November 27, 2007

I Absolve You in the Name of [Your Name Here]

(A torrent of words follow. Hopefully, it makes sense, Gentle Reader)

We already know that there are a lot of people who’ve set up their own individual magisteriums, but, I’ve only recently come to realize that there are just as many people (often the same people) who are also confessors. It's no secret that there are more sinners than saints. If in any doubt, just read the “I know you are, but what am I” stance that most people try to throw out as their argument for why trying to live a Christian life is unimportant unless they, personally and individually, get to define what being a Christian really means.

What do I mean?

How many times have you read someone saying something like this: “Why should I be told that my actions are sinful by a bunch of men who sinned by (insert current favorite gripe about priest’s failing here. The clerical sex abuse scandal is a popular one)?” or “If our church leaders aren’t perfect, why should I be?" Or “I don’t care that Archbishop N says that my way of life is sinful, look at him, he’s a member of that group of collective sinners. It doesn’t matter to me what his current level of grace with God is, it matters to me what his status is with ME and I think the priesthood is irrelevant and he should not presume to meddle in my life, even if it his 'job'”

I’ve known a lot of priests in my life and I have never, NEVER, heard one of them, whether orthodox or not, claim they are perfect men who never sin.

Yet, if you do anything where you publicly fall on your face, the odds are favorable that some weak Catholic is going to seize on it as an excuse for changing Church doctrine to make their sins appear to be more palatable then they really are.

It almost doesn’t matter to these people that the offender may have received sacramental absolution in the confessional. It almost doesn’t matter if they publicly apologize for their sin. It almost doesn’t matter if they do both. It’s almost like we have become a society of individual confessors. Until, I, I, I, can forgive so and so, then it doesn’t matter to me if Jesus Christ forgave them or not. If I can’t, then no one can, not even God. If I can’t forgive, then I’m just going to sit here and be eaten alive by anger and paralysis and expect, no, demand, that everyone else do the same.

The same group of unforgiving Catholics tend to think that Confession given by Jesus thru His priests is useless. Why? Because THEY aren’t sitting in the Confessional hearing the sin and weighing the options on whether to forgive them or not too. Also, they wonder: how can sinners forgive one another? How can that big sinner, the priest, have the audacity to forgive anyone for their sins when he's a big sinner? Yes, the priest is a sinner, maybe as much as the Penitent on the other side. However, they fail to grasp that The Christ is really the one forgiving on the other side of the screen, not the priest.

Thus, we end up with societal penance. Until a majority of us, collectively weigh the “evidence” based upon our complete misunderstanding and repudiation of Christ’s teachings disseminated thru the Church He founded, decide that someone is forgiven- they can’t be. Even Christ can’t forgive them because WE say so.

If my hypothesis has any basis in reality, then I have to wonder why people are so afraid of individual Confession? Good grief, which is easier to obtain: one-on-one forgiveness with Christ, or one-on-billion forgiveness with humanity? Tough crowd.

Yes, we must reconcile with our brother before going before God AND we have to seek God’s forgiveness too. However, I think we, as a society, put FAR too much emphasis on the reconciliation with our brother and put FAR too little emphasis on reconciliation with God. They are BOTH important. Our refusal to reconcile with our brother and forgive him his trespasses can cost us Heaven. Likewise, our refusal to reconcile with God can cost us Heaven-big time.

The Christ’s messenger’s are flawed. Do you think Jesus failed to recognize that? He knew when He was still with us that the Apostles were flawed. Yet, He went ahead with His plan. He still wanted them to go and make disciples of all nations and spread the Gospel. He didn’t say: "Until I can find 12 perfect men, I’m not going to offer myself in Sacrifice." If that was the case, He would never have been Crucified, He’d still be here trying to find 12 perfect men. And, we’d still be as confused and in need of salvation as we were before He came. Many of us still are. In the end, it doesn’t matter how perfect, or imperfect, the messengers are. It’s the message that matters.

Think about this: Because The Christ did NOT pick 12 perfect men, does that mean He is not perfect? Because people who serve and follow The Christ today are not perfect, does that mean He is not perfect?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post - you nailed it!


November 27, 2007 9:21 PM  
Blogger Tom in Vegas said...

You brought up some great points here. The mentality I'd like to emphasize is the one in which people who have a gripe with the Church use ANY and EVERY transgression on behalf of the clergy to discredit it. They paint the whole picture with that one brush even though it does not reflect the behavioral patterns of the majority, and it might be something that they themselves are guilty of. That type of hypocrisy is infuriating! The Catholic Church is over 1 billion strong, so expect the number of scandals to be higher with us than in those denominations that do not have those numbers. But guess what? The other denominations DO have scandals. ALL of them. And they have been hit with the same stuff we have. How many of these Protestant, self-appointed prophets who preach on television have been shot down by a sex scandal? Do I have to name them? I can recall a number of child abuse cases here in Las Vegas at the hands of non-Catholic clergy.

They don’t have to do a lot of thinking to realize that the Church teaches, preaches, emphasizes, prays, and argues against all types of sin. When sinfulness behavior surfaces it’s not the Church who failed, it’s us.


November 27, 2007 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

GREAT post. I find that a lot of folks are ashamed of being catholic because of the behavior of some of our priests and bishops. I have met new people recently who, in conversation, say they are "recovering from being catholic." I don't know how to respond to that. I acknowledge the abuses which have occurred in the Church but I am still proud to be catholic. This has been a struggle for me. Your post has given me some ideas on how I might respond in the future. Thanks!!

November 28, 2007 8:34 AM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

This is a great post and so worth the wait!

November 28, 2007 9:53 AM  
Blogger swissmiss said...

Very good post! I just wish my Lutheran MIL could take this to heart. She's in a Catch-22 where she thinks her sins are so big that even God can't forgive her, but then holds the belief that she can confess her sins directly to God.

The words that are music to a Catholic's ear are: "...and I absolve you of your sins..."

November 28, 2007 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cathy, sterling post!

November 28, 2007 9:48 PM  

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