By Tom Quiner
The boardroom was full of pro lifers.
The rain outside on this Saturday morning mirrored the mood of many of us. It seems like every recent court case has gone against pro lifers and proponents of traditional marriage.
Here in Iowa, our Supreme Court just threw out our ban against webcam abortions. Not to be overly dramatic, but it seems as if Satan is on a roll.
We invited in a Catholic priest to pump us up. He reminded us of how far we’ve come.
He’s right. The dignity of human life has come a long ways since Christianity made its influence felt on the world.
He reminded us that setbacks are inevitable, but that the victory is already won.
Again he’s right, and I did find comfort in his words.
And he reminded us to pray. He specifically encouraged us to pray for those engaged in the human abortion industry, and the legislators and jurists who make it all possible.
He is again right, and I was feeling marginally better.
I asked him a question:
“If everyone in the United States had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, would you agree that the incidence of human abortion would drop?”
Loaded question. Of course, he agreed.
The question is also loaded by my use of the term, “personal relationship,” which is a very Protestant term, especially among evangelical and fundamentalist Christians.
Regular readers of this blog know I am a Catholic convert who maintains great love and affection for our Protestant brothers and sisters.
I pointedly used the term in light of a book making the rounds in Catholic circles titled, “Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus,” by Sherry Weddell. According to research done by the Pew Research Center only 30% of people raised Catholic practice their faith. And by practicing, that meant attending Mass but once a month.
The Church says we should attend weekly.
Pew says some 38% hang on to the Catholic label for cultural reasons, even though they no longer participate in the sacraments. And 32% no longer consider themselves Catholic at all.
Most startlingly, a majority of Catholics do not have a personal relationship with Christ, says Ms. Weddell:
“It is especially sobering to learn that when Pew surveyors asked the question, ‘Which comes closest to your view of God: God is a person with whom people can have a relationship, or God is an impersonal force?’ only 48 percent of Catholics were absolutely certain that the God they believed in was a God with whom they could have a personal relationship.”
I have not read Ms. Weddell’s book, but both priests in attendance at Saturday’s meeting were quite familiar with it.
I shot a follow up question to the priest:
“We agree that the incidence of human abortion would decline if more people had a personal relationship with Christ, or to use Ms. Weddell’s term, became an ‘intentional disciple.’ How would you advise someone to cultivate such a relationship?”
His response was immediate: the sacrament of reconciliation, also known as confession.
Although priests take a life or death vow to protect the privacy of the confessional, they can share the life-changing power of the sacrament, because they see it all the time.
He’s so right. What is more personal than going before Christ and confessing our sins … and asking humbly for forgiveness?
As a Protestant, I asked for forgiveness for my sins all the time, whether it was in the shower or driving in the car. I still do.
Let me tell you, though, when you walk into the confessional and voice your sins out loud to another human being, a priest, the effect is profound. You’re not just confessing to the priest; you are confessing to the Son of God Himself. Jesus, the Christ, is present and His love is merciful and boundless.
The Catholic catechism explains:
1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.”54
When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”55
The Sacrament of Reconciliation was instituted by Christ with His disciples in Matthew 18:18…
…and again in John 20:23″
“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
How do you develop a personal relationship with Christ? One way is to spend some time with Him in the confessional.