This Week Online: U.K. Elections & The Need for Penance

I've already blogged about Matt Malone's article on the upcoming U.K. elections, but allow me to plug our podcast on the same subject. Matt helped coordinate America's coverage of the U.S. elections in 2008, so his take on the elections in Britain are particularly interesting. The British media, for one, has taken several lessons from U.S. campaign coverage, and not always to good effect.

Listen to my conversation with Matt Malone, S.J.


Fr. Jim Martin is also online this week with a video commentary on how the sacrament of penance can help guide the church through the sexual abuse crisis.

Our videos are also posted on America's Facebook page, so you haven't done so already, become a fan.

Tim Reidy

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8 years 8 months ago
Fr. Martin: Thank you for your comments on penance. The Sacrament of Reconciliaion is private. Although we might wish to issue penance for sins we believe others have committed, only the sinner humbles himself before his God, in privacy, to confess his sins and receive absolution.

We, as members of the mystical body, are joined in the sins and suffering of others. We are called to penance on behalf of all sin in the world. I like the distinction your deceased confrere, John Hardon SJ, provides: "Having given us a free will, if we abuse liberty, we must use our freedom to repay to God the love we have stolen from Him (which is penance) and repair the damage we have done (which is reparation)". So, we practice penance on behalf of others. We seek to comfort the Sacred Heart of Christ so wounded by the blows of ALL sin. How do we do this? Your brother in St. Ignatius suggests the following:

Rule #1 - Pray
Rule #2 - Share
Rule #3 - Forgive

Rule #4 - Work
We now shift from penance to reparation, and our first directive is to work. How is work a form of reparation of sin? It is reparation because our fallen human nature dislikes to exert itself. Work is a form of mortification that all of us can look to see whether we could not work harder than we are doing - in performance of tasks that are part of our state in life.

Rule #5 - Endure
In some ways this is the keystone of reparation, the patient endurance of the sufferings and trials that God sends us.
God in His mercy sends us the Cross in order to try our patience that we might save our souls and the souls of many others besides.

The variety of these trials sent us by God defies classification and their intensity depends on a thousand factors that differ with different people. If we are to expiate sin we must resign ourselves to endure pain. But, as we know, there are degrees and degrees to this resignation.

Can we accept misunderstanding from others with greater peace of mind?
Can we be more generous in doing what we know God wants us to do, although doing it is painful?
Can we suffer without pitying ourselves?

Rule #6 - Deprive
Our sixth rule is to practice reparation by depriving ourselves of something we now have that we could, if we wanted to, do without-food, luxury, comfort et cetera...Call it mortification or self-denial; whatever the name, the basic idea is to expiate for sins of self-indulgence by giving up.
Can we put up with discomfort, or distaste, or disability, without becoming bitter about what we are tempted to consider injustice on the part of God?
Yes, God's violations are blessings, and the crosses He sends us are tokens of His love. But how we need the light of faith to see this, and the strength of His grace to do this - in reparation for sin, as the price we must pay to reach heaven, where every tear will be wiped away and all the past, which is now the present, will have passed away.

Rule #7 - Sacrifice
I have saved sacrifice for the end because it synthesizes everything we have so far said.
What is sacrifice? Sacrifice is the surrender of something to God.
Sacrifice is the heart of penance and reparation.
When we sacrifice, we let go with our wills of whatever we could legitimately possess and enjoy because we want to make up to God for having stupidly chosen some creature in preference to the Creator.
We return to where we began by stressing that when we sacrifice, we do more than we would have done; we give up more than we would have given up; we surrender more of what we like in order to - in plain English - prove to God that we love Him.

There is an episode in the Gospels that perfectly synthesizes this cardinal mystery of sin and penitential reparation.

Remember after the Resurrection when Christ asked Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than the others do?" Why the question? Because Peter had sinned; sinned more than the others who had remained faithful to the Master. Peter was expected to love Christ more. Why more? Because he had more to sacrifice in order to expiate more because he had so deeply sinned in denying the Saviour"

Eucharistic Adoration should also be on this list, as Pope Benedict has asked us of us. I have found it so helpful to identify concrete ways to practice penance and reparation.

I know that this really is not what most want to hear. So many cry for the justice of the world and ignore what is readily at their disposal: penance and reparation on behalf od sinners... The justice of the world cannot heal our Church now so grievously wounded by sin. We can,in all the ways cited above, and, on our knees...

Kate Smith
8 years 8 months ago
I watched this video and it makes some good points.
As a victim of an abusive Jesuit, I want to apply some of Jim's thoughts to my experience with Jesuits.
First, Jesuits are talking about the sins and failing of bishops, but not about the failings of  their own religious superiors and the superiors of other religious orders.   Jesuits are not holding themselves accountable or confessing their own sins.  This is true all the way to Rome, where Superior General Adolfo Nicolas ignored the problems I told him about in a US province, and so did his Jesuit assistant for the US, rather than acknowledge and address serious betrayals.
Second, Jesuits have not taken any steps that show contrition.   Even though a legal agreement was signed and promises made after I was found credible, the Jesuits subsequently allowed an abusive Jesuit to return to public ministry and preside at mass and teach at Jesuit universities - all things he was banned from doing.   Under the new Jesuit provincial, the last Jesuit provincial who breached my trust was assigned to a plum position.
Third, there have been no acts of penance.   Nothing, absolutely nothing was done and nothing was ever proposed by Jesuits, and all my suggestions  - I had several ideas - were ignored.  The Jesuits also ignored my lawyer, who I hired only after being ignored.
So, I see a tremendous need for Jesuit writers, preachers and educators to examine themselves, seek forgiveness for their own failings, take appropriate steps of contrition, and find meaningful ways to do penance.


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