Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Pot-Luck Confession

The subject of Confession seems to have hit the Blogosphere with a vengeance in the last day or so. Curt Jester kicked it off (I think... though figuring out exactly where something starts up is difficult, especially if it's a topic which comes up regularly!) Carolina Canonball was upset about getting off lightly with her penances, and then followed it up with a post on Confession-Lite.

Fr. Tim put up a very good (and informative) post about the need for individual Confession. We would expect nothing less from a Professor of Sacramental Theology!! However, although this ought to leave nothing more to say on the subject, I think another laywoman's view of the Sacrament has something to offer...

I was chatting to Fr. Tim on the subject earlier, and I made a remark about it being different when a priest goes to Confession. He disagreed, and said that there were all sorts of priests who had to go to Confession, just as there were all sorts of lay people. I don't think I made my point very well - what I meant to say was that I think that when a penitent announces that he's a priest, the confessor will think more carefully about what he says, and how he says it. I cannot believe that another priest would dare to tell Fr. Tim to confess only one sin, for example... though maybe I'm wrong!

It is very difficult, as an ordinary lay woman, to find a good Confessor. I know it's not just me being fussy: whenever the subject comes up among friends, the first question asked is, "Who do you go to?" closely followed by, "Is he any good?"

Now, we're not stupid. We know that the Sacrament is valid if the priest says the words of absolution (I'm not talking about major abuses like General Absolution, you understand) and so it doesn't "matter" what sort of penance you get and whether the priest is into the Classical Rite or is more in favour of Novus Ordo. But sometimes the experience of going to Confession can be so ghastly that you wonder if it really is worth all the hassle. And if someone is lucky enough to find a good Confessor, they will often move heaven and earth to make sure that they see this priest.

For example, I have been stopped in mid-confession and told that I only needed to focus on one or two sins. I've been in the situation where I needed to ask the priest what my penance was, since none seemed to be forthcoming. I have been asked, in a tone dripping with disapproval, whether I "...always went to Confession this often?" I've even been told that it wasn't good for a person to live alone, and that I should get married! (This was a few years before I had discerned that my vocation was to the single life, you understand)... It was somewhat discouraging, as I couldn't quite figure out how I could comply with that particular instruction. I was sorely tempted to ask whether the same rule applied to priests...

If we want to encourage more people to frequent the Sacrament of Confession, then it has to become less of a pot-luck experience.

Hmmn. Maybe we should start a "Good Confession Guide"! We could award "five stoles" instead of "five stars"... Any thoughts?

4 comments:

the dúnadan said...

All the priests at Westminster Cathedral - four stoles! I only refrain from five for one or two unsatisfactory experiences there.

Regarding paragraph three, do priests have to tell the confessor that they are priests?

Mac McLernon said...

*grrmphh!* Actually some of my very worst experiences have been at Westminster Cathedral... very much "pot-luck"

As far as I'm aware, every penitent ought to tell the priest what their state of life is, if only briefly...

Mrs B said...

A few months ago I confessed at a local parish- I was granted absolution and given my penance- and then the priest spent 10 minutes telling me how wonderful I was. I've also had a few instances of being told that something wasn't a sin, or that I shouldn't worry about it.

Do you confess to your SD?

Mac McLernon said...

Hallo Mrs B, and regards to all North of the Border.

I've had that experience too... which is somewhat disconcerting - and the only situation where I actively object to being told what a fantastic person I am!

I "see" the same Confessor each time (as far as is humanly possible) though I am very firmly behind the grille (even though I know that I am not "anonymous" - just as for "Communion-in-the-Paw", my views on face-to-face Confession have changed as my understanding of this wonderful Sacrament has deepened)

I don't make my Confession during SD - the two are kept completely separate.

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