The M+G+R Foundation

  Clarifying Possible Misconceptions About

  The Sacrament of Reconciliation -
The Guidance of the Holy Spirit

  and

 
The Prevention of Scandal Within a Church



PURPOSE Of DOCUMENT

The purpose of this document is to shed some light on three fundamental issues of Catholicism and other Christian denominations.  

(a) The "why" of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, how "it works" and its benefits;
(b) Our recourse to the Infallible Guidance by the Holy Spirit and how we can greatly benefit from it; and
(c) What is really meant by "not to give/cause scandal" within a Church as well as why scandal should be avoided.


BACKGROUND

Sacrament of Reconciliation

Traditionally called "Confession" in the Catholic Church - East and West.  This Sacrament is fulfilled by a prescribed interaction between the penitent and the priest. It consists, after adequate preparation by the penitent, in the confession of all sins committed by act or omission since the last time the Sacrament was entered into. This confession of sins/misdeeds is followed by spiritual instruction/illumination by the confessor priest for the benefit of the penitent's soul and concluded by the general absolution granted to the penitent  by the confessor, granted by the power vested in him by the Church..

Gallons upon gallons of ink have been utilized in Catholic doctrinal books, catechisms, apologetics, etc. expounding the need, benefit, etc. for such Sacrament. We do not intend to recopy or rewrite all of that. We are going to try to explain, from a very practical point of view, why it really is a good idea.

The Infallible Guidance by the Holy Spirit

In a nutshell:  If each one allowed the Holy Spirit of God to guide our every step, then, every step we took would yield perfect results.  "Perfection" is not what man may think of - which usually is based on a concept completely colored and influenced by the very personal and very worldly interests of a particular man or woman.

The only Perfection that exists is God and if every step that each one of us takes as we journey through life [hopefully, with Him as the Ultimate Goal] is taken in accordance to His Holy Spirit, it will simply be perfect. Joseph's perfect step may be different than the perfect step taken by, say Ellen, when faced with exactly the same external circumstances, however, each is step perfect when all factors (external and internal) are taken into account - something that only God can do for He knows each one of us as "the palm of His hand".

Prevention of Scandal Within Church

"Scandal" is any behavior/acts/words that may negatively affect another human being's journey to the Ultimate Goal - God.  We may classify this into three distinct categories:

(a) Scandal that drives the faithful away from God;
(b) Scandal  which may neutralize certain Church teachings by association with scandalous practice/teaching/example; and
(c) Scandal resulting from different levels of spiritual advancement amongst the faithful.


 DETAILS

Sacrament of Reconciliation

This Catholic Sacrament obviously is not an absolute requirement for the salvation of the soul. Otherwise, the Catholic Church Administration would be spiritually liable before the Throne of God for all the souls lost as the result of the abysmal Evangelization effort they have put forth in the last 1600 years. (0)

However, as we have written elsewhere regarding the great merits of the Catholic Faith, the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation contains all the elements to better assist a soul in finding and keeping its way Home.  Of course it has been misused and abused by some of the men who claim to be at the service of God (1) (1a), nonetheless, we cannot allow such sad reality to destroy something which at its core is an excellent Evangelization tool.

A post Vatican Council II battle cry, obviously introduced by the enemies of God and not by the Council itself,  to demolish the benefits that may be found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is: "I don't need to confess my sins to a man."

The destructive subtlety hidden in such position may be found at the core of the psychological make up of a human being:

(1)  It is very, very hard for a human being to confess to another human being serious, and not so serious, sins committed, while it is quite easy to "confess" such wrongdoing/sins to a deity about which many speak but few have a deep relationship with. [To truly feel deeply sorrowful and contrite before the presence of God - which is simultaneously crushing and uplifting -  is a gift from God granted to very few souls.]

(2)  Human psyche can play tricks on itself and satan will take advantage of that; however, when we bring up/share/discuss thoughts/ideas/concerns with another human being (commonly known as "bouncing it off" to then "listen as it echoes" from the other human being), if we are playing psychological games with ourselves, they will quickly be exposed and the spiritual damage averted.

We do not need to launch into a psychological treatise to support/prove the above described  human condition. It would be as superfluous as launching into a geophysical treatise to prove to the reader that the force of gravity exists. This is precisely what Spiritual Direction is all about - To help a human being see/dissect/evaluate/expose (not to dictate) the real reasons behind our thoughts and intentions, thus avoiding becoming a pawn to satan.

What is the Catholic faithful then to do about the Sacrament of Reconciliation considering the sad moral and legal condition that the Roman Catholic Church finds itself in today?  The answer is quite simple: Resort to God!  Ask Him to cross your path with the appropriate confessor or a trusted Spiritual Director. In either case: Prepare yourself and the confessor/trusted individual through prayer (2) and allow God to do His part.

What if you are on the proverbial "deserted island" without hope to find any confessor or a trusted individual or one simply does not seem to appear even while standing in Times Square at rush hour? We must then assume that such is the Will of God then...

Your burning desire to make amends with God, through the "proper channels", and not to be deceived by yourself or the wrong individual,  your  voluntarily baring your soul to God and seeking His forgiveness and assistance to prevent you from sinning in the future, will be more than sufficient. You will be forgiven, for ultimately, and to the chagrin of certain Roman Catholic Administrators who like to "play God" (3),  it is God who grants the forgiveness and not man.

Penitents, take note: "God", as the saying goes, "was not born yesterday" and we recommend highly that no one tries to play games with Him and use the above illumination to come up with a creative loop hole to avoid the safeguards of sharing/baring/discussing those "dark secrets" with another human being in an effort to return to the right path to the Father.

Confessors, take note:  For the same reason mentioned above, we recommend highly that no one tries to utilize this "power"  for personal gain lest you find out the full meaning of: "It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea...." [Luke 17:1-2]


The Infallible Guidance by the Holy Spirit

"Ask and ye shall receive."  [John 16:24]  There is no greater joy for God, besides the return of the Prodigal Son, than  to have His children truly seeking to do His Will by invoking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Even when a "mistake" is  made under such guidance, it was not a mistake, per se - God may have allowed it to help His child learn something that could not be learned otherwise and that would serve to avoid greater evils and harm in the future.

Unfortunately, the Church Administrators have not understood this yet...

The Triune God has allowed mistakes to be made by the Church Administration; He has sent His Daughter (of the Father), Mother (of the Son) and Spouse (of the Holy Spirit) - Mary - to help them see their errors and correct them. All that we have to show for as a result of such Heavenly Grace is typified by the likes of Cardinal Arinze who, at a fundraising dinner in Pittsburgh in July 2004,  and in response to a question about how his office prepared a recent document on communion, he spoke of wide consultation with bishops and cardinals, of dozens of drafts and endless  amendments before it was finally approved by Pope John Paul II.  He then finally concluded:

"But it is still a human document. It does not pretend to be perfect. So if you find anything that could have been said differently, please tell us."

Maybe the Church Administrators should concern themselves as to why the Holy Spirit of God is having such a difficult time getting an inspiration across to them. If they did ask the question, however, the answer would be: "Because you are trying to please men and not God!" [1 Thessalonians 2:4]

Last but not least: If you feel/believe that satan can interfere with the guidance given to you by the Holy Spirit, think twice! You are ascribing satan greater power than the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

However,  how can that illusion appear to be so, as many times it does?  The answer is also quite simple - once God reveals it:

 By Divine design man's free will is inviolable - even by God. Therefore, only your will can block the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God; and only a will, subject to satan, even at the subconscious level, would do so. (4)

That certainly explains much (individually and institutionally) doesn't it? (5)

Prevention of Scandal Within Church
 
(a) Scandal that drives the faithful away from God

This example shows how a scandalous behavior may drive the faithful away from God OR draw him closer to God; depending on how it is handled.

 A religious representative takes sexual advantage of a member of the flock. This may be "transitory" scandal depending on what the religious representative's superior does upon finding out of what has taken place.

If the religious superior immediately takes action to make the necessary spiritual amends with the victim and insures that the offender will not be given another opportunity to do the same, the "transitory" scandal becomes an "incident" which the victim will easily identify with an individual and not with an institution or with God. The example of rectitude and justice set by the superior will ultimately draw the victim closer to God and the church in question.

If, in the same example, the religious superior denies the fact of the transgression and makes any attempt to cover up the event (as it is normally done), then we are facing a major and devastating scandal. A scandal which will severely damage the victim psychologically AND spiritually, and drive the victim away from God.

(b) Scandal  which may neutralize certain church teachings by association with scandalous practice/teaching/example.

Unfortunately, these are of many varieties. Just a few examples...

  1. "Purchased" annulments (6);
  2. A declared invalid marriage honored by a Papal visit and Blessing (7);
  3. If it is in the best  interests of the Church Administration, the endorsement, Blessing and support of murderous dictatorial regimes (far too many to list);
  4. The above referenced behavior of Cardinal Arinze - which is reflected through the entire Church Administration;
  5. Live in the lap of luxury and preach poverty from the pulpit (8);
  6. A  thinly disguised priest's girlfriend or boyfriend;
      etc. ad nauseum

(c) Scandal resulting from different levels of spiritual development amongst the faithful.

This is best exemplified by a passage in the New Testament. A situation that all of us must be very careful to avoid since it is not intrinsically evil. Not being intrinsically evil, it is not "tagged" in our brain as something to avoid because its potential harm depends on one's company at the moment.

That is, what you may do/say in the company of, say, Mrs. X may be perfectly fine but if you do/say it in the company of Mr. Y it would convey the wrong information/teaching/example and cause harm.

The following  Biblical example will shed much light on this:

1 Corinthians 8:4-13   

Concerning the eating then of the things sacrificed to idols, we have known that an idol [is] nothing in the world, and that there is no other God except one; for even if there are those called gods, whether in heaven, whether upon earth -- as there are gods many and lords many -- yet to us [is] one God, the Father, of whom [are] the all things, and we to Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom [are] the all things, and we through Him; but not in all men [is] the knowledge, and certain with conscience of the idol, till now, as a thing sacrificed to an idol do eat [it], and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

But victuals do not commend us to God, for neither if we may eat are we in advance; nor if we may not eat, are we behind; but see, lest this privilege of yours may become a stumbling block to the infirm, for if any one may see thee that hast knowledge in an idol's temple reclining at meat -- shall not his conscience -- he being infirm -- be emboldened to eat the things sacrificed to idols, and the brother who is infirm shall perish by thy knowledge, because of whom Christ died? and thus sinning in regard to the brethren, and smiting their weak conscience -- in regard to Christ ye sin; wherefore, if victuals cause my brother to stumble, I may eat no flesh -- to the age -- that my brother I may not cause to stumble.

 In a nutshell: Eating meat that may have been offered to an idol means nothing to a Christian - does not defile nor cause harm unless  "that my brother I may not cause to stumble" because of a misunderstanding arisen due to "the brother who is infirm" in the faith.

This is an area within which, at times, feel like a mine field to miguel de Portugal. Through these pages he speaks to a most varied audience - varied in type of Faith or lack thereof, and varied in spiritual development and depth of Faith. He transmits/reflects illumination which may be liberating to some or may be blinding to others - depending on the stage of their spiritual development. Then, what to do? Quit? Of course not!

The answer is the same that we keep offering: Resort to God!... and trust that He "modulates the light" in accordance to each of His children's needs.


NOTES
___________________________________________

(0)  What Went Wrong With Christianity?

(1) From the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, 2nd. Edition - Paragraph No. 1445

"The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God;  whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into him.  Reconciliation with the church is inseparable from reconciliation with God. "

This statement obviously must be referring to the church as it was intended to be and not the Roman Catholic Church "as is",  for God must be in as much in "communion" with it  as He was in "communion" with the equivalent church [The Temple and its  Masters]  of Our Lord's time. God will not allow such power to remain with an Administration that lost its way to the point that it eventually  will become the Seat of the False Christ.  May God have Mercy on His innocent children enmeshed in such deadly trap!

(1a)  The Papacy - A Historical Perspective

(2) Before engaging in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and before even attempting to make the appropriate examination of conscience,  pray in earnest that the Holy Spirit of God shows you your real sins and help you to properly express them to the Confessor. Then entreat the Holy Spirit of God to assist the Confessor in understanding your communication and, in turn, speak precisely the words God wants him to. Then, ask Him again to help you understand, interpret and act upon such words in accordance to His Most Holy and Adorable Will.

God is above all and if a sincere heart approaches Him in such manner, satan will not be able to interfere.

miguel de Portugal will never forget a very specific test God subjected him to so that m de Portugal would be able to prove to Him that he would indeed practiced what he claimed he believed.

It was in Fátima and there was a Sanctuary Chaplain about whom m de P had thought: "He would be the last confessor I would ever go to." One good day, and without any  warning, God tricked m de P into that Chaplain's confessional. The preparation prayers had been made so m de P proceeded as if in that Confessional was God Himself. After m de P had finished listing his sins/transgressions/faults the advice of the Confessor was: "Now go to the Adoration Chapel and hear what God will say to you." He then gave him the absolution.  m de P went straight to the Adoration Chapel and, upon entering and after the appropriate salutation, Jesus did not stop speaking for at least ten minutes.

The best Sacrament of Reconciliation he has ever had!

Therefore, brothers and sisters, the recommendation being offered here was well tested that day and it is obviously from God.

(3) The True Petrine Ministry
(4) Understanding the spiritual mechanism of this situation
(5) How the Church Administration effectively blocks gentle Divine Assistance only to trigger, by default, less gentle Divine intervention.
(6) The Sacrament of Matrimony
(7) Note dated May 22, 2004 in The Sacrament of Matrimony document
(8) Cardinal Law, et al, Life Styles

 

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