Secrets & Sins

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 18, 2009 | Categories: History, Humor

The AP story headline read: Vatican secret confessional tribunal opens up.   “One of Vatican’s most secrecy shrouded tribunals,” the story began, “which handles confessions of sins so grave only the Pope can grant absolution, is giving the faithful a peek into its workings for the first time in its 830-year history.”

It’s known as the Apostolic Penitentiary, and its currently  headed by an American, Cardinal James Francis Stafford.

“Even though it’s the oldest department of the Holy See, it’s very little known – specifically because by its nature it deals with secret things,” said Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the tribunal’s #2 official.  

The sins this “tribunal of conscience” hears include:

1. Defiling the Eucharist.

2. A priest breaking the seal of the confessional by revealing the nature of the sin and the person who sought penance.

3. A priest who has sex with someone and then offers forgiveness for the act.

4. A man who directly causes an abortion–such as paying for it–who then seeks to become a priest or deacon.

5. Physically attacking the Pope.

6. A bishop who consecrates another bishop without permission from the Holy See.

These sins bring automatic excommunication. Once the pope has granted absolution, the excommunication is lifted.

Personally, I was surprised.  I would have  thought mass murder, child prostitution and pornography, stealing food from starving people, etc. would have been worse sins, but I guess not.

“Maximum Leader,”  (who I assume is Catholic, given his comments and other posts on religion) weighed in on his blog, Naked Villany: mlbevel.jpg

This was quite intriguing to your Maximum Leader as he’d never known such a tribunal existed. And he also never knew specifically that there were sins so grave that only the Pope could grant absolution. He had assumed that there were probably real “doozy” sins that required going to a Bishop. He supposes that at some level he might have assumed that there were sins so serious one would need to get in contact with Rome (at least) before granting absolution.

One wonders if the act of confession dealt with by the Apostolic Penitentiary actually ends with the penitant coming and confessing to the Pope personally. Your Maximum Leader would assume that it would have to be a face to face encounter. He doubts that the Pope would sit in a little confessional and open the screen to hear the confession.

This reminds your Maximum Leader of one time he went to confession. Many years ago he happened to be on the campus of Catholic U and walked into the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It was during one of the times they offered Confession, so your Maximum Leader decided to make a confession. Up to this point in his life, he’d always gone into the little dark confessional and waited for the screen to open and get started. Well, there was some construction in the area where they normally have the confessionals. So he waited in a side chapel in front of a nondescript door. People would go in, and after a time would come out. When it was your Maximum Leader’s turn he walked in and found himself face to face with a priest sitting in a bright room with two chairs. There was a moment there when your Maximum Leader considered walking right out without opening his mouth. He was used to the dark. Used to the annonymity. Used to hiding what he was doing. But there was no hiding here. Bright light. Open chairs. Face to face (almost eye to eye) contact.

It was one of the most difficult things your Maximum Leader ever did; making his confession that day.

In retrospect it seemed the most fulfilling as well. There was something very comforting about seeing the priest and making a personal connection.”

Your Censor Librorum remembers the last time she went to Confession.   The priest refused to grant absolution because she refused to promise to stop using birth control.   She and her husband were students, and she told the priest that while she intended to have children someday, they could not afford them when they were in school. The priest asked her to leave the confessional, and she never went back.

Confession is good for the soul; secrets we are ashamed of, and carry around inside can be corrosive. It is a relief to unburden yourself, and ask to be forgiven. When we feel forgiven, it helps us to forgive ourselves.

But we need to make sense of the sins, so the emptying is not an empty gesture.


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One Response to “Secrets & Sins”

  1. Póló Says:

    Number 3 above tickled me pink. The very cheek of it. It really would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Unfortunately in these situations it has been the woman who has been demonised. In fact the history of the church has demonised women who gave birth and then formally re-instated them in society/mystical body. It was called churching. Mad.

    As far as I’m concerned, the real issue with confession is a firm purpose of amendment. Confession got a bad name among non-RCs who assumed you just went on alternating confession and sinning. And I sympathise with that in the light of some people’s behaviour over the years. No firm purpose = no forgiveness. Still needs to be brought home to some people.

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