Thursday, July 16, 2009

"We have lost the sense of sin" says Bishop Daniel Walsh

Santa Rosa bishop, citing decline in Sacrament of Penance since Vatican II, calls on faithful to return to regular confession

(Editor's Note: The letter below by Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh was published in the Summer 2009 edition of The North Coast Catholic, the official newsletter of the Diocese of Santa Rosa.) 

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

Every 3,000 miles or so, we change the oil in our car. There may not be any major problem with our engine. But slowly, over time, minor impurities have been building up. If we leave those impurities unattended, they will eventually result in major and costly problems for our car. 

Every once in a while, we move the furniture and vacuum behind our couch. If we don't get to it one week, it's no big deal. If we don't get to it the next week, it's no big deal. If we fail to move the couch and vacuum behind it for six months, it will be filthy with dust. 

Every so often we have to weed our gardens. If we don't the weeds will take over and the garden disappears. 

The sacrament of penance is like an oil change for the soul. It's like moving the furniture of our souls and getting to the places that escape everyday cleaning. It is like periodically checking the garden of our souls for weeds that hamper our discipleship. 

Pope Benedict XVI at his homily at National Stadium on April 17, 2008 spoke to us American Catholics about the Sacrament of Penance: "The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God's merciful words of 
pardon and peace, needs to be re-discovered and re-appropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America, and throughout the world, depends on the renewal of the practice of penance and the growth in holiness which the 
sacrament both inspires and accomplishes." 

Since the Second Vatican Council and the cultural revolution of the 1960's, the Sacrament of Penance has experienced a decline. We can list many reasons but I don't think one of them is that we have stopped sinning! I think in our permissive society we have lost the sense of sin. 

The main point of this letter is to encourage all of us, priests and people, to come back to this sacrament. I know there are many people who for many reasons haven't been to confession for a long time and may not remember how to go, or may not feel comfortable going. Whatever the reason, I invite all to come back home, come back to the Lord. 

In his sacramental presence through the priest, Jesus repeats his question to us: "What do you want me to do for you?" When we have unburdened our hearts we will hear him speak again, saying to us "Go in peace, your faith has made you well." 

Assuring you of my prayers, I am 
Your Brother and Servant in the Lord, 

Most Reverend Daniel F. Walsh 
Bishop of Santa Rosa