11 April, 2009

No good Catholics on this weblog

I didn't receive the Sacrament of Penance this Lent. I didn't receive it last Lent, either, and I suspect that I didn't receive it the Lent before. I do receive the Sacrament of Penance several times a year, and I wish I could receive it more often—if I had my druthers, I'd receive Penance every day, right before assistant at and receiving the Eucharist—but between the long lines of Lent and the "joyous celebrations"—er, "communal penance services", although the local parishes describe them as "joyous celebrations"—I wait until Easter, unless it's a dire need. Sadly, the "dire need" crops up more often throughout the year than I'd like. You should have guessed this already, but in case you haven't: you won't find any good Catholics on this weblog.

(As an aside: a "joyous" celebration, eh? That sounds too much like that remark from Jules Fieffer,

Jesus died to forgive our sins. Dare we make his martyrdom meaningless by not committing them?
I understand that my sins are forgiven, of course, and I'm grateful for God's mercy, but I draw the line at a "joyful celebration" of penance. If we can no longer be somber about somber matters, then we can no longer be serious about serious matters.)

So I don't always make a confession during Lent. That didn't bother me one whit—I do receive the sacrament of Penance relatively frequently, being in dire need of it frequently, what with my not being a good Catholic and all—until I heard an announcement at Church that strongly implied that I had an obligation to make a confession during Lent. That was news. I shrugged it off, considering myself fairly familiar with the minimal requirements of my faith, and went about my business until someone in a weblog that I respect referred to the practice as "canon law". Wonderful. Now I'm caught between parishes that want me to celebrate my sinfulness, and some obscure passage from canon law. So obscure, in fact, that I can't for the life of me find it.

Of course if you're going to confess once a year, you should probably do it in Lent. If, however, you are not so saintly, and out of sheer need confess reasonably more than once a year, I'd say that confession during Lent is a healthy spiritual practice—one that, yes, I probably should have taken advantage of during Lent—but not an obligation.

Anyway, I pointed out that there is no actual obligation in Canon Law to receive Penance during Lent, and was thanked for my efforts by a scolding:
I have checked this with several priests, in fact, and all agree that any serious Catholic should go to confession several times a year and that confession during Lent is required, although there have been statements by bishops that seem to confuse this point.

Honestly: A year without pride? Lying?
And here I thought I was, for all my faults, a "serious" Catholic. At the very least, I've been somber about somber things, and I was looking forward to being joyous about joyous things, and I at least try to be serious about serious things. So much for that! I can't catch a break no matter which way I turn.

So can someone point me to the precise canon in the 1983 Code that requires confession during Lent? I'd be grateful, and in the future I'd adhere to it.


Tom L said...

TM is all wet. I've been a Catholic for 47 years, and this is the first time I've encountered the claim that confession during Lent is obligatory.

Under the 1917 code, the obligation was to confess all sins once a year. The 1983 code replaced "omnia" with "gravia". Neither said anything about when.

Of course, as you point out, the obligation is the minimum, not the recommended frequency.

jack perry said...


Thanks for the comment. I wasn't sure about the 1917 code, so thanks for the clarification.

I'm kind of surprised that TM hasn't written anything further in that particular comment thread—not even an acknowledgment that he's wrong. Oh, well.