Features

Forgive me, Father

8 February 2014

9:00 AM

8 February 2014

9:00 AM

For non-Catholics, the most luridly fascinating aspect of Catholicism is confession. Telling your inmost sins — and we know what they are — to a male cleric, eh? In a darkened booth. How medieval is that?

Well, the fantasies that people who never go to confession nurse about it are about to be shored up by a new book on the subject by the Catholic author John Cornwell. It’s called The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession. On the cover is a scary-looking picture of a confessional — not somewhere you’d take the children, frankly, but right at home in a Hitchcock movie.

John Cornwell is a friend, and moreover an intelligent and thoughtful man, but if ever there were a book that played to its gallery, it’s this one. The thing is riddled with sex, including child abuse, which is plainly working miracles from the point of view of publicity. I’ve been asked to review it by three newspapers; another is carrying extracts. It’s a cue for every ex-Catholic in the commentariat to discuss their angst about sharing their sex lives with elderly priests. The trauma!

The last time I went to confession was on Christmas Eve, in my home parish in Ireland. Confessions were from 10 until noon. There had already been a penitential service that week, so I assumed anyone who had anything on their conscience would have gone then. To my surprise, there were priests in three confession boxes and two rows of people, constantly renewed, waiting their turn in front of each of them. The penitents weren’t all elderly, either. There were teenagers and children.

My confession went just fine, thank you. There was, as ever, a grille between me and the priest; the box was dark but not intimidatingly so, which is how I like it. The priest didn’t dwell on stuff relating to sex; he homed in on the opportunity of opening ourselves up for divine forgiveness. From the point of view of a non-Catholic, it would have been a bit dull. But when I left, with my penance (an Our Father and Hail Mary) I felt that curious lightness I always feel after I’ve been told: ‘I absolve you from all your sins.’ Later, I asked the parish priest how many people came normally. ‘A dozen, two dozen a week,’ he said. ‘But people want to talk about all sorts of things. There’ll always be the need for that.’


That’s just one parish. And plainly in the church in Britain and Ireland, and in comparable countries, confession has changed inexorably in the last couple of decades. The lines of penitents that turned up in every Catholic church every Saturday aren’t there any more; the young are even more conspicuously not there. Quite a few of the children who went to first confession with my son a couple of years ago haven’t been since. In my church in London, penitent numbers are small and steady.

But things are changing. I’m not entirely sure about the ‘Pope Francis effect’ — since his election there’s apparently been an increase in Mass attendance — but anecdotally there’s talk of an upturn in confessions too. In Westminster cathedral, there’s been a discernible increase in the numbers. The cathedral attracts transient penitents who don’t want to tell their sins to a priest they know. (Shallow, I know, but I’m just the same.) It always has people waiting in line. A priest I know who served in Bristol for three months over the summer said that in his church — again, one attended by irregulars — he had daily confession for a half hour every day, and he was busy all that time. ‘Quite a number were young men,’ he said. ‘And they had taken the trouble to prepare, to make very good confessions.’ The same goes for the Cambridge University chaplaincy. It’s bringing in an extra Mass on Fridays, and at the request of the students, it’s going to be preceded by confession. ‘These are balanced, normal young people,’ said the chaplain, Mark Langham, ‘and they make wonderful confessions.’

The opposite of a good confession is the laundry-list approach, whereby people who feel obliged to attend come up with a catalogue of sins that they repeat week after week: a failure to remember prayers, say. I know several Catholics who say they made things up. A few of my acquaintances stopped going to confession when their sex lives so plainly didn’t square with Catholic ideals that there seemed no point, really.

‘Patterns of usage have changed,’ said one priest friend. ‘Confession is used less but it’s not used less well.’ Advent or Holy Week (pre-Easter) penitential services are well attended, as are those before Christmas; in north London, one priest said wonderingly that he had a packed church, all ages. At these services, there are prayers and readings, followed by individual confessions in public view, but not in public hearing. One woman I know said that her daughter, whose home life had been a bit rackety, had gone to a penitential service just before Christmas and when she went up to the priest for confession she hadn’t been able to stop herself crying and crying; the poor priest said to her that she was welcome to come and see him any time.

That’s another thing you hear, that people still come to priests to talk things over; confession isn’t counselling but if that’s what you want, you can have it, so long as the two aren’t conflated. And while things like contraception don’t register on the radar, other things do; one priest remarked that several young male penitents were troubled about their use of pornography sites.

Plainly, many unmarried people in sexual relationships and gay people have no intention of changing their way of life but still want to confess things that do trouble them. ‘That’s fine,’ said one priest. ‘That’s the Pope Francis approach. If there’s one aspect of life that’s problematic, let’s have a look at something else if that helps. If it’s uncharity that’s bothering you, let’s look at that. Confession is about your whole life. You’re not defined by one sin.’ Another priest remarked: ‘People in those situations don’t confess what they don’t regard as sins. And it’s not for me to ask whether they’ve forgotten anything.’

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the archbishop emeritus of Westminster, takes a robust approach: ‘It’s like the pebble in your shoe; normally it’s one thing that’s bothering you and you should come to confession about that. Or maybe two or three things. If I were bishop now, I’d advise people just to come to confession twice a year, perhaps before Christmas and Easter. But of course for some people more frequent confession is very helpful.’ It’s a big change from the old way of doing things, whereby Catholics were exhorted to go to confession every week. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor says the Pope should bring the bishops of the church together to deal with the whole issue of confession. ‘I think he should hold a consistory about it,’ he says. ‘When I see him I shall suggest that.’

In a way, it would be no big deal. The form confession takes is less important than the thing itself, the forgiveness of sin. As I say, I’ve never left the dark box without feeling lighter. Call it grace, if you like.

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Show comments
  • jmjm208

    There is no need to go to a “Confessional box” and tell your sins to a “priest”. Christ is our Priest – we go straight to him.

    The New Testament book of Hebrews makes this absolutely clear, as also does 1st Timothy 2 v 5 “There is one mediator between God and Man…Christ Jesus”.

    • Rocksy

      So you like ‘green’ some like ‘yellow’. What’s you’re point?

    • Rocksy

      Relying on Gospel interpretation has been the reason all Non catholic Christian churches have rapidly dwindling congregations.

      • Weaver

        I’m not a christian, but really? Even the Pentecostalists?

        • Rocksy

          Everyone.

          • Weaver

            I don’t think that’s true. There’s 700 Million protestant in the world in 2000, and onty 550 Million christians (all denominations) in total in 1900.

            http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/facts/fm0010.html

            That means at least 150 Million more protestants in the intervening years.

          • Rocksy

            The numbers will increase as the population on the planet increases but not keeping up with the increases. Of course there are more Christians, there are more people and at least some of them are going to be Christian. I’d like to think that all Christian churches were increasing in membership. Sadly I believe it isn’t so.

      • jmjm208

        The non-Catholic denominations may be in decline but there is growth in the independent evangelical churches. Many of them meet in rented buildings such as schools and they are growing. They are seeing people saved (including many young people).

        • Rocksy

          I don’t disagree necessarily. I had considered the Evangelical churches when I had written my post. The reason they are not in decline like the traditional non Catholic churches is not so different from the reason the Catholic church is not in decline.
          Both the Catholic Church and Evangelical churches remain true to their core beliefs and don’t change them to suit a changing social landscape.
          Other churches tend to change or at least modify longstanding beliefs in an effort to appear ‘modern’ and to appeal to a larger audience. Ironically, in doing so they lose their loyal and more traditional membership who often join the Catholic Church or an Evangelical church.

          • jmjm208

            Thank you for your considered comments. Liberal “churches” tell us that it is essential to change beliefs in order to fit into modern society. However, no-one respects those who keep changing their views. Respect is given to those who consistently stand up for what they believe in.

          • Daniel Maris

            The reason they are not in decline is because of mass immigration.

          • Rocksy

            I was referring to the whole planet. Yes numbers in various countries will fluctuate due to immigration. But the Universal Church is not affected by immigration.
            ‘Mass’ immigration. Is that a pun?

        • Except…studies show that after teenagers become adults, they tend to drift into high church Protestantism and Catholicism.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Cut out the middle man, the clergyman.

    • carlolancellotti

      Right, you go to him in your imagination. I go to him in his body, the Church.

  • Kitty MLB

    Well, I can answer that.
    Can you imagine Small girl in Italy sitting in a confessional with a
    priest asking ‘ Is there anything you want to tell me’.
    and that small cheeky girl saying she was too small to do anything wrong,
    but she did push her little brother into a pond.
    If adults find it imposing and medieval imagine a small little person feels

  • Karl Stuebe

    I must clarify one thing in this otherwise applause-worthy article.

    “Plainly, many unmarried people in sexual relationships and gay people have no intention of changing their way of life but still want to confess things that do trouble them.“

    The Church recognizes that being gay is not a sin (also one might add ‘a way of life’) but having sex, any sex, that does not lead to creation of children by people canonically wed to each other is. The Church is quite “classless” when it comes to sin as it proclaims its interpretation from scripture and tradition on how to live an ordered life and all of us fall short. To imagine that being gay is a predisposition to licentious activity is unaccepted by the Church. It might have read better “gay people in sexual relationships”; the same qualification which was given to the unmarried for we don’t imagine because one is simply unmarried they are going around getting their rocks off. 🙂

    • Doggie Roussel

      Perhaps, Karl, you might care to explain your claim that a Catholic married couple who have sex during the period of a woman’s menstrual cycle, where it is improbable or impossible to conceive, stand in the eyes of the Church.

      Are you saying that every act of intercourse between a Catholic man and woman must be undertaken for the sole purpose of procreation ?

      • Karl Stuebe

        Marital sex must be open to the possibility of children being created. Artificial birth control of any sort directly acts to separate the sexual act from its creativity. The situation you speak of is not considered out of order by the Church as there is still an “openess” to the possibility of life. In this case you mention there hasn’t been an active, unnatural and purposeful deterrent to the fecundity of the couple.

        • Weaver

          What if the women is post-menopausal. Or had her ovaries/uterus surgically removed? Is sex a sin then?

          I’m fascinated now….

          • Karl Stuebe

            One does not render oneself post-menopausal hence one is not actively or purposefully trying to separate sex from creation so post-menapausal sex is perfectly natural betwixt a married couple. As far as the surgical removal of necessary organs it depends if the removal was for purposes other than deterring the creation of children (uterine cancer etc) or not. The intent of an act and the conviction of openness to life are the fulcrums of the idea.

          • Doggie Roussel

            Semantics !

          • Sara_TMS_again

            Well, that’s the doctrine. He’s exactly right.

          • Doggie Roussel

            So much for the doctrine, then… rush out, girls … hysterectomies are cheap today !

          • Karl Stuebe
          • Doggie Roussel

            So why and how are gay men and lesbians now being embraced by the Church when whatever sexual acts they enjoy have absolutely nothing to do with procreation, but are simply an indulgence of their sexuality and carnal urges.

            More pertinently; why did an all-loving God inflict them with impulses and preferences that were completely contradictory of what we perceive as Catholic doctrine.

            The Catholic Church is a monstrous fraud.

          • Sara_TMS_again

            The Church is not embracing gay sexual acts in its teaching, but is coming round to the fact that it should also condemn homophobia.

            I could answer your second question myself- there’s no official Church answer as yet. My answer would be that people of gay orientation were intended to give their energies and creativity to the community as a whole rather than to children.

            One could break that down in technical biological terms (it’s like species, e.g. ants and honey bees, where many of the children are infertile and give all their energy to their fertile sisters’ children), but that’s not my area of expertise.

  • Claire

    Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor should be utterly ashamed of his “advice”. He seems to be unaware that penitents receive GRACE when they receive the sacrament. Some cardinal he is. As for the priest who said “it’s fine” that “penitents” don’t confess serious sin, he is one hundred percent wrong. God forgive him for giving such a bad example and leading souls astray.

    • Doggie Roussel

      Poor Claire !

    • Doggie Roussel

      What about a Catholic priest who has recently raped three boys, then blithely moves on to the confessional to hear the confessions of those seeking comfort within one of the ‘supposed’ sacraments of the Catholic Church…

      The Catholic Church has admitted these abuses by their priests in the USA and Ireland and it has cost the Vatican billions in compensation… and yet, we are still expected to believe in and contribute to the coffers of the Catholic Church and keep stumbling into the confessionals to confess our venial sins… when the confessors are, more often than not the greatest transgressors… does one turn up to the Pearly Gates to discover that one’s confession was invalid, because the Father McQ… to whom one had confessed, had been off-limits at the time… and where was Father McQ ?..

      Oh, he made a perfect act of contrition during his final cardiac arrest and is now sitting happily on cloud 9, third on the left, where he is enjoying perpetual bliss….

      What a complete and utter load of old bull…t !

      I’ll take my chances with Lucifer and all my other mates down below !

      • Rocksy

        Don’t you have to believe in an Afterlife and God to do that?

        • Doggie Roussel

          First, those few good people are in an awesome minority.

          I remember my devoutly Catholic father telling one of my sisters, who had apostatised that it was such a shame that he would not see any of his grandchildren in heaven as they were not now Catholics.

          That’s pretty unfair on the many billions of human beings who have been on the earth for millions of years.

          Christ only appeared on earth 2000 years ago. That’s a millisecond in the scale of things, yet the Catholic Church sees fit to exclude 99.9999999% of the human population of the Earth from its so-called paradise.

          • Sara_TMS_again

            No it doesn’t. Catholics are adamant that it is God who welcomes people into paradise, and we genuinely and radically do not know (except in the case of saints) who is in heaven and who isn’t- or whether there is anyone who isn’t.

            What is important in Catholic doctrine is that there are real moral choices in life, and what you do in response matters and makes you into a certain sort of person rather than another sort of person, and that has consequences.

          • Doggie Roussel

            I can’t believe what you just stated… it is tantamount to saying that only Catholics have a a proper moral set of values… that said, that is pretty much what the Jesuits tried to instill in me…

            Adolf H’s last words were reputedly… “might as well be hanged for a sheep, as a lamb… he then made an act of perfect contrition (I do love the quaint language of the catechism), and now sits on a pretty high perch in the Seraphim…

          • Sara_TMS_again

            That wasn’t what I meant to say- I believe in the natural light of reason which guides all human beings to make moral choices (though I believe that natural light comes from God).

            I was trying to explain why we have a doctrine of heaven and hell- because the alternative is to believe that nothing we do or don’t do actually matters. But we believe it’s naturally possible to know one shouldn’t murder, steal etc., and that one should be just to others, whether one has any religious conviction or not (again, ultimately we believe because God made it that way).

          • Doggie Roussel

            Why are Catholic saints in Heaven when many Hindu and Buddhist saints are excluded ?

          • Sara_TMS_again

            We’re not in a position to say anything about Hindu and Buddhist saints. We haven’t said we know they’re excluded from Heaven. We don’t know.

            A Christian saint is someone who has heroically followed Christ and clearly witnessed to his love. Catholics don’t even pronounce on the position of non-Catholic Christian saints, even the ones many Catholics ardently admire. We don’t even pronounce on ourselves, so you wouldn’t expect us to pronounce on non-Catholics.

          • lukuj

            The Church does NOT teach that Catholics can’t go to heaven.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Heaven for the view, Hell for the company.
        Wake up people, promises of a glorious after life are for the terminally gullible, the weak-minded that can’t handle mortality.

      • Sara_TMS_again

        ‘Does one turn up to the Pearly Gates to discover that one’s confession
        was invalid, because the Father McQ… to whom one had confessed, had
        been off-limits at the time?’

        No- ecclesia supplet (the Church supples anything that is lacking). A sinful priest doesn’t invalidate the sacrament.

        Of course priests hearing confessions are sinners- so are we all. They are no more likely to be abusers than your spouse or your parents or your children, or yourself. Some people do abuse abuse children, which is heinous. But it’s not just a Catholic problem- it’s a problem for the whole human race.

        Filling up the coffers is another myth. Protestants pay their clergy far more than Catholics do- we are a bunch of skinflints.

        • Doggie Roussel

          A bit of a dichotomy here, I believe, Sara…. how does a paedophile priest, who is not in a state of grace, give absolution to a penitent ?

          I know it is all semantics… but then, that is what most Catholic doctrine and indoctrination is all about.

          • Sara_TMS_again

            Because the grace doesn’t come from the priest, it comes from God. The Holy Spirit can still work through a priest even if he’s in mortal sin- not that he gets any merit thereby, but the other person does.

            This was all decided in the fourth century during the Donatist schism, where the Donatists argued that priests who had given in under torture and denied Christ could no longer be channels of the Holy Spirit. The rest of the Church agreed that they could, so you didn’t have to re-baptise everyone they had baptised (and by extension remarry everyone they married, re-anoint all the dying etc). If you think about the potential unravelling of the community a doctrine of the priest’s unworthiness nullifying the sacraments causes, you will see why they made the decision.

          • Doggie Roussel

            How very convenient for the Catholic Church !

  • bondi1000

    The article doesn’t live up to its billing, sadly. As an intrigued non-Catholic I was hoping for enlightenment, but the piece is just fluffy journalese.

    • Karl Stuebe

      Be not disheartened! The sacrament of reconciliation is quite rich and deep. Perhaps Fr. Robert Barron’s take might be more to your liking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-mbVFzy5A8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

      • Donafugata

        Thanks for the link Karl.

        Fr. Barron makes me remember how much has been lost when he talks about 40 years ago.

        The second reformation, Vatican 2, has a lot to answer for.

  • Rocksy

    I’m a Catholic and have a good friend who is a priest. From my own experience as a penitent and from stories gathered by a variety of priests and the stories of other Catholics, the confessions are often either boring or hilarious in their innocence, expression and occasional unsure grasp of doctrine.
    Any non Catholic who imagines a dark and sordid session would be disappointed.

    • Sara_TMS_again

      I’ve never met a priest who did not take confessions seriously, and if priest friends are laughing to you about their penitents they should stop. It’s a bad habit to get into.

      • Rocksy

        I didn’t say that priests didn’t take the Sacrament of Reconciliation seriously. No one is laughing at the penitents but at the innocence and frailty of all of us. We have all been penitents and we have all been children. I was trying to point out to anyone who isn’t a Catholic and who has any curiosity about what is talked about, that they would be disappointed if they believed it to be sordid.

        • Sara_TMS_again

          Fair enough, but even the smallest and most innocent confessions need to be taken seriously, because they are serious to the penitent.

          Cornwell’s book does sound ridiculous.

  • Doggie Roussel

    At the Jesuit School, where I spent ten years of indoctrination and brutality, some of the more introspective students became aware eventually of the uncanny coincidence of the confessional and the subsequent punishments administered to the transgressors who might have confessed to what our Jesuit mentors considered to be sexual or other transgressions of the Catholic credo, as well as the removal of various boys who threatened their authority. It was also a most effective method of maintaining order and orthodoxy within the school, as well as suppressing rebellion and dissent within an oppressive system.

    Realising that the secrets of the confessional might not be sacrosanct, some of the more canny penitents therefore ceased to visit the confessional, or use it to their own advantage… say when trying to grass or fit up a bullying or obnoxious rival, while the more naive continued to spill the beans and endure both their penance and the inexplicable corporal punishments that ensued.

    I remain convinced that the confessional remains a primary source for the information that is needed by the Catholic Church to keep its flock … and revenues… regulated and under their control.

    The confessional is Rome’s Stasi or Gestapo.

    It is just another cunning device of the Catholic Church

    • Rocksy

      Well, no paranoia here then. Sounds like a plot outline for another Dan Brown pot boiler.

    • Rocksy

      Here’s another cunning device of the Catholic Church: you can leave any time you like without notice and without any disfellowshipping or even without anyone noticing or commenting. Is that how the Gestapo operated?

      • rob232

        If you are an adult and you live in a liberal democracy you are quite free to choose any religion or no religion at all. it hasn’t always been like that.
        If you are a child or young person very often you don’t have tthis freedom as those of us brought up as Catholics know all too well.

        • Rocksy

          If you’re a child there’s hardly anything you can have freedom of choice about. Using that argument doesn’t strengthen your position.

          The whole point of being an adult is that you have the freedom to put almost everything aside if you wish.

          • rob232

            Religious apologists are so intellectually dishonest. You know exactly what I mean. The Catholic church uses all its power and influence to control people and it isn’t always easy to escape its clutches.
            As I indicated in my post it hasn’t always been possible to simply ignore the Catholic church and it still depends very much on where you live,the kind of influence your family and society have over you and your own strength of character.
            You chose to centre on one point in my post which was that a child has little choice in his life decisions. This is true and many people think that religious indoctrination of children is a kind of abuse.
            I come from an Irish Catholic family, was brought up in a Polish Catholic school and have lived in Spain most of my life. I and my Spanish wife are in our fifties and we have no illusions about what the church can do when it is in control. I’m sure you know exactly what I am speaking about. Just try and be honest with yourself.
            .

          • Rocksy

            One of the behaviours I have noticed about many people is that they try to convince others that they think the same way as they do. I didn’t try to convince you that you really thought like me but weren’t honest enough to say so. I believe that you believe what you say according to your experience. I had a very different Catholic experience. Please give me the respect that my experiences have led to a different view.

          • Doggie Roussel

            Correct, and I wonder how the Catholic Church now defends the Spanish Inquisition and auto-da-fe…. it’s attitudes then very much reflect the attitudes towards Islam now… not that I am in any way an apologist for Islam.

          • Sara_TMS_again

            It’s not the Spanish Inquisition it needs to apologise for- that was State controlled- but the Inquisition in the rest of Europe.

            However, the State was equally brutal in its punishments at the time- disembowelling, tearing apart, breaking on the wheel- that doesn’t excuse the Church, but you do have to look at it in context.

          • Emerson_C

            The principle defence of the Spanish Inquisition comes from the Jewish Harvard scholar Henry Karmen. He has estimated that the number of executions related to that Inquisition over a period of 350 years is about 3500 to no more than 5,000. This is considerably less that those tortured and killed for religious reasons during the bloody reign of Henry XIII and Elizebeth 1 in England.

          • Doggie Roussel

            I was never aware that there was a Henry the Thirteenth…. and, assuming you mean Henry VIII, his daughter ‘Bloody Mary’ did her best to burn and torture as many Protestants as possible on behalf of the Catholic faith.

          • Mazzzz

            Henry XIII ?

            You mean Henry VIII !

          • Mazzzz

            Sorry, I did not read the next post down.

          • Sara_TMS_again

            I don’t know the situation in Poland or Spain, but in the UK the Catholic Church is nothing like what you are talking about.

          • Donafugata

            I agree with you, Sara.

            I have a friend who had a Catholic upbringing in Dublin and he is far more critical of the church than I, having been to a Catholic school in London.

            In the ’50s and ’60s in England, being Catholic wasn’t as bad as being Jewish but you did sense that you were a bit of an outsider so perhaps it was comforting to belong to a clearly defined faith.

            My friend Tony hasn’t a good word to say for the church and clearly suffered under its omnipotence in Ireland.

          • Doggie Roussel

            it strengthens rob232’s position in that it highlights the vulnerability and exploitation of children by the priests of the Catholic Church.

          • abystander

            What happens on this indoctrination front when people become Catholics?
            Have they been kidnapped before hand?

    • rob232

      Your theory that pupils in your school were profiled according to their confessions leads me to another darker and more disturbing suspicion. I wonder how many of the chidren abused by clergy were originally chosen and groomed in the confessional.

      • Doggie Roussel

        That’s an excellent post but sadly we’ll never know unless some paedophile priest (and there have been quite a few) becomes a nark and grasses up his fellow priests.

        • Rocksy

          I think we will probably not find any common ground. I’ve had a reputation since youth of questioning everyone and everything. I’ve always relied on my own experience and ability to think for myself. I was fortunate to have the kind of Catholic upbringing and education which encouraged me to do so.( I would have done it anyway.) In fact we knew that being a Catholic brought with it the responsibility to question.
          I’m both saddened and angry that you didn’t have the same chance.

        • Sara_TMS_again

          Plenty of the survivors have told their stories. I would not be surprised if that did happen, but abusers can find their opportunity anywhere.

    • Sara_TMS_again

      ‘I remain convinced that the confessional remains a primary source for
      the information that is needed by the Catholic Church to keep its flock
      … and revenues… regulated and under their control.’

      I’ve no idea what happened at your school, you’re a better judge of that than I (though lots of private schools were pretty weird when corporal punishment was allowed, and state schools too), but as regards the confessional, that bears no relation whatsoever to the reality in any parish I’ve ever been in.

      The confessional has nothing to do with money at all, and if it ever did that would be a serious sin- simony- on the part of the priest.

      • Doggie Roussel

        Sara, your point is well made… but my point was that the Catholic Church has a history of controlling and maintaining their flock through indoctrination, fear, suppression and oppression… the Spanish Inquisition being but one example of their savage and brutal means of keeping their congregation in check… Islam also, and more recently, has taken up this reign of religious terror and subjugation…

        You also mention money, but that was never the ambition of most of the Catholic priests with whom I have had any contact. There was a small percentage of truly cruel and sexually-perverted priests within the many who had a major part in my upbringing and education, but the few bad apples, within those communities, were driven by sexual, not pecuniary, gain.

        The celibacy that is demanded of Catholic clergy is the conduit for the many perverts who have sought and sheltered under the cloak of the religious orders which they have so betrayed and traduced.

        • Emerson_C

          Accoring to Professor Charon Shakeshaft, teacher abuse of children and minors in the US public school system is greater than that of the clergy by a factor of a 100. Furthermore abusing teachers are not reported but are passed from school in a process known as “passing the trash”. None of these teachers take vows of celibacy.

        • Sara_TMS_again

          The mystique gave a cloak to abusers, but it’s not the celibacy that was primarily the problem (though I think that’s problematic in other ways)- the most prolific abusers are fathers and stepfathers abusing their own children and stepchildren.

        • abystander

          You seem to have a long history of making things up

          • mahatmacoatmabag

            100% correct

    • Emerson_C

      Pull the other one!

    • terence patrick hewett

      I hope you enjoy yr holiday from Cif.

    • mahatmacoatmabag

      I’m surprised the Priest didn’t die of boredom when you went to confession, having to listen to an hour long rant from a masochistic nutter seeking perverted sexual gratification in the form of corporal punishments

    • carlolancellotti

      You really attended a strange school… May I ask the name of the School and the period?

  • Perseus Slade

    I am fascinated that people can actually believe in this stuff.
    I just don`t see how it could possibly all be true.
    For amusement, I tend to prefer the Norse and Ancient Greek gods, they seem more applicable.

    Forgive me, Melanie.

    hehe

  • Wise words …

    While liberty’s benefits increase with our commitment to it, liberty’s importance has little to do with the number of people who want it.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    You have to admit the Catholic Church does seem more than a little pre-occupied with sex.

    • Sara_TMS_again

      Those who can, do. Those who can’t, talk about it instead.

      Most of the web is preoccupied with sex, as far as I can see- I don’t see that the Catholic Church is more so than anyone else.

    • Rocksy

      No. Those who are preoccupied with sex are preoccupied with the Catholic Church’s stance.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “Cal it grace…”
    Call it the result of a lifetime’s brain washing.

    • carlolancellotti

      It sure makes a big positive difference in my life.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Vade retro Satana. Nunquam suade mihi vana. Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas.

  • A Young Catholic

    I’m sorry but Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor’s advice is absoltuely dreadful. I speak as a young man in saying that if I’m not going to Confession at least fortnightly I find it far harder to battle certain sins, and frequently fall into them. If, however, I am staying close to this Sacrament especially, I do not fall into those particular sins. No one should take what the Cardinal says as serious Catholic advise, it is not Catholic advise whatsoever and is seriously dangerous. Seeing as it Christ we come to in Confession, telling people not to go is like telling them to avoid seeing their best friend who truly cares about them…..

    As for his suggesting it to the Pope, firstly, it isn’t needed… We simply need to return to the traditional practise which was briefly interupted due to the terrible advice of people like the Cardinal. And can he give it a rest with mentioning how often he speaks to the Pope… I’m sick of hearing him brag about it.

    • Weekly Confession is something to aim for so that we can stay out of mortal sin and begin to purge those venial sins which are offensive to God and we don’t want to offend HIm, because we love Him.

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