Confession: apologising to God

Make no mistake: converting to Catholicism as an adult after growing up in the Anglican Church is quite a culture shock.

It didn’t take me long to discover how the two world views collide at the mention of just one word: Confession.

Picture me not so very long ago on the naughty step at Westminster Cathedral for my first Confession following nine months of the RCIA.

I was about tenth in an ever-lengthening queue and wondering if the Catholic Church might want to change its mind about having me at this late stage.

I recall feeling uncomfortable and a little bit vulnerable about being so visible. Do I really have to do this? I asked myself. I’m not such a bad person, am I?

That day I was still (just) an Anglican, part of a particular church’s family, a regular worshipper infused with all the cultural certainties of being a certain kind of Christian as defined by the English Church.

And yet, when I look back on the extent to which I have become assimilated into a new spiritual environment since then – over and above its rituals, worshipping norms and dogma – I truly believe that the strongest affirmation that I was right to take the plunge came when I first encountered the Sacrament of Reconciliation, only to realise what I had been missing before.

Oddly enough, it is Anglican friends who have prompted me to try to articulate why this might be so. So thanks, you Anglican sceptics, for pointing me towards far greater revelations than I could have imagined were about to come my way.

Some friends said: “It seems strange to ask a priest for forgiveness when you’ve already apologised to God, don’t you think?”

Others asked: “Doesn’t receiving an arbitrary absolution when you are free to repeat your misdemeanour seem like a cop-out?”

Others still said: “Isn’t it unhealthy and bad for your self-esteem to dwell on what you might have done wrong?” Continue reading

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