Contra “The Dead Spirituality” of The Catholic Church: Against the Caricature That The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not Christian   Leave a comment

1. Introduction

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

As a child coming of age into young adult years, my Reversion to Catholicism is one marked by an initial hatred for The Catholic Church as I understood it. I was the poster child of Progressive Modernist thought who yet embodied a fierce New Age Protestantism about things pertaining to The Church and the surrounding cultural and spiritual developments that I found myself growing up around in. This series is written to rebuke the writings of my Youth, a sort of self-imposed Penance to atone for my own personal ignorance. The writings of my youth are held on the internet at the Yahoo! Voices website, there are 4 Articles written between July to November 2007, just after my graduation from High School. It should be noted that the rebuke is thematically addressed rather than chronologically answered.

The First Article written in July 2007 was titled, “Christianity Vs. True Christianity: A Problem with the Church?” This article embodied perfectly my Anti-Catholic view influenced by Progressive Modernism, Protestant propaganda yet New Age influences at the time. The Second Article written in August 2007 was title, “Church of Christ: The Church is Not the Real Thing!” This article embodied my confusion and the varieties of cultural propaganda set against the Church, this article sounds most like what I hear today, and that I have come to most fight against today. The Third Article was written in the same month and was titled, “Is the Bible Really Full and Complete?” This article was my argument that the Bible was incomplete and that since it has been left to many revisions it is no longer a trustworthy book, this attack the notion that The Bible was the Complete and Final Word of God. The Fourth and Final Article was written in November 2007 and was titled, “My Road to Christian Gnosticism” Here it is showcased for all to see my love of Heterodoxy and lack of understanding of Orthodoxy, of course in celebrating fighting against the superstitious ignorance of the Church I now confess that I was the one being superstitious and ignorant.



II. My Argument Against My Past Self

When I was a child I dreaded telling someone who I didn’t know my problems and my failures, when I was a teenager I rebelliously sought to justify why I didn’t need to go to confession in order to receive a clean bill of health, this included blindly accepting the more Protestant approach of just trying not to do it anymore while appealing to and apologizing, “to my personal lord and savior Jesus Christ” I went even so far as to go on attacking the Sacrament of Reconciliation directly calling it an Unchristian practice. In this article I seek to undo the errors of my past by speaking on not only how The Sacrament is Christian but in fact this Sacrament holds tremendous benefits for those who do attribute Christ as the Son of God. I also seek to explain the incompleteness of “trying not to do it anymore while appealing personally to Christ.”

On The Unity Between Confession and Christian Teaching

For “spiritual people” they say that they do not see the purpose or validity of confessing your sins to the Priest. I claim however that there is a Spiritual Principle at work here for confessing to your Sins, one source is from Sacred Scripture itself the other is an analogy found already in our society today. With regard to Sacred Scripture we see it most prevalent in the New Testament, the irony is that most people will say, “Oh that’s an Old Testament Practice but we don’t abide by those anymore.” However those who say that cannot deny the New Testament statements that I am about to offer up, the first instance comes from The Apostles themselves wherein they say,

“Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much.”

For those however not thoroughly convinced by the Apostles statements, let us not deny the statements of Christ wherein He personally forgives sins and wherein He commissions The Apostles with the Forgiveness of Sins. He also makes clear that, the Old Testament Laws are Fulfilled not Destroyed in Him! Forgiveness of sins has a spiritual component to it, Blessed Rabanus Maurus, an early Benedictine Monk even go so far as to say regarding Christ’s Commission to the Apostles that,

“It follows, ‘And whatsoever thou shalt bind;’ that is, whomsoever thou shalt judge unworthy of forgiveness while he lives, shall be judged unworthy with God; and ‘whatsoever thou shalt loose,’ that is, whomsoever thou shalt judge worthy to be forgiven while he lives, shall obtain forgiveness of his sins from God.”

Now, perhaps you granted the fact that Confession to another is a Christian thing, but you’re getting all hung up on telling a particular individual who you do not really know where you fell short in life. Perhaps your saying to yourself, “What’s the difference between me telling my friend where I have gone wrong and telling some authority figure like a Priest where I have gone wrong? It would be easier for me if I just told a friend then this man who I do not know.” To which I reply with an analogy, can a friend who knows nothing about health or is not certified to speak authoritatively in matters of health, help you with a health decision? You would say, no you do not trust your friend to help you make the final decision because, he is not certified, therefore he has not received sufficient training and instruction himself to help you make that final health decision. Someone might say, “Ah but what if a friend of mine is a doctor then I could!” To which I would reply, fine but you would trust him because he holds the office of a doctor not merely because he is your friend.

So it is with a Priest, a Priest is an individual who has received sufficient instruction and training, who himself actively attempts to Practice what he Preaches to you. The Catholic is called to see The Priest when dispensing any Sacrament In Persona Christi, or in the Person of Christ, you are not talking to Fr. X, rather you are talking to Christ operating through Father X and you ought to confess with the Love of Christ which includes a certain amount of shame for your actions but one should not have a Fear of Punishment, for in this Sacrament the Fear of Punishment ceases. The same is true when you go to a Psychologist and tell him your problems; the Office of the Therapist is operating through the particular therapist. The difference between the Psychologist and the Priest resides largely between the realms of the Psyche and the Ontological, the Priest is a Moral Theologian and certainly there is overlap and interconnectedness, but the Priest is the one who dispenses the Sacrament as it is part of his office, not the Therapist.

However, I digress, another difference between confessing to a friend and confessing to a Priest resides in the fact that your friend knows you and if he is a friend wishes to continue to know you, in doing this he may be willing to become too forgiving, he might help you rationalize on what your doing is good, he might be too soft on you when you need someone to be hard on you. The point is just because he knows you it does not mean that’s a benefit; sometimes we forgo the truth out of keeping peace in our relations. A friend is a companion, and we need friends, but when something breaks you need a doctor, a friend is part of the support group, and old friends make old habits that you’re trying to kick, die hard. Therefore, it is because The Priest does not know you personally that he could be most objective with you and most honest with you.

On The Purpose of Confession

But what is the purpose of Confession than? Some say to escape Hellfire, and they would be right, but like everything regarding the religious view of things, we only hear the negative aspect these days. What is the Positive aspect? Namely to Receive Grace, it is an opportunity to show or lay your wounds bare to the Physician of Souls and allowing for a Truer Psychotherapy to occur deep within your own nature. There are other benefits, but the Primary Benefit is the Reception of Grace, from the one who is all too willing to forgive.

When I go to Confession, do I feel terrible for having committed a mortal sin; sure I do and I also am glad the doctrine of Doctrine of Hell exists, for it serves to invigorate my being able to work more diligently in my spiritual quest, for I have seen in others and have allowed myself to become lost to the Vice of Spiritual Sloth and Neglect at times, for all I see is confusion and despair emerge out of it. However, when I approach the Confessional, the image I hold in my eye is not so much the image of approaching a courtroom rather I hold the mental image of approaching an ever forgiving spouse, that no matter how many times I fall into spiritual adultery against this spouse, I comeback and that my spouse loves me all the more exactly because I came back.

Our image of confession and of God needs to change, our society has thoroughly ingrained in us only one image, namely that God is a Ruthless Judge, and while such an image has its place, for His Judgments ought to be preferred against any others, there are other images that need to be present to help us better understand God as He operates in our lives, both when times are good and bad. Some Images of God I have brought up in this Series that you have seen I have already written are: God as Spouse, God as Doctor, God as Couch or Teacher, God as Friend and God as Mystery. Of these, whichever Image works in a more positive way in your experiences thus far in life ought to be the one that you use more frequently. So now re-frame going to the Confessional instead of seeing God purely as a harsh judge filled with damnation, see:

God As A Spouse, Who You Wish to Love More Than Any Inordinate Obsession around you
God As A Physician, Who You Wish to Show Your Wounds To Obtain Ontological Healing
God As A Couch or Master-Teacher, Who You Admit Where You Have Been Slacking Off or Lacking
God As A Friend, Who Knows Exactly How To Balance Out What You Need With Compassion
God As A Mystery, When None of these Above Qualities Really Quite Explain What Your Going Through

On The Incompleteness of Appealing Personally To Christ

In Protestant Circles and the Vaguely “Spiritual” Circles, there is this sense that one does not need to tell a qualified person your spiritual problems. If you watched the first video above, then you understand the incompleteness of appealing purely to intangible without the help of something tangible. I remember when I was a rebellious teenager, I thought I could just Pray for Forgiveness if I fell short and I will go on with my life, however in my experience it wouldn’t be long after this “Spiritual Forgiveness” that things would get worse before they even got any hope of getting better.

Why was it the case that I failed? Because, of 2 reasons, the first reason has to do with, Accountability and the second reason has to with the fact that my expression of Confession is very Physical, I lacked these 2 Reasons. Accountability is the most obvious part, when you hold yourself accountable especially with someone who is in an office of authority, you take yourself more seriously than if you’re trying to be “accountable” to yourself and the unseen. Should you choose to go to confession on a consistent basis, then you know that you need to take your confession, penance, and will to not repeat the same mistake twice because there is a man whose life is based on the unseen and thus he himself, represents the unseen realm in an embodied form. Since Christ established Priesthood as I established early on in this article, and since The Sacrament of Confession is a Christian practice as I also established, then the only person where a Confession is valid is between you and a Priest.

Now, in a more spiritual sense, Confession to an Ordained Minister of Christ and His Priesthood works exactly because, it is expressed in a very Physical form, the physicality of something makes it very real to us beings who are embodied creatures. It’s not enough to intellectually assure myself that God has forgiven me, most of us long to relieve our conscience (i.e. Vocalize it) as well as hear an absolution for our crimes. We do long to set things right between ourselves and those around us. The Sacrament of Reconciliation allows for these 3 States to take place, namely The Vocalization of Our Wrongs (e.g. Confession), Forgiveness for Our Wrongs (e.g. The Absolution), and To Show A Sign of Our Sorrow but also Our Solidarity to the one we are turning back to (e.g. Penance). We are made with a Spirit true, but we also have Bodies and the totality of our being is affected when the totality of our being is involved.

This is why The Sacrament of Reconciliation should not be feared and avoided but welcomed and embraced. This is why The Sacrament of Reconciliation is Christian, because the Early Christian Community in taking its example from Christ seeks to practice what Christ does. This is why The Sacrament of Reconciliation is Complete because it affects and changes us in the most profound ways, for True Repentance would not have it any other way but that an individual be changed by nothing short of the Profound.

I recommend reading a book by an Orthodox Christian Clergyman for, “Do You Have A Ticket?”


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