HIDDEN AGENDA - Part Four
In our previous editorials, Hidden Agenda – Parts One, Two, and Three , I talked about certain individuals, including the clergy, who have the hidden agenda of trying to ‘Protestantize’ the Catholic Church. It is an attempt to bring more Protestants into the Church, but it is also driving Catholics out of the Church. The examples that I gave previously were the reduction in devotion to the rosary and the crucifix, also to lack of proper reverence for our Lord and Savior in the tabernacle.
When the media wishes to present someone as Catholic then the rosary, crucifix, and genuflection are the images presented. If one sees someone fingering a rosary, staring at a crucifix or genuflecting and making the sign of the cross before sliding into a pew, you definitely have the impression that person is Catholic. The other popular Catholic image portrayed is someone in a confessional receiving the sacrament of penance. Those with the hidden agenda to Protestantize the faith are attempting to make people believe they no longer need the sacrament of penance.
In the ‘old days’ prior to Vatican ll, the main form of the sacrament of penance or reconciliation was the individual confession where: the penitents ideally shared conversation and prayer with the priest; sins were confessed; the priest would provide guidance, penance, and absolution; and, the penitents would perform their penance. Confessions were normally made in a ‘confessional’ or face-to-face with a priest. The ‘confessional’ is the image of the sacrament of penance that most non-Catholics have, thanks to the media.
After Vatican ll, another form of the sacrament of penance was instituted. This consists of the communal penance service that centers on a quick confession and rapid forgiveness. This assembly-line approach of the sacrament (usually conducted around Christmas and Easter) often does not provide the best form for an in-depth experience of serious and sincere reconciliation. It may be quite adequate for those that have nothing more to confess than missing evening prayers; however, it does little in the way of providing spiritual guidance for those with a need to overcome a pattern of serious (or mortal) sin. Usually the pastor instructs the congregation to line up in each of the aisles and when they get to the priest hearing confessions at the end of the aisle, to tell him their worst fault. (Note the word sin is not mentioned.) Maybe most have only one sin to confess, but there may be those that need to confess more than one sin, or have not received the sacrament in some time and need special guidance.
The third form of the sacrament of confession is restricted to the rarest of occasions. This is a general absolution usually given only in the case of grave necessity. Canon 961 says that it would be when “the danger of death is imminent and there is not time for a priest or priests to hear the confession of individual penitents” (e.g. soldiers going into battle). Unfortunately, there are those clergy that ignore the facts and take a very broad interpretation of Church instructions. They are giving general absolution en-mass at a regular service in order that all attendees may receive communion. Fortunately, the number of clergy misguided in this way is very small. Let us pray for them.
Prior to writing about the subject of Protestantizing the Church by eliminating the sacrament of reconciliation, I was deliberating in my mind about how the sacrament was really being eliminated. Most of us know that the number of those at the confessionals has been dwindling, but it is not due entirely to Vatican ll or the misinterpretation of general absolution. While attending Mass at Holy Cross Church in Garrett Park, Maryland, Rev. Msgr. Vincent Gatto stated the reasons very clearly. In many churches you rarely hear the word sin from the pulpit (fortunately they do at Holy Cross Church). If no one is committing sin any more, why is there the need for the sacrament of reconciliation? At my regular parish I have not heard the word ‘sin’ in a number of years. All around us sin is being trivialized. Abortion is not the killing of one’s own unborn child rather it is the removal of a fetus or the termination of a pregnancy. Bearing false witness is not lying, it is misstating, exaggerating, personally interpreting, or some other politically correct word. Our movies and TV shows glorify sex outside of marriage. Fornication is considered the standard in America according to the media. Those of the opposite sex that live together have no guilt. Homosexual activity is taught in our schools and looked upon as an alternate life-style, not as a perverted, sinful activity. Keeping holy the Sabbath is also discouraged by our secular society with the enormous amount of marketing in the media. According to our secular society, and some of our ‘progressive’ priests, there is no such thing as sin anymore.
Let us compare our ‘progressive’ priests with some of the more saintly priests of the past. St. John Vianney, who we mentioned in our last article, spent 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional. He did not suggest an assembly-line approach where the penitent would quickly come and state only his most serious sin. Nor did St. John Vianney refrain from his responsibility of informing the penitent that their actions were a sin against God. He did not suggest that the penitent form their own conscience and be their own judge.
Pope John Paul ll in his 1984 statement on Reconciliation and Penance urged Catholics to confess their sins often to a priest, saying, “ it would be foolish… to disregard the means of grace and salvation which the Lord has provided and … to claim to receive forgiveness while doing without the sacrament which was instituted by Christ for forgiveness.”
On Easter Sunday night, our Lord told the apostles, His first priests: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound they are held bound” John 20:22-23. The penitent must tell the priest his sins in order for the priest to forgive them. By absolving us of our sins, the priest, who is representing Christ, gives us the assurance that our sins have been forgiven. The priest can also give us some spiritual as well as practical advice on how to avoid sin in the future.
Do you feel that we have true ‘ministers of the sacraments’ today when our ‘progressive’ priests try to eliminate the sacrament of penance by trivializing sin and reducing the lines at the confessional? Many Catholics think they no longer are committing any sins, therefore they no longer have need for the confessional. They also begin to think they no longer have the need to attend Mass. Those that know they are committing sin switch denominations to those Protestant churches that still conduct sermons on sinfulness and the need for redemption and the graces to change their behavior.
Although some of our ‘progressive’ clergy are trying to remove our crucifixes, eliminate the rosary, weaken the devotion to the Holy Eucharist, reduce use of the sacrament of penance, and stop our prayers to the saints, we are still the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church established by Jesus Christ.
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