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Someone very close to me, after several years of acquaintance, confessed to me that she had grown up with a dislike of Catholics. Well, not all of them,  I was one she didn’t mind at all. Fairly magnanimous I thought considering I’d married into the family.

Her lack of fondness for us Papists was not for the usual reasons, like being fairly far along the road towards the mystical end of the Christian faith spectrum. That may be a source of irritation for the Calvinists and other fundamentally based churches. Nor was it the more esoteric differences on whether faith alone will save you or the Romanist stance that good works are also necessary.

Then there are those who blame all Catholics for the execesses of the church in the middle ages. Yeah, well, maybe I’ll get to that one eventually but I’m not gonna open that box o’snakes just yet.

Nope, her reason was she grew up down the street from a Catholic family whose boys were the most badly behaved critters you could ever dread to meet. They swore and stole and teased and were generally not pleasant to be around. But every week they would go to confession and, as far as they were concerned, that made it all better. Then they’d go off to swear and steal some more.

Ah, not exactly. I explained to her it isn’t like going to the laundromat, put in your quarter and poof, all the garments are gleaming white once again. There has to be an intention to at least try to be better.

The vow of the confessional does mean a priest cannot reveal what has been said to him BUT if it be a serial killer on the other side of the screen, there is no obligation to grant absolution. The priest must be convinced there is genuine remorse on the part of the person confessing. And the act of contrition called for here is a little bit more than “say two Hail Mary’s and an Our Father”.

Contrition, in this case is “kill no more and turn yourself in to the police. I’ll come to you in prison and then we’ll talk absolution…my son.”

You see, everyone remembers the bit where Jesus says, “whose sins you forgive they shall be forgiven” but they conveniently forget the second part, “whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” As in retained by the sinner.

Basically it comes down to the fact, eventually we’re all gonna end up at the same place and it’s called the Final Judgement for a reason. You just can’t sneak by on a technicality with the Guy what wrote the rules.