Yesterday’s strong and welcome words by Benedict XVI to reporters on the papal plane saying he was “deeply ashamed” at the clergy sexual abuse scandal set the tone for his visit–first impressions are important, and those words did a great deal to signal to Americans that Benedict “gets it” in a way too many, though not all, bishops did not, or do not. (Read the transcript of the in-flight at CNS.)
More words are expected along these lines. Welcome as they are, over at the New York Times blogs, Father James Martin, a Jesuit and editor at America magazine and author of popular books like “My Life with the Saints,” points out that the Rite of Reconciliation, a.k.a. confession, has three distinct aspects, each of which must be fulfilled. Martin writes:

Let me explain. Traditionally, the “Rite of Reconciliation” in the Catholic Church (better known as “confession”) included three steps for a person seeking forgiveness. First, repentance. That is, you must be truly sorry for your sins. Second, a “firm purpose of amendment,” which means your pledge not to sin in the same way again. Those two aspects of the sacrament have been tried, by various bishops and by various superiors of religious orders, with varying degrees of success, as a way of making amends for their actions. (You may think that they haven’t been done well, but my point is that those two steps have been tried in some places.)
But what about the third part of the sacrament: penance?

IRead the rest of this excellent piece here.

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