Don’t Water It Down

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A couple of good pieces on why watering down the truth is such a bad idea.  First Christopher Blosser, linking to the comments over at Fr. Z’s blog, and the woeful instructions imparted to the faithful.  Here are the sampling of comments that Chris highlighted:

“When I was in RCIA, back in the early 1980?s we were told that it is almost impossible to commit a mortal sin so not to worry.”

“When I asked one of the RCIA instructors to tell us how to make a proper confession she blew me off.”

“I was under the impression that Reconciliation was a one-time thing until the priests starting coming to school to offer it a few times.”

“I thought in order to commit a mortal sin you had to do something really bad such as kill someone, have an abortion, or commit adultry.”

“I actually heard a priest say in a homily that he never committed a mortal sin and that none of us probably hadn’t either.”

“I have had people who prepare young people for confirmation say that theydon’t remember ever going to confession.”

To which Chris asks the question, “In a parish where the idea of sin and absolution are passé, why be Catholic? what does it even matter?”

And  over at POWIP, Enoch Root discusses his time as a Catechism Instructor for 7th and 8th graders:

The first year went well, as I mentioned some paragraphs above. So I was asked to sign up for another year of instructing. Again, no one wanted the 7th and 8th grade class. So, I thought about it. I agreed to teach the class once more. Sadly, my no-holds-barred approach to passing on the faith rubbed some parent(s) the wrong way. I am given to understand that my comment to the class that it would be very unlikely for everyone in the class to ultimately find ourselves among the Elect stunned and, yes, frightened a student. Further, I am given to understand that my suggestion that not every one of our beloved relations was likely to be among the Elect also was cause for concern. The fallout was immediate. And it did bring on a small crisis of faith for me. I was not very interested in defending my approach to teaching what we believe. I was not interested in heaping scandal on top of the deep hurt I felt. I was not interested in chastising the Powers That Be about the very real dangers of withholding the Truth from these kids… some of which were quite worldly to begin with. I was not interested in defending the Faith to ministers of the Faith… or taking them to task… or forcing them into a debate about whether or not I was teaching other-than-Dogma (which I was decidedly not doing). In short, I resigned to save all parties from what would have been a bloody affair… and potentially embarrassing I might add.

I was deeply offended. As I have said. And only now, several years later, am I able to clear my head enough to receive the Eucharist with a mended-heart. I will not lie: the sting of that wound remains. But my animus toward the players involved does not. God works in mysterious ways. And it was a truly humbling experience. Truth be told, I had been praying for God to help me become smaller. And He answered my prayers.

As I related in the comments, I’ve seen faith watered down.  I’ve heard instructors tell potential Catechumens that they don’t need to go to Confession, among other whoppers. And as someone who attended a Jesuit high school, well, let’s say there were things about Catholicism that I didn’t learn until later on.

I understand the desire to make faith seem less hard.  You’ve got some young skulls full of mush, or perhaps adults just dipping their toes in the waters of Catholicism, and you don’t want to scare them away.  But all you are doing is depriving them of the truth, and in doing so you are actually putting their souls at risk.  Either tell the truth, and the whole truth, or so help you God.

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  1. I’m a convert from Protestantism and am getting ready to be confirmed on Divine Mercy Sunday. So, I just made my first confession last week. I have to say that the RCIA instructors have not avoided talking about sin and gave us quite a bit of information about how to determine if a sin is mortal, etc. But when it came down to the confession, I had a pamphlet on examining my conscience slapped into my hands and was told to make an appointment. That was it. I spent quite a while thinking over what I needed to confess, but when I got there- aside from being extremely nervous and blanking out for a moment- I really had no idea what the form for confession was and while the priest was patient with me, I could tell he was a bit miffed that I hadn’t gotten that particular instruction.

    I will say that I think there is just so much that has to be covered in RCIA classes that there are things that will be missed. But I do wish that they’d gone into a bit more detail on exactly HOW to do it. We got a lot of the why it’s necessary but none of the how.

  2. Real Catholicism (See the Council of Trent for a good overview of Real Catholicism) is a Faith to live and die for. The type of Catholicism Lite that has been peddled in too many catechism and RCIA classes since Vatican II is a faith to snore for.

    This George Weigel column has a good overview of Catholicism Lite:

    On Real Catholicism go here for the Council of Trent:

    Considering how miserably in general the Faith has been taught over the past 45 years, it is miracle to me that we have as many believing Catholics as we have.

  3. The Faith is like beer… when watered down, it becomes unpalatable. I’ve seen a number of different parishes with a number of different pastors. Of the most vibrant parishes and effective pastors, the Faith is not watered down. The faithful are challenged. And the community flourishes.

  4. Molly,

    First of all welcome and congratulations. Instruction at each parish is a little hit or miss. Some parishes have very vibrant programs that are chock full of great information – others, less so. I wish you had been given a little bit more instruction before your first Confession, as I imagine as an adult it must have been a little scary. Most Priests are very willing to walk you through the sacrament and will lead you along on how to do it. It will become more natural as time goes on.

  5. “I really had no idea what the form for confession was and while the priest was patient with me, I could tell he was a bit miffed that I hadn’t gotten that particular instruction.”

    “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been —-(name the time period since your last confession.), and these are my sins.” Recite the sins that you can recall. Broad categories are usually sufficient unless the priest indicates otherwise. I always end my sins with the following: “These are all the sins I can recall Father, but I am truly sorry for any sins I have been unable to recall.”

    Although some people like to have some spiritual guidance from the priest during the confession, I have always followed the rule of the three B’s: Be blunt, be brief, be gone!

    I should go to confession more often than I do. I have never left the confessional without physically feeling a great burden being lifted off my shoulders.

  6. Thanks for the welcome and the information! I’m going to memorize that so I don’t end up in that awkward position again!

    And yes, confession was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life. I fretted about it, and then having to explain why I was so antsy to my Protestant family and then go into the why behind confession didn’t help. But, by the grace of God, I made it through it. And I really did feel such great relief afterwards. I can’t wait to receive the Eucharist.

  7. Let me second the welcome aboard!

    “I was under the impression that Reconciliation was a one-time thing until the priests starting coming to school to offer it a few times.”

    That sounds familiar– I grew up in satellite parishes, where reconciliation is “by appointment only.” (and other than one that actually involved himself in youth group, Father shows up ten minutes before Mass and is gone before the coffee pots down stairs are cold) It took the better part of a decade before I understood I’d ever gone to confession, and that was in the choir loft at my grandparents’ parish, out in the open, with half the town standing in line behind us….. (IIRC, their Father takes care of several satellite parishes, too.) {keep this in mind next time someone tells you that it won’t hurt anything to ship troublesome priests off to the countryside}

    I’ve never had two confessions be alike; flatly weren’t available when I was a kid, the ones in the Navy I spent most of the time telling the priest no, I’m not suicidal in various ways, and the parish I’m at now is the first I’ve EVER seen that has regularly scheduled, walk-in confessions. (And BEFORE SAT. MASS! All the other ones you could get scheduled… for after Mass. This is also the first one that’s said the word “abortion” or mentioned the old, ill and unborn who are threatened.)


    Priests lavish us with the Sacraments – DO NOT count on them to teach the Faith. In this modern age we have no excuse to not know. We have the Catechism, the Internet, EWTN, the radio and all manner of communications to find the authentic, orthodox Catholic Faith.

    It requires work, discernment and the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness. Would that it were not that way, but as posted above we LIVE the Catholic faith, we die for the faith.

    Welcome and congratulations – don’t ever allow the catholics who know nothing to distract you from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Pray for your poor brethren and be patient, many who are ‘in’ the Church will not react well to the new found zeal for the Faith and the Truth of Holy Mother’s Prodigal children.

    Although it is ‘permitted’ I would strongly suggest that you receive on the tongue, preferably kneeling. I’m so happy for you, Mandy.

  9. In this modern age we have no excuse to not know.

    Sadly, not true.

    All the resources require that one have the basic foundation to find accurate information, and that the priests one trusts are not misleading the flock in one way or another.

    As the initial quotes indicate, there are many priests who aren’t even fulfilling your assumption of providing the sacraments.

  10. Mandy P.
    Congratulations on your choice to join the Catholic Church. People such as you are an inspiration to us who are Cradle Catholics. The decisions you make, despite objection and obfuscation from those who don’t see things your way, is truly a sign of the Holy Spirit working in your life, and we who are involved with those coming through RCIA are really uplifted by your witness and your faith. We Cradle Catholics, because we have been born into the Faith, somehow lack the true appreciation of what we have been gifted.
    I have been involved with RCIA in our parish for around 18years. We do give our aspirants and catechumens the full measure of our Faith, including a proper instruction on Reconciliation, and arrange for a preist to be available to them for Rite 1 Confession for their first confession, as this is a very trying and emotional time,particularly for Protestants who have not had this form of confession as part of their tradition.

    God bless you Mandy – welcome home.

  11. Supposing that the CCD teacher had a class of 20, he was in essnce saying that he would not be surprised if 5% of eventually confirmed Catholics wouls “utimately” be “among the Elect”.

    On what basis did he stand in making this specific judgment about the potential (in)efficacy of God’s salvific will and the transformative power of Christ’s kenotic love?

  12. Correction:

    “he was in essence saying that we would not be surrised if at least 5% of eventually confirmed Catholics would NOT “ultimately” be “among the Elect”.

  13. Somebody who definitely doesn’t water down the faith: The Pope:

    Today there is “a certain callousness of the soul towards the power of evil, an insensitivity to all the evil in the world: we do not want to be disturbed by these things, we want to forget, perhaps, we think, it is not important. It is not only insensitivity to evil, but also insensitivity to God”, said Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday as he dedicated his last catechesis before Easter to the Holy Week Triduum.

    He said “Dear Brothers and Sisters, Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, the three days in which the Church commemorates the mystery of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. The liturgies of these days invite us to ponder the loving obedience of Christ who, having become like us in all things but sin, resisted temptation and freely surrendered himself to the Father’s will. Tomorrow, at the Chrism Mass, priests renew their ordination promises, the sacred oils are blessed, and we celebrate the grace of the crucified and risen Lord which comes to us through the Church’s sacramental life. On the evening of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins the actual Triduum and recalls the institution of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders”.

    Reflecting more specifically on the episode of Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, in comments in Italian the Pope noted that – not unlike the apostles who failed to hold vigil with Christ and were overcome by a “sleepiness” – “It ‘s our very sleepiness to the presence of God that renders us insensitive to evil: we don’t hear God because we don’t want to be disturbed, and so we remain indifferent to evil”

    Pope Benedict said that “Jesus experienced great anguish, such suffering as to sweat blood, aware of his imminent death on the cross”, but chooses to keep watch. This is “a matter of great importance for the Church” said Pope Benedict: “Jesus says to his disciples ‘stay here and keep vigil’, and this appeal to be vigilant concerns precisely this moment of anguish, of threat, but it also covers the entire history of the Church, it is a permanent message for all time because the disciples’ sleepiness is not a problem of that one moment, rather of the whole of history, “the sleepiness” is ours, of those of us who do not want to see the full force of evil and do not want to enter into his Passion”.

    He concluded “The Liturgy of Good Friday invites us to share in Christ’s sufferings through penance and fasting, and to receive the gift of God’s love flowing from the Lord’s pierced Heart. The Easter Vigil joyfully proclaims Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the new life received in Baptism. By your prayers and our sharing in these liturgies, let us resolve to imitate Christ’s loving obedience to the Father’s saving plan, which is the source of authentic freedom and the path of eternal life”.

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