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Mercy is for Sinners

I have a love-hate relationship with confession.

I hate it because it’s never very comfortable to admit the stupid, shameful, ridiculous things I do. I wait in the line with a head full of exaggeration, thinking of myself like a man on death row, waiting for the needle. In my desire to make a good confession, I rehearse what I have to say, how I should say it to be concise but thorough, going over it and over it in my head until I think I’ve got it just right, then herding the stray smaller sins that have scattered away from my attention as my mind has been focused on the main problem areas. Each time the door opens and the next person goes in, I feel both an increase in nervous anticipation and relief. I take a step closer. “I just wanna get this over with,” I think.

I love Confession because the truth is, no priest I’ve encountered has ever been unduly harsh, even if some of the more pious ones have expressed legitimate concern at my failings. Certainly, I’ve never experienced a “torture chamber” in the confessional — I do all the torturing to myself. I also love it because unburdening myself of my sins is cathartic and calming, and because without the graces provided by the sacrament I’m afraid I’d be on a continuous bender of self-indulgence, following my wants and whims on a daily journey away from eternal salvation. Confession not only cleanses, it strengthens. It prunes my selfish accretions back, giving room for my heart to be open to His greatness. And it has the truly incredible benefit of offering a clean slate, every time.

My last visit was no different, the war within me raging as I tried patiently to wait my turn. After several failed attempts to get to confession over the previous week and a half, I had finally made it. As I waited in the back of the line, a wedding party was just finishing up with their last photos. The photographer finally made his way back to the last pew, right next to me, and as he started gathering up his equipment, he suddenly said, “It’s a wonderful sacrament.”

I looked up at him, giving a polite acknowledgment but figuring he was talking about the marriage he had just witnessed.

“Confession,” he said, perhaps sensing my question. “I just went last week.”

He fitted his camera into a compartment inside a large case, and said more quietly without looking up, “To be forgiven…” His tone was wistful, almost incredulous.

He had a point. What a seriously amazing thing it is!

Who Are You to Judge?  

There are times, in my various discussions and debates over the topics du jour in the Church — most notably an idea of mercy that requires no repentance or change of life — when I find myself wondering if those on the other side of the issue really think I’m just a cruel, heartless jerk. A sanctimonious and smug monster who somehow thinks I have attained a level of holiness that gives me the right to judge those who do not conform from within the purity of my sinless ivory tower.

I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.

If you had to have a passport to enter a confessional, mine would be filled with countless stamps. I drag myself there, time and again, embarrassed at how little time has passed since my last visit, chastising myself for bringing with me a litany of the same offenses I always do. The words of St. Peter often echo in my mind, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” And then, just as quickly, another thought follows, “No! Don’t! Without You, Lord, I have no hope…”

After absolution, I kneel there before the Blessed Sacrament, not infrequently with tears in my eyes, ever with the same plea: “Well, Lord, here I am again. I hope you’ll help me to stop doing this same stupid stuff. Maybe this time’s the charm?”

The prayer of St. Augustine perhaps most eloquently expresses this lament:

BEFORE Thine eyes, O Lord, we bring our sins, and we compare them with the stripes we have received.
If we examine the evil we have wrought, what we suffer is little, what we deserve is great.
What we have committed is very grievous, what we have suffered is very slight.
We feel the punishment of sin, yet withdraw not from the obstinacy of sinning.
Under Thy lash our inconstancy is visited, but our sinfulness is not changed.
Our suffering soul is tormented, but our neck is not bent.
Our life groans under sorrow, yet amends not in deed.
If Thou spare us, we correct not our ways: if Thou punish, we cannot endure it.
In time of correction we confess our wrongdoing: after Thy visitation we forget that we have wept.
If Thou stretchest forth Thy hand, we promise amendment; if Thou withholdest the sword, we keep not our promise.
If Thou strikest, we cry out for mercy; if Thou sparest, we again provoke Thee to strike
Here we are before Thee, O Lord, confessedly guilty; we know that unless Thou pardon we shall deservedly perish.
Grant then, O almighty Father, without our deserving it, the pardon we ask; Thou Who madest out of nothing those Who ask Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
V. Deal not with us, O Lord, according to our sins.
R. Neither reward us according to our iniquities.

Let us pray.—O God, Who by sin art offended and by penance pacified, mercifully regard the prayers of Thy suppliant people, and turn away the scourges of Thy wrath, which we deserve for our sins.

Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

Dead Man Walking

There was a time, when I was young, when I thought I was doing pretty well. I was a scrupulous kid, I stayed away from most bad influences, I often spent my free time hanging around churches or with priests, and the Internet hadn’t yet arrived with it’s overflowing cornucopia of temptations. I rarely if ever had mortal sins to bring into the confessional, and I even remember at one point in time thinking, “How is it possible that this petty stuff I do was enough of a reason that You had to die for it, Lord? I just don’t see it.” Maybe I asked Him to help me understand. I probably did. That part’s hazy, but it’s stupid enough that it sounds like something I would have asked.

And He did. He pulled back and let me trip and stumble and fall flat on my face, over and over and over again. He let me struggle to stay in a state of grace, or to even care to. He let me come close to losing my faith altogether.

Later, to my shame, the only thing I could say was, “I don’t remember the last time I didn’t bring a mortal sin to confession.”

If you’ve been there, if you know that feeling in your gut, in your soul, the one that changes when you cross that line and do that thing — whatever it is — that you’re just not supposed to do, and you don’t care, you know what I mean when I say it feels like you’re a “dead man walking.”

It’s an emtpy feeling. Dark. Angry. Disconnected. Like only the slightest temptation will push you right back over the edge into another big sin because your resistance is totally shot. You don’t want to pray. You don’t want to change. You become withdrawn and irritable. You vacillate between guilt and apathy as you attempt to grab hold of whatever grace God is giving you outside of the sanctifying grace that is the life of your soul. Because let’s face it, if He isn’t calling you back to the confessional, you’re not ever going to go. Once you’re gone, you’re fair game to demons on the prowl. Only His protection, His invitation, is going to keep you safe and bring you home.

If you’ve ever felt this feeling, you know. If you don’t come back soon, you’re going to drift further and further away. You’re going to dig a deeper and deeper hole for yourself. You’re going to get to a point where you’re too far gone to care, or make yourself so miserable you can’t bear to live with it.

You’ve got to come back to the land of the living. Nothing else is worth it.

Years ago, when I was on the verge of giving up, He reeled me back in. I was allowed to see the spiritual warfare I was engaged in for what it was, and then, I had something to fight.

But He still lets me fall. Still lets me remember I am nothing without Him, and that I can’t fight this battle on my own. In the midst of this work I’m trying to do for Him, for His Church, He doesn’t afford me the opportunity to be convinced that I’m anything great, but rather, to be chastened by my own weakness — a weakness that repeatedly knocks the foolish pride right out of my head before it can take root. I think here of the words of St. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:

For though I should have a mind to glory, I shall not be foolish; for I will say the truth. But I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or any thing he heareth from me.

And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me.

For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me.

And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak, then am I powerful.

See, the irony of me ever feeling like I’m on death row in the confessional line is that it’s precisely the opposite. It’s life row. For anyone standing in that line in mortal sin, you’re already dead — forever — and you just happen to be lucky enough to still be walking around. You make it to the end of that line, and you’ve been raised from the dead, just as surely as Lazarus was.


Love Demands Repentance

I was never a legendary sinner, but a dead soul is a dead soul. It only takes the guilt of one mortal sin to send you to Hell for eternity. There is no way back from the darkness I’ve just described without repentance. You’ve got to want to stop doing the thing that’s killing you. And if you can’t manage that, you’ve got to want to want it. There are no more excuses. There’s no more, “Well, I already messed up so it doesn’t matter if I give in to temptation again.” There is only that long march to the confessional, where you enter as a dead man, and emerge alive.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would want to deprive another soul of this rebirth. This cleansing and binding of wounds. For the priest in the confessional is, just as the Good Samaritan did, dressing and binding and curing what ails us. He is healing in the most profound sense of the word.

How could anyone ever tell a person who is living in sin, “You don’t need to stop doing that! God is merciful! He understands the complexities of your life”?

How could anyone ever say, “You might not be able to stop committing that sin, because by doing so, you might commit other ones”?

Why would anyone who loves a soul not see the danger it is in and say, as St. Maria Goretti did, “It’s a sin! God does not want it!”?

Or, perhaps worst of all, how could anyone tell a person living in sin with no intention to change, “You should receive the Eucharist, which is not a prize for the perfect, but medicine for the weak” — knowing that to do so is a sacrilege, another mortal wound on the soul of someone in need of conversion, healing, and Divine Grace? Even if you suspect the person is not fully culpable, the path to Our Eucharistic Lord is through absolution, not indifference. We already know what God wants from us. We return again to Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:27-31):

Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.

But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.

Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.

But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

Even this piece of divine wisdom has been excised from Catholic life. Not once does this admonishment not to eat and drink the body and blood of the Lord unworthily appear in the three year cycle of readings in the “ordinary form” of the liturgy — the Mass that the vast majority of Catholics around the world attend.

Why are we hiding this truth from the faithful? Why are we convincing ourselves that it is merciful to be their accomplices in sin? Why are we content to speak with the tongue of the serpent, who, when Eve told him that the punishment for eating from the forbidden tree was death, responded, “No, you shall not die the death”? (Gen 3:4)

We do not fight against the bizarre pseudo-mercy promoted by modern churchmen because we are rigid and Pharisaical! We do so out of love — for the souls of those being led deeper into sin, and for Our Lord, who deserves never to have His sacramental presence profaned.

As I reflected on those feelings brought about by the loss of the life of grace in the soul, I was moved to pity for those prelates of the Church leading God’s little ones astray. How can they bear the loss? How can they be so indifferent to their separation from the fires of Divine Love that they not only do not care for their own souls, but wish to lead others away from Jesus? How can they be complacent in their perversions and deceits? We have become so accustomed to opposing them, to calling them to account, even to rebuking them. But we should also weep for them, because we do not hate them; they, like all of us, were made in His image and likeness and created to be with Him forever in Heaven, and they have turned away. And He has already warned them, so the fate they will suffer is terrifying to contemplate.

“But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Mt. 18:6)

May God have mercy on their souls, and on His holy Church!

Originally Published on July 21, 2017.

138 thoughts on “Mercy is for Sinners”

  1. I knew there were other people with the same “love-hate” relationship to Confession, but I’ve never read quite such an eerily apt description of my before-and-after feelings.

    • I depends of the confessor. I know where to find a retired bishop (from the diocese of Périgueux) who confesses every friday morning. He knows how to make you easy before offering a kneeling confession instead of that awful eyes-into-eyes sitting one (which I hate).
      He told me once: “Confesser? Je me régale” (“Confessing? I much love this”)

      • Some confessors are “easier” due to natural human affinity, which can even be perceived by voice when confessing anonymously- yes. We vary in our feelings of dread and fear, though, for many reasons unrelated to the confessor. The thanksgiving after Confession also involves our consciences in a piercingly personal kind of trial. I really like the way Steve expressed this: “Well, Lord, here I am again (italics)… Without you, Lord, I have no hope…”

  2. Went to confession this morning. Am in the enviable position of having two nearby parishes with confessions 6 or 7 days a week, none of that little inconvenient window on a Saturday or, worse yet, the every other week even more inconvenient window. I am blessed indeed.

  3. Woke up this morning feeling like I got hit by a truck, fleeting temptation enters the mind, go back to sleep for a bit only a few people show up for confession at 6:30am anyway: prayed for grace, told devil to go to hell and got out of bed and headed over for the Holy Hour and Confessions before Mass.

    Had two big fish for confession this morning 🙂 Thank you Lord. Amen.

    Bless your priest and go to confession and allow him the grace of the ministry the Lord has entrusted to him for the salvation of your soul.

    • THANK GOD you were there! Those souls may have perished this very day.

      I’m so very, very, very grateful for every priest who spends time in the hot and stuffy box listening to the same “carp” over and over…

    • The devil is flying around in a frenzy at the moment – it certainly appears that his time is running out. Monthly confession is a must in my book – particularly now.

      I’d like to respectfully ask for your take on the following (12 minutes or so video) moderated debate between Austen Ivereigh and Matthew Schmitz, literary editor of religious magazine First Things on Aljazeera yesterday – the subject being “Is Pope Francis a real reformer?” Ivereigh came across as unbelievably pompous and arrogant – blaming ‘American Cultural Wars’ for the bulk of conservative opposition to Pope Francis. Schmitz did a good job I thought of both explaining and defending the conservative position.

      What do you think? Here’s the link:

      God Bless.

      • Thanks for the video. Yes I totally agree with you. Ivereigh was trying to paint Matthew Schmitz as as wanting the ‘trappings’ (I believe he called it) of the Papacy that ‘Pope’ Francis shed right from the get go. (the ‘red shoes’ etc) and trying to make him look trivial in his ‘complaint’. Wonder if Ivereigh realizes that the ‘red shoes’ are actually very significant in meaning that the Pope is willing to be martyred for Christ in His Church. These ‘pompous’ ‘trappings’ as he implied, very much signify Catholic teaching. It seems as though Matthew Schmitz won that debate, he seemed more knowledgeable of Catholicism even being a convert, than Austen Ivereigh.

        • No worries – it’s good to know that there are other good orthodox Catholics out there (as well as my extended family) that I can pass this kind of info on to – and know it will be put to good use.

      • Ok, I watched the exchange and this is what I think: Austin is a more polished speaker, and Matthew is a less polished speaker. That being said Austin’s primary defense of Pope Francis is that he is a populist, one who speaks to the current (perceived, and perhaps real) majority sentiment and that equates to the Truth. Matthew’s primary defense is that Pope Francis does not adhere to the perennial Truth of Jesus Christ and the constant Teaching of the Church but rather bends his ear and lips to those who promote the zeitgeist of the age (PF is a populist) which is passing.
        Matthew wins the argument via content and reason, yet Austin wins the argument via sophistry, to which the populous has often succumbed. It’s why Socrates was forced to drink the hemlock. And yet, in the end, Socrates won in posterity.
        So for now Austin, will probably win the argument with the ‘average joe’ but Matthew will win in long run, because he is the one speaking the Eternal Truth to the temporal power.

        • Thanks for your reply Father – I certainly needed to hear that as our parish priest dropped several clangers again this morning at Sunday Mass. He omitted to read the last 3 verses from the Gospel Reading (Matthew 13:24-43) verses 41-43 being the really hard part. (I knew he had because I read the Sunday Readings and the Gospel online the night before Sunday Mass in preparation). The sermon consisted of ‘Jesus is love and mercy’ several times over – that justice is not above ‘love and mercy’ – and that ‘truth should not be held to be important all the time’. Not a word about the need for repentance or the need for Confession (it wouldn’t have been so hard hitting without vs 41-43 in any case I felt).

          In similarity to your reply, his words seem to strike an accord with the ‘average joe’ in the parish (for now) as you described – but he and others like him cannot win in the end if we take the time to challenge him and state the Truth (we know it will stand the test of time). As there were too many people talking to him this morning to speak to him right there and then – I briefly met with several members of my family after Mass in the carpark. We’ve decided that this time it would be for the best to now make a collective approach later this week in private.

          Thanks again for your time Father – it’s much appreciated.

          • I posted St. Augustine’s prayer that Steve quoted in the above article in my bulletin and preached quite forcefully on Heaven and Hell. And pointed out the Jesus was most earnest and serious about the eternal fate of the Children of the Evil One and that they shall be thrust into the everlasting fire.

            I told everyone that they are sinners and that they need to Repent, which means confessing their sins in sorrow and amending their lives in order to follow the Lord, which is what makes them Children of the Kingdom. And I pointed out that those who reject the Teaching of Jesus Christ as expressed by the Church throughout history are the Children of the devil and the choice is theirs to make on who they will be: Children of the Kingdom of God, or children of the devil.

          • That’s just what they need to hear down here in NZ – it’s a very beautiful country, but it’s gone terribly secular over the last 20 years in particular and the prelates in the Church are certainly not helping to improve the situation – they’ve gone softer than warm butter. Perhaps you’d like to visit one day…..we’d be happy to provide lodgings.

          • I’s be happy to come give a mission or day of reflection, but it would require a parish host…and I don’t charge a fee for preaching the gospel, though I can’t afford to fly to NZ myself.

          • I’ll see what the possibilities are regarding a parish host and funds for your flight. It would be good to see you down here sometime in the future to be sure.

          • There’s always Fr Rizzo from Sydney Australia. He might be cheaper to fly over and would give a rousing sermon. They tried to ‘tuck him away’ but that just leaves him free-er to attend to pastoral invitations.

          • That’s OK, Griffon Spitfire! I just thought that I’m probably Incompetent and replied to the wrong message. Likely. Someone was bemoaning the church and feeling like leaving, and that was my little pathetic effort at encouraging them. I knew you weren’t being mean so I just assumed I wasn’t clear. If my setting is private, I don’t even remember doing that -or how I did it! I live in Australia. I’m mum in a household of 10 at present, I’m a traditionalist and I attend at least a weekly prayer group. The Rosary is our daily lifeline. I have Catholic friends in NZ too that I love and admire greatly. You all seem to have the same fighting spirit! They feel the same as you about their priests too!!

          • Thanks Donna – yes there were a few who did state that they felt like leaving – and that is not a good thing. Our entire extended family is staying put and we’ve decided to make a stand and correct the local parish priest every time he preaches error from the pulpit.

            As a traditionalist with a large family you’d feel right at home with our family here in NZ and like you we have a weekly family Rosary – we also have a monthly meeting for the recitation of the Rosary, study of our Catholic Faith and general discussion (which other Catholic faithful also attend). Currently I’m putting together a catechesis program for our younger members which is based on the Baltimore Catechism, Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma and De Fide Magisterial Teaching on Faith and Morals.

            It amazes me how many Catholics believe that we descended from apes – and that the account of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and The Fall was all just some kind of fable or myth! It’s no wonder they don’t understand The Christ, The Sacraments – or sin and the critical need for repentance. It’s time to go back to basics – and ask Our Mother Mary and her Spouse The Holy Spirit for assistance. Cathc up again soon!

          • Where are you based. Fathe I’m in southeastern Pennsylvania. I wish you’d visit our parish.

          • I’m in the U.S., and am a Pastor. So, I have given retreats and missions before, but my availability is limited as I need to get a priest to cover my parishes while I am away.

          • Father, with all due respect, why this constant drum beat (especially from liibs) about everyone being a sinner? When a Catholic emerges from the confessional after receiving the sacrament of Penance he is no longer a sinner.

          • Isn’t that like saying that when a surgeon emerges from the operating room, he’s no longer a doctor?

            A sinner doesn’t cease being a sinner because he’s been cleansed. That’s why we have to constantly go back.

          • Your either an active sinner in a state of sin (prior to repentance and Holy Confession) or you are a repentant sinner in a state of grace but with concupiscence still alive within you (which needs to be checked or right back to active sinner you go.) But either way, you are a sinner. It’s best to be a repentant one. And everyone being a sinner isn’t a liberal invention it’s reality and Catholic Doctrine (excepting Jesus and Mary.)

          • All have sinned …however after a good confession and in the state of sanctifying grace one is no longer a sinner although the tendency to sin remains.
            If we say everyone is a sinner, it implies that everyone does it so it is not important…in fact the notion of sin becomes not only unimportant but normal.
            Sin is not normal ( the norm) it is an offense against Almighty God , it is breaking God’s law. is a departure from that which God intends for us. Saying everyone is a sinner also implies that “be he perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” is unattainable, an unrealistic ideal and you will remain a sinner forever.

          • As a Catholic, imho, I think its best to look at it like this (and I say this with no condescension but I just like to add to theologically feeding conversations like this).

            A sinner is one who is and has lived a life of sin without frequenting confession with a sincere heart, mind and body.

            A repentant sinner is one who does frequent confession with a sincere heart, mind and body and with a firm purpose of amendment. The fact I sin once in my life makes me a sinner but because i go to confession I am a repentant sinner. Confession absolves one from their sin, no disagreement there, but we dont emerge as perfect beings coming out of Confession for a truly perfect being would never have to go to Confession. Since we have a tendency to want to do opposite of God’s will we find ourselves going back to Confession but at the same time we, as faithful Catholics, have the contrite heart to always want to be forgiven and do better than what we did before.

            Also, I think there is a slight distinction between a perfect person and a perfectly equipped person.

            A perfect person never sins in mind, body and spirit and the best example of this is Jesus Christ.

            A perfectly equipped person is a soldier who has all the necessary tools to fight the battle. Yet although one may be perfectly equipped, that does not make that person a perfect soldier. And as perfectly equipped but imperfect soliders we need Confession in order to help polish our gear, hone our skill, and sharpen our weapons for the next battle. And we are motivated by the gospel, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”….I believe, for us who are part of the Church Militant, this means to never lower the bar and always strive for perfection. Yet, I dont think perfection in this mortal life is attainable but such perfection is assuredly given to those who have lived a faithful mortal life here and are now perfectly joined to Christ in what we call, the Church Triumphant. I believe, and anyone correct me if I am wrong, this is the proper understanding of the verse understood throughout the life of the Chuch, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”….I believe its more of a call to reach that perfection which is Heaven with our Triune God rather than to find that perfection in ourselves in this life. Its just that, as children of God, we have an insatiable drive to please God even when we mess up.

          • We are not perfect after Confession…we are heirs to Heaven…our holy pastor said we are in the state of sanctifying grace and are saints with a little s …saints with a big S are canonized. Of course, he meant, provided we do not commit any serious sins which kills sanctifying grace in our souls.

          • I understand where you are coming from but you are wrong. Jesus and Mary are unique in the fact that they did not possesses Original Sin, so they are not normal. Furthermore, the Little Flower was a sinner, she may never have committed a mortal sin but that does not mean she was not a sinner. St. Catherine of Sienna went to confession almost daily (whenever she could) and she is one of the holiest people ever to live.
            Everyone is a sinner in the sense that they are conceived in original sin and after the age of reason they can become active sinners by committing sins or omitting due goods. There is a difference in degree of sin for certain and so to a sinner, but that does not change the fact that all are sinners. Some are repentant sinners and abide in a state of grace in perfection because they perfectly amend their lives, however they are still repentant sinners.
            If I go and murder someone and repent, I am still a murder because I have murdered. I may no longer be an active murder and indeed have had my sins washed in the blood of Jesus and even expiated my temporal guilt via just temporal punishment, but I have murdered so I am a murderer. You are doubly a sinner for you were born in sin (original) and you have committed sin so you are a sinner PERIOD (hopefully repentant.)

          • I never heard that expression …we are all sinners …before Vat II.
            Now it is popular and therefore suspect.

          • My uncle joe says ”
            a good man sins 7 times a day.” It’s to remind us to daily examine our conscience and that we can always ask to see the plank in our eye

          • After the fall in the garden everyone other than Jesus and Mary were born in Original sin, that alone gives them the title of sinner in need of salvation.
            Furthermore, if you have ever committed even on venial sin then you are guilty of having sinned and are a sinner in need of mercy.
            I tell people all the time that sinning isn’t human, that it’s actually demonic in it’s origin and that is why those who die in a state of mortal sin are condemned to hell with Satan and his demons.
            Do yourself a favor, don’t ever tell God that you are not a sinner. Not even the moment the words of absolution are prayed over you. Thank Him for freeing you from your sins and beg Him to assist you in sinning no more.

          • Thank you for the excellent explanation, Father. I always thought that after you made a good confession you were no longer a sinner.

            “This is the beautiful story of sacramental confession: the devil leaves the soul, hell is closed below him, heaven opens above, he becomes a child of God again and the robe of justice is restored to him. St. John Chrysostom says: “During the few moments spent in the confessional a resurrection occurs more miraculous than the raising of Lazarus from the tomb.”

          • one of my favorite Priests locally once said: ‘We are a redeemed people in need of redemption’. That has always stuck with me.

          • Careful, Margaret as David Meyer pointed out the concept of remaining a sinner forever, and ever and ever may be a Protestant notion.
            I expect to be banned for this comment.

          • Let me add this: If what you mean by ‘no longer a sinner’ is that the sinner after having repented, made a good sacramental confession and been restored to a state of sanctifying grace and is actively amending their life is no longer living in sin and has been made holy by God and therefore a saint in the Pauline sense, then I completely agree.

            And to be clear, the improper use of ‘all are sinners’ can and has dumbed down the sense of sin and it’s vileness and the urgent nature of repentance and amendment of life in the modern age is something I agree with whole heartedly, I know this is true as I deal with it all of the time.

            However, it is very good for the soul to remember that one is a sinner (even if it’s in the sense of history) and in need of the Divine Mercy, otherwise pride can and will eventually overcome the soul and they themselves can become quite unmerciful in their dealings with sinners in the active sense.

            Pax Tecum,
            Fr. RP

          • Yes, Father. I admire the work you do as a priest in the service of our Holy Church.
            Christus regnat
            D. Johnson

          • As a convert let me say this: It is also important to remember that when Protestants say ‘all are sinners’, they mean something very different than what Catholics believe. They believe the error of forensic justification, which teaches that we are merely covered by Christ’s righteousness, while still having the sin that is being covered. This error, along with the error of not distinguishing between mortal and venial sins, means that when they say we are all sinners, they mean it in a quite literal way… that we are all currently mortal sinners, damned to hell, but covered by Christ like a sort of veneer. And that even what Catholics would call venial sins are of mortal consequence, so there is literally no way to be free from sin other than in a forensic (legal) way. Pretty sad stuff. Catholics believe we are actually made righteous and the sin is actually removed, and we are filled with sanctifying grace at the point of a good confession. Important for us to remember this if we live in a Protestant country.

          • Yes, I agree that it is very important for Catholics to understand that protestants may use similar language but often mean something very different that what we do.

          • I have my own “Prayer of St. Augustine” cobbled together from the Confessions:

            Oratio Divi Augustini ex Confessionibus

            O Beauty, so ancient and yet so new, late have I known you, late have I loved you. For behold, you were within me, and I was outside. And in my deformed way, I cast myself on the beautiful things of creation, which are beautiful because you made them. You were with me, but I was not with you. But you shouted out, and chased away my deafness. You burned bright before me, and broke through my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me, and even now do I pant after you. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. For you have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless ‘til they rest in you.

            O Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Redeemer, from what dark place did you call my soul? So now I am prepared to do those things of which I was afraid, and I am not afraid to give up those things that I once found so pleasing. For you have come and you have taken their place. You who are brighter than all brightness, but not to those who look into the darkness. You who are deeper than all mysteries, but not to those who are proud unto themselves. You who are sweeter than all sweetness, but not to flesh and blood. And you, O Lord, came and you took the place of all my desires. You, who are my love of my friends and neighbors, my goodness, my hope, my fulfillment, my pleasure, my happiness, my joy, my salvation, my Lord, and my God.


          • I feel bad for you. The priest at the Mass I attended (I was visiting because I had been in town for my brother’s wedding) preached a TON about the “enemy” in the parable as the Devil and how we have fallen “asleep” and allowed the enemy to plant the tares in the field, both in the Church and in our own souls.

            This really should come as no surprise because this was the same priest who (at my brother and sister-in-law’s request) offered the Nuptial Mass the day before ad orientem. The choir chanted the Propers in Latin as well.

        • Is it my own somewhat biased imagination, or does Austin Ivereigh always betray an ‘eagerness’ to send the ‘right signals’ to certain highly placed individuals in the Vatican?

  4. Nice article, Steve. The photo at the top caught my eye before I read it and took me back many decades to the time I lived in Spain as a student. It reminded me of a humorous episode when I went to Confession at my local working-class church in Madrid. It’s Saturday morning and I enter the church in Cuatro Caminos for Confession. A Franciscan sits in a confessional identical to the above photo’s but inside the building rather than in the street as we see here. Since this is a working-class district, there are no men waiting their turn, only women and a few children who accompany them. But then, the surprise! Feminism held no sway in Franco’s Spain at that time, and I, even though I’m a late arrival, get ushered by the ladies to the head of the line! Then there’s a second surprise in store for el norteamericano: women confess at the side with an intervening grill, but men kneel right in front of the priest, no grill, no separation beyond a little half-door (missing in our photo here); it’s that machismo thing, I guess. There’s a saying in Spanish that goes “No hay dos sin tres” (There is no two without a three, i.e. things always happen in threes), and there is indeed a third surprise awaiting me after I kneel down: the Franciscan priest is deaf as a stone! As I left the church, eyes downcast, I could only hope noise during the Civil War had caused the ladies standing nearby to have hearing no more acute than the Franciscan’s!

    • In my younger days, I ended up in Montreal for a time. Being able to converse in French to a degree, one day I went to the nearest parish, which was French-speaking only, for confession. To my dismay, I had to confess face to face, which was a completely new experience for me (this was mid 70s).

      So, I made my confession, and with each thing I stated, I made sure to add, “Comprenez-vous?” (Do you understand?)

      And each time, the priest would say, “Oui.”

      I kept thinking, “Shoot, he understands me!”

      I wanted to die. What an embarrassment.

      • Another, shorter story from Madrid. The very first time I went to Confession in Spanish, I decided to warn the priest that I was “un norteamericano”; I didn’t want him surprised by my accent, I guess. His answer? “That’s all right, son. Most sins tend to be international.”

        • Speking about “international sin”, the latest scientific research has shown that since 2015 the German medias did not write their reports in objective manner when it comes to the refugee crises.

          Knowing that these medias were influenced by Angela Merkel, and that Angela Merkel and “Pope Francis” basically share the same rethoric and approach to that matter, a new question emerges: if the german medias were not objective when giving informations regarding the imigrants in Europe, what can we say then about Vatican medias and public speaches of the “Pope Francis”? Can it be seen as a pure deception of public on the expence of the Catholics and Catholic Church?

          • I don’t think a civil crime is in the mix here, Kora, but there is one thing we can say with total assurance of accuracy: the advice concerning “refugees” given Europeans by Pope Francis hasn’t been simply wrong; it has been catastrophic. One wonders how anyone, let alone a well-informed pope, could have failed to see the dire consequences of open borders. And, if his ability to analyze something this simple and diaphanous is so faulty, how well can he analyze things much more complex?

          • I guess you have right, unfortunately. I have no idea how the international law works, but observed from purely laic perspective, what Angela Merkel and “Pope Francis” are involved into is a crime against humanity in terms of an unethical human experimentation with people and civilizations (arbitrary deportation and forcible transfer of population as well as agressive assimilation of completely different cultures).

    • ‘Confession’ stories are the funniest!! LOL!!! Wonder if anyone saw the ‘Confession Spoof’ on You Tube a few years back where there are a bunch of women waiting for Confession in the Pews, and a guy is the first ‘in line’ to enter the Confessional. The Priest runs in, just before him, obviously had been harried and busy and may have been a tad behind schedule, and so forgets to take his mic off. So all the ladies in Church hear the guy confess to committing adultery on his wife. The looks he gets upon leaving the Confessional are priceless. The only salvation to this dilemma (if it was for real) would be the fact that if you accidentally overhear someone’s confession you are as obligated as the Priest is to keep it completely to yourself under the same pain of mortal sin and/or maybe even excommunication. Hmm… may have been a little stickier yet for him, however, if his own wife had been one of those ladies in the pews waiting to confess.

  5. Frequent confession is good for us. It frees us to stay clear and in the light of conscious through His Merciful Grace. For me, my goal is happiness of being more existing in God’s love than struggling within…..but that certainly takes time and study. The threefold formula given by Jesus is repentance, conversion, and penance is the only rule. If it wasn’t, He would have given us a different spiritual sacrament. Our baptism provides a guiding point of purity…then it happens – one mindedness with God and a deep breath of relief – then forward in prayer and more penance so we improve daily and God can walk in our interior gardens while we’re on earth. Hidden, but mighty as little lights!

  6. Thank you, Steve. You are most definitely correct: love does demand repentance. Christ is, indeed, merciful, but He expects us to come to Him through His priests, humbly begging forgiveness for our failings and resolving with all our might to sin no more. Not the Francis/Bergoglio brand of Mercy!™ in which Christ really doesn’t care that much about us actually feeling sorry for our failings or trying to avoid sin at all costs (that’s too rigid and pharisaical, don’t you know?). And yet, how could it be any other way for a merciful yet just God?

  7. That prayer of Augustine’s is included in the Prayers of Thanksgiving after Communion in my beloved and almost tattered Cabrol Missal from 1949.

    I think it is but fitting to look at the Sacraments with due awe and reverence, and thus approach them with serious preparation and intention, trusting in God’s infinite. It is not for nothing we’ve been left with such a treasury of prayers and methods for examination, as much as prayers for preparation and thanksgiving for Holy Communion.

    It is sad to reflect that Wee wee Frees (extreme Scot presbyterians) take the imperative for preparation for Holy Communion more seriously than most Catholics of today.

  8. Steve, this is a beautiful article, for which I sincerely thank you. It crossed my mind that the prayer of St. Augustine would be a great asset in every confessional, but I know that to hope for such a thing would be hopelessly naive.

    In his auto biographical work, Elected Silence, (The Seven Storey Mountain), Thomas Merton, in considering the horrors that had just recently been inflicted upon Europe during WWII, was moved to reflect that there is a far greater destructive power in one single mortal sin than in all the bombs that fell on England and Germany combined. And the English mystic Theresa Higginson; (the Holy Head of Jesus), stated that, were we able to perceive the effects of one single mortal sin, it would appear to us as though the entire world were completely immersed in an ocean of the vilest, stinking filth. Yet how many millions of mortal sins are committed every minute of every day, and the tally must be increasing exponentially, especially for the baptised, who are by far the most culpable. All we can plead in mitigation is that successive generations have not been exposed to the truth, for which our shepherds are principally to blame. Instead of this, we have the prevailing “dictatorship of mercy” wherein the contemplation of our own sinfulness and our need above all for contrition and repentance is regarded by some as a sign of an unbalanced mind.

    • You are right.
      To those who say that the world currently is as sinful as in the former times, not more nor less, I reply:
      The number of sins committed every day are so many, many more than in the Christ’s times, not only because the world is in an utter decay, but because the living men in our times are so many, probably 20 times more than when Jesus was on Earth.
      So one can easily imagine the Wrath of God who cannot afford them any longer.

      • How can I disagree with what you say. Our Blessed Mother has told us that mankind is now more corrupt than at the time of the Great Flood. And Jesus, in the Gospels, tells us precisely why. ….. Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you and been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes…. It will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you. And as for you, Capernaum ….. you will be thrown down into hell. For if the miracles done in you had been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And I tell you that it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you!(Matt. 11: 20-24).

        There have been many pre-Christian civilizations that have been utterly corrupt, and suffered the terrible consequences, but these societies had not had the privilege of the full revelation of Jesus Christ. But we have, and we have thrown it all away. Aided and abetted in our times by no small number of our shepherds. I have long believed that ours is the most corrupt, the most guilty generation in all of human history, but this terrible fact is kept far from our understanding. We are thoroughly deserving of the most terrible chastisements, without parallel in all of history. Our Blessed Lady came to Fatima in 1917 to try to make humanity aware of this, and to lead us back to her Divine Son. But we, in the West, have chosen to go in exactly the opposite direction.

    • Thank you, Steve, for this insightful and incisive description of the true consequences of our Pope’s recent encyclical. If indeed we are living in the 7th epoch of the Church and all that truly remains to be accomplished is the filling up of the number of the elect, then this horrific sophistry on the part of our prelates reveals itself as supremely diabolical in keeping souls from Christ….And of course, the means by which they achieve it is truly masterful.

      St. Augustine, St Alphonsus, St Claude de la Columbierre, St John Vianney, St Pio of Petrelcina….Pray for us!!!

      • We have reached the tumultuous climax of the sixth age and the intensifying birth pangs of the New Pentecost and the promised coming of the Kingdom of God upon earth, which we implore in the prayer that Jesus taught us. History will no doubt record that it was along and increasingly painful labor, but a vitally, (as in ‘life-giving’), necessary purging of the unprecedented level of evil into which humanity has, of its own choice, plunged itself.

  9. Thanks Steve. I have felt the same way you have on many occasions. My opinion is the confessors should be harder on us; give us more appropriate penances, help us find the triggers for sin, make us feel the gravity of sin.

    I did not know the ordinary form of the Mass had removed the admonition not to receive communion after committing a mortal sin. This just goes along with seldom talking about sin and confession. After all, folks must be made to feel good about themselves; self esteem is everything! Question: How many souls is Vatican II sending to hell?

    My advice on Confession is to go often and focus on your worst sins. In other words, except for mortal sins, confess your one worst fault and work at it like an Alcoholics Anonymous member works on stopping drinking. Once your worst fault is under control go to the next one, etc.

    Pray for Pope Francis and all the Church’s shepherds. Judgement day is coming. What will happen to them for being wolves to their sheep?

    • ‘I did not know the ordinary form of the Mass had removed the admonition not to receive after committing a mortal sin.’ ……..I don’t think they ‘formally’ did. I’m not sure Vat.11 said anything about that. If true, it was just our wayward Bishops deciding themselves it’s no big deal, I think. After all, the percentage of clergy that don’t believe in the real presence is very high. There were tons of irregularities that happened after Vat.11 that weren’t even in the Documents! It was the Bishops that decided the lay of the land, and blamed it on Vat. 11.

  10. After one month of biking on the Camino from Arles (France), I went to confession in the beautiful cathedral of Santiago. There were 4 priests but none of them was french speaking.
    No problem: The spanish father smilingly brought up a french written list of all imaginable sins, among them some very shameful ones. He asked me which ones I wanted to confess and then he gave me the absolution.
    A few minutes later began the pilgrim’s mass (every sunday at noon) with the unforgetable “Botafumeiro” by the end.
    It was one of the best days in my life: My penance had been done beforehand during my pilgrimage.

  11. How could anyone ever tell a person who is living in sin, “You don’t need to stop doing that! God is merciful! He understands the complexities of your life”?

    How could anyone ever say, “You might not be able to stop committing that sin, because by doing so, you might commit other ones”?


    This is why deafening silence on the memory-holing of usury is inexcusable.

    • I love the fact that you continue to give the horse of usury its much deserved flogging! Don’t ever quit, because the practice of usury is actively destroying the world and the Church.

      • Margaret:

        Yes, I have Prof. McCall’s book. He once emailed me personally to say kind things about my FAQ, to which someone had referred him, and (not knowing that I already had his book) offered to send me a signed copy of The Church and the Usurers.

        I think we may differ on some details, but we certainly agree that rejection of metaphysical realism in economics is at the root of modern Catholic ignorance and capitulation on usury. But there is no need to make it too philosophical or abstract: read my usury FAQ (and the supporting Magisterial documents) and you’ll be able to understand usury.

        The Church gave usury the “Amoris treatment” in the 1830’s, and IMO until traditional a.k.a. orthodox Catholics come to grips with that, resistance of the modernist agenda inside the Church is dead in its crib.

  12. Steve Skojek, thank you for penning this masterful article. You chose the title “Mercy is for Sinners”. This choice is a stroke of genius. In fact the message of the article is quite different, but the title will attract the attention of readers with predisposed beliefs about God’s mercy that you want to challenge. A more complete title that captures the message of your article is “Mercy is for Sinners Who Repent and Resolve to Sin No More”.

    As far as I can tell from reading the comments posted so far, no one that represents your target audience (predisposed to mercy without conversion) is weighing-in on the conversation. What is their response to your statement:

    “How could anyone ever tell a person who is living in sin, ‘You don’t need to stop doing that! God is merciful! He understands the complexities of your life’?”
    I pray that their silence is because your article has perturbed their souls, and they are in a state of contemplation, on the path to form correct consciences.

  13. How could anyone ever tell a person who is living in sin, “You don’t need to stop doing that! God is merciful! He understands the complexities of your life”?

    Answer: Because the majority of them (those who promote Amoris Latetitia etc…) do not believe that people are living in sin, they believe mortal sin is almost impossible or indeed impossible to commit, unless one goes against their modernist ethos, then they are to be damned unless they repent and embrace their heresies.

    How could anyone ever say, “You might not be able to stop committing that sin, because by doing so, you might commit other ones”?

    Answer: Because they don’t think they are doing anything wrong in their current ‘situation’ and they want them to stay in it so that they can eventually overturn the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of Marriage between a man and a woman and all sexual sin in general (because…)


    “…I was moved to pity for those prelates of the Church leading God’s little ones astray. How can they bear the loss? How can they be so indifferent to their separation from the fires of Divine Love that they not only do not care for their own souls, but wish to lead others away from Jesus? How can they be complacent in their perversions and deceits?

    Answer Because they don’t believe any of that. They don’t think those souls are separated from the fires of the Divine Love, because they believe everyone (except perhaps people like us) goes to heaven: Amoris Laetitia 297 “No one can be damned forever, that is not the logic of the Gospel!” By the way, that’s what the official Latin version of Amoris Laetitia says: “Nemo in perpetuum damnari potest, quia haec est mens Evangelii!

    And Pope Francis best buddy Archbishop ‘Heal Me with Your Mouth’ Victor Fernandez (the Ghost writer of AL Chp 8) said in a 1995 article on Grace and Predestination: “I rely firmly upon the truth that all are saved.”

    • At the center of all this modernist rot seems to lie the enemy’s most succesful inception, i.e. a pathological fear of “being”, which has been enshrined as the philosophical cornerstone of our societies.

      Now, I’m just a layman like the rest but considering that it was Our God and King who said “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh”, then it seems to me that it logically follows that if we deny being we deny Him, and if we deny Him we deny nature and if we deny nature we deny sin.

      I can’t speak for others but it seems to me that the very existence traditionalism today disproves modernist immanentism and thus requires exceptional mental and philosphical gymnastics to quiet down the cognitive dissonance that the modernists may feel.

      I may be wrong here, Your Reverence, but sometimes I feel as if the Holy Father is waiting to regularize the SSPX before he kills Sumorum Pontificum as the final nail in the coffin that awaits us museum mummies.

    • So the question is, if these bishops and cardinals had children would want they Francis or those close to his inner circle to teach catechism to their children? And if the answer is ‘no’, why is he still pope? Or to be more to the point, would mueller or Sarah want these guys teaching catechism to their nieces and nephews god children? They must think like a father, which they ARE but I am afraid they forget

      • Well, those who support AL etc.. would probably love PF teaching Catechism to their Children, for he teaches what they believe. As for Cardinal’s Müller and Sarah, they appear to be a bit concerned (Sarah more than Müller, though he is becoming more vocal by the day.) See:

        • Those who did not sign the Dubia, and for those cardinals who have not spoken out directly about Fr.James Martin being assigned to his post in the Vatican, and for those who wear the red hat who have not spoken out about the serious changes in the Pontifical Academy for Life and Pontifical Science Academy led by the filthy Paglia, have lost credibility.
          They hide under a false sense of piety to the papacy, to the Church, in my opinion.
          They do not care about the children. Perhaps they forget that the children are the ones who are dearest to our Lord?

          The monsters are not lurking about anymore. They have captured their target.
          Poor children! Where do they go Father RP???? To Masses, where altar servicer parade with rainbow colored hair, as I know for a fact this occurred, as told to me by my goddaughter?? To parish bulletins that promote Gay and Lesbian this and that?
          It is the children whom suffer for lack of not knowing, or for having such
          impurity thrusted upon them! Their “princes” have abandoned them, who enjoy grand status.

          It will be the holy, faithful, humble priest and bishop who will have enough love for Christ and His children to speak Truth from the Mass to the Confessional to the retreats offered, to the daily beautiful witness of charity. And as long as our Lord gives us a “few” of these heros, these blessed men………..perhaps a due punishment can be

          • Yes mitigated, but not averted. Those who lead others into sin shall be burned up: Better that a millstone were tied around their necks and they be hurled into the sea.

            God is very solicitous for those poor souls who have been lead astray, He offers them more actual graces to lead them to Him than others because He Loves them and knows that they have been hindered from coming to Him.

  14. Over the years, I’ve assaulted the ears of numerous good priests with just about every sin imaginable, with the exception of murder and kidnapping. You name it, I’ve done it. I pray I didn’t scandalize any of those good men. As a younger man, I was in desperate need of frequent confession and on every occasion, mercy was graciously extended to me.

    So when Francis started snarling about the need for “mercy”, four long years ago, I really had no idea what he was talking about. The Catholic Church which I knew had never been anything but merciful to me. The Confessional door had always been open to me and never had I been denied absolution, although there were times when the priest would probably have been within his rights to do so. The words of absolution were always pronounced over me and I was always sent on my way with the peace of Christ. I pray every day for the good priests who have heard my lurid confessions. So where was this unmerciful, hard-hearted Church which Francis was continually harping about? I didn’t and still don’t know it.

    Then it dawned on me. The “mercy” about which Francis was shilling, was not the mercy by which sin is forgiven. It was fake mercy. It was the “mercy” by which sin is down-graded and/or ignored. Sodomy, adultery……….they’re not that big of a deal. “Aaaargggh…..who are you to judge, you rigid, rosary-counting, neo-Pelagian” is not true mercy.

    So I have no use for this potty-mouthed imposter, nor his collection of “unmerciful Church” straw men which he loves to beat with great enthusiasm. It’s a canard. The Church has bestowed mercy on me as frequently as I have asked for it and I assume I’m not unique in that regard. God bless confessors, wherever they are and may God deliver us from this faithless heretic.

    • Thanks for your post kiwi – you’re a good man to write what you have – and you’re spot on with your analysis of the current situation. Like you, the Sacrament of Confession frequently received saved me from myself. My worst enemy has always been my own lead right foot. I have misused my talents to both build and drive fast Fords, Mitsubishis and Nissans – I have been a very bad example to others who tried to copy me. What makes this even worse is that I did this after I was rejected from the seminary in 1986 for ‘not willing to broaden my horizons’. I went from being a very gentle young man to a man who allowed himself to loose his temper through frustration and became willing to take extreme risks with his own life – and the lives of others.

      The graces from Confession brought me home – which is why like you, I will fight Francis with every fibre of my being to preserve the purifying Sacrament which Christ won for us on Calvary.

  15. Did you know, according to Fr. Chad Ripperger, it is entirely possible to stop sinning completely simply with ordinary grace? And that’s just the beginning of the spiritual life, not the end. God wants us all to sin NO MORE.

    Guess what? It’s attainable!

  16. Oh my goodness Steve!!! Oh my, oh my, oh my, how this IS MY STORY!! Went to Confession just today and NOW, I feel FABULOUS!! Not so much a few hours ago. Like you, waiting to go into the Confessional was like waiting to be put to death. Like the Priest was going to tell me: Nope, no absolution for you! Sorry!! H and I went together and on the way over to Church, he looked at me and said: “Not hard to figure out where you’re going, you’re hyperventilating as usual.” I laughed so hard when I read the first part of your article, because it was ME! When I was younger, I was, like you a tad on the scrupulous side, and now I go through this bit about, ‘Well, did I really do that INTENTIONALLY’? Finally though, the Lord always wins the battle and won’t let me give myself excuses. You are so correct though, that the more often you go, of course, the better, and stronger you are to resist the temptations. I absolutely love Confession, when I walk out of the Confessional. Before, not so much. It’s truly the sacrament of life.

  17. I heard a funny story about confession. A priest gets in a party organized by his small-town parish, to celebrate his ten years service in town. The major should hold the beginning discourse to thank the priest, but he is busy and will come later, so the priest has to tell something himself to the crowd. So he says: “Well dear friends, it’s ten years I’m here with you. It’s been great, really great to have had the opportunity to spend this time with you. You are great, you are special to me. I really love you all. But I’ll tell you, the beginning has not been easy at all. I was almost depressed and discouraged, as a young priest, to get here and listen my first confession in our church. Where have I come, I reckoned, is this the threshold of Hell? The first person that came to confession was a pit full of horrible sins. This black soul had done everything: stolen money from his mother, had sex with men and women even in the church, told lies every day to everybody, abused drugs and alcohol, hated his best friends, abandoned his grandfather to die alone at the hospital… It was horrible! But then… Then things changed, I understood how many wonderful people God gave me here, I got to know you all, your generosity, your warm friendship, all that gave me the courage to carry on! Thank you! ”
    Then the party begins, and the major arrives for his thanksgiving speech to the priest:” Dear friends, we all have to be grateful to our great, great priest. Nobody could have done better during these ten years he’s been with us. I appreciated him since the very beginning as a good and sweet pastor. I really say the very beginning because you know, I have been the first soul in this parish to get to confession with him! “

  18. The posts your article has elicited, Steve, tell us something important, viz. we MUST restore the sense of sin among Catholics. I don’t judge anyone, but when I see an entire church, every pew, approach the altar for Communion on a Sunday, my heart sinks. I go to Confession at least 2 times a month, and I know I’ve never seen but a handful of my fellow parishioners there. Never. Not once. How is it possible?

    Until once again I have to wait patiently as I did decades ago for many other penitents before entering the confessional myself, I will not believe we are on the road to recovering what has been lost. Regardless of how beautiful the Mass may be, how great the music, and how stirring the homily, those long Communion lines and empty confessionals have to haunt us all. Something is very wrong.

    • We had a priest from Argentina (believe it or not) that several times gave us what for in his homily about everyone traipsing up to the Communion Rail, but sitting all alone in the Confessional on Saturday. The last time he spoke about this subject before leaving the Parish, he went even further and said: ” It is a SACRILEGE to receive Communion, Our Lord’s body, blood, soul and divinity, with mortal sin on you soul! If you dare approach the Altar like that, you’d better pray you don’t die before coming to see me in that little box, because HELL lasts forever!! (WHOA) Prior to this priest’s warnings, I hadn’t heard anything like that from the pulpit, with even a remote reference to hell and/or even sin since I was a teenager. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if he got through to people because when I went to Confession yesterday, there were only 3 people (other than H and I) waiting for Confession. He also told my H early on when Bergoglio was first elected that he ‘wasn’t very well liked’ in Argentina. That was our first hint to watch this guy closely.

      • Which tells us that not all is awry in Argentina. ¡Alabado sea el Señor! Just think if a priest in every Catholic church in the US were to deliver that sermon on a Sunday. The only bad result would be the overload at emergency rooms around the country as politicians like Pelosi, Biden, assorted Kennedys and Cuomos, and every Catholic at the DNC arrived after an attack of acute hypocriticus politico-religiosus.

        • This is probably redundant, but it was reported just in the past week or so PF does not make haste for a trip to Argentina because he knows his reception will not match up to expectations.

    • In my diocese, the two parishes that I regularly attend (one on Sunday and the other on weekdays) offer confessions before every Mass for a half-hour. I have found on most days, Sunday or weekday, that if I am less than twenty minutes early to Mass, I cannot go to Confession because the line is too long. This weekend, I went to Confession the day before my brother’s wedding in the Cathedral of his diocese (where the wedding was also held). It was before a daily Mass and I stood in line for about fifteen minutes before entering the Confessional.

      There are signs of hope

    • Yes, you are right Johnny about the need to restore the understanding of sin and the Sacraments. The good news is in our smallish TLM churches, most parishioners go every week. All seem to go within the month. And as Thomas J McIntyre notes, the availability of the Sacrament before and after Mass helps, as does sound catechism and sound teaching from the pulpit. I share your concern over the N.O parishioners though.

      • We’re saddled, Donna, with a pope who has to know that what you say is true, but who prefers to sideline and denigrate such practices. His words tell us he has no use for “mere Catholicism” at all. We all see how traditional formations in the Church are prospering while those who choose novelty are dying, but Francis blithely continues on, oblivious to reality. I’m not equipped to judge his orthodoxy or lack of same, but I can say confidently that he’s the worst CEO of any organization I’ve ever seen, a catastrophe for the Church.

  19. “Not once does this admonishment not to eat and drink the body and blood of the Lord unworthily appear in the three year cycle of readings in the “ordinary form” of the liturgy — the Mass that the vast majority of Catholics around the world attend.”

    Isn’t 1 Cor. 11: 23-32 the Epistle for Corpus Christi? If not, why not?

    • Not in the Novus Ordo. In the NO, the second reading is 1 Cor. 10:16 & 17. 1 Cor. 11 is used in the evening Mass of Maundy Thursday in the NO, but it stops at verse 26; the admonishment against eating and drinking unworthily is literally nowhere to be found in the NO lectionary.

      Now some may argue it was a simple oversight, but I’m far too cynical—and learned in Bugnini and co.’s methodology (which routinely included lying, misrepresentation of facts, and cobbling together prayers [i.e., EP II] over lunch)—to believe the omission was an error.

      • WOW. We have the entire Epistle on Great and Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) on the Latin calendar.

        Also, this is the prayer before Holy Communion in every Divine Liturgy (it’s the same whether it’s the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which is used 10 times/year):

        I believe, O Lord, and confess that You are truly Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom. I am first.

        Accept me this day, O Son of God, as a partaker of Your Mystical Supper. I will not tell the mystery to Your enemies, nor will I give You a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief I confess to You:

        +Remember me, O Lord, when You come into Your kingdom.
        +Remember me, O Master, when You come into Your kingdom.
        +Remember me, O Holy One, when You come into Your kingdom.

        May the partaking of Your Holy Mysteries, O Lord, be unto me not for judgement or condemnation but for the healing of soul and body.

        +God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
        +God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me.
        +I have sinned without number, forgive me, O Lord.

        Your homework for today is to find all 7 Scripture references in this prayer. ????

    • Once I was debating in my mind whether a sin was mortal, a thought I had. As I was pondering that, the reading that day was what you just mentioned above. Needless to say I did not receive that day

      • John,

        Analyzing our culpability for various thoughts can be a bit of a minefield. I read the following in a catholic magazine earlier this year and kept it as I found it helpful:

        ‘Everyone is tempted. There are three aspects to temptation which we should consider: SUGGESTION, PLEASURES and CONSENT. The first two ARE NOT SINFUL. Various thoughts and suggestions come into our mind spontaneously on a daily basis. It is only sinful if we consent to these temptations and keep them in our mind for pleasure or enjoyment. We must remember that it is sinful to keep impure and uncharitable thoughts in our minds. It is the devil that frequently stimulates immoral thoughts. This can often lead to a period of shame and even to alienation from God. The devil is always seeking to break our relationship with God. It is indispensable to express sorrow for our sins with an Act of Contrition and by going to Confession regularly.’

  20. I just don’t see how its catholicism, but that’s just me. I’m open to being convinced otherwise, but if this is Catholicism, I’m ashamed to be a catholic….

    Anyone seen the latest from Schneider on VII? Weird stuff afoot, boy-ohs….

  21. Love does not demand repentance as if some tyrant. Love requires repentance. It says what is needed but will not bludgeon you if you refuse to do it. And allows you your choice to wallow in misery for refusing to comply with the requirement.

    • I offer confessions on Sunday mornings at my mission parish (it’s my first Mass of the day), don’t have enough time at my other parish before Mass. Though I have two and 1/4 hours of confession on Saturday: an hour in morning and an hour 1/4 in the afternoon (morning at one parish, afternoon at the other.) and then before daily Mass.

      I usually get a few takers every Sunday morning (its a small parish). I think it’s a good idea and that every parish should offer confessions at least before the first Mass Sunday morning. If you only have one priest it could be hard to make it work before the other Masses on Sunday.

      • If you don’t have time that’s understandable. These days the priests are so few the Bishop has them sprinting across town to serve several parishes.

    • Both in Quebec City (Notre Dame de Quebec) now and in a parish I used to belong to here in the States where a Franco-American priest served, Confession is/was offered immediately before Mass on Sunday. I think it’s an excellent practice but I realize it means a lot more effort for the priest. It was far more doable back in the days when there were always 2 or 3 priests to serve a parish.

    • It was so wonderful to have the Latin Mass within driving distance for a while, with confession before Mass on Sunday! Because I live so far away from a decent parish, I have to attend Saturday Mass now so I can confess beforehand. But thanks be to God, we can still participate in the Holy Sacrifice and the Sacrament of Reconciliation freely. As long as I have both, I’ll not complain! Another great article, Steve.

    • It should be required but from the Novus Ordo masses I’ve seen, not needed, everyone is already a saint because they’re all going up to receive Holy Communion.

  22. Cannot but thank you Steve! I could have writen most of those lines myself because that’s exactly how I feel about confession. I hope I won’t sound too presumptous if I add that confession also is a chance the good Lord graces me with, to exercize humility! I cannot enter the confessional without shedding all my stubborn pride down to the last ounce!
    And once in, I resign myself and tell my Lord :”I am a total failure Lord. All by myself I fail every time because I’m too proud to admit how weak I am without Your grace”.
    Once more thanks and God Bless your precious work.

  23. Went to a very needed confession yesterday. Standing in that line focusing on how awful a person I am is awful… but walking out of that confessional is the about as good as it gets.

  24. The sense of sin has gone I think primarily because Original Sin has been rejected, replaced by evolution and the psycho babble of the shrink. “We are all guilty (= everyone else is guilty for my sins, not me!”) and none of us is guilty” says the world: the responsibility of the individual no longer exists.

    In such a state, the devil is your friend, not your enemy.

    That’s where we are in the Church. They would rather have the devil making (false) excuses for them rather than amending their lives and showing God they love Him by obeying His Commandments.

    • 100% correct, no sense of sin. I only attend the TLM.
      In September I attended a Novus Ordo funeral for my mother. I had no say in the planning of the funeral. Everyone went up for holy communion as the other members of the family don’t attend or know anything of the TLM. I did not go up to receive holy communion because of no recent confession and also because I don’t attend the Novus Ordo which I consider and Church law agrees is illicit.
      Later that evening I was confronted by a sister “why did you not go up to receive communion?”
      I began my response by saying how short confession is on Saturdays for an entire parish of people, then I went into the fact that if you miss mass on a holy day or eat meat on a day of required abstinence you have committed a mortal sin. I started to go into Quo Primum a bit but it was way over their heads and from their reaction they had no interest.
      Her and two brothers eyes glazed over and they scoffed in some way and the subject was not brought up again. Evidently they were somehow embarrassed I DID NOT go up for Holy Communion and remained in the pew. They’re lucky I was even there, I had strong reservations about even attending this novus ordo mass at which Tony Bennett’s “I’ll be seeing you” was played. I didn’t realize Tony Bennett was added to the list of approved liturgical music.

  25. People at least in my area, don’t know how to give a confession which is why it’s so hard to (relatively speaking) find a confession. They go in and not sure what they’re saying or talking about but they take all day. Mother Angelica joked she always had the urge to go knock to see what the hold up was.
    So the poor priest gets drawn into a counseling session and he shouldn’t. Of course when people go only once a year they have a big back log of sins they’re trying to remember and confess. It’s a mess which is why when you catch a priest outside the confessional time and ask for a confession he’ll get that pained look on his face and often say no when in reality a confession should be a quick and frequent thing.

    Your sins by name and number, act of contrition, done.
    If you need a counseling session or more extensive confession, call for an appointment during office hours

    • As you say, the wincing, then just plain spitting it out and then the hearing of “…absolvo…”

      There is NOTHING like it on this earth!

      To borrow a line from the Protestant song…”Our God is an AWESOME God!”

      PS: You better get there early at our parish if you want to confess AND attend Mass, because the line is long. But then we are always told those rigid Traditionalists are really the worst sorts of sinners!!


  26. Mercy is so comforting but the justice of God, punishment due to sin, is rarely mentioned….it’s uncomfortable.


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