Traditional Anglo-Papist

04 August 2006

The ‘disaster’ of the Reformation

How do we take our own sinfulness? How seriously do we take sin?

I was reflecting today before Mass about post-Reformation Christianity, especially within the broader English Catholic tradition (ie Anglicanism). As I looked around the very beautiful church of Loxton I noticed the missing Confessionals. We have been here four years and I knew that there were no Confessionals in the church but today it really hit me. In fact, I doubt I have ever seen Confessionals in any Anglican Church (nor, for that matter, in a modern Roman Church). Yes, I hear Confessions (occasionally) but there is no physical permanent reminder of the Sacrament of Penance in the church building.

The simple truth is that the greatest single disaster of the Reformation is the removal of the obligation to at least a yearly sacramental confession. Hot on the heals of this is the use of a public general absolution at Mass.

Going to Confession forces me to be serious about my sins, about my ‘offences committed against God’. It forces me to scrutinize my life in the light of God’s will and be open with my father-in-God. Have we removed the impact of our sin and thereby made Jesus’ death less important?

Here is the Canon from the Fourth Lateran Council (1215):
All the faithful of either sex, after they have reached the age of discernment, should individually confess all their sins in a faithful manner to their own priest at least once a year, and let them take care to do what they can to perform the penance imposed on them. ... If any persons wish, for good reasons, to confess their sins to another priest let them first ask and obtain the permission of their own priest; for otherwise the other priest will not have the power to absolve or to bind them. The priest shall be discerning and prudent, so that like a skilled doctor he may pour wine and oil over the wounds of the injured one. Let him carefully inquire about the circumstances of both the sinner and the sin, so that he may prudently discern what sort of advice he ought to give and what remedy to apply, using various means to heal the sick person. Let him take the utmost care, however, not to betray the sinner at all by word or sign or in any other way. If the priest needs wise advice, let him seek it cautiously without any mention of the person concerned. For if anyone presumes to reveal a sin disclosed to him in confession, we decree that he is not only to be deposed from his priestly office but also to be confined to a strict monastery to do perpetual penance.

While recently reading the Catholic Catechism, I came across this great part on sin:
Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind's origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God's plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.

Have we made sin 'merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure' by removing the duty to confession once a year?


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