American Church: November 2005 Archives



Slate has an interesting if unhelpful little piece about Catholics and Confessing - specifically why the former ain't doin' the latter.

What stands out about this piece is the irony of a let-it-all-hang-out generation that somehow abhors the idea of anonymous confession.

But it's strange that so many lay Catholics should have abandoned the confessional even while secular culture is increasingly awash in confession, apology, and acts of contrition of every sort. Parents own up to pedophilia on Jerry Springer. Authors reveal their fetishes and infidelities in self-lacerating memoirs. On Web sites like Daily Confession and Not Proud, the anonymous poster can unburden his conscience electronically. The confessions on these sites are displayed in categories borrowed from Sunday school lessons: the Ten Commandments or the seven deadly sins. At least one posting I read was framed in the language of the Catholic confessional. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," it began before going on to catalog a series of mostly mundane misdeeds. (Others are simply odd: "I eat ants but only the little red ones. They're sweet as hell and I just can't get enough.")

All this public confessing testifies to the impulse to share our deepest shame. So, why isn't that impulse manifesting itself in Catholics practicing the ritual that was created expressly for that purpose? Of course, Catholic penance—whether it's done in a confessional booth or in a face-to-face meeting with a priest, an innovation introduced in 1973—is supposed to be private and confidential. It may be that in an age of media-fueled exhibitionism, some people want more attention for our misdeeds than can be had from whispering a list of sins in a box in a church. But those Internet confessions won't count toward absolution in the eyes of the church any time soon. "There are no sacraments on the Internet," declared the Pontifical Council for Social Communication unequivocally in 2002.

Despite a reasonably fair analysis of the situation, the author misses the most obvious factor keeping Catholics from receiving absolution: the prevalence (yes I'm using this word properly) of the idea that there is no such thing as sin. Call it relativism, call it the "loss of the sense of sin," no matter: if Catholics don't believe that their actions are in fact sinful, why should they seek forgiveness for them?

Another small point that sticks out: the author asserts that the Sacrament's "official" name is "The Sacrament of Reconciliation". This is untrue. The "official" name (according to the Catechism) is actually "The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation".

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Bill Donohue and Alito


I've mentioned before that Bill Donohue gives me headaches. Well, sometimes he makes up for it.


WASHINGTON, November 2, 2005 ( - On the October 31 edition of the CNN show, "Larry King Live," CBS reporter Mike Wallace commented that the mother of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said her son is "definitely against abortion." To which Wallace said: "He's a nice Catholic boy and he doesn't believe in abortions."

Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded to Wallace's remarks saying, "We at the Catholic League like nice Catholic boys who don't believe in abortion. For that matter, we even like not-so-nice non-Catholic girls who don't want to kill the kids. What we don't like are condescending octogenarians who don't know when to get out of the ring. Or when to shut up."

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More on Catholics and the High Court


Slate's Will Saletan has a piece in Slate exploring the angle and talks it up in this NPR segment.

From the Slate piece:

Not to worry. Two years ago, Republicans found a new way to play victim. They were trying to get Bill Pryor, the attorney general of Alabama, confirmed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor had called Roe v. Wade an "abomination" that had led to "slaughter." Such rhetoric, according to Democrats, suggested that Pryor was incapable of subordinating his moral convictions to constitutional law. A well-connected conservative lobby, the Committee for Justice, fired back with ads depicting a warning on a courthouse door: "Catholics need not apply." The ads accused senators of attacking Pryor's " 'deeply held' Catholic beliefs."

Saletan conveniently omits the fact that the Democrats did admit that they opposed Pryor for his "deeply held beliefs." It probably speaks more to liberal relativist ignorance of the idea of a judge ruling according to law over personal belief than to anti-Catholicism, but the use of those words opened the Democrats up to those accusations.


If Alito is confirmed, Catholics will hold five of the court's seats, and the Protestant contingent will have dwindled from eight to two. The notion that bigotry is keeping Catholics off the court is becoming numerically preposterous.

No it's not. Not if some Democrats actually carry a bias against believing Catholics. Democrats need to argue about the Constitution and not about beliefs, or they deserve any "religious test" criticism they receive. The problem is that they lose any constitutional debate, especially where Roe v. Wade is concerned.

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The Catholic majority


Father Neuhaus writes about the potential Catholic majority on the Supreme Court and natural law.

I recently read a piece (unfortunately I cannot remember by whom it was written) that conjectured that the large Catholic presence on the Supreme Court may have precisely to do with the Catholic embrace of natural law, which gives these judges a better conceptual framework to "think with the mind of the founders" (to twist a phrase Catholics may find familiar). The founders certainly had natural law in mind when they wrote and amended the Constitution, and modernists who do not even believe that such a law exists - let alone that it can be known - are much more prone to get important things wrong like Roe V. Wade. Wouldn't it be fascinating to see a discussion of natural law in a confirmation hearing? That'll be the day...

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Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the American Church category from November 2005.

American Church: October 2005 is the previous archive.

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