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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Sacrament of Confession and the Unforgivable

An almost continuous thread through modern pop culture is the Celebrity Apology Tour.
There are patterns to some of this - discovery, then denial; proof, then halfhearted admission with excuses; egress from public scrutiny with a request to respect privacy that was previously flamboyantly discarded, then re-entry into the public sphere reciting from the approved script.

Sometimes ones audience holds a grudge, sometimes ones supporters are perfectly willing to pretend it never happened while enemies are unwilling to let it go, sometimes one never regains the public's fond gaze, and sometimes ones misdeeds are an on-going but amiable source of a kind of friendly mockery.

Strangely,  qualifying for this last seems to bear no relation to the seriousness of the offence.

Just at this moment, two particular tours being conducted have caught my attention, one by Ray Rice, a football player who beat his wife,or rather, by his surrogate, (his victim, just to tangle things up,) and the other by a bad boy internationally renowned fashion designer, John Galliano, who was temporarily banished from that headiest of milieus for drunken anti-Semitic remarks.

The on-going debate over communion for the divorced and remarried in the Church has caused me to think of these things in relation to my own life.
I am a beneficiary of the Catholic annulment process, (and I believe Himself supposes himself to be as well,) and at the time he was making his case, so to speak, we talked and talked and talked about the whys and wherefores of the failure of his first attempt at marriage.

There had been an indisputable, and explicitly declared intention on the part of both parties against the indissolubility of marriage, and in discussing this we talked about various potential non-negotiables in the on-going commitment of sacramental.
I say "potential," because we of course, arrived at the conclusion that there were none in actuality.


In short, that there was nothing that was unforgivable.

Is there unforgivable sin? I admit to having trouble wrapping my head around the wording in Matthew 12. And I have heard absurd exegesis on it.
But I think, in trying to express it in a way that I and my catechitees, (yeah, I said that, I invented that word,)  can grasp, I can boil it down to - the only unforgivable sin is limiting God's mercy by believing ones sins are unforgivable and refusing to accept God's forgiveness.

Why do we fail to seek His forgiveness? Is there any sane human being outside of fiction, (Verdi's Iago, Shaffer's Salieri,) who knows God and deliberately sets himself up in opposition to God? to God's will? who, to paraphrase Groucho, wouldn't want to be in any Heaven that would have him as a resident?

One of the most-read priest/bloggers on Those Interwebs is constantly urging his readers - Go to confession!

Why do we not? Pride, sometimes, for sure. But shame keeps some from taking advantage of this immense gift, the Grace that is there for the asking!

But I wonder if we shouldn't add a step to the recommended preparation for the sacrament - besides the examination of consciousness, or perhaps as a part of it, to be mindful of those to whom we may owe forgiveness and to give it them.


I think actively considering our forgiveness of others will lead to a greater openness to God's forgiveness.

We don't want what we deserve, and we shouldn't want it for others.
We want more, so much more than we merit, we want the eternal life that Christ won for us,
 the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him?
How can we be tight-fisted with our mercy when God is so generous with us?

 In the horrible, horrible tragedy in Ferguson, a question often asked was, even if the dead man, Michael Brown did everything of which he was accused, did he deserve to die?

And the answer is, of course not. (That is not to express any opinion on what part of the blame he might or might not share for the escalation of events that led to his death.)

But this leads me to ask, does Ray Rice, for instance, deserve to never work again for what he did? (And that's without even getting in to the fact that the victim  of his violence would suffer as much as he from his being driven out of his field of employment.)

 Isn't recidivism in criminals, who have had their punishment, often directly tied to their being denied entry back into normal society?
I don't know, I'm asking.

And just to wrap this up with a contradiction, to show that I am inconsistent and unprincipled in my stances, Himself and I are both agreed that physical violence would indeed a deal-breaker.  (It would not, however, lead to divorce, just complete and possibly permanent separation. And it's a deal-breaker the way kidnapping by Martians is.)

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