"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Friday, July 5, 2013

QUAERITUR: Priest asked me to say Act of Contrition after getting out of the confessional

From a reader:
During Confession, the parochial vicar at my parish insists that I say the Act of Contrition after absolution, when I have left the confessional. So I say it in the pew prior to doing my penance. I think he wants to move the line along, but it seems strange to me.
It is not the norm, to be sure, but it is not unheard of.
The priest has to be reasonably certain that the penitent is sorry for her sins.  One could argue that the fact of the confession itself is the minimum adequate to convince him of the sorrow.   That, however, has to be the exception rather than the rule.  Hearing at least attrition during the Act of Contrition is the normal way that Father comes to reasonable certainty that you are sorry and have a firm purpose of amendment.
There are times when the line of penitents is quite long and the confessor is up against a scheduled event, such as the beginning of Mass at the top of the hour for a church full of people.  In that case Father might try to move things along so that more penitents can be heard.  That is usually why a confessor might occasionally ask penitents to say the Act of Contrition afterward.  Again, that is not the optimal practice, but, if you are sorry for your sins and made your good confession, it would not invalidate the absolution.  And during “high volume” times, that can get a few more people in.
This situation prompts me to remind everyone reading this not to “ramble” when there is a line of people behind you.  Be thoughtful!
Please, friends, be clear, be concise, be blunt, and be gone.   Get in there and confess those sins in number and kind, and include just the details that might aggravate or attenuate the sins.  Under the normal circumstances of regular confession times, priests don’t need the story of your life or account of your week.  It isn’t chat time.  Nor is it a psychotherapy session.  You don’t have to speed talk, like the disclaimers at the end of a radio commercial.  Just be clear, be concise, be blunt, and be gone.
To this end, examine your conscience beforehand.  Pretty please?  You should know what you are going to confess before entering the confessional.  Before, right?
And, please, pay attention to that request for “bluntness”, above.  Be blunt.  Don’t beat around the bush.  Use the clearest words, even if embarrassing.  ”Father, I did ___ X times, ___’d X times, I failed to ___ although I must add that the house was on fire at the time, I ___’d my ___ X times….” etc.  There is very little that a priest hasn’t heard before.  He usually has no idea who you are, especially if you whisper.  He can’t reveal anything to anyone.  He usually – and this is something just about every priest you will ever meet can verify – he usually forgets what you told him even as he goes to the next penitent on the other side of the box.  It’s weird, but true… at least for me and priests I know.
Making a good confession regularly will help you with being clear, concise, blunt and gone.
In the meantime, if you are really nervous or haven’t gone to confession often for a long time, Father can help you out, but ask him to help you out so that he doesn’t wonder about intervening.  Be direct.
And please be patient and understanding with priest who try to get a few more penitents in before being forced to get out of the box.

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