One of the primary means that the Catholic Church maintains its power over sinners is by means of the sacrament of Penance. But it is a total scam, as the rules listed below clearly show. But ever since annual Confession and Holy Communion was made obligatory on all Catholics in 1216, sinners of all stripes have willingly, resentfully, or otherwise dutifully lined up in a yearly ritual to tell the man their evil doings. (Booths, by the way, were a late invention, intended to prevent the confessor from soliciting sex in the confessional – however, the privacy may make it easier.)
Penitents are supposed to make an critical and unsparing self-examination of all their sins since the last go around, and try to work up a cleansing lather of genuine sorrow. And of course, they are to do afterwards whatever their confessor tells them to do as penance and sin no more… or at least, not until they’ve taken Holy Communion. Otherwise, they’ll be worse off than before.
It’s generally a drag, a spiritual chore like going to the dentist, only even more humiliating than when the assistant asks why you haven’t been flossing.
Well, cheer up, sinners! I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on the so-called Sacrament of Reconciliation. I’m happy to tell you there are a number of absolutely legal shortcuts you can use to make it less of a burden. Yes, with the magic of Roman Catholicism, you too can enjoy both this world AND the next!
What they never taught in parochial school
Confession has evolved greatly over the centuries. It started off hard and long — confessions were made in front of the entire congregation, and penances were also public and often lasted years, sometimes decades. Usually they involved sitting outside the church begging for prayers from those permitted to participate. But thanks to the generations of tireless work by theologians and moralists, it’s gotten easier and easier. Why? Partly because they wanted to make it as effortless as possible for all humans (or at least their rich patrons) to be saved, and partially because the theologians just couldn’t resist creating exceptions, and conditions, and fine shades of meaning, so that ultimately, there’s no telling what good and evil is anymore.
Confessors are instructed not to tell or even ask penitents certain things, for fear they will sin even worse. (Women used to learn about forbidden practices like oral or anal sex from their confessors quizzing them in detail about it.) Priests are also taught that moral certainty is not nearly so clear-cut as the Baltimore Catechism would have you believe. After all, the priests may claim God gave them the keys to unlock Heaven, but not necessarily the wisdom to go with it, so they have devised ways to make this impossible chore tolerable. With that in mind, then, here’s your unofficial but legit “cheat sheet” to make “the odious sacrament” as painless as possible.
Making Confession easy
- If you think it’s a sin, it’s a sin; if you don’t, or don’t know if it is, it isn’t. The priest must take YOUR word for it. However, deliberately not knowing is a big no-no, so be sure to have your rationalization for why your persistent crude sexual harassment of the lunch lady was just having fun fully worked out. (Note: for confession only as this may not work as well in civil court, or that of public opinion.)
- Genuine contrition, so difficult to achieve, is not necessary. Just showing up and confessing is considered sorrow enough for most sins. As for certain mortal sins from which you have profited, many can be “paid off” by paying off the Church. For example, it is enough to be forgiven for theft by returning only 20% of the proceeds. Of course, since it may be dangerous to return the college funds to those orphans you cheated, it’s perfectly acceptable (and ever so convenient) for you to donate a small portion of them to the local Catholic church instead.
- Nowadays, the official Catholic policy is NOT to refuse absolution for any reason in the confessional no matter what they say outside it for fear of sending the penitent away in despair. Priests are required to give penitents the benefit of the doubt in all cases. So pay no attention to those judgmental prigs who look down on you for cannibalism; just tell the priest how really, really hungry you were, and all will be well.
- Only mortal sins have to be confessed anyway. Venial sins won’t send you to Hell no matter how many you accumulate, and they can be wiped away with just a few drops of holy water. So you don’t have to mention being mean to your sister, indulging in a chocolate treat or three which you gave up for Lent, or even masturbating every hour on the hour! What a relief. 🙄
- Due to secrecy and to avoid scandal, only the lightest penances may be given for anything, and these can be refused or negotiated. Yes, you can haggle over absolution! Willingness to say just one Our Father or Hail Mary is sufficient. But wait – there’s more, especially for clergy! Since a priest hurriedly going to Confession just before Mass might give rise to scandal, a priest can therefore bugger an altar boy in the sacristy and then immediately say Mass undisturbed by conscience, as long as the priest merely intends to confess it sooner or later, knowing that even then, he cannot be subjected to an onerous penance.
- You can do your Easter duty for two years by going to Confession and Communion twice in one season.
- Finally, don’t forget indulgences. Confession may save your sorry ass from Hell, but it will still get roasted in Purgatory, unless you get an indulgence to take care of it. You’ll need one and only one plenary or full indulgence for each mortal sin committed during each go around. They’re easily acquired these days, but you can only get them while in a state of grace, so it’s best to do it ASAP after Confession along with your penance. (By the way, the years listed for limited indulgences – say, “10 years for a Hail Mary” – does not refer to the time taken off from Purgatory, but the spiritual benefit of doing the activity for that period of time. So, “10 years” means “10 years of prayer and fasting” because even the Catholic Church does not pretend to know how much actual grace these practices are worth.)
Not everyone is required to perform the Easter duty. Prostitution, for instance, is recognized by theologians as a lesser evil than rape or incest, so Catholic hookers are not only tolerated in society, but they are exempt from the duty of yearly Confession. (Professional courtesy, no doubt.) 😈
Finally, relax. Remember that, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, it doesn’t make your sin any worse if you do it intending to confess it anyway. So don’t let premature guilt spoil your fun! 😛
Happy absolution all! Hope this helps!
May God forgive all your sins, and grant you peace and chocolate bunnies all your days. But remember, you’ve already been forgiven of all your sins by Christ dying for you. All you really need to do is to accept that grace from your Savior.
Posts on Holy Week and Easter:
- What Bread and Which Wine?
- Why the Empty Tomb?
- Close Encounters of the Resurrected Kind
- The Strangeness of the Risen Christ