I am throwing this question out because I am having questions myself about not necessarily what the Church teaches, but about how the Church goes about teaching it. I see the Church as one big family and the leaders of the Church essentially as parents. But I often wonder whether the leaders within our Church appear as “overprotective parents” when it comes to the faithful. I also often wonder whether the bishops should trust their flock a little more.
My thoughts are on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In it’s present form, the penitent confesses to the confessor, the penitent offers an act of contrition, the confessor absolves his sins in persona Christi, and the penitent is given a penance. The Church has done it this way because of what Jesus said in the upper room: “What sins you forgive are forgiven, what sins you retain are retained.” How else can a priest forgive a sin which he has not heard? This also implies that he can, if he wishes, refuse to forgive a sin. It makes sense to me…*somewhat.
*Why does the church hold on to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in this form? The objection to the sacrament has often been that you should not have to confess your sins to another man, but go straight to the source, namely Jesus. In the past, I have used the argument that Jesus’ transmission of the power to forgive in the upper room indicated the need for a confessor. But did it really? Could not the power to forgive indicate the need for absolution, but the power to retain indicate the need (desperate need, nowadays) for excommunication?
As I reflect on this, I think of the parable of the sower. The sower throws his seeds all over, not caring at all where it will land. Should not the Church throw the seeds of forgiveness and not concern itself on where the seeds lie? In other words, should not the church concern itself whether a person is worthy of forgiveness, thus eliminating the need for a confessor?
If you look at modern society’s ills, it reflects a society that has a very low sense of worth. Just the fact that we “are” gives us worth. People’s sense of their own and other’s worth is so low that people are preventing themselves from reproducing and trampling on others right to be born or die with dignity. Given these conditions, why would the Church even imply that a person could be unworthy of forgiveness, or of *any *of God’s graces for that matter?
I think it is time for the Church to consider changing the form of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. A form that encourages prayer, a more personal relationship with God, a deep examination of conscience, and most of all - offers unconditional absolution.
I look forward to hearing what people have to say.