At least one of you knows that there’s an issue in my life that kind of revolves around confession these days. Following are some insights that have come to me whilst pondering this problem.
I think we can all agree that only the Catholics and Orthodox have valid Sacraments (all of them). This is, of course, due to their possession of Apostolic Succession. So therefore it is perfectly obvious to me that if one confesses his sins to God in private, one cannot be sure of forgiveness, because that’s not how Christ and the Apostles talked about having one’s sins forgiven – the instruction was ‘confess your sins one to another’ and when the Lord instituted the Sacrament He said, ‘those sins you shall forgive are forgiven, those you retain shall be retained.’ And so forth.
Anyway, to some people, the big stumbling block to conversion to Catholicism is the Confession issue. The just don’t want to do it! Why not? Who wouldn’t want their sins forgiven – and not just forgiven, but absolved, which is a much stronger word. Erased, wiped out!
Answer: lack of Faith. Remember, Faith is a gift. So here we have a person who has been blithely going along, confessing to God in the privacy of their own home, or some Protestant house of worship somewhere, or in the car on the way to the grocery store. And then they get this urge that they just have to have the ‘Real Jesus’ as in Communion. Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament.
So for a while they just go skipping up to Communion at the local Catholic parish as if they are, indeed, Catholics. (Some of you might say, so what’s wrong with that? Lots of Catholics probably go to Communion who haven’t been to Confession in a long time. Well, that’s wrong too, but that’s not my point right now.) Then I guess they sort of have a crisis of conscience (oho!) and quit going to church altogether. What a dilemma! They want Jesus but can’t have Him on their terms because their terms aren’t the Church’s terms. In order to receive Him, they have to really receive Him. In a public confession of Faith (in what the Catholic Church teaches, also abjuring and recanting from all heretical beliefs they may have held in the past). And just before that, in the Confessional. Where any priest/catechist worth his chasuble (or phelonion, as the case may be) would insist on a life confession. Hoo-boy!
“But wait!” they say. “I already confessed all those sins. And I don’t have any sins now!”
And now, you see, we are at a serious disconnect from reality and Truth. For if previous sins were already confessed, and forgiven, one would have no problem confessing them again to the priest, because he stands in persona Christi and if you already confessed them, then Jesus has heard them before, and if He forgave them once, he’s not going to go back on his Word (after all, He did say “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life…..”) and not forgive them this time. And if they weren’t, well, there isn’t any sin that can’t be forgiven if one truly is contrite and confesses it in humility. And believe me, priests have heard it all!
So they have some kind of doubt, in some greater or lesser degree. Either they doubt that they were forgiven in the first place when they confessed in private (good doubt), or they doubt that God the Son gave his priests the power to forgive sins in His name through the Sacrament of Holy Orders (bad doubt), or they doubt their particular sin can be forgiven for some reason (balderdash, assuming they are truly sorry and will sincerely try not to sin any more). Or they are simply not sorry for their sins (bad again). Or they really do think they have nothing to confess (I am not even going to go there).
I was once asked, not too long ago, how I could bear to confess my sins to a man. I answered that I do not confess them to a man, but to +Jesus Christ+ Who suffered and died for those sins. I’ve also been asked what I confess. And that one I wasn’t sure how to answer. I mean, I know what I confess, but is it anyone else’s business? So I just made a general sort of answer involving impatience, gossip, that kind of thing. but I don’t think it made an impression. I felt very bad afterwards, as if I had somehow let God down.
So let’s pray for all doubters, asking the intercession of the Holy Apostle Thomas, beseeching God to grant to all who doubt the grace and gift of Faith, so that they too may “not see, yet believe.”