Question: Can absolution be granted where no firm purpose of amendment exists? If granted, with no purpose of amendment, does it even ‘take’?
No. And No.
In normal circumstances, when there isn’t danger or some other odd condition, in order to absolve a penitent who is sui compos (conscious, able to make a confession, etc.) the priest must be reasonably certain that the penitent 1) has actually confessed a sin (even a previously confessed and absolved sin is enough), 2) has, in that moment, at least imperfect sorrow for sin (attrition – fear of punishment), and 3) has a purpose of amendment at that time. If any of these three conditions are lacking, the priest MUST withhold absolution.
Since the Council of Trent, Holy Church has taught that the essence of the Sacrament of Penance includes acts of the penitent, that is, the confession of sins, the expression of sorrow, desire for amendment and atonement. On the other hand, we have also the action of the priest, that is, the granting of absolution. The actions of the penitent and of the priest relate to each other as the matter of a sacrament relates to its form.
Most priests do not have psychic powers to read minds and few have the gift from God to read souls. We have to listen to what the penitent says and then discern the truth. A confessor will try prudently and carefully to “tease out”, so to speak, any of the necessary elements that are lacking. “Do you know an Act of Contrition? No? Okay, are you truly sorry for your sins and do you intend not ever to commit them again? Very good. Now I’ll give you absolution….”
However, if finally a person evinces no firm purpose of amendment – that is, she clearly doesn’t intend to avoid sin(s) again – then the priest cannot, must not, give absolution. His absolution would be, in effect, improperly given and would therefore be sacrilegious. He would abuse the Sacrament, to the offense of Christ, the detriment of the whole Church and his own soul as well as the soul of the poor person on the other side of the grate. He would be, in effect, faking it.
How is that compassion? How is that “accompaniment”?
How wicked would that be? To lie to people like that under the guise of compassion.
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This is pertinent to the whole discussion of the objectively ambiguous content of Amoris laetitia, Ch. 8. Any suggestion that a penitent can be absolved if she isn’t sorry for sins and doesn’t say she’ll change is contrary to what we have always held about the Sacrament of Penance.
Keep in mind that, after confession of at least all mortal sins in kind and number, the saying the classic “Act of Contrition” expresses clearly both sorrow for sin (attrition and contrition) and purpose of amendment. Contrition consists of three acts of the will which form a unity: grief or sorrow, detestation, intention.
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, [grief] and I detest all my sins [detestation] because of Thy just punishments, [attrition, imperfect, based on fear] but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. [contrition, more perfect, based on love] I firmly resolve, [intention] with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. VARIATIONS INCLUDE … to sin no more, to do penance, and to amend my life.
Sorrow, detestation, intention. If one is lacking, then the matter of the Sacrament is lacking. If the priest knows the matter is lacking, he may not proceed with absolution because he would simulate a sacrament. If the person is unconscious or there is true reason for “general absolution (that is, without auricular confession), the priest can proceed. That’s a whole different growler of beer.
“But Father! But Father!”
Some of you lib screwballs and progressivist sapheads now jibber, “She came, didn’t she, to your retrograde torture booth of uptight patriarchal oppression! Didn’t she? HUH? That must mean that she’s really sorry even if she doesn’t say she is. She… right, or whatever non-judgmental gender… ummm…. YOU ARE MEAN! Why does she have to affirm that she’ll stop committing the sinful acts? What are ‘sins’, anyway!??! What does she… he… umm… have to be ‘sorry’ for anyway? Sin. HAH! That’s an outdated category and the Council says that’s all gone now. This is the time of mercy and caring… and… and, oh yes… ACCOMPANIMENT! The age of hate is OVVVVERRRRRR! Show some COMPASSION, DAMMIT or … or… ooooh yes yes yes we’re gonna GET you! Yessiree. We’ll fix you, you … functionary! You… funeral-faced museum mummy! Sourpuss! Authoritarian fundamentalist! You gloomy moralistic quibbler! We’ll write letters, yes, we will, precious. YOU HATE VATICAN II!”
Firm Purpose of Admendment
I respond, with Lumen gentium, saying:
11. Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion.
Just showing up is enough, eh? NO. That’s sentimental twaddle.
The priest cannot simply assume that the person has the necessary sorrow, detestation and intention by the simple fact that she showed up in the confessional!
I am seeking your conversion and your salvation. And I am going to apply this bitter but effective medicine until it takes effect. If you listen or you don’t listen, I’m going to persevere anyway and thus save my own soul. However, like Augustine, “Nolo salvus esse sine vobis! (s. 17.2).
The confessional is a tribunal of mercy, but it is a tribunal. The confessional is not a “safe space” where tender snowflakes are given hugs and puppies and crayons and affirming coos. There is a juridical character to the confession. The facts of each case must be brought to the Judge, who binds and looses with the power of the keys received in priestly ordination and wielded with the permission of the Church via the faculty granted by proper authority. The penitent is her own Accusatrix and Prosecutrix. The fact that the person has come is a sign that grace is at work. Coming to the confessional is a really good start. But coming is not, in itself, enough.
So, everyone think about the effect of your heinous black sins on yourselves and on the whole world. When you sin, you hurt everyone. Examine your consciences with one eye on the depths of Hell and the other on the gates of Heaven. Choose. Be truly sorry for your sins and …
GO TO CONFESSION! Have a Firm Purpose of Amendment – Confession!
Statement of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Regarding Proposed City of St. Louis Ordinance Relating to Abortion
ST. LOUIS – Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, issued the following statement in regards to a proposed ordinance in the City of St. Louis:
Archbishop Robert Carlson
The Board of Aldermen of the City of St. Louis is considering an ordinance (Board Bill 203) that attacks the most deeply held moral and religious convictions of the people of this great city. This proposed ordinance seeks to make St. Louis a sanctuary city for abortion, an act that kills innocent unborn children. This is not what our city should stand for; rather, St. Louis should be a sanctuary for life and compassion, especially compassion for mothers and their developing children.
Board Bill 203 is vague and ambiguous but could have terrible consequences for religious institutions. For example, a Catholic school or Catholic Charities agency could be fined by the City of St. Louis for not employing persons who publicly promote practices such as abortion. In addition, our Catholic institutions could be fined for not including coverage for abortion in their insurance plans.
Board Bill 203 could also allow the City of St. Louis to fine landlords and others who do not want to rent to or be associated with the abortion industry. This proposed ordinance, therefore, would force the people of St. Louis to be complicit in the profound evil of abortion. This would be a flagrant violation of religious liberty and individual rights of conscience.
I urge the citizens of St. Louis to oppose Board Bill 203. Protection and care for human life at all stages of development from conception until natural death is a fundamental moral value shared by Catholics as well as many other people of faith. City ordinances should respect all people, including women facing unplanned pregnancies, unborn children, and people who desire to live their lives in accordance with their religious convictions.
We Will Not Comply
As the shepherd of the faithful Catholics of this region, let me be clear that the Archdiocese of St. Louis cannot and will not comply with any ordinance like Board Bill 203 that attempts to force the Church and others to become unwilling participants in the abortion business. There is no room for compromise on such a matter. This is a matter of fundamental religious and moral beliefs.
Rather than aiding and abetting the abortion industry, the archdiocese, through its various ministries and programs, will continue to extend both spiritual and material assistance to all those in need, especially the poor and those women facing crisis pregnancies who feel they have no one else to turn to for help—both during their pregnancies as well as after their child is born.
I urge the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to defeat Board Bill 203. I appeal to the humanity and the love of all freedom-loving citizens of St. Louis to make their voices heard in defense of human life.
Edward Pentin writes here about the possibility that “in special cases” Protestants might be admitted to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at a Catholic Eucharist.
The debate specifically over intercommunion with Christian denominations follows recent remarks by Cardinal Walter Kasper who, in a Dec. 10 interview with Avvenire, said he hopes Pope Francis’ next declaration will open the way for intercommunion with other denominations “in special cases.”
There are several things which are troubling about this news. The first is the way the modernists attempt change. What they really want is open communion with Protestants, but they know they will never achieve that so they insert the thin edge of the wedge with “special cases.”
The tool they use to do this is sentimentalism and “tough cases.” So we are presented, for example, with a good Lutheran woman who is married to a Catholic, and with long faces they tell everyone how saddened they are not to be able to receive communion together. They tell how they attended the deathbed of the man’s mother and everyone else received communion with her, but the Lutheran woman was excluded.”
This is the tyranny of tenderness. If you object you are perceived as a rigid hardliner, a tough, legalistic, Pharisaical hypocrite. Everyone says, “Awww. That’s so sad. Those Catholic conservatives are so harsh!”
No one stops and uses common sense and asks why, if receiving Catholic communion is so important for this dear Lutheran lady, that she hadn’t taken RCIA and become a Catholic years ago.
If she honestly does not believe the Catholic faith, we accept and respect her beliefs. What no one asks the lady is, “If you believe the Catholic faith why do you not come into the church? If you do not believe the Catholic faith why do you want to receive communion? No one likes hypocrisy. Why do you not only want to be a hypocrite, but do so publicly, using the Body and Blood of Christ, and why do you expect us to applaud this?”
However, if the murky world of Kasper Church such common sense and plain talking is not appreciated, and this is the second objection. Those who are pushing for change are deliberately keeping the conversation vague. The issue is not vague, however. The church’s teaching is clear and you should always be suspicious of those theologians who say, “Well, of course it’s more nuanced than that…”
Everyone accepts that real life is messier than the rules, but the rules are established to help make sense of the mess and move forward. If we made the rules according to the mess rather than the other way around everything would be chaos.
As a convert from the Church of England, I need to remind Catholics of a few home truths. This ambiguous, sentimentalists version of Christianity doesn’t have much mileage. The deliberately ambiguous language in order to bring about long term change is the tactic of the wolf not the shepherd.
The Church of England started to compromise on the little stuff with the “special cases” and ambiguous language and now the floodgates have opened.
Believe me. It begins with the fuzzy language and “special cases” and then everything else follows. Consider artificial contraception. It began with the Anglicans saying that married couples, “in special circumstances” with advice from their pastor might in some situations use artificial contraception. Now it is a sexual free for all and the whole concept of marriage is in free fall.
The Catholic Church must avoid yielding to the temptation of giving in on what seems a small matter in “special circumstances.”
It might seem harsh to exclude Protestants from communion, but every religious group has boundaries. Protestants claim open communion, but they have boundaries too. Most of them would not welcome Mormons or Moonies or Unitarians or Christian Science devotees. These people claim to follow Jesus Christ, but their theology is not acceptable so they would either be excluded or expected to forsake their false religion and join the Protestants’ church.
Furthermore, when you examine the facts you will also learn that in almost every situation the church already allows for pastoral decisions in special cases.
So, in the issue of communion for non-Catholics, we already allow for special cases. With the bishop’s permission at a family event like a wedding or funeral a non-Catholic may, in some instances receive communion. Also, on their deathbed, if a non Catholic requests the Catholic sacraments the priest is permitted to administer them.
I’ll finish with a very personal story. My own sister got cancer. She was an Anglican. When I went to visit her I took my holy oils and my first class relic of St Therese and learned that she had travelled to Oxford when Therese’s relics were on tour. She went to confession to a Catholic priest and he made an exception and heard her confession. She asked if I would anoint her and since she asked and was in a final illness, I was able to give her the sacrament of the sick. She planned to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes with my other sister–a Catholic, but she died the day she was to depart for Lourdes.
So the church already allows for “special cases” and we don’t need Cardinal Kasper pushing the envelope using ambiguous language and sentimentality to make disastrous changes.
I am writing to you to give you a word of encouragement. So I would hope you take this in the fatherly way I want to address you, as one who is a priest of over 32 years and as spiritual director of dozens of people, a priest who very much has personal contact with many of the lay faithful and knows very well the deep concern – anxiety may be a better word – over the present situation in the Church. Take this as if I were in your presence, saying firmly and clearly and with great confidence: Be at peace! Pray more! Calm down and don’t lose heart!
St. Padre Pio, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”
Padre Pio is quoted as saying, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry!” I want to aim that especially at people who write those anxiety-filled blogs and articles at the Church’s present situation, but certainly to all the Catholic faithful who are confused, bemused, or just plain angry. I certainly understand your concern; in fact, I share it but my consideration as to what to do is different. I conclude that we should pray more and complain less; besides you might recall the words of Psalm 95 which we priests and religious who recite the Divine Office have the joy of choosing as the invitatory psalm in our daily recitation of the breviary; specifically the verse that says: “Forty years I endured that generation. I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways.’ So I swore in My anger, ‘They shall not enter into My rest.’”
What Are You Going to Do?
Let’s not try our Lord’s patience, rather let’s take this as an opportunity to establish a firmer faith, a more secure hope and a deeper charity. After all, what are you going to do? Leave the Church?! Wouldn’t the Evil One then have the victory over your soul?
Think of it!
Aren’t you one who loves that old title given to us at confirmation, “soldiers of Christ.” Well, then don’t walk off the field of battle. These are the times, I’m convinced, that St. Louis Marie de Montfort prophesied, the time of the great saints: “Towards, the end of the world . . . Almighty God and His holy mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs.” (St. Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, article 47). Take it a s a compliment that our father God finds you worthy of these times, that He finds you capable of great sanctity!
I write as one who gives direction to many souls and who is alarmed at the discouragement that has entered so many hearts. I hear it and see it a lot and I must confess that discouragement is not foreign to me, especially given the confusion spread even by those called to strengthen our faith. That being said, I want to tell you what I tell the souls entrusted to me: Pray more! Pray for an increase of faith, hope, and love and make it an apostolic prayer, said with missionary zeal for the sake of others. “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, increase our faith, hope and love!” Not just once, but many times a day, pray this way and you will fulfill your duty as a good soldier of Christ.
Hang in There Friends!
I write this out of gratitude for all the Catholic faithful whose loyalty to Christ and His holy Church has inspired me throughout my life. Hang in there friends! Hang in there with greater faith, hope, and love. “The gates of Hell will not prevail!”
May holy Mary, the woman of great faith and mother of the Church, envelop you in Her most compassionate and immaculate heart. Peace!
WARNING: Per Vatican teaching and instruction, never, ever ask demons any questions. Leave that job to trained priests. Priests are protected in this activity by their office. Laypeople are not. Laypeople may command demons to depart (i.e., they may engage in simple deliverance), but they are never to ask them questions or otherwise converse with demons. You have been duly warned.
Want to hear a real demon story, one for which I can personally vouch? (Don’t forget to like Fr. Martins Facebook page at Treasures of the Church.)
A good priest friend of mine–let’s call him Fr. George–is an exorcist. When he performs an exorcism on someone for the first time, Fr. George demands that the demon reveals who his nemesis in heaven is. In other words, he asks him to reveal which saint is his “archenemy.”
The demons never want to reveal this. They never want to reveal any knowledge that might be used against them. But an exorcist will keep hammering away at this, because if he gets a valid answer, it will serve as a weapon and give him a tremendous edge.
St. Thomas Becket’s Chasuble, Photo credit, Dr. Genevra Kornbluth
In one case of exorcism, Fr. George posed the question to the demon who manifested himself in a certain woman (let’s call her Rachel). But the demon would not answer. But when Fr. George hammered that question over and over again, always commanding in the name of Christ that he reveal the truth, the demon finally–though reluctantly–said, “Thomas.”
Father George asked, “Which Thomas … St. Thomas the Apostle, or St. Thomas Aquinas?” The demon wouldn’t say. So, again, Fr. George hammered that question over and over again, demanding that the demon reveal the answer, “in the name of Christ.”
Finally, the demon said, “Beckett, you f*cking priest.” In other words, this particular demon’s nemesis was the martyr St. Thomas à Beckett, otherwise known as St. Thomas of Canterbury, who’s feast day is December 29th.
Later on in the session, after much praying and adjuration was done on by Fr. George, the demon revealed his own name. He identified himself as “Murder.”
Later that day Fr. George called me. It had been a while since we had spoken, and he wanted to catch up. He related the incident that happened with the demon during the exorcism earlier in the day. I replied to him, “Father George, you know that I have a piece of the alb St. Thomas à Beckett was wearing when he was murdered in his Cathedral. Let me overnight it to you and you can use it against the demons in your next session.”
I couriered the relic overnight and Fr. George had it for his next exorcism session with Rachel. Halfway through the session, he pulled out the relic and applied it against Rachel’s body.
The effect was as if all hell broke loose. The demon screamed horribly, as if he was being tortured. In fact, the reaction was so much, that it took Fr. George aback. Under that torture, the demon subsequently revealed that he was the demon who had possessed the king’s men that had murdered Thomas à Beckett.
Beckett’s virtue defeated the demon the first time when he was murdered in the year 1170. Over 800 years later, his relic defeated the same demon a second time.
As you can imagine, the experience was enlightening for all of us, in more ways than one, and about as surreal as they get.
St. Thomas à Beckett, pray for us!
I know that I am going to get asked this question 100s of times, so I am preempting it by providing its answer right now: The best protection and defence against demons is the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of the Eucharist received in a state of sinlessness. Go to Confession and get reconciled with God, else by definition you belong to the enemy. By DEFINITION the sinner belongs to him. Then receive the Eucharist, as Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament aids you in avoiding sin and in enabling the Holy Spirit to grow in you.
*WARNING: Per Vatican teaching and instruction, never, ever ask demons any questions. Leave that job to trained priests. Priests are protected in this activity by their office. Laypeople are not. Laypeople may command demons to depart (i.e., they may engage in simple deliverance), but they are never to ask them questions or otherwise converse with demons. You have been duly warned.
REPEATED WARNING: Per Vatican teaching and instruction, never, ever ask demons any questions. Leave that job to trained priests. Priests are protected in this activity by their office. Laypeople are not. Laypeople may command demons to depart (i.e., they may engage in simple deliverance), but they are never to ask them questions or otherwise converse with demons. You have been duly warned.
Cardinal Raymond Burke has given a new interview, in which he says that the Church’s teaching against Communion for the remarried cannot change.
In an interview with Raymond Arroyo of Eternal World Television Network, Cardinal Burke was asked to comment on John Paul’s document Familiaris Consortio, which states: “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.
“This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.’”
He added that the Church’s teaching on Communion for the remarried does not admit of any exceptions. “No matter what the complexities of the situation may be, the party in question, the member of the faithful in question, will either rectify the irregular moral situation in which he finds himself, and thereby be able to receive the sacraments, or until he is able to rectify the situation, will not present himself to receive the sacraments.
“Clericalism, the True Priestly Mission Gone Wrong” St. Josemaría Escrivá
Today, there is much confusion about who and what is Clericalism. So we submit to you St. Josemaría Escrivá’s teaching on the difference of being a good priest and evils of clericalism.
St. Josemaría Escrivá
By St. Josemaría Escrivá, Excerpt from In Love with the Church:
“A priest who says the Mass in this way — adoring, atoning, pleading, giving thanks, identifying himself with Christ and who teaches others to make the Sacrifice of the altar the center and root of the Christian life really will show the incomparable value of his vocation, the value of that character with which he has been stamped and which he will never lose.
I know that you will understand what I mean when I say that, compared with a priest like that, those who behave as if they wanted to apologies for being ministers of God are nothing less than a failure — a human and Christian failure. It is most unfortunate because it leads them to give up the ministry, to ape lay people and to look for a second job which gradually takes over from the task which is proper to their vocation and their mission. Often when they flee from giving spiritual attention to souls, they tend to replace this with another occupation (moving into those areas which belong to lay people — social action and politics) and we get the phenomenon of clericalism, the true priestly mission gone wrong.
I do not wish to conclude on a somber note which might sound pessimistic. The genuine Christian priesthood has not disappeared from God’s Church. The teaching which we have received from the divine lips of Jesus has not changed. There are many thousands of priests throughout the world who really do respond to their vocation, quietly, undramatically. They have not fallen into the temptation to throw overboard a treasure of holiness and grace which has existed in the Church from the very beginning.”
A familiar Gospel gives us a short theological teaching on suffering and the cross:
Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matt 11:28-30).
On reading a passage like this, two problematic reactions are possible. One is to react resentfully, thinking, “There’s nothing light or easy about the burdens I have to carry!” Another is to simplistically conclude that if one just follows Jesus, all one’s troubles will vanish. This is a recipe for future disappointment and resentment.
Both of these reactions should be avoided. Jesus gives us here a balanced teaching on the role of suffering and the cross that is best understood in its subtleties.
I. There is a yoke and there is a burden in following Jesus
Jesus uses these very images; He does not exclude them. A burden is a weight that must be carried. We do not grow or gain in strength by reclining on a couch. We grow and gain in strength by carrying the weight of our duties. Burdens, though unpleasant, are necessary for growth.
A yoke is a device that helps us to carry our burdens. Consider an ox pulling a wagon. A rope around its neck would kill it, and so a wooden truss is built to distribute the weight across the front of its body. Some yokes permit two oxen to pull a load together. Horses sometimes wear a leather yoke that goes around their midsection. People who transport water from wells seldom carry pails with their hands as it is too painful for any extended period of time. Instead, they use a wooden beam, carved to fit their shoulders, with pails hanging from it.
A yoke does not lighten the load; it just makes it easier to carry. Jesus indicates that we who would follow Him will not have a life that is free of burdens; there areburdens and thus there is the need for a yoke.
II. His yoke is “easy”
The common English translation of “easy” fails to capture the subtlety of what the Lord is conveying. The Greek word use is χρηστὸς (chrestos), and it refers to what is suitable, useful, well-fitted, or beneficial—not merely “easy.”
Consider how old shoes can be a blessing because they fit us perfectly; new shoes sometimes cause blisters until they (and our feet) adjust to each another. A good carpenter would work carefully to craft the yoke to the contours of the animal or to the shoulders of a human being. Only after these adjustments would the yoke be said to be chrestos (well-fitting).
One can almost picture Jesus, as a carpenter, doing this sort of work quite frequently. One can also whimsically imagine a sign hanging outside Jesus’ shop: “Well-Fitting Yokes Sold Here!”
Spiritually, Jesus is indicating in this text that while He does have a yoke (or cross) for us; it is suitable for us and will bring benefit. The burdens and yokes He has for us are not suffering merely for the sake of suffering. If carried and accepted with faith, they will benefit us. Each of us needs certain yokes and burdens, crosses and sufferings, in order to grow, be humbled, and gain wisdom. The Lord has crafted these yokes and burdens for us carefully. They are for good, not ill; for growth, not diminishment.
III. My yoke, my burden
Jesus is careful to refer to “my yoke” and “my burden.” For indeed, not every suffering we endure is from Him.
Frankly, we pile a lot of extra burdens on ourselves that He neither wills for us nor wants for us. Surely our sins bring us extra burdens, but beyond this there are many things that are good in and of themselves but which are not what God asked us to do.
Some of us undertake projects and efforts that are good and beneficial to others, but we do not ask God if it is His will that we do them. Perhaps God would tell us that He has other things for us to do, that He doesn’t want us to spend time doing things He has reserved for others and then end up not being able to do what He has designed for us.
And thus we must discern carefully what the true yokes and burdens are for us. God gives us the strength for those yokes and burdens, not for the yokes and burdens of our own design.