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Allocutio for April 25, 2010, “The Sacrament of Reconciliation: what is mandated, recommended and suggested,” by Fr. Gerald O’ Reilly, Spiritual Director, Chicago Senatus. Rather than expound upon our Spiritual Reading today, I feel compelled to follow-up on a discussion at the March, 2010, Senatus Meeting. I am very grateful that one Legionary had the decency to contact me after our discussion on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I have been your Spiritual Director for nearly 10 years, and if I am to serve you as best as possible, I need feedback from you. There is a charitable way to seek clarification, challenge me and even correct me. Such was the manner by which I was informed that I had some people confused and others upset. The discussion hinged on how often we must go to confession, and if there is a difference if we are in the state of mortal sin or only in the state of venial sin. What must be considered is that there are various stages of what the Church presents to us. There is that which is mandated or required; next there is that which is recommended, but not mandatory; further, there is that which is suggested, but not necessarily strongly; there is that which is discouraged, and then there is that which are ordered not to do. I am sure there are more nuances, but for this presentation, these should more than suffice. Regarding the frequency with which a Catholic is mandated to receive any sacrament, I think it is important to agree upon the reference point. I know from experience there are those who will agree with me and, no doubt those who will disagree, with me just because I said it. Similarly, there are those who will agree with another priest just because he said it. For objective certainty, I highly recommend two sources: The Code of Canon Law, which sets forth and clarifies what the Church requires; and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was commissioned and approved by our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. I used these two sources as well as a commentary to research my answers. Coincidentally, at last month’s meeting I had a 1952 Baltimore Catechism, which I brought for another reason, and its explanation confirms the more recent and authoritative aforementioned documents. What has caused the confusion, I believe, is the Precept of the Catholic Church which states that Catholic must confess their sins at least once a year. However, in researching an explanation of that precept in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it clarifies that this is only required for mortal sins. Consider the Vth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill!” The Catholic Church has consistently taught that self-defense and the just war can permit taking the life of another. This is a similar case of clarification showing that the original wording is a bit unclear. I strongly encourage regular reception of the Sacrament of Penance, and when properly received much grace is bestowed by Our Lord through the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, we were discussing what one must do, not what one is encouraged or suggested to do. We must not be stricter than the Catholic Church and force a person in venial sin but not mortal sin to go to Confession. In fact, we must not force a person in mortal sin to go to confession, since the sacraments must be freely chosen. However, we can and must in some instances respond accordingly if one in the state of mortal sin refuses to correct their situation, usually but not only regarding sex and marriage. It could be that they are devout Protestants who love Mary. It is good to have zeal for the Lord, Our Lady, the Catholic Church and the Faith. However, there is a great danger, which I have personally seen, whereby a Legionary makes it his or her business to play the Pope or worse, to play God. I will read for you the references which substantiate my claim in distinguishing between mortal and venial sins. I add that one may be foolish not to avail for oneself the graces of the sacraments, both by frequent confession and frequent attending of Mass and receiving Holy Communion. Consider that the Handbook does not require us to become praetorians or adjutorians, but like a good mother, recommends these levels of commitment for our own good and our greater effectiveness in serving the Legion of Mary.
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