Thursday, January 15, 2009


I happened to read a news story this morning about the Catholic church. Apparently, they worry that the sacrament of confession is becoming underused, and in their concern about it's central role in the salvation of souls, they've decided that the only logical thing is to remove the shroud of secrecy around a secret papal tribunal.

Oh, how mindful I am of the temptation to make a snarky remark here. But for now, let me just comment that this move somehow fails to make me feel more like participating in the sacrament of confession.

It's not the utter lack of logic involved in the move (this is supposed to make me more interested in confession just how exactly?!). It's also the bizarre logic involved in the tribunal itself. Apparently, this tribunal is used only for really serious sins that can't be handled by priests or bishops.

Like what, you ask? Genocide, maybe? Or mass murder? Nope. The Vatican apparently feels that these relatively minor sins can easily be handled by priests or bishops.

So what kind of sin is so serious that it can only be handled by a special papal tribunal? Well, the list of sins here involves things such as the desecration of the blessed sacrament (including, and I'm not making this up, if you were to be offered the eucharist and inexplicably spit it back out!). Other situations involve the unhappy circumstance of seeking the priesthood (or of becoming a deacon) if you've ever paid money for an abortion in the past.

Sigh. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to defend the intentional desecration of religious objects. But this policy just seems idiotic. What they're essentially saying is that Hitler could have sought absolution from his sins by a parish priest (it's only genocide, after all), while some rebellious teenager with a bad case of indigestion during mass would need a special papal tribunal to have his soul reach heaven.

But in the end, this irritation I'm experiencing probably says at least as much about me as it does about the church's policy itself. I hope to have the time to sit with this irritation today, to see what it has to teach me.

Peace to you all.

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