Sunday, September 09, 2007

Now, for the rest of the story....

This morning I read my St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press. They reprinted a nice article on on-line confession from the Los Angeles Times. Inexplicably (unless you know the Pioneer Press track record) the article stops in mid paragraph.

The initial part of the article details the decline and (supposed) demise of Confession and Absolution in the Catholic Church, then goes on to what the Press really "digs," groovy descriptions of on-line and Protestant alternatives. Just as the article veers back toward the Catholic Church and appears ready to pick up the Catholic response, it is cut off.

Sure enough, the on-line version at that point reveals the important distinctions which set the Catholic sacrament apart from its therapeutic and consumer-oriented imitators.

As some of you recall (hopefully from recent personal experience) in Reconciliation one is being reconciled by a real person representing Jesus Christ in his Church (the priest). As his representative, the priest speaks the words of Christ himself "I absolve you."

This is so very far away from the on-line confessionals. They appear to be supporting a therapeutic and apparently also voyeuristic self-catharsis. It reminds of a cartoon a priest-friend sent me yesterday. I couldn't post it without paying a $25 fee, but here's the gist.

A priest is sitting in the confessional listening to an earnest penitent and is thinking "this is SO in my blog!" Anyone who knows how tightly the confessional door "seal" is shut, understands the joke. But it does illustrate, however, how foreign our tell-all culture is to the private and personal nature of the confessal relationship. But I digress.

To summarize, other types of confession are about "me and my problems." They represent subjective, self generated solutions based on feeling.

The Catholic Sacrament of Confession, on the other hand, is about the recognition of sin, an objective failure on our part, and the joyful reception of an objective redemption offered to us by a loving God who came to save us in His Son Jesus. That same Jesus established a Church which offers that word of forgiveness.
If you'd RATHER have that kind of bloodless forgiveness, where its just Jesus and you, go ahead and knock yourself out. I can't guarantee that you won't be forgiven. Not my job to determine that.... its God's. But on the other hand, if you want to experience the whole nine yards of forgiveness, then go seek out a priest and just ask.

While the on line article doesn't quite go that far in making the distinction, it does offer up some helpful observations from penitents and priest alike which point the reader in this direction.

For whatever reason, the Pioneer Press chose to cut this last part off, doing injustice both to the original article and its author, as well as its own readers. As in the past, only a crossword-loving roommate stands between me and a noisy protest-driven cancellation letter.

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