Danger of repenting sins of bishops


What’s worse, stealing $10, or murder? Well, if I did the stealing, and was not involved in the murder, then for me, stealing is more serious.

I’m a little disturbed by constant calls to laity to fast and pray, talk and think about sins of other people - while almost no laity are going to confession. Sex abuse, and its cover-up, isn’t the biggest Catholic scandal.

Millions of Catholics are involved in supporting abortion directly or indirectly, or at least passive and silent to the point their daughters obtain abortions. Millions of other Catholics are" living together", getting “married” by some quack at a picnic Grove, or contracepting.

In my area laity are eager to believe and pass on, any and all allegations about any priest, even if originating from anti Catholic sources. Doesn’t anyone think calumny, slander, detraction are sins anymore?

It’s a dangerous spiritual practice to tempt laity to indulge in confessing and repenting sins of other people.


I get what you’re driving at, but we do have a tradition of prayer and fasting for others.

And yes, none of us are righteous, so we must not fall into the trap of thinking “see how awesome I am praying and fasting for that schmuck over there.”

Jesus called every one of us to repent.
And repentance is an every day activity, not just a one time event.


The Church of course does not sin, individuals do. There’s a danger inviting people to repent sins of “the Church”. That practice gives people the feeling or repentance, without confessing their own sins.


We have to remember that we’re Catholics. We’re members of the Body of Christ, the Communion of Saints.

Mystically, spiritually we are connected in ways the secular world isn’t.

We must see our selves as “knots in a net” that Christ is trying to use to pull everyone in, closer to Him.

We have to force ourselves a bit out of the secular mindset.

My prayer life matters to you, to the struggling priest. My confessions - their sincerity, their frequency, their directness matter to a person in the Philipines that I will never meet. And, obviously, vice versa.

Graces are given by God merited to this or that person and they’re distributed HOWEVER God wants to distribute them. I may pray for more faithfulness in my plan of prayer, and God may grant that prayer to someone in Vancouver Canada. It’s His action.

And in the same way, when I do an act of atonement for the sins of priests, God can use this for them.

We must “grow” our view of the spiritual world, realizing we’re “knots” in the net of God.

Practically…if a young struggling priests sees us using our phones to do email during Mass, chatting in the pews while He’s offering his body and voice to God in order to bring Jesus present to us…if he hears week after week superficial confessions…if he doesn’t hear the good struggle in people’s confessions…his own ardor for the priesthood can suffer too.


I agree with your whole post but this sentence is the crucial one, in the era of media driven Catholics.


Since it’s obvious that no one can confess for another, you seem to be saying that reparation isn’t a valid practice. The Church would disagree.


Don’t confuse confessing for sins, with atonement or acts of penance.

We can atone for others. We can and should atone for the TEMPORAL effects of sin, of ours AND of others…that’s what our own penance for our sins is doing for our selves.

Little known fact: Most faithful priests will offer their own penance for our sins after they hear confessions, say on Saturday. Skip the Saturday evening meal, take a cold shower, something is offered out of love for us.

“Spiritual effects” of sin are God’s to take care of through Confession, applying His infinite act of atonement on the Cross, to our sins.


I think you are misunderstanding what Francis is saying. He is pointing out that we are the Communion of Saints, and the good of one is the good of all.
As you point out, we are all sinners, whether it be complicity in abortion, or other infidelities.

I don’t think the Pope’s statement really goes very far in solving this problem, but what he is saying is worthwhile.


I get what you and others here are saying, and you are right, but I think it was a mistake to send that message and apology for the scandals in the same message. Conflating the two is naturally going to cause people to come to the conclusions the OP has come to. I had the same reaction.


Starting in the late 60s we started reading and hearing about " too frequent superficial confessions," where Catholics would confess " trivia" like coming late for Mass, watching movies that led to impure thoughts, or excessive vanity. Catholics we’re told to focus on Big Issues, to repent pollution by large corporations, wars, inequality, poverty, and other “sins”.

As a result, confessions - where I can only confess my own sins - dropped by at least 90 percent.

In one parish near my house the priest denounced “church leaders” and the result was not weeping and intercessory prayer, but applause. No special time set aside for confessions, they are on another planet. In a way parishes are competing with cnn and Fox news.
The last time I was there, they were repenting global warming.


Yes. What you mention is exactly the wrong response to the problem of superficial confessions.

Rather than confessing superficially…and rather than simply not going…the proper response would have been to “go deeper” into one’s interior life with God and our interactions with others, using the Sacrament of Confession, and the graces the priest has been given to help us do this.

For example:

  • examining one’s latency - hesitancy in - forgiving others, our desire to be a bit stingy in our forgiveness
  • one’s nursing of resentments…
  • one’s tenedency to give in to “interior complaint”
  • one’s loss of a presence of God during the day, to finding excuses for not praying!
  • one’s tendency toward doing acts of charity for vain reasons…to be seen, to want to be seen by others as good.
  • one’s desire to be first…
  • our intentions, our hesitancies, our motives for action…all very good things to take to Confession.

And about a million other deeper inclinations (perhaps not yet formal sins, but things that should be mentioned in Confession if one is truly struggling to be a saint).

Confession absolutely CAN give graces to “ward off” these early tendencies toward selfishness, vanity, pride, sensuality, laziness.

Confessing these sins need not be signs of (the dreaded and over talked about) scrupulosity at all.

They are legitimate topics to bring into one’s Confession.

There are some people that are far far too quick to claim these points above are evidence of scrupulosity.

But if one were to use 1 Cor 13 as an examination of conscience, they’d retract their charge of scrupulosity.

Jesus said: be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.

This is an inclined plane that we will never get to the end of.

But Confession well done is one of the great “means” that the Church gives us to take up this happy and holy struggle to become saints.


The laity who are actually going to bother fasting and praying are very likely also the ones who are going to Confession frequently, not supporting abortion, and not committing other grave sins.

Moreover, even if they are sinning, the fact that they would fast and pray for whatever reason is not discounted by God. It might be the thing that saves them. It might be the thing that motivates them to think more about their own behavior. God brings good even out of terrible evils.

Of all the things to complain about, complaining about people doing penance is about the silliest thing ever.


As a child, my family would say the Rosary on Sunday. My mother would ask, does anyone have any special intentions?

Invariably one sibling would offer something like this: “please watch over Jimmy (another sibling) to help him stop telling lies and stealing my stuff”. At the next decade, Jimmy would verbalize a similar “prayer request” for that brother.

Ah yes…the good old days…


I’m also kind of confused at those who are adamantly refusing to fast and pray with regards to the scandal. It’s like some think that doing so is enabling predators or something.

Our fasting and prayer is important because (1) it changes us by helping us grow in holiness; and (2) it unites our prayers and sacrifice to those of Christ for the salvation of souls.


I’m not against fasting and praying, and apologize that my post was misleading. I’m cautioning about the tendency - extreme in America in 2018 - to confess and repent the sins of other people. My Facebook page reads almost like the National Enquirer, trashing bishops and priests. Somehow I suspect a lot more people applaud the idea of fasting for the sins of bishops than will actually fast themselves.


In the words of G K Chesterton:

“What’s wrong with the world? I am.”


The laity that aren’t going to confession probably didn’t even read the call to fasting, to be quite honest.

I think there’s a confusion between confessing and repenting the sins of other people, and offering penance and reparations for them. The latter doesn’t mean that I’m taking responsibility, just that I am acknowledging a wrong and that I am in a position to in some way address it.


Ah, I see what you’re saying. I suppose I had in my mind posts from other people in another thread.


Right, we went over this on the other thread where someone posted, “I didn’t commit any of the sins of the clergy, I’m not guilty, so why should I be punished by doing penance for them?” We explained it was following the example of Christ who offered Himself for sins He did not commit.


I agree that each should repent his own sins. You were born alone and you will die alone. And it is you who carries the burden and consequences of your sin, though I would add that sin affects others too. The modern Church thoroughly downplays sin and repentance beyond: helping the poor, not judging others and welcoming migrants, maybe abortion is mentioned in a homily every two or three years if you are in the right parish - if not you won’t even get that.

I don’t think the laity should fast and pray for the hierarchy as much as the hierarchy should fast and pray for the hierarchy. I pray for others constantly anyway, along with myself. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is my metaphor of the RCC. Sin against the Cross of Christ. This is a pretty accurate assessment of the health of the situation too in my opinion.

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