Sunday, September 15, 2013

Confession- Common Myths



I went to confession recently and my husband who has never been to confession was asking me information about it.  See.  He's never been to confession in his life.  So his only idea of what confession is like comes from the movies.  So without further ado...

What is confession really?  Is it like the movies?

Well, sorta.  I mean it's a movie so it's not quite the same.  Sometimes they get the form of confession right.  But confession actually starts before you even come before the priest with an examine of conscience.  It's looking about your life and trying to remember sins you've committed recently.  Some people look over the 10 commandments and the 7 "deadly" sins.  But there are numerous other aids out there to examine your conscious.  You, of course, do this in the form of prayer asking the Holy Spirit to remind you.

Then you go to the confessional booth.  Where yes, you say "Forgive me father for I have sinned."  or "Bless me Father for I have sinned."  You can kneel outside a screen or sit in front of the priest.  Most movies depict only the kneeling part.

Then you list out your sins and then the priest will offer you counsel.  It helps if you explain the circumstances and the number of times that this sin took place.  You don't have to be too terribly specific like an exact number.  You can just say "I cuss often especially when I get angry."  Afterwards he'll tell you your penance which is usually prayer but sometimes some form of restitution.  Then he'll ask you to say the Act of Contrition or some equivalent which he will follow with a prayer of absolution and occasionally a blessing.  Much like people don't say "Good bye" when hanging up the phone in movies, the Act of Contrition and whatnot is often left out. 

But it's not over.  You're supposed to complete your penance as soon as possible.  So if it's a prayer, the expectation is that you will find a pew, kneel, and pray.  If it's a form of restitution, it's expected that you complete that as soon as it's possible to do so.  Than that completes the sacrament.

That's it?  But that's so easy...Catholics could basically do anything and then go to confession.  Couldn't they?

Oh, I wish.  But no.  You have to be remorseful and prepared to stay away from sin and occasions for sin.  If you waltz into a confessional with the intention of repeating the same sin, then any absolution is void.  Going to confession, in essence, would be pointless. 

But people are constantly confessing the same things, right?

Yes, because sin is a struggle and often we fall into the same patterns.  You must intend to not repeat your mistake.  That doesn't mean you can't keep confessing the same sin.

I don't believe that confession is necessary.  You can take your sins directly to God and He can forgive you.

Well the Bible actually says you need to go to confession.  The most common one Catholics quote is Matthew 18:18 where the Bible discusses that Jesus gave the apostles the authority to "bind and lose" sins.  You'll hear it referred to as "binding and losing."  James 5:16 says to confess your sins to a "righteous man." There's also 1 John 1:9.   And John 20:21-23. 

Also confession is different because it imparts grace.  It's like any other sacrament in this regard.  This is not to say you should not speak directly to God or that it is not God who forgives.  But rather if you only confess to God directly, you have not completed it.  It's like walking down the aisle and not saying your vows.  You're only doing part of the work.  A truly penitential person would make an effort to seek out a "righteous man."

Will the priest tell anyone what I've confessed?

No.  Not even if he's put before a judge will he tell.  It's up to you to make any necessary restitution to anyone you've harmed directly through your sin (because if you don't than you're absolution is void).  A priest can't force you to.  You can tell whoever you want to what you've confessed.

What about people who are child molesters?  Don't priests have an obligation to turn them in?

Priests can't tell the authorities of a child molester's transgressions if that child molester confesses this sin.  The only thing a priest can do is make it a part of the child molester's penance to turn himself in to the authorities or notify the parents of the child.  He can encourage the child molester, but he can't speak about the issue outside the confessional.

But confession, it scares me...

Yep.  Having to tell someone, even though they are bound to not tell anyone, still is scary.  Examining what you have done wrong is also difficult.  Humans are inherently selfish.  But the imparting grace you receive afterwards is...awesome.  I have different feels after each confession.  Some like I'm walking on clouds.  Others like my soul has just received a good scrubbing and so I'm a bit raw.  Confessing gets easier.  In the sense that you become familiar with the form and more comfortable speaking to the same person about your problems like any other friend you may confide in.  And overcoming the resistance to confession becomes easier as you are able to tackle sin easier too.  I think Sheryl Crow said it best when she said "the first cut is the deepest."  Once you initially make it a priority, it becomes easier over time.

Got any other questions?  Put em' in the com box.

1 comment:

  1. I have been to the point I am at now before and going to confession bailed me out. My problem now is that I no longer believe in God, so my confession would be disingenuous. Finding out that there is no God sucks just as much as being separated from God.

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