Features > Light on the dark box

13 February 2014 | by John Cornwell

Light on the dark box

A new book about confession finds that the split between church teaching and practice on sexual morality is a major cause of the decline of the sacrament. But the fall-off, says its author, may also be linked to traumatising experiences in childhood Preparing for a book on the Sacrament of Reconciliation/confession, I wrote an article for The Tablet in August 2012 inviting views from readers about reasons for its dramatic decline. I received more than 300 responses by letter and email (some lengthy). Then the article flew round the world on blogs and websites, prompting thousands of views, comments and amazing stories. The respondents, mostly ­laymen and -women, married and unmarried, were extraordinary for their honesty, joy, ­sorrow, and sometimes anger. Priests and nuns wrote


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Comment by: Kieran
Posted: 19/02/2014 20:22:05

The present Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, was my teacher at the EAPI in Manila. His line on Reconciliation, "A celebration of a forgiveness already received" has remained with me for over thirty years. The forgiveness comes from God when with repentant hearts for not living up to God's overwhelming love, we determine to go to the sacrament.

The task of the priest is to celebrate with us the assurance of being forgiven people. The priest who can best do this is one who deeply knows that he, himself, is a forgiven person. The parable at the end of Matthew 18 speaks of a man in debt for ten thousand talents, the cost being 150,000 years of work. Only popes, cardinals, bishops and priests would have debts that big in our church! It sure isn't the little people of the church!

Only those who know how much they have been forgiven can hand that assurance of forgiveness on and celebrate it with others. When the confessional becomes a place of celebration instead of an ordeal, then see the growth in this necessary sacrament. Grace triumphs sin!

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