Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Seal of the Confessional - Part 3

In this morning's Australian:
"It's not yet public, but we have heard from at least one priest who confessed to his confessor, and in that way reconciled his offending behaviour, which continued with his belief in God," Justice McClellan said.

Confession is not a rubber-stamp exercise. For absolution to be effective, the penitent has to have a firm purpose of amendment.

The confessor (the one who hears the confession) can urge counselling, police involvement, and other interventions for the person who has offended. The confessor can also withhold absolution from the person if he thinks there is no firm purpose of amendment, or until they have handed themselves over to the police or relevant authority.

It's THIS end of things that needs closer examination - not breaking the seal under force of law, but making sure that all confessors (those who hear confession) know what to do, in the event that someone confesses paedophiliac acts or any other crimes that can be dealt with by police. 

On a more serious note: You can't reconcile ongoing offending with belief in God. Eventually one of the two wins, in every human heart. It may be a long, slow process, but each day you are either moving closer to God, or further away from Him. It has nothing to do with how you feel, or what you think, or where you think you are. It's an objective spiritual reality.

So when the offending becomes more important and more real to you than your relationship with God, the prayers ease off, and the Mass-going eases off, and eventually both stop. You may be going through the motions - going to Mass, going to Confession, saying Mass if you're a priest - but your actual relationship with God has ended long before.

This is when you become shy around God, or embarrassed by things of religion, or you find yourself trying to convince others that you're still serious about the whole thing, even though you're not. You are in the situation described by C S Lewis as the man in financial difficulty who hates the very sight of a passbook.

People have spent their entire lives trying to reconcile their offending with belief in God. This is why there is such a vocal and enthusiastic group of nominal Catholics in Western countries who want every single element of Catholic teaching changed to suit their particular brand of offending.

Sin is sin. People sin. The difference is that a sinner realises it, goes to Confession, and takes steps in his or her life to change the things that are leading them to sin all the time. It's hit and miss, and it may not always work, and it may take a long time, but they are dedicated to the pursuit of holiness. They will keep trying, no matter what. They will try different strategies.

But someone who has decided that God is the problem - that 'the Church' is the problem - will try to change the Church to suit themselves. They solve the problem of their own offending by simply editing and editing until their offending is no longer wrong, but inevitable. It's just part of who they are. From there it turns into a human right, about which they can become very angry and demand justice.

This is why St John Paul II was so right to hit the 'fundamental option' on the head in Veritatis Splendor (section III). There isn't some 'good person' hiding inside everyone, who just occasionally makes bad choices. Instead, we are the consequence of our actions. The older I get, the more I realise the truth of the following:

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words; Be careful of your words for your words become your deeds; Be careful of your deeds, for your deeds become your habits; Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character;Be careful of your character for your character becomes your destiny.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Seal of the Confessional - AGAIN

Convicted paedophile priest Fr Gerald Ridsdale has told the current Royal Commission that he believes that 'a priest should go against the teachings of the church and tell police if someone confesses to a crime during confession.'

This is the same Fr Gerald Ridsdale who also said that:
  • He did not confess all his sins during confession once he left the seminary.
  • He told no one he was abusing children when he was ordained in 1961.
  • "I didn't confess the sexual offending against children".
  • He did not tell the Ballarat bishop who ordained him that he had offended while in the seminary studying to be a priest and while overseas.
  • "I don't think I told, would have told anyone at all".
  • "I never told anyone. It's the sort of thing I wouldn't tell anyone.
  • "Looking back on it, I think that the overriding fear would have been losing priesthood."
  • "I would have lost faith in myself because I was a very proud person. It just would have been devastating."

Gerald Ridsdale would not confess his sins to a priest, under the seal of the confessional, in absolute confidence, back in the day when there was also a protective culture of secrecy that shielded him from the consequences of his actions.

And yet he now thinks that the seal of the confessional should be abolished because ... because ... Why, exactly? Does he really think that this would make it easier for paedophiles to confess to people who were going to shop them immediately?

Paedophiles don’t confess, not even to police, and not even when they are practically caught red-handed. This is why it’s almost impossible to rehabilitate them. They do not want to get caught, and they do not want to admit that what they are doing is wrong. In some cases, they are unable to admit that what they are doing is wrong, because they have convinced themselves that it is normal, and it is their right to act in this way.

Abolishing the seal of the confessional will achieve nothing, except that it will stop people who are genuinely seeking spiritual help from doing so. Fr Gerald Ridsdale has also done enough damage to the Catholic Church already without his views on the seal of the confessional being taken seriously.

Ridsdale also apparently told a Catholic Church Insurances investigator in 1994 that Bishop O'Collins told him "if this thing happens again then you're off to the missions". If anyone ever gets smug with me again about the failures of celibacy among African priests, I am going to point out to them that Africa was used as a dumping ground for decades for Western priests who couldn't be celibate. One day we will have to pay for what we did to the Catholic Church in those developing countries.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

My Lucky Star

Despite my combox comments being constantly in moderation on Fr Z's Blog (I can't think why), he very kindly gave me one of his Gold Stars for the Day recently. This may never happen again, so I am going to post the screen-grab right here:

For the all-important context of this utterly vulgar remark, see the original blog post. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Yackity Yak (Don't Talk Back)

I am alive and also reasonably well; I've just been very busy. Meanwhile, forthcoming speaking and other engagements:

1) I'll be coming to the planned homeschoolers weekend retreat in July in Toodyay, just briefly, to give a talk (I think on the Saturday?).

2) Then I will give a presentation on the history of Claremont Hospital as part of the Glyde In Community Learning Centre's program. I've visited the Centre before; it's very beautiful and located in an enviously charming street in East Fremantle. They also run adult learning sessions on everything. (I've yet to see a session on nuclear physics, but I'm sure it's being planned).

3) At the end of August I will be attending the Dawson Centre Colloquium 2015 in Tasmania, and giving a presentation on 'Traction or Friction?' I am not going to say any more, because the rest of it is a surprise.

4) And then it's time for a well-earned holiday, so I thought we would exhaust ourselves by going to the UK for three weeks! The three of us have a very busy schedule planned, because this is Mike's first trip to Foreign Parts, so we will not be Visiting Friends (this time, at least - unless you're keen to stand near the M1 and wave as we drive past). No military museum will be safe.