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Monday, September 24, 2007


Ed Peters

This raises an interesting point, I think: Are parish priests up to the resurgence in confession? Some signs say no, in particular, the apparent inability of some priests to distinguish between the dynamics of sacramental confession and those of personal counselling. On a monthly basis, the former should take about five minutes, while the latter can easily run 20 or 30 minutes. Parish priests who, on a regular basis, are only getting to four or five people in an hour on Saturday afternoons (leaving a line of another dozen would-be penitents) need this explained.


A catechist's perspective: A big part of this problem is that, in an effort to avoid micromanaging and being seen as too authoritarian, many bishops are not doing much to ensure that children are catechized properly. Almost none of my middle-school aged students know the difference between mortal and venial sin, or that they must come to sacramental confession at least once per year. If these young people (generally from middle class families) who have had every educational opportunity don't know, what about kids whose parents have to struggle just to get food on the table and hardly have time in the evenings or on weekends to teach their kids the basics of the faith? The whole burden seems to fall onto catechists, most of whom seem more interested in feel-good playtime than in passing along to the children substantial knowledge and understanding of the basic teachings and requirements of the faith. Things are bad now, but I don't see them getting better if the clergy don't start intervening to make sure catechists are actually qualified and that the material they are teaching is actually substantial.

I am not surprised to see so many people pleasantly coming to Mass with no sense of what is required of them by it. Their teachers were more interested in making them feel comfortable coming to church than in making sure they really understood what is going on there.



Flannery O'Connor mentions in one of her letters that the Church recommends going to confession every three weeks. I have no idea where she got that from, but it stuck in my mind because it seems like a good idea -- and so different than anything I ever hear in my parish.

A year or two ago when I went to confession ("celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation" I suppose I'm supposed to say) on a Saturday afternoon, the priest told me that for my penance I should attend Mass that weekend. Afterwards I wondered, could that possibly be a valid penance given that I already had an obligation to attend Mass? Ed, could you render an opinion on what the Canon law says about this?

Ed Peters

Dan. Interesting. Re FO'C, I've heard 2 weeks, I've heard monthly, but not "three weeks" as a norm. That said, 20 days is now linked to some norms on plenary indulgences, so maybe there's an echo there. Re: "Mass this weekend", the Code would not address that, but pastoral practice would; off hand, I don't see how a precept to do exactly what is required by law already can serve as penance. I've certainly never come across that. Of course, "Mass this weekend" could mean a couple things. You would know, but so far, I don't see it. Not that it impacts validity or anything here. I'll rummage around a bit. Getting ready to tutor Latin tonight.

MMajor Fan

At last! Could the tide finally be turning? I hope so. Good conversation about a vital topic. As both a psychiatric counseling intern and a spiritual director I believe the number one problem has been lack of recognition of what is a sin. Huge sectors of our society are both sin generating and dependent on sin, specifically the bearing of false witness and coveting. Children grow up whose parents’ jobs are to bear false witness and to manipulate coveting. How can they recognize this as sin? This is the huge disaster, the magnification and institutionalizing of sin and being unrecognized as sin, but the new norm or “doing one’s job.” I predict that this illusion will fall like massive scales off of the eyes of many. I think people’s internal moral compasses are beginning to understand that within this society many people are covered in sin and think it is their normal “go to work” clothes. As people feel their own and others’ lack of attempt at purity from sin this is driving them to seek solutions and I agree that understanding the faith’s role as that moral compass is returning.

ABBA 8-track? LOL. Groan. Some pre-emptive earthly purgatory work? ;-)


Ed, thanks! I think "Mass this weekend" means the priest does not understand the sacrament, or doesn't believe in it. Sad to say.

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