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  The Sacrament of Forgiveness and Reconciliation (Fri Jul 1, 2005 10:08 am)

As Catholics, we seek and acknowledge forgiveness from God for our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), which is our ordinary outward sign of having received God's forgiveness. Providing access to this sacrament is a great work and duty of Church ministers. Even though Catholics no longer frequent the confessional as often as in previous times, they continue to attend Mass, and they receive the Eucharist in ever increasing numbers. The drop in the number of confessions is dramatic, and the neglect of this sacrament of healing should be of concern. Some of this may be because Catholics are approaching the Eucharist as a Sacrament of healing, but are we taking healing and forgiveness too much for granted?

We are told that a loss of the sense of sin is a likely explanation, and while there is probably some validity to this, there are other, more powerful reasons. One notable cause lies with the conflict between "the sense of sin" of the Catholic people, and what is being taught by the "official" Church.

The Catholic catechism reinforces conscience as the ultimate judge of morality. However, it also at times condemns as sinful that which the Catholic people do not receive or affirm as such. It is this separation between the conscience of Catholic people who make up the Church and the teachings of Church leaders that is most responsible for Catholics shunning the confessional. In the contemporary world of adult, educated, and morally autonomous Catholics, representatives of the "official" Church can no longer teach that something is sinful simply because they say so. The Catholic people will only be convinced of sinfulness when they see that the action or inaction, the thought or the intent, seriously separates the individual from the community and/or from God. Without this link, the official teaching about sinfulness is not received and causes doubt as to the need to confess that which is truly sinful.

ARCC considers this a great loss for the People of God, the Church. In the Charter of Rights, Right No. 2. states, "Officers of the church have the right to teach on matters both of private and public morality only after wide consultation with the faithful prior to the formulation of the teaching." We call on Church officials to restore the integrity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation by consulting with the whole Church as to what they consider to be contrary to the will of God, and how all in the Church can be better reconciled in discerning and living the will of God in our lives. We have a right that this wonderful gift of forgiveness not be diminished or shunned because our Church leaders fail to listen to their people as they follow their conscience, which is exactly what is happening.

Alas, the other side of this coin is the reality that there are not enough priests to accommodate a return to frequent confession by Catholics. The Spirit moves in mysterious ways.

Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

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