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The difference between a TV confession and a sacramental confession
Posted By Eric Sammons On January 14, 2010 @ 7:30 am In Sacraments | Comments Disabled
It has become a rite of passage of sorts in our modern world: the TV confession. A public figure does something disgraceful and after a period of time in which everyone piles on in self-righteous answer, he (usually it is a “he”) goes on television, usually in interview-format, and makes a “confession” and asks the public for forgiveness. As long as we believe him to be sincere, this has an amazing effect on the public’s perception of him, and he goes from reviled to beloved, or at least forgiven, in a few short hours. After all, we Americans are a pretty forgiving people.
The latest examples of this phenomenon are Mark McGwire and Harry Reid. McGwire has been hounded by steroid rumors for years and he finally admitted to their use this week. Reid, it was recently discovered, made what many consider racially insensitive remarks about President Obama over a year ago, for which he has now apologized. Big Mac and the Senate Majority Leader follow in a long line of public TV confessions that have occurred over the past decades.
These confessions often take a standard form:
1) Admit to wrongdoing, often without being too specific. (“I made inartful statements”)
2) Note that the alleged wrongdoing didn’t really change anything (“I took steroids, but it didn’t impact my performance in any way”).
3) Be sure to cite mitigating factors (“I played during the Steroid Era”).
4) Deflect the emphasis from your apology to the offense others have taken (it’s not “I’m sorry for my actions”, but “I’m sorry for any who are offended by my actions”)
5) Hope desperately that the public will forgive you.
As Catholics, we need to be careful that we don’t take these TV confessions as our model when we go to sacramental confession. Instead, our whole outlook must be precisely the opposite:
1) We are brutally specific about our sins.
2) We admit that our sinfulness has dire consequences, even if we can’t see them.
3) We do not excuse or mitigate our sins, but instead take full responsibility for them.
4) We do not talk about others, but only focus on our own sinfulness.
5) We have confidence in the mercy of God and God alone to forgive our sins.
It is a good thing that people still feel the need to ask for forgiveness when they do something wrong; we can take that as a reminder of our own need to ask for forgiveness. However, we must not model our own confessions after TV confessions, but instead model them on the advice of saints and doctors throughout the ages.
St. John Vianney, pray for us!
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