confess sins online. The Catholic Blog world has been much more rich with a variety of articles being written about Confession, first confession, the practice of the Sacrament, the renewed interest so many people are having with the act of just going in reciting sins and receiving absolution.
Now as most Catholics have picked up by now the main-stream news media is horribly out of touch when it comes to reporting on anything having to do with the Catholic Church. When it is the British Press just triple that. Amy Welbourn and Deacon Kandra had insightful things to say about this crossing of bad reporting and the secular media’s natural inclination to get fuzzy headed, silly, giddy any time they think they found something interesting to say about the Catholic faith. Dullards.
Almost as stupid is the CNN.com report on online “confession”. I wish I could say I was surprised that a national news source reported on the trend of “true confession” sites with such a religious sounding angle but at the same time showed little respect or understanding of the significance of confession in religion. It isn’t shocking simply because the press so often gets religion wrong. At least in this article they bother to actually talk to religious leaders about the sacrament vrs the online confession fad.
Around the blogs I read there has been a trend of some very fine writing about Confession in the Sacramental sense. Julie at Happy Catholic has a wonderful post and round-up of some of the best of these articles. I really encourage everyone to read them.
March 3, 2008 § 2 Comments
As a convert to the Catholic faith I wasn’t raised with all the practices and habit of Catholic life. I didn’t grow up with table blessings and rosaries and mass every Sunday. In my RCIA we learned about many of these but there is a difference between the abstract knowledge of something and the actual doing it.
The one thing I have been struggling with the most is Confession. I could probably write a book about the “hows” and “whys” of Confession, in theory it is a wonderful, spiritual and useful practice. But in theory, oh my, how difficult it is to start. It took me eight years to start going to confession.
My priest is someone very easy for me to talk to. So we had a very good “pre-confession” meeting where I explained my situation. Going through RCIA I was preparing for Baptism so I didn’t have to “do” Confession as some of my classmates did. Those who were coming in for Confirmation met all together during Lent and made a confession. My sins, being washed away at Baptism, didn’t ‘count’. I suppose I could have gone to Confession at that point, but it wasn’t required so I didn’t. After our Baptism we were left to our own path. Mine avoided the confessional all together. And it has eaten at me all this time.
I longed for Confession; I needed it. I could feel the block working against me and keeping me from progressing in my walk with Christ as completely as I should be. So finally I screwed up my courage and took the plunge and met with my priest and just did it. Yeah me.
The part I found the worst and best was the examination of conscience. This is by far the most difficult thing to do. I found it helpful to have the printed “help” so I could look at it, think about it. Sin isn’t about feeling guilty. It is perfectly possible to sin and feel no guilt at all. Feelings are not a good indicator of guilt. The human conscience is a malleable thing and I know that if I allow myself to do certain things or think certain ways those things begin to seem justified and eventually right no matter how objectively wrong they are. I need to compare my actions not against what I feel to be correct but to what is objectively right.
One of the saddest losses in the Post Vat II era has been Confession. My priest expressed it very aptly when he said that the “face to face” confession has been disastrous experiment. The confession is not supposed to be a heartfelt talk with a friend nor is it a counselling sessions, though I suppose it can have aspects of both. The confession should be the opportunity to reconcile oneself with God and with your own soul, your own better self.
In retrospect I really wish that my RCIA program had met longer after we were Baptised. I think I would have been helpful to have had a “First Confession” meeting about a month later. This would seem to me to be helpful for the newly Baptised Catholic. But I suppose that Reconciliation is one of those things that really isn’t in favor in the American Catholic Church. I have read several articles this year about how Confession is coming back into “fashion”. Some Dioceses are encouraging the laity to come back to the confessional with formal programs such as The Archdiocese of Washington’s program “The Light is on for You“.