My grandpa was talking about Catholicism the other day, and he said something about how the worst thing is the guilt that we are stuck with, getting told that we are sinful. I didn’t reply then (I know better than that) but I do have some thoughts now. Enjoy!
First of all, yes, Catholicism does make a person feel guilty. But guess what? That’s a good thing. Ready for a Tani metaphor?
Let’s say you have a thorn in your foot, and a friend tells you “Hey, buddy, you have a big thorn in your foot!” The attitude of my grandpa would be saying “I know I have a thorn in my foot, but I am pretending that I do not! So don’t you dare tell me there is a thorn, because I just want to forget about it!” This attitude will cause that thorn to fester and become infected, causing great pain, but of course, you are too stubborn to admit that there is really a thorn in your foot, because you don’t want that thorn to exist. Get it?
And as for my second point? Well, there is guilt here. But there is the most blessed forgiveness here as well. I remember, on the Stuebenville West retreat, how I waited in line for two hours to confess a single addiction that I had let fester for years, I had let become that thorn. I was ready to pull it out. I confessed this sin to the priest, and I was sobbing as I said it. Like that thorn, that sin of mine hurt like all get out to pull out after it had gotten stuck in my soul. But afterward, I cried all the harder because… I was FREE!! After I left the confessional hall, I ran outside, under the sun, and yelled my heart out, dancing and singing (and because I was surrounded by other Catholics, I didn’t get that many funny looks. Except for my friend Alex, who said, “Wow, you are happy!”) And after that, during the praise-and-worship section, I was crying again, saying over and over again, “I’m free, I’m free, thank You, thank You!”
So yes, the Catholic Church is a Church of guilt, because we are a Church of sinners. But we are also a Church of those who have been forgiven. I can tell you, there is nothing that gives more peace and joy than a priest saying “Your sins are forgiven! Go, and sin no more!” I’ll fail again, I’ll be guilty again, but I can always go back and wipe that slate clean. And that is a great gift.
(Confession is mentioned in the bible, by the way, as Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins, and they pass that power on to their successors. John 20: 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”)
Love to all!