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24-07-2014, 11:32   #1
Kunkka
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Strange situation last month

So a small bit of background about myself before explaining what happened when I went to confession last month for the first time in years.

I was raised a Catholic but lost interest like a lot of people in my my teens. I became an extreme drinker over the years and became a huge critic of the church stating how bull**** it all was etc. Fast forward a few years and I came to the realization I was an alcoholic. I got in to a recovery programme and in October I'll be 3 years without a drink. A big part of my recovery was due to becoming interested in religion again and I would attend mass every few weeks as it really does help put my mind at ease. My faith has been a huge crutch in keeping me sober. I'm of the opinion(and this is only my opinion) that no religion in the world has it completely right about god but I do believe there is something, as I've had too many strange & greats things happening to me to say otherwise. I think that a majority of religions are an important part of society & I would never speak out against any of them. I don't shove my beliefs down other people's throats and I don't think ANYONE should do it to other people, that to me is wrong. However I do agree with most Christian values about living and generally agree with the ones I feel are right. The values I don't abide to do not make me feel guilty when I don't adhere to them.

Anyway, the reason for this post was because something happened last month that really annoyed me & I wanted to share it with other people to see if you think it was right. I was at my grandfather's anniversary mass and there was also confession on that morning in the church. My gran asked if I'd go to confession and I said sure as I felt obliged when she asked with the day that was in it. I hadn't gone to confession since I first got sober. I went in and spilled the usual stuff about being selfish and mentioned how I was selfish when it came to my girlfriend at times. He then asked if I was having inter marital relations. I wasn't going to lie so I said yes. He then proceeded to ridicule me in the box and said he was refusing to give me a full confession. He said to come back when I wasn't living a life of sin.... This happened in one of the busiest churches in the South side of Dublin.

Ok I know the church is obviously against sexual relations before marriage but I was still shocked by the priest's reaction. I had briefly explained that I had slowly been getting back in to religion as well so I felt this was very harsh considering how many people the church has already been losing with all the scandal going on. I'm sorry but after this it just confirmed to me how out of touch the church is with people. To be perfectly honest I think the church has lost the right to talk about what is right & what is wrong when it comes to sexual relations. It hasn't changed my beliefs about god in the slightest but it could have and that priest knew that which is completely irresponsible by someone in his position. So do you feel this is the right way the church should be approaching stuff like this? Do some of you feel that it's lost touch with modern times?
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24-07-2014, 12:09   #2
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First in regard the OP's occasion of the confession, the Priest could have handled it much better and perhaps could have engaged with the OP on the Church's teaching on these matters with more tact and sensitivity.
On the teaching itself, by the very nature of the institution it is slow to change its outlook on worldly matters. Perhaps this is a good attribute to have. The current mores of today are flexible and subject to change but so there been similar to other historical eras and then the pendulum swings to the opposite extreme (eg Victorian values after the louche Regency era). The Church tries to provide both a balancing act between those two extremes and promote a sense of morality than enhances sacraments such as stable marriage which better for society as a whole over the centuries.
Thus, hopefully the OP will not be discourages in the future and perhaps sound out a more tactful confessor in future.
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24-07-2014, 14:19   #3
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This is a pretty bad situation. You didn't deserve what happened to you. I mean, that's obvious! But under the terms of Catholic practice, the priest was well outside the bounds of good pastoral care.

For what it is worth, how a priest conducts confession is governed by Canon Law. Going to confession is a duty for Catholics and therefore it is a right. Even the grandest failure of a Catholic should be welcomed into the booth and guided into an awareness of sin.

What's the point of it, if it is only for perfect people?!

From a distance, who can know what was going through his head. I am not even a Catholic, so I can't know! But I suspect that if he wasn't just being a bit of an arse, he might have been operating out of a poor reading of Canon 962, where in Section 1 we are told that the penitent must be "properly disposed" to the sacrament.

If he didn't know you, how could he assess whether your disposition was proper or not??

BUT, echoing Manach, I would urge you to have grace for the Irish Catholic church and not to give up on it. You are probably right when you say "the church has lost the right to talk about what is right & what is wrong when it comes to sexual relations." But at the core of Christianity we have the message that God loves us and extends hospitality to us even when we don't deserve it.

One of the main problems facing Christianity in Ireland is how we think of the "church" to mean just the Roman Catholic Church and how we think of that church as just the clergy. Even in your faltering, not entirely sure of everything way, you are a baptised Christian. You are the church as much as that priest is. Giving up on him is sort of like giving up on yourself. Letting the clergy get on with it is one of the reasons we're in the mess we're in with scandals in the church.

So instead of letting this block your retrieval of faith, I'd urge you to reflect on it in the light of God's grace. You might find you have more mercy for that fella in the confessional than you could have imagined.

Finally, respect on the years of sobriety!
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24-07-2014, 18:25   #4
 
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To cut you off in the middle seems a bit harsh but why should he continue when he cannot absolve you from your sins at the end? It might have felt good for you but he might have viewed it as a waste of his and other people's time.

"You'll catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar" ~ St. Francis de Sales
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24-07-2014, 18:29   #5
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Is there any facility to report a priest like this to his superior?
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25-07-2014, 09:19   #6
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To cut you off in the middle seems a bit harsh but why should he continue when he cannot absolve you from your sins at the end? It might have felt good for you but he might have viewed it as a waste of his and other people's time.

"You'll catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar" ~ St. Francis de Sales
He clearly did look at it that way but one of the most famous bible parables "the prodigal son" clearly teaches that god wants people to be open armed to people that are coming back after being lost. As I've stated I had told him that I was slowly beginning to grow interested in religion after my recovery so I thought it was totally negligent on his part to act how he did.

It didn't affect my own faith as I have stated but my point is it could have. Can you imagine if this "priest" was talking to someone else who was recovering from some sort of addiction and because of this they eventually had a slip. That's why I'm annoyed about it. I've grown a back bone in the last 3 years so it's not how he treated me it's just his possible outlook to others. It is just wrong and the fact that he is the "leader" of quite a large congregation had me me shocked about it & hence the is the church out of touch question.

Saying that since becoming sober I have been in close contact with another priest over the last 3 years and he was the person who gave me my confession when I first gave up drink. He has been an enormous help to me so I'm not painting all Catholic priests with the same brush here. I'm due to meet him for a coffee on Saturday so I'm curious to see what he thinks about it.
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25-07-2014, 13:20   #7
 
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He clearly did look at it that way but one of the most famous bible parables "the prodigal son" clearly teaches that god wants people to be open armed to people that are coming back after being lost. As I've stated I had told him that I was slowly beginning to grow interested in religion after my recovery so I thought it was totally negligent on his part to act how he did.

It didn't affect my own faith as I have stated but my point is it could have. Can you imagine if this "priest" was talking to someone else who was recovering from some sort of addiction and because of this they eventually had a slip. That's why I'm annoyed about it. I've grown a back bone in the last 3 years so it's not how he treated me it's just his possible outlook to others. It is just wrong and the fact that he is the "leader" of quite a large congregation had me me shocked about it & hence the is the church out of touch question.



Saying that since becoming sober I have been in close contact with another priest over the last 3 years and he was the person who gave me my confession when I first gave up drink. He has been an enormous help to me so I'm not painting all Catholic priests with the same brush here. I'm due to meet him for a coffee on Saturday so I'm curious to see what he thinks about it.
None of us know what the priest's motivations were so we should leave it at that. Would you consider asking him why he answered you the way he did? Just for your own knowledge...

There is a fine balance between maintaining standards while helping those who are struggling or not yet strong enough - the mix of the Letter of the Law and the spirit in which the Law was given. I'm of the firm opinion that the Church shouldn't lower standards in order to attract people; no matter how unpopular we may be in Public eyes (we are not here to impress and please people). I am not a priest but a member of the Church and identify with it.

I'm not siding with the priest, I'm not siding with you, and I'm against neither of you. Not all priests are holy, spiritual men (one franciscan in particular has little love for me and the feeling is mutual but others get along fine with him) but they have their purpose, place and function too.
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25-07-2014, 13:58   #8
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None of us know what the priest's motivations were so we should leave it at that. Would you consider asking him why he answered you the way he did? Just for your own knowledge...

There is a fine balance between maintaining standards while helping those who are struggling or not yet strong enough - the mix of the Letter of the Law and the spirit in which the Law was given. I'm of the firm opinion that the Church shouldn't lower standards in order to attract people; no matter how unpopular we may be in Public eyes (we are not here to impress and please people). I am not a priest but a member of the Church and identify with it.

I'm not siding with the priest, I'm not siding with you, and I'm against neither of you. Not all priests are holy, spiritual men (one franciscan in particular has little love for me and the feeling is mutual but others get along fine with him) but they have their purpose, place and function too.
I understand that and I know you weren't having a go at me but you were just saying where you thought the priest was coming from. That's your view & I respect that.

Where we disagree is I think the church & it's representatives should lower their standards where necessary while practicing humility. Humility is one of the most important aspects of spirituality in any religion, not always being right and being willing to listen to other people. In the last 3 years I have read so much in to Christianity, Islam, Buddhism to name but a few & they all ask people to be humble. That is my main problem with the church that they are not open to change or reform even though they themselves have altered the words of Christ to suit their own church but that's another subject entirely. What is worse is if the Church was more open to change in a very different world I'm sure it's popularity wouldn't be near as damaged as it has been in the last 20 years.

Anyway, to keep on topic I still don't think a person in a priest's position should act like that way to anyone. It is disgraceful carry on I can only imagine how he was to someone in a worse situation... I didn't query this with him afterwards because I was too annoyed and had to go off somewhere anyway with the day that was in it. I won't be wasting anymore time on him that's for sure.
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25-07-2014, 17:45   #9
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Is there any facility to report a priest like this to his superior?
Yes: you are free to complain to either the parish priest of the church or the bishop of Dublin, by writing a letter to the. Don't expect to hear much back - but know that if enough letters are received, the problem will be addressed.


At the very least he OP should have received a far more compassionate response - and not have faced a fishing trip for more issues that he did not bring up himself.

OP, church-workers are like everyone else. There are arses, there are people having a bad day. There are people doing the job properly. I know it's hard, but try not to let the fact that you met one of the first two stop you living the best spiritual life you can.

Personally I would never go to confession to a priest who I did not know, and whose reputation I had not checked out beforehand. Some are know for being particularly hard on people.
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25-07-2014, 18:07   #10
 
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Well done on getting over your alcohol problem.... 3 years sober is some achievement... not many people get that far.... well done that man!!

In relation to you not getting "pardoned"... well confession basically involves two actions by the penitent.

1) Admitting your sins.
2) Promising not to repeat those sins in the future.

The fact that you were in a unmarried sexual relationship before confession... which is a sin (in the eyes of the RC Church)... and are going to continue in that relationship after confession means the second point above is not being kept.

Saying "sorry" to God or anybody else.... basically means being sorry for previous actions... and undertaking a promise not to repeat those actions in the future. That basically is what being sorry is about... a recognition of past wrongs and a commitment not to repeat those wrongs in the future etc

That probably is why the priest did not give you absolution, because it is not a true or full hearted confession.

As for suggestions to report the priest... I would not bother taking it that far.

Perhaps the priest could have explained it better to you on the day, maybe he was tired, cranky etc etc...

You could get married to your girlfriend, then go to confession and everything would be grand.

As for getting upset with the priest... you should not take it too personally, there are good Gardai, bad Gardai, good teachers, bad teachers, good religious, bad religious people... etc etc... but you can still believe in the rule of law, importance of education and believe in God / spiritual matters etc.

PS... if you want to know more about "Harsh" confessions... have a read of Padre Pio.... he was famous for kicking people out of the confession box, and even out of the church building. He had a special ability to know if a person was being sincere or not.

I remember reading one incident where he came down the church and told an atheist to get out... never having met the man before either.

Last edited by ABC101; 25-07-2014 at 18:11. Reason: Padre Pio
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25-07-2014, 18:19   #11
 
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I think the church has lost the right to talk about what is right & what is wrong when it comes to sexual relations
It goes back well before the Church. What were you expecting the Priest to say?

The Church teaches that sexual intercourse has a purpose; and that outside marriage it is contrary to its purpose. According to the catechism, "conjugal love ... aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul"[5] since the marriage bond is to be a sign of the love between God and humanity.

Too many times you see men who go out to score on a weekend, or will just pay of sex.

I commend the priest for saying things as it is. If you are a Catholic and what to live as a Catholic then that is the teaching. If you want to live your own version of Catholicism and decide yourself what you think is right and wrong then so be it,many choose their subjective view of things.
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26-07-2014, 17:07   #12
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So a small bit of background about myself before explaining what happened when I went to confession last month for the first time in years.

I was raised a Catholic but lost interest like a lot of people......... I'm sorry but after this it just confirmed to me how out of touch the church is with people. To be perfectly honest I think the church has lost the right to talk about what is right & what is wrong when it comes to sexual relations. It hasn't changed my beliefs about god in the slightest but it could have and that priest knew that which is completely irresponsible by someone in his position. So do you feel this is the right way the church should be approaching stuff like this? Do some of you feel that it's lost touch with modern times?


Firstly, that priest was way out of order saying that to you.


Secondly, the bolded bit - THAT PRIEST is out of touch, not the Church, not me or you, WE ARE the Church.


And thirdly, eventhough he could have been a bit more diplomatic about it, basically the priest is right! If you had went in seeking absolution for extra marital sex, that would be different. But you cant go in and ask for forgiveness for X, while blatantly ignoring Y.
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29-07-2014, 01:35   #13
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Anyway, the reason for this post was because something happened last month that really annoyed me & I wanted to share it with other people to see if you think it was right. I was at my grandfather's anniversary mass and there was also confession on that morning in the church. My gran asked if I'd go to confession and I said sure as I felt obliged when she asked with the day that was in it. I hadn't gone to confession since I first got sober. I went in and spilled the usual stuff about being selfish and mentioned how I was selfish when it came to my girlfriend at times. He then asked if I was having inter marital relations. I wasn't going to lie so I said yes. He then proceeded to ridicule me in the box and said he was refusing to give me a full confession. He said to come back when I wasn't living a life of sin.... This happened in one of the busiest churches in the South side of Dublin.

Ok I know the church is obviously against sexual relations before marriage but I was still shocked by the priest's reaction. I had briefly explained that I had slowly been getting back in to religion as well so I felt this was very harsh considering how many people the church has already been losing with all the scandal going on. I'm sorry but after this it just confirmed to me how out of touch the church is with people. To be perfectly honest I think the church has lost the right to talk about what is right & what is wrong when it comes to sexual relations. It hasn't changed my beliefs about god in the slightest but it could have and that priest knew that which is completely irresponsible by someone in his position. So do you feel this is the right way the church should be approaching stuff like this? Do some of you feel that it's lost touch with modern times?
The underlined bit seems unclear to me.
What is inter marital relations?

If you or your partner has been married to someone else, your ongoing sexual relations with your partner is a sin and the priest is well within his rights to deny absolution to you.
Living in sin, is a sin. The rules of the church is explicit in that regard.

Last edited by hinault; 29-07-2014 at 01:38.
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31-07-2014, 12:09   #14
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The underlined bit seems unclear to me.
What is inter marital relations?
I presumed he meant sex before marriage because I have never been married. I don't think it is the right way to phrase it either but that's what he said and I had explained I hadn't been married at all.

Anyway, I had a coffee with the priest I've been in regular contact with on Saturday and he agreed that the priest who gave me confession was completely out of order. He told me the priest that gave me confession isn't the leader of that congregation at all(my mistake), he's actually a "problem" priest they can't move on apparently so that makes sense but still isn't right at all. He's had a couple of incidents when he has been very hard to people in both what he's said and how he's acted. They shouldn't have someone like that in any position giving advice or being a spiritual guide.

The priest I know is quite liberal and he doesn't share the same views as the Catholic church on a lot of things. His primary purpose is the teaching of Christ and then the RCC. His view which I agreed with is if you're in a loving relationship with someone sexual relations isn't an issue once you see them as you're life partner which in my case I do.

I know my tone wasn't great initially as I painted the whole church with the same brush however I still think the RCC has big problems if it still has "issues" disciplining or moving priests that cause problems. We all know what happened in the past...

Last edited by Kunkka; 31-07-2014 at 12:18.
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31-07-2014, 14:07   #15
 
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As I mentioned before... there are performing and under performing employees everywhere not just the RC chruch. Trying to move on a bad teacher....???? or a Garda??? ... a lot of things have to happen before the person gets dismissed.

Technically... I would be a bit cautious in getting advice from a priest who admits he does not share the same views as his organization.

A bit like a an accountant giving you tax advice... which is contrary to what the tax law of the land states etc. You see there has to be clear guidelines and rules.... otherwise it becomes a free for all.... and nobody knows what is the official position.
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