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November 1, 2003
Confess, Heretic

As I've posted before, I'm a practicing Catholic, which is one who hopes to improve through repetition. (ba-dum-ting! Thank you, and don't forget to tip the waitress.) This morning, the First Mate informs me that it's that time again .... confession time.

Belonging to any religion requires sacrifice of one kind or another. For Catholics, we have an obligation to go to confession -- now called Reconciliation, sort of how "problems" started to become "opportunities" at the office -- at least once a year, or whenever we have a mortal sin that has not been confessed. (Please note that I am no expert on Catholicism, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.) You are not supposed to receive the Holy Eucharist until you've confessed your sins and receive absolution. However, a large number of Catholics are uncomfortable with confession, myself included, and resist engaging in this particular sacrament. I've expressed this before to the First Mate, but she simply orders me to go. In my house, the First Mate outranks the Captain. Maybe it's different at your house.

Why the hesitancy? Sin is shameful, and one does not bare shame easily in front of anyone, least of all the parish priest -- though why that's more difficult than calling a talk-radio host or appearing on Jerry Springer, I'm not quite sure. Other Christian denominations eliminated confession as a public act of contrition, believing that the status of one's soul was between the penitent and God, and I admit that this view is attractive. However, sin by its nature is public, whether practiced as such or not. Sin pushes us away from God and his children. Indeed, separation is the nature of sin, and separation cannot be addressed by further separation. Atoning for sin should therefore involve an acknowledgement of the harm done to the entire Body of Christ, not just your own soul.

All of that ran through my mind today while waiting for my turn with the priest. Once I was inside the room -- this church doesn't have confessionals and so uses a curtain for privacy -- the priest made me feel comfortable, warmly greeting me and waiting for me to start. I went through my sins and discussed how they made me feel and how they affected my life, and it occurred to me that Catholics were about 1800 years ahead of Sigmund Freud. The only differences are that it doesn't take an hour (usually), there's no charge, and you're cured at the end of one session, at least theoretically.

Once I was done, I felt much better, as I always do. I wondered why I make such a big deal about this every time, and I think it's not because I have to sit in a room and discuss my shortcomings with a priest, or a therapist, or Jerry Springer on national TV. It's because I have to face my shortcomings at all, and without the mechanism of Reconciliation, I might never do it. Saying "I'm sorry and God forgives me" is just too easy to do without overt action showing a commitment to my own forgiveness.

But don't tell the First Mate, because then she'll start lording it over me, and I don't want to be responsible for her soul being imperiled by excess pride and vanity. (I'm such a giver.)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 1, 2003 3:56 PM

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