Non-Catholics and Confession


#1

Here’s an interesting one–tonight my girlfriend found scandal in the Church.

Short context: My girlfriend grew up in a staunchly Evangelical, though unaffiliated, church. They were slightly atypical in that her dad believed each and every family constituted it’s own church with the father as the, well, “Father.”

We’ve been dating for about a year and a half, and now she’s in RCIA–mostly at the “inquiry” level, but wanting to want to join.

One of her hold-ups, though is something that I haven’t seen until just tonight. She’s been trying to get it through my head for a long time, but I didn’t get it until just now. It’s such a blind spot for us cradle Catholics that even the priest at RCIA had to pause and say, “You’ve found scandal in the Church.”

Intellectually, she has a hard time finding any holes in Catholic doctrine. Emotionally/spritually, however, she has a huge stumbling block when it comes to Confession.

She fully believes in mortal sin and even the Sacrament of Confession, however, she’s mad and frustrated that the Church is holding it out in front of her without giving her the opportunity to take part. It’s no mere impatience issue, though. She’s most certainly NOT acting like a spoiled child here. She sees many instances in the Bible where people decide for Christ, repent, and get about the business of being a Christian with the fullness of the truth. Now, she knows she’s committed mortal sins–even since coming to understand and believe the Catholic definition of mortal sin. She believes that Confession is the remedy for it. So why does the Church withold this Sacrament from ready, willing and able converts?

She has a dangerous job. Every day she’s putting her life on the line as a D.C. reporter in the 'hood. And she’s frustrated that the Church seems to be “less than enthusastic” about getting people what it’s there to do. If the Church really believes what it teaches, why the wait?

As any convert here knows, RCIA is often not even Catholicism 101. It’s mostly remedial theology for this Bible-based, scripture-saturated Evangelical. She’s willing to go through the process, though, because she wants to make sure she knows what she’s getting into. But, if the Church believes the Sacraments are such important means of grace, then what’s the real, solid, non-negotiable reason for holding them out of reach? She’s ready to convert! she says. Do you want me or not?

I know the Catholic response because I’ve been giving it to her–“Oh, if you don’t know it’s a mortal sin, you’re less culpable.” Or, “Until you’re confirmed and all that, the best means of Confession is whatever you’ve been taught.”

But is it? Maybe, but what if you now know that the Church has the means of reconciliation and salvation? If the Church really believes it does, it should be getting it to the knowledgable converts ASAP.

That’s the thing–there really is no good reason it should take so long. I know the realities of the Church in America today–priests are spread thin and those still interested in properly catechizing the converts want to do a good job of it. That’s why it takes roughly six months. But this one-size-fits-all approach no more works for Catholicism than it does for the Federal Government.

And this is where the scandal comes in. She’s starting to lose faith because the Church doesn’t seem to be putting its money where it’s Sacraments are.

Surprisingly, this priest is going to talk to the “head priest” at St. Mary’s and see about getting her to Confession. He’s extremely knowledgable and orthodox, so I’m not worried that we’re dealing with some kind of amateur here. I was surprised to learn that this was even possible. I’ve long thought that it might be efficacious if she went into a non-sacramental Confession just for the experience, and to satisfy whatever requirements a God of perfect justice would have for those in her situation to be forgiven.

So, anyone have any thoughts? Ever run into this before? Like I said, I pretty much know the “typical” Catholic’s response, but it appears that there is little solid reason to deny full conversion to someone knowledgable and ready to go. If the Church is indeed drawing out the process merely for pragmatic reasons, then this is indeed scandal. The Church’s mission is to spread the Gospel and save souls. Nothing should prevent her from doing that.


#2

a person who is already baptized and has been living a Christian life has already experienced initial conversion and accepted the initial proclamation of the Gospel. this person is not in the same position as an unbaptized (catechumen) and her special status should always be respected in the classes and in the rites. She does not celebrate the same rites as the unbaptized. She should also not be “held back” to some artificial schedule to accommodate others in the class, especially is she is probably far more bible literate than even some of the Catholics.

There is no reason she cannot prepare for confession now, and make her first communion as soon as she is ready, however she may have to wait for Confirmation until the date established by the bishop. She does not need to wait until Easter if otherwise she and the pastor feel she is ready. In fact, there are good arguments for accepting baptized Christians into the Church at a time other than Easter, simply to avoid confusion and to emphasize the special nature of baptism at the Vigil.

I don’t know how long she has been attending, but she should speak to the director of the program and the pastor, and if she wants confession should not be denied the sacrament, as there is no reason for a delay if she understands and accepts the nature of the sacrament and Catholic teaching on it.


#3

It looks like that’s what’s about to happen, though I wonder if she’ll go through with it say, next week. If she’s suddenly able to convert fully at any time, it might suddenly obliterate that comfy “grace period,” (pun intended). It’s like when I learned to slalom ski–I was told I’d be third in line to try that day, and I was all cocky about it. But when the other guys bailed, and I was suddenly up, I wasn’t so confident. :thumbsup:


#4

I totally sympathize with you here. It seems crazy to me, that someone who is going through the process of becoming Catholic, would be denied the sacrament of confession once they’ve come to the realization that they need it.

It is unfathomable that the Church would withhold this from her. Now, that said, if (God forbid) something was to happen to her prior to her getting her first confession, God will judge her on her heart (her desire to confess). So she will not be held liable for something she has no control over. God is a good a merciful God.

Make sense?


#5

[quote=Superstar905]I totally sympathize with you here. It seems crazy to me, that someone who is going through the process of becoming Catholic, would be denied the sacrament of confession once they’ve come to the realization that they need it.

It is unfathomable that the Church would withhold this from her. Now, that said, if (God forbid) something was to happen to her prior to her getting her first confession, God will judge her on her heart (her desire to confess). So she will not be held liable for something she has no control over. God is a good a merciful God.

Make sense?
[/quote]

Absolutely.


#6

I kind of agree here. I’m a former seminary student. I know the Bible, and before I decided to become Catholic I did the research for myself. Its kind of frustrating to have to go through a six month period for me as well. I’d like to be able to go to confession too.

But well I haven’t really tried to bug the priest about it, or anything. It feels kind of weird because I am a Christian already, I just want to be in communion with the Catholic church…I figure though I’ll go through the hoops and trust God on this. But I do think that there should be differences…This being said I think time is a good thing too honestly to make sure your making this decision correctly because its a big decision…But I sympathesize with the frustration.


#7

St. Mary, Mother of God in Northwest D.C., or St. Mary’s in Old Town, Alexandria? The latter is my regular parish. If you’re talking about St. Mary’s I would have to agree that our pastor, indeed all of our priests, are very knowledgeable and orthodox. I would bet good the money, however, that the same could be said for St. Mary, Mother of God in Northwest. It’s very orthodox. In fact, they have the indult Tridentine Latin Mass there every Sunday at 9am. Sorry to get off on a tangent. That being said, I would agree with the other posters that she should not be denied Confession if she is baptized and understands and accepts the Church’s teaching on the sacrament.


#8

**montanaman, :slight_smile: **

I can appreciate the angst of your girlfriend. When I was looking to become Catholic, I found the concept that you had to wait to be baptised, an odd one indeed. By all means, the Priest should be able to ask a few questions, to evaluate if the person understands what it means to be baptised, but apart from that, I can’t see why people can’t be baptised at the first available moment. A baby can be baptised without understanding what has happened, and once they are at an age of discernment, are confirmed; why then, deny immediate ‘entry’ to God’s family, to an older child / adult, who is willingly making a commitment to God?


** If you confess Jesus as Lord; Son of God, Our Saviour, etc, then it seems a travisty to make a person wait. Confession should likewise not be prohibited, as we are all sinners.**


I can also appreciate making those who are discerning their faith, wait to receive the Eucharist; but once the person is fully aware of the teachings of their faith, then they should be permitted to be confirmed and partake of this most valuable sacrament.


I have said a prayer for you and your girlfriend.


May God bless you both.


#9

[quote=Superstar905]I totally sympathize with you here. It seems crazy to me, that someone who is going through the process of becoming Catholic, would be denied the sacrament of confession once they’ve come to the realization that they need it.

It is unfathomable that the Church would withhold this from her. ?
[/quote]

as I said “the Church” is not withholding the sacrament from her. She is being prepared for this sacrament as well as for the sacraments of initiation, and will be led to confession at the appropriate time. Her RCIA director may err in judging the appropriate time but that is a prudential judgement, and usually happens when the director tries to make everyone in the class follow the same schedule. That is not how RCIA “happens”. It takes as long as it takes, and is not necessarily the same for everyone in the group. The director has been charged with the responsibility of making sure the candidates have been catechized on Christian morality so that they may make a proper examination of conscience, and on the sacrament itself, and the form for confession.

If the candidate feels a strong desire now for the sacrament, she should bring that up with her catechist and ask for an appointment with the priest, or just go directly to the priest. Candidates should also be urged to bring up all these questions with their catechist and RCIA team, not to stew about things they don’t understand or agree with. The team can’t help if they don’t know what’s on your mind.


#10

[quote=Nun_ofthe_Above]**montanaman, :slight_smile: **

I can appreciate the angst of your girlfriend. When I was looking to become Catholic, I found the concept that you had to wait to be baptised, an odd one indeed. By all means, the Priest should be able to ask a few questions, to evaluate if the person understands what it means to be baptised, but apart from that, I can’t see why people can’t be baptised at the first available moment. A baby can be baptised without understanding what has happened, and once they are at an age of discernment, are confirmed; why then, deny immediate ‘entry’ to God’s family, to an older child / adult, who is willingly making a commitment to God?

If you confess Jesus as Lord; Son of God, Our Saviour, etc, then it seems a travisty to make a person wait. Confession should likewise not be prohibited, as we are all sinners.

I can also appreciate making those who are discerning their faith, wait to receive the Eucharist; but once the person is fully aware of the teachings of their faith, then they should be permitted to be confirmed and partake of this most valuable sacrament.

I have said a prayer for you and your girlfriend.

May God bless you both.
[/quote]

I hunted all over for this thread, because it is on the wrong forum, belongs in liturgy and sacrament – see guidelines in the stickies.
the RCIA process, preparation and rites have been carefully thought out by the Church to meet all these pastoral considerations. In my nearly 15 years involvement, I have never encountered or heard of an unbaptized person who is able to understand, within a few days or weeks, what it means to profess the Catholic faith and embrace its teachings and disciplines.

Because pastoral experience has shown that those who have not been first thoroughly instructed in the faith and are baptized with minimal preparation are most likely to abandon the faith within a few years, the RCIA has developed to improve the chances being properly disposed and prepared for the sacraments.

One of the hardest things to accept in joining the Church is submission to all her teachings and practice, and among other things, the RCIA process is a school for developing this humility and obedience.

the sacraments of initiation are liturgy of the whole church, not merely an individual experience, and the heart of RCIA is acknowledging and accepting the communal and ecclesial dimenstions of Christian initiation. the process is intended to foster this appreciation. The rites specify the Easter Vigil as the normative time for unbaptized adults to enter the Church, so this is what we follow.

however, OP is about a baptized Christian, not an unbaptized convert, so this discussion is out of place here.


#11

**asquared, :slight_smile: **

Thank you for you thoughtful explanations / directions to stickies, e****tc. Please note that the following is written with no malice intended.
In reference to this quote…
**

however, OP is about a baptized Christian, not an unbaptized convert, so this discussion is out of place here.

**
I did make references to both non baptised and baptised persons; and essentially my post was mainly to express my understanding of montanaman’s girlfriend’s situation. This included some of my thoughts about the legalism within Christian Churches now, when the early Church had no such need to wait. My post touched on the ‘Scandal’ of such legalism (which was addressed by the OP), so I don’t believe my post was totally inappropriate for this thread. I do apologise if I am wrong however.


Your soon-to-be
Sister-in-Christ (albeit ‘seperated bretheren’)
God Bless.


#12

[quote=montanaman]Here’s an interesting one–tonight my girlfriend found scandal in the Church.

Short context: My girlfriend grew up in a staunchly Evangelical, though unaffiliated, church. They were slightly atypical in that her dad believed each and every family constituted it’s own church with the father as the, well, “Father.”

We’ve been dating for about a year and a half, and now she’s in RCIA–mostly at the “inquiry” level, but wanting to want to join.

One of her hold-ups, though is something that I haven’t seen until just tonight. She’s been trying to get it through my head for a long time, but I didn’t get it until just now. It’s such a blind spot for us cradle Catholics that even the priest at RCIA had to pause and say, “You’ve found scandal in the Church.”

Intellectually, she has a hard time finding any holes in Catholic doctrine. Emotionally/spritually, however, she has a huge stumbling block when it comes to Confession.

She fully believes in mortal sin and even the Sacrament of Confession, however, she’s mad and frustrated that the Church is holding it out in front of her without giving her the opportunity to take part. It’s no mere impatience issue, though. She’s most certainly NOT acting like a spoiled child here. She sees many instances in the Bible where people decide for Christ, repent, and get about the business of being a Christian with the fullness of the truth. Now, she knows she’s committed mortal sins–even since coming to understand and believe the Catholic definition of mortal sin. She believes that Confession is the remedy for it. So why does the Church withold this Sacrament from ready, willing and able converts?

She has a dangerous job. Every day she’s putting her life on the line as a D.C. reporter in the 'hood. And she’s frustrated that the Church seems to be “less than enthusastic” about getting people what it’s there to do. If the Church really believes what it teaches, why the wait?
[/quote]

She really should not have to wait if she is validly Baptized? (Evangelical, though unaffiliated, church.) IF she is not Baptized then she has no access until after Baptism and all her sins are forgiven in Baptism.


#13

Montana, the only “real” holdup for her is whether she is prepared de fide to accept all the teachings of the Catholic Church. If not, then her belief in confession is nice, but not definitive.

A person may receive this Sacrament when the person responsible for preparing him deems him to be ready.

I was an “outlier” also. I made my life confession two months before I was admitted to Confirmation and the Eucharist. I had arranged for a 7-day retreat in February of that year, and wanted to make my confession there. Because I was afraid I might be barred from the Sacrament because of some rule of timing, I asked my pastor when I would eligible to receive the Sacrament. Since my formation was complete (I was trained as an Episcopal priest), his answer was: Any time.

The desire for Confession is one of the most munificent graces the Holy Spirit can pour out on a person. Your girlfriend is blessed indeed.

This is not a scandal in the Church. When she is prepared to declare that she believes and professes all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches, she can walk into any confessional in the world and celebrate this beautiful Sacrament.


#14

[quote=CollegeKid]St. Mary, Mother of God in Northwest D.C., or St. Mary’s in Old Town, Alexandria? The latter is my regular parish. If you’re talking about St. Mary’s I would have to agree that our pastor, indeed all of our priests, are very knowledgeable and orthodox. I would bet good the money, however, that the same could be said for St. Mary, Mother of God in Northwest. It’s very orthodox. In fact, they have the indult Tridentine Latin Mass there every Sunday at 9am. Sorry to get off on a tangent. That being said, I would agree with the other posters that she should not be denied Confession if she is baptized and understands and accepts the Church’s teaching on the sacrament.
[/quote]

Yikes! I sometimes forget that the words that appear on my screen are written by actual, real people somewhere out in the world. In this case, apparently we’re neighbors. Wow.


#15

Montana:

To a certain degree the entrance to the church is not like anything else in the world where convenience equals quality. There are spiritual elements to each person’s circumstance that need to be reflected on. This period is perfect for building virtues like patience and humility. Knowing that God is in control, then the circumstances that surround someone coming into the church has a romantic element to it that only that person have to discern. No one else can feel that for the person. But the anticipation of the bridegroom at the altar in those few moments that the bride appears at the gate of the church is one of the most special moments that a man can cherish for when she appears, the joy!!! If he was whining and griping for waiting, the specialness of the moment is completely missed.

All I’m saying is, there’s many many graces all over to be found in the time between the first reception of any sacrament. Just a little patience and humility will give illumination to the fruits that are all over that can be picked to even better prepare for the reception. Sympathize with the church for she still have to deal with the logistics of this material world, not many things can be satisfied instantaneously or conveniently.

just some thoughts for consideration.

in XT.


#16

[quote=CollegeKid] . . . I would agree with the other posters that she should not be denied Confession if she is baptized and understands and accepts the Church’s teaching on the sacrament.
[/quote]

Not to quibble, but accepting the Church’s teaching on the Sacrament is not enough. In order to receive a Sacrament of the Church, it is necessary to accept all the teachings of the Church, not just one of them. Clearly, this young lady is well on her way.


#17

[quote=mercygate]This is not a scandal in the Church. When she is prepared to declare that she believes and professes all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches, she can walk into any confessional in the world and celebrate this beautiful Sacrament.
[/quote]

This is the first time anyone in this thread has addressed this statement, and I completely agree. If that’s what the priest said, it was a poor choice of words, probably delivered off the cuff in response to a tough question.

It is not a “scandal” that teachers of the Faith have the solemn responsibility to make a prudential judgment whether any one candidate is ready to be admitted to the sacraments --especially if that person has indicated he is no where near making a commitment to the Church. As was noted before, if a person feels very strongly about this, they can talk to the pastor, with the humble acknowledgment that he may judge otherwise.

If this issue is that much of a stumbling block for someone, they need to come to terms with the concept of Church authority. One of the very key elements of being a Christian, especially a Catholic, is that of loving obedience. We are not a Church of Lone Rangers where our decisions regarding Church practice have primacy over lawful authority. They have other churches that hold that concept: they are called Protestants.


#18

Me either, but “Grace” is a walking concordance and King James Bible. Sometimes when I’m writing something and need a Bible verse I call her up and say, “Hey babe, I need a topical verse for beneficial suffering.” She had it. Recently, some vague impression of a half-realized memory made me realize that a reference to Samuel was appropriate for the topic I was writing about, but I had no idea why. I asked Grace. She told me without looking up from the thing SHE was working on.

So, take that lifelong knowledge of the Bible and couple it with the Catholic “spin” I’ve been giving her for two years and you’ve got someone who could almost teach RCIA. At my folks’ place last weekend, she had to inform my mom about what was going on at the Vatican these days.

Because pastoral experience has shown that those who have not been first thoroughly instructed in the faith and are baptized with minimal preparation are most likely to abandon the faith within a few years, the RCIA has developed to improve the chances being properly disposed and prepared for the sacraments.

And I’m 100% behind doing the best job we can to educate the incoming converts. However, really good, inspiring RCIA classes seem to be as rare as pirates in Nebraska. The first tentative step Grace took into RCIA was at a big local church in the area. The “facilitator’s” explanation of the Immaculate Conception? “It’s not really, like, in the Bible. It’s one of those things you just sort of have to accept.” I ended up explaining to the class–who’d been there for a year (!) the basics of that one. Needless to say, Grace was disgusted and we’ve never been back.

The current church is awesome on so many levels. In 32 years as a Catholic, I’ve never known such a faith community, and I owe the discovery to Grace. However, one of their greatest blessings is also one of their greatest challenges at this church. It seems that every Mass is packed, and the number of curious or converts keeps their after-hours full. In Grace’s RCIA class you’ve got former “Bible Christians” like her, a former atheist or two, lots of apparently “Whatevers” (those converting for marriage) and “miscellaneous.” While, as I’ve said, the priests are great, their one-size-fits-all approach is inadequate to meet everyone’s needs. An hour-and-a-half lecture with little to no Q&A doesn’t exactly instill the faith into these seekers. If I wasn’t attending with Grace every week, the tedium probably would have led her to go elsewhere. Heck–we gave some serious thought to driving up to Franciscan U. to stalk Scott Hahn and Dr. Regis Martin!

One of the hardest things to accept in joining the Church is submission to all her teachings and practice, and among other things, the RCIA process is a school for developing this humility and obedience.

Heh. I told her as much last night. She’s a five-foot-five examplar of attitude and rebellion. It finally dawned on her that maybe her dad was right about SOME things…lol.

the sacraments of initiation are liturgy of the whole church, not merely an individual experience, and the heart of RCIA is acknowledging and accepting the communal and ecclesial dimenstions of Christian initiation. the process is intended to foster this appreciation. The rites specify the Easter Vigil as the normative time for unbaptized adults to enter the Church, so this is what we follow.

Yes, but nonetheless, “normative” and “what we follow” don’t mean a lot to someone who knows her soul is in danger. Unless there’s something in canon law, the Catechism or the Bible that says “You must wait six months,” then it’s just a small ‘t’ tradition, a practice, something that can change.

however, OP is about a baptized Christian, not an unbaptized convert, so this discussion is out of place here.

In retrospect, yes. I put it here because I knew it would be seen. I don’t spend much time in the Liturgy section, and in fact, had forgotten it was even there.


#19

[quote=AquinasXVI]Montana:

To a certain degree the entrance to the church is not like anything else in the world where convenience equals quality. There are spiritual elements to each person’s circumstance that need to be reflected on. This period is perfect for building virtues like patience and humility. Knowing that God is in control, then the circumstances that surround someone coming into the church has a romantic element to it that only that person have to discern. No one else can feel that for the person. But the anticipation of the bridegroom at the altar in those few moments that the bride appears at the gate of the church is one of the most special moments that a man can cherish for when she appears, the joy!!! If he was whining and griping for waiting, the specialness of the moment is completely missed.

All I’m saying is, there’s many many graces all over to be found in the time between the first reception of any sacrament. Just a little patience and humility will give illumination to the fruits that are all over that can be picked to even better prepare for the reception. Sympathize with the church for she still have to deal with the logistics of this material world, not many things can be satisfied instantaneously or conveniently.

just some thoughts for consideration.

in XT.
[/quote]

I appreciate your thoughts and they resonate with me. However, one thing I should make clear is that we’ve been discussing these things for over a year and a half now. She’s gotten more basic Catechism and apologetics in these (very charitable) discussions than with RCIA. RCIA for her is basically a process of tidying up all the loose ends. (While aggressive, I’m still pretty sloppy when it comes to apologetics. I myself have never had a good, systematic presentation of Catholic doctrine from beginning to end.)


#20

[quote=Fidelis]This is the first time anyone in this thread has addressed this statement, and I completely agree. If that’s what the priest said, it was a poor choice of words, probably delivered off the cuff in response to a tough question.

It is not a “scandal” that teachers of the Faith have the solemn responsibility to make a prudential judgment whether any one candidate is ready to be admitted to the sacraments --especially if that person has indicated he is no where near making a commitment to the Church. As was noted before, if a person feels very strongly about this, they can talk to the pastor, with the humble acknowledgment that he may judge otherwise.

If this issue is that much of a stumbling block for someone, they need to come to terms with the concept of Church authority. One of the very key elements of being a Christian, especially a Catholic, is that of loving obedience. We are not a Church of Lone Rangers where our decisions regarding Church practice have primacy over lawful authority. They have other churches that hold that concept: they are called Protestants.
[/quote]

Co-signed. If and when she gets the green light to go to Confession, I hope it’s with the understanding that with Confession comes the profession of belief in the Church as a whole. The LAST thing I want is for Grace to come into the Church as a cafeteria Catholic. I’d rather be dating a Wiccan priestess than someone like that.


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