Tiger’s confession and our reconciliation

After Tiger Woods’ nationally televised and dissected mea culpa last Friday, Psychology Today blogger Stanton Peele published a readers guide on “How to Score Your Favorite Confessions/Apologies.” An addiction specialist, Peele reviewed the litany of celebrities who in recent months have issued public statements after being caught in private misdeeds: entertainers including David Letterman, sports stars such as Woods and baseball’s Mark McGwire, politicians John Edwards, Mark Sanford, and Elliot Spitzer, etc.

“We’re still waiting for someone to confess to something we didn’t already know about,” Peele concluded. “That would be a real confession. Of course, that will never happen.”

Maybe it won’t happen publicly in the celebrity world. But real confessions — or more accurately, reconciliations — do happen sacramentally at our parishes every week.

The Catholic Church wishes they would happen more frequently. A recent survey of U.S. Catholics included the unsettling statistic that 45 percent of Catholics who attend Mass are rarely, if ever, receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.

The bishop of Worcester, Mass., is hoping to do something about this “disconcerting pastoral situation.” In a pastoral letter called “Come Home to God’s Mercy,” Bishop Robert J. McManus asked all priests in the diocese during Lent to preach on the importance and necessity of sacramental confession. Beginning Feb. 23 in that diocese, a priest will be available every Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in every church to offer the “spiritually healing and renewing sacrament.”

Many of those analyzing Tiger Woods’ words last Friday noted, often negatively, that it was scripted. However, when Catholics confess, preparation — including an examination of conscience — is fundamental, said Bishop McManus. “Before we actually enter the reconciliation room or confessional, we should spend some time reflecting seriously on how we are living our daily lives in relation to the Ten Commandments, the beatitudes, and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.”

When we are ready, the media won’t be alerted. Surveys won’t be conducted following our confessions to see if public forgiveness is granted. But what God accomplishes in that exchange between penitent and priest is so powerful, valuable, and yes — essential — we would be fools to put off availing ourselves of the mercy and grace it offers.

Priests around our diocese are waiting this Lent. Come home to God’s mercy. — Thomas J. Dermody

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