Papal Confession

Thursday, January 22, 2009

At some point during my ongoing blur of incessant travel and guzzling from the font fire hose of scientific knowledge, I read a short news blurb somewhere about a campaign by the Vatican to encourage more Catholics to go to confession. This morning, still a bit tired from one of the busiest days I've had in quite some time, my mind remembered thinking at the time that the piece was blogworthy. So I hunted for and found the story.

The above link discusses the campaign in some detail, specifically the small part my blurb focused on:

It will be a historical day for the world, Catholicism, and the Vatican. For the first time, is going to give a peek into the tribunal of confessions. It will be the first time in 830 years.

In the last few years, the Vatican has seen a decline of people coming in for confession. That means not many people are coming to confession. As a result, the Vatican is trying to get more people to come into confession. For the first time in its history, the Vatican will be giving a sneak peek of what goes on in regards to the handling of confessions. While the priests listen to confessions, it is a revealed that there is a tribunal for such confessions.

There are confessions for the most sinful acts and crimes. The tribunal that handles such confessions is known as the "tribunal of conscience." It has invited the public to see what goes on in regards to confessions. This is the Vatican’s way of fighting against the decline of people confessing their sins. [minor format edits]
This story sets the context, but, in addition to never naming the Apostolic Penitentiary, it misses the juicy morsel that caught my eye the first time. For that, we'll go to another report:
As the Vatican's highest court, the tribunal deals with confessions considered so grave only the Pope himself has the authority to absolve them.

Defiling the Eucharist, which Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ, is among several sins that can be forgiven only at the highest level, officials said. Yet confessions of crimes the general public may consider even more serious, including genocide and serial murder, can be dealt with by local priests or bishops.

...

Defiling the Eucharist is one of five sins that can be dealt with only through the tribunal.

Cardinal Stafford says there has been a rise in incidents of people receiving the host and spitting it out or otherwise desecrating it, sometimes in Satanic rituals.

Other sins that would land a repentant Catholic before the tribunal include attempting to assassinate the Pope and, as a priest, breaking the seal of confession by revealing who has sought penance and why. In addition, the Vatican's highest court would handle priests who have offered absolution to their own sexual partners and men who directly participate in an abortion, such as by funding it, and later seek to become priests or deacons. [bold added]
To summarize: Spitting out a piece of unleavened bread at the wrong time will get you into a long, one-sided conversation with the Pope, but serial murder and genocide get pawned off onto the local priest.

Remember this the next time someone claims that the "alternative" to the various modern expressions of collectivism is religion, or that without God, there would be no morality. What kind of morality -- what guide to living one's life -- would appraise human life so cheaply?

This was part of a campaign to entice people to become more observant in their faith? That, too, is a confession!

-- CAV

15 comments:

LB said...

Hm. I wonder what kind of confessional audience I’d get for impersonating a priest and the host by using satellite wafers (which taste remarkably like the old school host for those of you who want to give it a try) and saying “Baaaaawdy of Christ” in an old French priest accent? This was a favorite activity of mine as a young Catholic.

In truth, the absolute insanity of confession contributed greatly to my questioning of the church’s practices in third grade. Before that, church was just a thing that we all did. At confession, I was alone with the whole idea. Yikes.

By my reckoning, the church is probably better off that confessions are less popular.

Gus Van Horn said...

"By my reckoning...."

You're being too "worldly" for them already!

Or, as a priest once told me in junior high when I confessed to doubting God's existence, "There is more to life than an intellect."

Richard said...

This sounds about right, especially if you're familiar with the Webster Cook/P.Z. Myers Eucharist controversy. Bread is serious business folks.

Gus Van Horn said...

First I've heard of that,but ...niiiice!

(But: Catholics don't just think the wafer symbolizes Christ. They feel that its IS.)

Kyle Haight said...

Last December, my business unit set up our holiday party by dividing the group into teams. Each team was to select a country and prepare a table with appropriate decorations, costuming and food.

My proposal to my group was Vatican City. Dress like priests, put a Christ-on-a-stick up behind the table, and serve wine and communion wafers. The wafers would have been presented in two boxes, one labeled "Sanctified" and the other "Unsanctified (Vegetarian)".

For whatever reason, I couldn't sell that to the rest of the team.

A related thought: do regulations regarding the transport of human body parts apply to sanctified communion wafers?

Harold said...

I believe it was Ayn Rand who said something to the effect that the ultimate altruist act is to give yourself up to be eaten by cannibals.


Sounds like communion doesn't it?

Gus Van Horn said...

Hmmm! Your post raises two further questions:

(1) What is the position of the Church regarding vegetarianism?

(2) Should the "blood" be tested for pathogens before being offered for human consumption?

Gus Van Horn said...

Harold,

Apologies -- your comment somehow showed up in the queue AFTER I'd handled Kyle's.

Agreed. As a former Catholic, I am always amazed at how it wasn't really until I encountered Rand that I explicitly made that connection.

Harold said...

"Harold,

Apologies -- your comment somehow showed up in the queue AFTER I'd handled Kyle's."


np.

"Agreed. As a former Catholic..."

Yes, and they have a heavy presence around here--never realized it.

"...I am always amazed at how it wasn't really until I encountered Rand that I explicitly made that connection."

I was raised Presbyterian and I never got it either until sometime after abandoning theism and was like, wait a minute! lol

Gus Van Horn said...

Catholicism, for all its faults, was the vessel of knowledge about classical antiquity for a very long time, and has a long history of at least paying lip-service to reason. (Remember that it was Thomas Aquinas who reintroduced Aristotle to the West.) I suspect that the heavy presence of ex-Catholics in Objectivist circles is a result of this fact.

Harold said...

"Catholicism, for all its faults, was the vessel of knowledge about classical antiquity for a very long time, and has a long history of at least paying lip-service to reason. (Remember that it was Thomas Aquinas who reintroduced Aristotle to the West.) I suspect that the heavy presence of ex-Catholics in Objectivist circles is a result of this fact.

That's right. Rand respected "half" of him if I remember correctly. Though, when I said around here, I meant the Catholics in my current location, lol.

Anonymous said...

If one is a believing Catholic, though, I can see the sense of this: if one believes the wafer is the body and blood of Christ, then desecrating it would be a graver crime than doing anything to a human. I don't think you're making your argument.

Gus Van Horn said...

"If one is a believing Catholic..."

I am commenting on barbarity here. I have no illusions about convincing someone who regards faith as a valid means of acquiring knowledge of anything.

Of course someone who accepts the notion that the host is divine will regard its "mistreatment" as worse than butchering millions of human beings.

Anonymous said...

Where's the barbarity? You might not agree with the belief of a Catholic regarding the eucharist, but I see no barbarity here. It is merely an internal affair amongst Catholics in regards to the relative seriousness of sins brought up in their confessionals. The belief doesn't advocate or condone barbarity at all.

Gus Van Horn said...

So long as someone holding that belief insists on complete separation of church and state, making the consequences of accepting religion his alone to bear (and sparing me from having to live under religious rules I disagree with), I can agree with the premise that such beliefs are the business of those who hold them.

I have no problem with people practicing Catholicism (or any other religion for that matter) so long as they do not endanger the rights of others in the process.