Friday, September 07, 2007

"...for I am a sinful man"

Sacramental Reconciliation is a discipline that I practise around once a month. I would never say that it is something I enjoy, but the Sacrament is a tremendous source of grace and comfort. It can be humiliating to confess the same sins again and again in a long-term struggle, but I prefer to keep up the struggle and suffer the humiliation, than let it slide and be beaten once and for all.

I can therefore understand the popularity of the Third Rite, when it was being used extensively in the Melbourne Archdiocese a few years ago. How easy it was to simply pass over "the unpleasantness" and receive absolution without really naming the sin! When we confess sin we acknowledge our role in the activity of Sin in the world, the disruptive and destructive principle that is at the root of all evil, both natural and moral. This must be accepted for healing to begin, because it it the Truth which sets us free first and foremost.

Sandro Magister, an astute observer of the Vatican and the Italian Church, sees a trend back towards the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

"The indications are modest, but consistent. The latest one comes from Loreto, where twelve thousand young people received the sacrament of forgiveness, with the pope's encouragement. And in the seminaries, there's a return of books for studying "cases of conscience."

I read once, I can't remember where, that the two best indications of the spiritual health of a Catholic community are the number of vocations and the frequency of Confession. On either of these measures, Catholic community in Australia is in poor shape. It would be interesting to know whether there is a similar trend towards Reconciliation here, or whether World Youth Day in 2008 might result in similar scenes.


Sch├╝tz said...

In the Lutheran Church, they practice public "sacramental" absolution at the beginning of every eucharist (not just a penitential rite as we have). It is essentially the same as the third rite, but is their normal rite. Private confession is practiced only on the occasions when it is requested. It is extremely rare to find a Lutheran Church in which times are scheduled for "private absolution".

Nevertheless, my Lutheran daughter (aged 8) recently did her "first confession" to her Lutheran pastor. She goes to a Catholic school, and so the rest of her class was prepared for first reconciliation, and because both Mum and Dad have a positive experience of personal confession and absolution, we chose to prepare her for it too, but in her own church.

The Pastor commented (after agreeing to this strange request) that it might be a good idea to introduce private confession to the educational/initiation process for young Lutherans in his parish too.

I hope he does. Personally, my own experience after years in the Lutheran Church is that you just can't get serious with sin if public absolution is the only resource you have. Only the personalism of private confession nails sin.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the people who promoted the Third Rite told the congregation that in spite of having received communal absolution all serious i.e. mortal sins must still be confessed in individual confession as soon as possible. This makes perfect sense because, after all, the Third Rite was only supposed to be administered in danger of death and if one survived the air crash etc one would then go to regular confession.

I have noticed with dissenters they always have to leave something out of Church teaching in order to legitimise what they are doing. It's apparently happening with the petition also. Some priests are telling their congregations, whom they wish to sign the petition, that it is all about getting more priests and conveniently leaving out the more controversial items. With the bishop's book his, late, support for sexual abuse disclosure is all that is mentioned not his dissent from teachings of the Church.