Saturday, June 14, 2008

The priest who doesn't preach the need for penance...


Pope Paul VI said that outside of Holy Mass, priests can do more good in Confession than anywhere else. Why then are there so many priests who don't preach on the necessity of this sacrament? The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that:

"According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year." Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time." (No. 1457).

And that:


"Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful:

Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear "man"—this is what God has made; when you hear "sinner"—this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made. . . . When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light." (No. 1458).

The Sacrament of Confession is necessary for salvation since, "Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession. There are profound reasons for this. Christ is at work in each of the sacraments. He personally addresses every sinner: 'My son, your sins are forgiven.' He is the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them. He raises them up and reintegrates them into fraternal communion. Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church." (CCC, No. 1484).

Pope Pius XII recommended the frequent reception of confession which he called, "the pious practice of frequent confession which was introduced by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." And, in his Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis (The Mystical Body of Christ) which was introduced in 1943, this beloved Pontiff of happy memory had these words of exhortation:

"Let those, therefore, among the younger clergy who make light of or lessen esteem for frequent confession realize that what they are doing is alien to the Spirit of Christ and disastrous for the Mystical Body of Christ."

I've encountered such priests within the Diocese of Worcester. One priest assured me that it wasn't necessary for me to confess so often (I confess every 2-4 weeks). But recall the teaching of the Catechism: "Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church..regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit." As long as we avoid scrupulosity, frequent confession is recommended by the Church and priests should not discourage it. And of course, "Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possbility of going to confession." (CCC, 1457).

St. Alphonsus de Liguori, a moral theologian and Doctor of the Church, said that, "If all preachers and confessors fulfilled the obligations of their office the whole world would be sanctified*. Bad preachers and bad confessors are the ruin of the world. By bad preachers and confessors I mean those that do not fulfill their duty as they ought...should a sinner be damned through the fault of him who preaches the divine word, God will demand an account** of the priest who could have announced the truths of salvation to that lost soul." (Dignity and Duties of the Priest, pp. 265, 266).

Those priests who take the Sacrament of Confession lightly, who take their duty to preach the need for repentance lightly, should reflect on this testimony of a Catholic priest who had died and stood before our Lord Jesus Christ.
*It is said that the Devil told St. John Vianney, "If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined." The Cure of Ars was a martyr of the confessional.
** Luke 12:48

3 comments:

GardnerCatholic said...

I can't remember the last homily I heard (except on EWTN) preaching on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I think many priests would rather be somewhere else on a Saturday afternoon. But the priest's vocation is to offer the Sacraments, not to play golf or visit the beach or go fly-fishing.

I remember a local priest, who served at Holy Spirit Parish in Gardner many years ago, was overheard ridiculing a devout woman who wanted to see him. He said, "Oh that woman. She probably wants me to bless some medals." He said this as he scoffed at her.

I was really saddened by that. All the more so because several parishioners actually laughed.

Ashley Pelletier said...

At my parish, there are only 2-3 people every week who confess their sins. The parish has something like 3,000 people (men, women and children).

The sacrament is being neglected because the clergy are not mentioning it at Mass. You are right.

Let's pray that there will be a return to penance. We've seen that Pius XII was prophetic in Mystici Corporis. The loss of the sense of sin has been disastrous for the Church - and for society as well.

Michelle said...

The situation here in Worcester isn't much better from what I've seen. We need to listen to Our Lady of La Salette and her message of reconciliation....and soon.

Site Meter