Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

A Confession About Confession

“The sacrament of Reconciliation is a place to bring all of our chaos into contact with the healing love of the Lord Jesus,” writes Kathryn J. Hermes in her excellent book, “Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach.” Several people–even my therapist who is a lapsed Catholic–suggested I go to confession to relieve some of my guilt. I did go five years ago when Eric was baptized (it was required of him, so I went too). But, here’s the thing (I could be handcuffed by the USCCB for publishing this thought): confession doesn’t really do anything for me. To be completely candid, I’m a tad freaked out by it.


Do we Catholics really need seven sacraments? Couldn’t we get along just fine with six? (Pluto got demoted last year from the solar system after research found that the planet wasn’t up to snuff.)

I think the problem was that confession would relieve my guilt for about five minutes, at which time I’d come up with a new sin to confess. So in order for it to be fully effective, I’d pretty much have to set up camp in the dark phone booth, where the priest could instantly absolve me of my mistakes as they happen.

I understand the theology behind penance. Paragraph 980 of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says, “It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized by reconciled with God and with the Church.” And then it pulls this paragraph from the Council of Trent (1551):


“Penance has rightly been called by the holy Fathers ‘a laborious kind of baptism.’ This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn.”

It’s just that I prefer two-person conversations as opposed to three. Once you get a triangle going, something always gets lost in translation. I’m afraid the priest might botch it up and report to God that I killed a health-care insurance representative, not that I felt like killing a health-care insurance representative. Or if I confessed, in Jimmy Carter style, to an affair of the heart, Father Tim would forget “of the heart.” And why do I have to go through an interpretor to talk to God, anyway? We’ve always gotten along just fine, the two of us.

I know this sacrament has value. I know it’s really important. What can I say? I’m just not that into it, and I feel very guilty about that.

  • http://HASH(0xd12ebe0) dan

    Martin Luther had the same struggles with confession, and the timing of the sin/confession cycle. He also suffered from depression. Anyway, he came up with the “living in a state of grace” idea that works well for most protestants. It also opened a whole other can of worms, but that’s another story.

  • http://HASH(0xd1302a4) elmo

    I’m a Catholic who also has struggled with depression. I go to Confession frequently. This sacrament is a beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit allowing us to know in a tangible way the mercy and forgiveness of our Lord. Don’t worry about “getting it right”. God understands us better than we know ourselves. Trust in his love and don’t worry.

  • http://HASH(0xd131200) elmo

    Here’s a fuller explanation of why the Sacrament is important that might answer some questions you expressed in your post, but don’t feel guilty if you are still not into it!

  • http://HASH(0xd132068) Alison

    Therese,Although it’s good to confess your sins to others, you shouldn’t feel guilty about losing the third wheel. God can (and will) forgive you with or without a formal ritual. Just go to him.

  • http://HASH(0xd13238c) ps

    Confession another word like guilt..How many things can you or do you or should you confess to? I really go long the lines of the Ten Commandments. If you’ve done something in that line..well, yes, confession here we come..but seriously, I’m not a martyr now, but I don’t have serious sins..seriously!! I like to use profanity when I get bad is that? Unless I use the Lord’s name in vain, He forgives me automatically. This is just what I feel..He’s a forgiving God, we know that don’t we?? I can’t understand why I need to make Easter duties when I have nothing to confess. What I feel in my heart for someone, if I should and I shouldn’t, it’s just there,in my heart..Well nuf’ said..Here we go again…GUILT!!

  • http://HASH(0xd132a3c) ps

    Confession; another word like guilt..As a part of the lenten season, one must make their Easter duties..I find this not necessary, if one is free from sin, grievious sin. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a martyr..But I’m not a sinner either.I go by the Ten Commandent rules. If one is broken, it’s like here I come. Other than that my big issue is profanity. Again, unless the name of the Lord is taken in vain, the rest can be excused in my daily Confeitior.I’m certain this is fine with God. We have a service for reconciliation coming up this weekend. I’m planning to attend regarless of what I think..You see I truly believe in my religion and will do what is my belief and duty to my God…Heaven forbid that I feel guilt over not doing so….

  • Thomas

    Yes, we need all seven sacraments. I suspect the problem is not with the sacrament of pennance but with you view of sin and what it does. If you are truly sorry for the offense of your sin to God and those around you, pennance is an efficacious gift of grace that truly heals. If you enter into it will anything lesser, you will miss out on the power of the sacrament. Even Jesus himself confessed to John and Jesus made a point of empowering the apostles to go out and heal, in particular to forgive sins. Yes, you can pray to God but if that was all that is neccesary, then why would Christ himself go through so much trouble to empower the apostles and how would something that ‘wierds you out’ manage to survive for so long and have helped sooooo many people? Because the Holy Spirit doesn’t make mistakes. Pray more often and try opening your heart to the sacrement a bit more. Perhaps confessing the issue you write about is a good place to start. Peace.

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