What Pope Francis forgot to tell you: Before exiting the confessional, make sure you’ve been properly absolved of your sins

confessionforget

“Father, I’m waiting for absolution.”

“Oh. Okay. Jesus forgives you. Go in peace.”

“Would you please give me absolution Father?”

“I just did.”

“No. I’m sorry you didn’t. Maybe I’m being a bit fussy Father, but I really would like to hear you say the words of absolution.”

“Okay, if you insist, Go in peace and be forgiven.”

“I’m sorry Father, but those weren’t the words of absolution.”

He’s annoyed with me now. “Well what do you want me to say?”

“You could say the full words from the rite, but if you want you could just say, ‘I absolve you from your sins.”

Now much annoyed he said, “I absolve you of your sins.”

Has this happened to you? I’m curious because some friends of mine say the same thing happens to them. They are given a great long piece of advice which they don’t’ really want because they have a spiritual director for that, but then the priest doesn’t give them absolution.

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Editor’s note: Catholics who rarely go to confession are unlikely to even know about such sloppy practices. Even good, thorough, well-intentioned priests may get a bit “loopy” after hearing an hour or two of confessions.

Know the words of absolution and before you leave the confessional, make sure you hear the priest say them:

“I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 

A Guide to the Sacrament of Penance

The whole point of Christmas: Jesus Christ came to free the faithful from the “curse” of the Law.


Glory to God in the highest:
and on earth peace to men of good will.

(Luke 2:14)

by Doug Lawrence

Days after the annual Christmas celebration, people continue to ask, “What’s the point?”

Aside from the modern emphasis on mass consumerism, the main point of Christmas is fairly simple, if you happen to like mysteries:

Jesus Christ, who is God, took on flesh and became man in order to save us from our sins, which under the old Mosaic Law, or the more recent Muslim variation known as Sharia, still carry with them the penalty of death and hell.

Since no naturally born human being is without sin, all are uniformly and irrevocably cursed to the same, decrepit fate. In fact, things are actually much worse than anyone could possibly imagine.

Satan was the supernatural entity in charge of enforcing the death penalty … ruling ruthlessly over an evil earthly dominion that we brought down on ourselves, through Adam’s fall from grace.

The incarnate Jesus, the divine Son of God, who is also the Son of Adam (man) was infinitely good, just and holy … and he was also more than powerful enough to destroy Satan’s evil dominion … making possible the reconciliation of sinful mankind, with God.

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross at Calvary satisfactorily atoned for Adam’s (mankind’s) sins. Christ’s glorious resurrection three days hence, furnished absolute proof of Christ’s (and through him, man’s) victory over the powers of death and hell.

According to the grace and power of Jesus Christ … King of Kings … Lord of Lords … the new and perfect head of all mankind … eternal salvation would now be freely offered to every generation … through the Catholic Church that Jesus personally founded.     

Thanks to Christ and his Church, baptized Christians are no longer under the curse of the law … no longer under Satan’s evil dominion … but are instead, living temples of the Holy Spirit, adopted children of God and citizens of heaven … subject only to the gracious and merciful judgment of Jesus Christ.

But what of the Ten Commandments? Aren’t Christians still “bound” by these?

Under the terms of the Old Covenant, there was no remedy for the “curse of the law”. Any sin, no matter how minor, would suffice to permanently and irrevocably condemn. But when we fail today, Christians have Jesus and the grace-giving sacraments of the New Covenant (Catholic) Church on which to rely … so condemnation under the law (breaking a commandment) no longer need be permanent or irrevocable. Hence, Jesus Christ is now the final recourse for every Christian. Not any law.

Does that mean Christians (and particularly Catholics) get some sort of a free pass?

No. If anything, we’ll be judged to an even higher standard than our Jewish, Muslim, and Pagan friends.
(See Luke 12:47-48)

When Jesus came, he did all that was necessary to free mankind from eternal slavery to Satan, sin and death. The last thing he did, just before he ascended to Heaven, was to appoint and empower the leadership of his universal (Catholic) Church, which from the Day of Pentecost forward, according to the power of the Holy Spirit, would continue to be the universal sacrament of salvation for the world, until Jesus comes again, at the end of time.

It is through the sacraments and good offices of the Catholic Church, paid for by Christ’s own blood, that we might be permitted to freely receive absolute forgiveness for even the most heinous violations of God’s law, and hope to experience a total restoration of the sanctifying grace that was lost through our illicit and sinful acts.

The Catholic Church, and particularly the Catholic Ministerial Priesthood, acts in Christ’s stead until he comes again … exercising God’s awesome authority, according to his inestimable love and abiding favor (grace) … for the benefit of the “People of God” (members of the Church).

Non-Catholic Christians (and others) should note that for all of this, there is no known substitute.

The only sure way for anyone to hope to escape the curse of the law and render his/her soul pleasing and acceptable to God, is through full, faithful, and constant participation in all of the work, worship, sacraments and devotions of the Catholic Church, of which Jesus Christ remains the “head”.

In short … if Jesus didn’t come, we would all still be hopelessly caught up in our sins and destined for an eternity in hell. Now, thanks to Jesus, it’s possible for anyone to receive forgiveness of sins and hope to spend eternity in heaven with God, simply by becoming a faithful and active member of his one, holy, apostolic and universal church … the Catholic Church.

That, my friends, is the whole point of Christmas … and it also pretty much explains “the meaning of life” as well.

“Deep” background

A Most Mysterious Moment of Mercy

Read how God went to a lot of trouble to provide for one of his own.

For those unalterably opposed to confessing sins to a priest

Never go see a doctor for a body ailment, and don’t tell him where it hurts; Just pray to Jesus to heal you, because Jesus can heal much better than any man, and he’s free!

Link

The Confession

Dad, I’m sorry. I’m afraid I made a mess of things.

I didn’t plan ahead.

I didn’t read the manual.

I used the wrong tools.

I was in a hurry.

I cut corners.

I let my emotions get the best of me.

I though I knew what I was doing.

I bit off more than I could chew.

I did it my way.

I realize now that I can’t fix the mess I made, and I need you.

“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son
has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

This week’s Ask Alice: Catholic Church teachings on homosexuals attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion. (Or anybody, for that matter.)


Send A Question To Alice

She’ll answer as many questions as possible,
right here, every Thursday.

Email responses will also be provided, as time permits.

John Asks: What does the Catholic Church teach about an active gay/homosexual attending Catholic Mass and receiving Holy Communion?

Alice replies: The Catholic Church welcomes all properly disposed gay and lesbian persons to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. The exact same policy applies to heterosexual persons, as well.

The rules regarding the reception of the Holy Communion are the same for all Catholics, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.

That Holy Communion may be received not only validly, but also fruitfully, certain dispositions … both of body and of soul … are required:

For the former, a person must have fasted for at least one hour, from everything in the nature of food or drink. (Water and medicine are permitted, if necessary.)

The principal disposition of soul required is freedom from (at least) mortal sin … and from ecclesiastical censure.

For those in a state of grievous (mortal) sin, confession is necessary.

It is important to note that engaging in sexual relations outside of the sacrament of matrimony is (objectively) a mortal sin.

When a person commits a sexual sin due to weakness or other occasional circumstance, it may be ordinarily confessed and routinely absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Conversely, sexually active couples who are permanently living together (without benefit of marriage) MAY NOT typically receive sacramental absolution, since as long as their present living circumstances prevail, there would be no real prospect of repentance (turning away from the sin) … something which is always necessary for a good confession.

While heterosexual couples can always get married in order to eliminate this particular problem, such permanent living arrangements will … for homosexuals … always remain mortally perilous to the soul.

For homosexuals, one significant part of the solution is to avoid cohabitation, always maintaining one’s very own, private residence. This would, at least in theory, make possible a good, sacramental confession.

See “A Last Chance for Lost Souls”

“God shows personal favor to no one.” (Galatians 2:6) And God commands us to love one another. Often, my homosexual friends have shared their joys and sorrows. Here are some tips, based on the lessons I’ve learned.

TIPS FOR LOVING ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN

1) DON’T ASSUME. If two male or two female friends are living together or spend every day together, don’t assume that they are engaging in sexual activity. No one except God knows what goes on behind closed doors.

2) DON’T BE A COMMUNION COP. Even if our friend is engaged in homosexual behavior, only God knows the true state of his soul. (Unless perhaps, he is a public advocate, loudly proclaiming, promoting, and/or lobbying for his particular brand of sexual perversion.)

3) DO SPEAK THE TRUTH. If our friend asks us what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality, we must tell him the facts honestly and compassionately.

4) DO LOVE EVERY PERSON UNCONDITIONALLY! The best way to help our homosexual brothers and lesbian sisters get to Heaven is by being faithful, loving friends to them.

5) LEAVE THE JUDGING TO GOD! “The Lord does not look at the things men look at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

In Christ’s Love,

Alice

Additional comments by Doug Lawrence: Catholics are under no obligation to “knuckle under” to the ill-considered, unholy demands of militant, openly homosexual persons or groups. We are called to resist them.

Nor are Catholics permitted to act in opposition to authentic Catholic Church teachings in regard to homosexuality, which is a seriously disordered practice that has always been defined as gravely sinful and contrary to the natural law.

We are reminded however, to scrupulously avoid any type of unjust discrimination.

In this general context, two provisions of Catholic Canon Law are worthy of note:

Canon 915 Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.

Canon 916 Anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previously having been to sacramental confession, unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, which includes the resolve to go to confession as soon as possible.

For all the reasons stated above, as well as many others … no matter what the government may decide … the practice of homosexuality will always remain morally wrong, and (objectively) gravely sinful.

The support and/or promotion of certain types of “gay rights” … particularly, any form of homosexual marriage … is never permissible … since that type of arrangement would typically prove deadly to the souls of all who might be involved.

The greatest acts of charity we Catholics can perform … for all our brothers and sisters … is to pray for them, treat them with respect, stand firmly on God’s truth, proclaim that truth with love, and be there for them, in their time of need.

This Week’s Ask Alice: Confusion about communal penance services, and a philosophical question about the soul and spirit.

Send A Question To Alice

She’ll answer as many questions as possible,
right here, every Thursday.

Email responses will also be provided, as time permits.

Helen K. asks: If you attend a communal penance service does this absolve you from sins both venial and mortal, or do you still need to go to confession, one-on-one with a priest? I am confused on this matter.

Alice replies: A communal penance service is no substitute for the sacrament of Penance. Absolution for a mortal sin can ONLY be obtained when a penitent confesses his/her sin individually to a priest.

Sin separates us from God. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our relationship with our Heavenly Father is fully restored. Since Penance is a sacrament, the person who goes to confession receives pardon for every mortal and venial sin as well as a wealth of graces. The purpose of a Communal Penance service is to prepare the Faithful for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Why should I settle for a Communal Penance Service and pass up the treasury of healing graces that the Lord longs to shower upon me in the Confessional?

It is recommended that Catholics receive the Sacrament of Penance once a month. Although I have committed no mortal sins, going to confession refreshes my soul. Confessing my sins to a priest (who represents Jesus) helps me to clean out the junk that accumulates in my soul. A monthly soul cleaning, keeps me spiritually strong and focused, patient and loving. When God forgives me, His grace fortifies me to forgive others. For me going to Confession is like taking vitamins. God’s gracious mercy pumps me up when I am weak and stumbling.

A communal penance service, general confession and general absolution can suffice only in case of dire necessity, such as imminent danger of death without adequate time for a priest(s) to hear each person’s confession. Or if there are not enough priests available to hear each person’s confession in a reasonable time. In this instance, the individual must have the intention of confessing his/her sins as soon as possible. The bishop of the diocese typically decides whether or not the conditions needed for general absolution exist.

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Peggy G. Asks:

We have been discussing Soren Kierkegaard’s philosophy of the soul in theology, how we are not souls and that we have this ability to bring our souls into existence by the choices we make. So, here I am pondering about it at 2 a.m.

I have always believed that God gives us our soul from the time of conception. As Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathes into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). Without God’s breath, man would only exist in the physical form and we would all be robots. The breathing individual is alive, living and full of LIFE. I believe that the soul is a little piece of God within us. I have believed that the soul is an inner, vital, and spiritual principle which is capable of existence apart from the body. The freedom to make our own decisions has everything to do with free will, not with the existence of our souls or bringing our souls into existence like Kierkegaard believed, for they already exist prior to our ability to decide for ourselves. I do believe our choices here on this plane of existence will affect what is going to happen to our souls at the end of our existence.

So here are my questions…just because I am curious….

What is a soul?

What compromises the spirit within someone? Is that spirit within us the same as The Holy Spirit?

Are our souls and spirits connected?

Can we alter the soul that was given to us by God through our choices?

Does God judge our soul on judgment day, or does he judge our deeds? Is it possible to judge our deeds without looking upon our souls?

Alice replies:

Your reflections on the theology of the soul are spiritually insightful.

Every human being is created in the image of God. Our soul is the essence of our being. It is spiritual, immortal and will be united with our resurrected body in Heaven. Although the Catholic church uses the words, “soul” and “spirit,” interchangeably, St. Paul refers to “body”, “soul,” and “spirit” separately. Theologians contend that his comments were Trinitarian (spirit-Holy Spirit, soul-Father, and body-Son) in nature.

The Holy Spirit indwells every baptized person.

The state of our soul can be altered through serious sins. “Do not fear those who deprive the body of life but cannot destroy the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10″28) Mortal sin endangers the state of our soul. God will judge the state of our soul when we face Him at our particular judgment day. God does not condemn people to hell. We choose where we will spend eternity. Even the worst sinner has an opportunity to repent and beg for God’s Divine Mercy when he/she dies. The only people in hell are those who choose to refuse His mercy.

Since Soren Kierkegaard is considered the father of the existentialist movement, theologians such as St. Augustine present the soul from a Catholic point of view. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” is a sound source that clarifies soul questions. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about the soul and spirit in, “Summa Theologica.”

Hope these ideas provide a bit of inspiration for future 2 a.m. discussions.

Doug Lawrence adds: You’re supposed to ponder this stuff, until it drives you nuts (just like Kierkegaard, with his multiple personas.) It drives me nuts just trying to remember how many a’s are in his name!

Anyway, here goes:

Q: What is a soul?

A: The soul is the receptacle of our human intellect … the “home” of our spirit (and our rational self.) Together with our body, these three (body/soul/spirit) constitute the essence of our eternal, human “person hood”.

Q: What comprises the spirit within someone? Is that spirit within us the same as The Holy Spirit?

A: The spirit is the personal, rational essence which animates the human soul and gives us our distinct, identifiable personality.

The Holy Spirit is God. God’s “essence” is pure spirit and divine, while our essence is human and intended to be composite … consisting (ideally) of body, soul and spirit.

It should be noted that Jesus’ divine essence always existed, as a pure spirit … in the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity.

When he became man, Jesus also “took on” a human body, complete with a human soul, all of which will continue to endure into eternity, as a permanent aspect of his divine person hood. (Also a composite, but as God … with a divine spirit … plus human body … plus human soul.)

Taking on flesh to become man, Jesus never ceased to be God, nor did he become some sort of an amalgamated “mixture”.

Jesus remains true God and true man … and that is suitably demonstrated by the fact that he forever retains: 1) his eternal, divine spirit; 2) his eternal, human soul; 3) and (since the resurrection) his glorified, transformed, eternal and incorruptible human body.

So, under the proper circumstances, the two different essences can and do co-exist.

In particular, at baptism, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the human soul, and we become temples of the Holy Spirit.

This begins the process of actual spiritual transformation (theosis) which should (eventually) lead us to become like God (although still fully human).

Q: Are our souls and spirits connected?

A: Yes. Just like your body and your brain are connected.

Q: Can we alter the soul that was given to us by God through our choices?

A: God’s grace and his actual presence in the soul (or the lack of it) determines the state of the soul … and whether it will be pleasing and acceptable to God and worthy of/compatible with heaven.

God does not hang around in our soul when we choose to do seriously evil stuff. That’s why mortal sin leaves the soul in danger of hell.

The most practical aspect of this:

God is love. Love is just another name for charity. Anyone who departs this earthly existence with at least a modicum of charity remaining in their soul is not likely to see eternal damnation (although we would expect a whole lot of remedial work to be necessary for those who just “squeak” by.) Alternatively … Mary … full of grace … now in heaven … complete with her spotless soul, forever untainted by sin of any kind … along with with her (already) transformed and glorified human body … practically runs the place! (By the grace of God, of course.)

Q: Does God judge our soul on judgment day, or does he judge our deeds? Is it possible to judge our deeds without looking upon our souls?

A: See the preceding answer regarding God, love, charity, and eternal damnation/reward.

This may not all match up with what is being covered in your philosophy class, but that’s the way philosophy works.

Philosophy is the search for truth, while Jesus IS the truth, and the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church faithfully reflect that truth.