Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Confession’ Category

I am slowly deciphering some of the written materials left by the late Msgr. William J. Awalt. For review and comments, they are being posted at my BLOGGER PRIEST site.

http://bloggerpriest.com/category/awalt-papers/

Msgr. Awalt was the pastor of St. Ann’s Church in NW Washington , DC for just over 30 years, retiring in the year 2000. I was honored to preach at the Mass celebrating his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2007. His pastorate was marked by a deep devotion to the Eucharist and a never-ending preoccupation with preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.

Read Full Post »

Bill and Susan are both baptized Catholics. But they rarely went to Mass. You might see them in the pews at Christmas and Easter, but that is about it. One Easter they came to Mass and had the surprise of their lives. The parking lot was empty. Going up to the church doors, they discovered that everything was locked. Confused, they almost decided just go home but it was Easter so they drove a little further to another church. Again, they were shocked. There was no one there, either. Now the mystery was intriguing them. What had happened? Had there been a revolution and the churches forcibly closed? Were the Protestants right and all the good Christians taken away by the rapture? They traveled outside of town to a third church. Here they found cars but services were ending. Although they had missed Mass, they entered the church for a quick visit and to find reassurance that nothing else had suddenly changed. Everything appeared to be in place, although the congregation seemed a bit small from the celebrations remembered in the past. They saw the priest and approached him with their puzzlement.

Susan spoke first, “Father, we are sorry about missing Mass but we had trouble finding an open church.”

Father Flynn responded, “I take it that you are new to the area. We would love to have you register here. We can always use new members.”

“No Father,” said Susan, “we have lived here all our lives. We were married at St. Margaret’s.”

“Oh my,” responded the priest, looking somewhat disturbed and maybe upset.

Bill entered the conversation, “We went to St. Margaret’s this morning and finding no one there went over to Holy Spirit. Both places were empty.”

“Yes,” lamented the priest, “I guess you both feel inconvenienced.”

“It certainly ruined Easter, what is going on Father?” asked Susan.

“You won’t like my answer. It might even make you angry,” added the priest.

The priest motioned for them to sit in a pew next to him.

“What is it, Father?” asked Bill.

“I will tell you,” said the priest, “it is your fault.”

Taken aback by the answer, they immediately insisted that he explain.

“You and so many people like you, killed St. Margaret, Holy Spirit, and almost a hundred other churches in the diocese. You want the church for a wedding, as if the building is only a decoration on a cake. You might ask for a baby’s baptism, when grandparents nag you. But then we have trouble finding a godparent who is not in mortal sin. Everyone who comes is a stranger. No one is practicing his or her faith. You come to Mass a couple times a year, throw a few dollars in the basket and expect the church to still be here waiting for you when you feel like coming back. Some only come to church twice in a lifetime, the day of baptism and the day of final repose. You did not know about those churches because they were not a part of your life. You did not support your parish through donations. You did not add to the parish life by your participation at Mass and in the various volunteer opportunities. You did not have children or if you did, you did not encourage vocations. How did you expect us to keep the churches open when we have no priests and empty pews? You broke the hearts of your priests who gave up the possibility of spouse and children to take care of the family of God. Priests weep over their people who neglect Confession and the Mass. Priests yearn to forgive your sins. You became comfortable with sin and made excuses. You said by your neglect that our sacrifices did not matter. Some of you were even vocal in arguing for married priests and condemning all celibate men as deviates and predators. In essence, your dissent and absence told the priests that we were wasting our time. Worst of all, you were saying that you did not need the Church. You forced God to the periphery of your lives, if he were there at all. The churches closed were wonderful places once. God lived in those houses and in the hearts and souls of the people. But when you stopped coming, things began to run down. Where there were once three priests, now there was one. Eventually even that one was shared between parishes. Many young people stopped coming. The congregations got older. The average parishioner age at Holy Spirit was around eighty! God called the faithful remnant home. Grandparents tried to give the faith to their grandchildren, but sometimes with opposition from their own children. They suffered terrible guilt. What had they done wrong? Why did their children stray? Bills started to grow and resources were strained. The new Bishop had to take action. Critics hated him and spouted condemnations when he closed beautiful old churches. Many of these same voices were those of fallen-away Catholics. They still had sentiment about their childhood parishes, but nothing of a deeper or lasting value. Catholics today are twice as populous as in the old days, but less than 15 to 20% go to weekly Mass. Back in 1960, that figure was 90 to 95%. Our schools are dying and increasingly expensive. Our churches are relegated to the status of museums instead of as places of worship and community life. You did not pray— you did not pay— and now you are upset that the churches did not stay. We are drowning in a sea of hypocrisy. A housing developer will be bull-dozing Holy Spirit within the month. Who knows what shall become of St. Margaret Catholic Church? There is talk that a Baptist group might buy it. Some of the churches have become condominiums with the guts torn out. What the enemies of the Church could not do, we have done to ourselves.”

The couple was silent. The priest reached into his pocket and pulled out a broken piece or marble or plaster made out as marble.

“See this,” said the priest, “this is a fragment from the altar at Holy Spirit. I was pastor there. On the morning I came by to pay my final respects, demolition men were hacking the altar to pieces. It was on that altar that bread and wine became the body and blood of Jesus. It was from that altar that the faithful received the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation. I did everything I could think of to save the church. I went door-to-door in an attempt at outreach. But there was a bigger Catholic church down the road and we had no school. Even they were struggling. Most people of faith in the area were Protestants. Others spurned all religion. Many Catholics had moved away and those who remained did not come, except for my small faithful remnant. I buried most of them.”

Staring straight into the faces of the couple, he lamented, “I cried and cried after seeing that altar destroyed. Here, take this,” offering the altar fragment.

“It means too much to you Father, no, we couldn’t take that,” returned Bill.

Not taking no for an answer, the priest forced the fragment into his hand, and said, “It is okay, I really want you to have it. You are right, it meant a lot to me, but it is my hope that someday it might come to mean something to you and your wife.”

Read Full Post »

gibsonpaintedI am sick at heart about the hypocrisy we find all around us. It is no wonder that good people feel discouraged in the Church. Today’s headline was like a punch in the stomach: MEL GIBSON’S GIRLFRIEND IS PREGNANT! What? I was still lamenting his wife’s decision to divorce him.

A few years ago the conservative voices in the Church fell over themselves trying to make an apologia for Mel Gibson’s breakaway “traditionalist” Catholicism. Much was made of the fact that an approved priest offered the Tridentine Mass for Gibson and his associates while they filmed his movie about Christ in Italy. He was even interviewed very “gingerly” on EWTN. Many claimed that it was the fault of liberals and aberrational practices in the post-Vatican II Church which had estranged him. His PASSION OF THE CHRIST was reviled by some and praised by others. Purportedly the late Pope remarked about the movie portrayal: “It is as it was.”

The movie upset some in the Jewish community, but the same voices criticized Pope Benedict for insisting that Jesus remains the universal Savior. Gibson told Diane Sawyer: I don’t want people to make it [his film] about the blame game. It’s about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. That’s what this film is about. It’s about Christ’s sacrifice.”

The film was violent, but was probably still short of the terrible reality that constitutes crucifixion. Gibson told Sawyer that the drama was a personal testimony of faith. But there was a great disconnect in the fact that he could claim Catholicism and still ridicule the Holy See, the bishops, and breech himself from juridical unity. It was also hard to understand how a good Catholic could be party to sexual simulation as an actor.

Gibson confessed that he had been suicidal, even contemplating jumping out a window. But he turned to the Bible and rediscovered Christ. He rightly asserted that our Lord “was beaten for our iniquities.” “He was wounded for our transgressions and by his wounds we are healed. That’s the point of the film. It’s not about pointing the fingers.” Many had hoped that the film would make him a true champion of Catholic faith and values. However, it seems that the “spiritual bankruptcy” which plagued him years earlier has sought to reclaim him.

Mel Gibson is a man with many gifts and yet also terrible addictions. He is one of us, although cameras and gossip mongers follow him everywhere he goes. He admitted to problems with alcohol. He fell off the wagon and used anti-Semitic slurs against the arresting officer. He admitted to sexual promiscuity. His wife has left him and now a young girlfriend is reported as pregnant. Gibson really is in no position to criticize the Church, with or without the vernacular Mass and reforms. Gibson needs our prayers and we should let him know that the Christian community is still ready to help him.

The Church teaches that marriage is a permanent bond that lasts until the death of one of the spouses.

Jesus forbids divorce.

Fornication and adultery are listed as serious sins by St. Paul. They rob us of the kingdom of God.

After 28 years of marriage, Gibson’s wife filed for divorce. They were separated for three years. His publicist acknowledged today that his “girlfriend” Oksana Grigorieva (a 39 year old Russian musician) is pregnant. She already has a son by her former boyfriend, Timothy Dalton.

Drunkenness, fornication and adultery are faults which require repentance. Although Gibson has seven children, his latest will have to face the shame of being born out of wedlock. No priest will marry a couple if there is an existing prior bond. Gibson might have his private chapel staffed by a sede vacantist priest, but he would assuredly be told to refrain from taking Holy Communion.

My advice to Mel Gibson is to overcome your addictions and the demons which corrupt your life. Strive diligently to avoid mortal sin, repent, make restitution and seek absolution. If your marriage can be salvaged, that too should be explored. If the pieces cannot be reassembled, then you should strive for the gift of chaste celibacy. Make provisions for the new child, but part from this woman. She does not belong to you. You cannot exchange your wife for a mistress.

He gave us a great gift with his movie about Christ. He needs to know that while we are saddened and disappointed, he is still in our prayers.

Who killed Christ? When asked this question by Sawyer, Gibson answered, “The big answer is, we all did. I’ll be the first in the culpability stakes here.” Yes, his answer rings true, both then and now. The accumulative sins of all mankind throughout all human history and in every place targeted our Lord. We are the murderers of Jesus Christ. He dies so that we might live. However, his gift demands that we make a gift of ourselves. We are to surrender our talents, but also our hearts, minds and whole selves to God.

Mel Gibson loves the Mass. The Mass participates in the heavenly marriage banquet. Marriage is a sacramental covenant which points to the union of Christ to his bride, the Church. We all need to see ourselves in the Offertory and orations of the liturgy. We should see something of ourselves in the wine and bread. We offer the things of earth to be refashioned to that of heaven. Just as we ask that these gifts be changed, so too we beseech God to transform us ever more and more into the likeness of his Son. The one element missing from THE PASSION was the offering of ourselves with Christ, grafted to him, as a pleasing oblation to the Father. We must become spiritually one with the Lamb of God. God became a man so that men might by grace share in something of the divinity— eternal life.

Read Full Post »

MARIA TERESA:

Would like to know if a person married in civil rites to a non-Catholic 40 years ago then separated after five years of marriage and with 3 children needs an absolution from the Pope even if the person after separating confessed her sin and received absolution from a priest?

FATHER JOE:

It may be that you are confusing “absolution” with “annulment” but in either instance the Pope would not normally enter the picture. Given that the person who married a non-Catholic is a Catholic, the civil marriage ceremony would have no standing in the Church. A simple declaration of nullity would be all that is required should that person want to marry in the Church. The amount of time that has passed since the attempted marriage and separation, even the instance and number of children, would be inconsequential to the ecclesiastical grounds against it being licit. Church law requires that Catholics have their marriages witnessed by a deacon or priest unless the appropriate dispensations have been granted. The absolution of a priest after a divorce or separation is a separate matter; however, if a Catholic should cohabitate with a civil law spouse, absolution could not be given.

If the person who married a non-Catholic was also a non-Catholic at the time of the civil ceremony, then the Church would consider that marriage as lawful and binding. If there was a divorce and either party wanted to marry in the Catholic Church, a formal annulment case would have to be entered and adjudicated by a Church Tribunal to determine the true validity of the prior bond. If the first marriage is shown to be binding and genuine, no second marriage could be permitted until the death of one of the spouses.

Read Full Post »

anon [Submitted on 2009/04/07 at 2:33pm]

I know there’s a way to post questions here that are off the given topic, but I don’t know how, so I hope Fr. Joe will indulge me.

FATHER JOE:  I reposted the comment as a new post and thread.

I have a question about whether something is a mortal sin. I’m a recovering alcoholic and have confessed about the times I “slipped” in my sobriety. I used to cut. More recently, my anxiety level has been pretty high and that pattern returned. I’ve already talked to my doctor about help with this, but is it an action that requires confession?

FATHER JOE:  Mortal sins require that we are free and that nothing seriously damages the will or consent. Certainly drunkenness is a “matter” of mortal sin. However, an alcoholic is also sick and the addiction impedes freedom. Thus, the subjective situation becomes less certain and must be discussed between a penitent and his or her Confessor. Remember that the Sacrament of Penance is both for God’s mercy and for healing. No matter whether the sins are mortal or venial in nature, I would think an alcoholic would want both forgiveness as well as the graces that would strengthen and heal. Remember, an essential theme of Alcoholics Anonymous is that where we are weak, God is strong. We place ourselves into the hands of a higher power. We are all sinners and we all struggle with weaknesses. When we fall, the sacraments and dedication to perseverance are valuable. Do not give up. Even if you fall again and again, know that God loves you and that you have an immeasurable worth. You may always be an alcoholic; but, by God’s grace, the support of friends, and a desire for healing, you can know sobriety and happiness. Many people have been where you are and they were able to salvage their lives. I will be praying for you!–Father Joe

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 134 other followers