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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Monday, March 12, 2007
THE PENITENTIAL RITE (continued from two weeks ago)
Does this Rite take away the need for sacramental confession? At the end of this Rite the priest says “May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” Participation in this Rite, in the context of Holy Mass, does forgive small (‘venial’) sins. Mentioning them in confession is still a very fruitful practice.
Should we be in the state of what is called “Mortal Sin” we still can and should take part in Mass, but should mention these sins in confession before receiving Holy Communion. “Mortal Sin” is involves doing something seriously wrong, that is against one of the Ten Commandments, as interpreted by the Church, e.g. in the Catechism. But it must be done (i) deliberately and (ii) knowing it was seriously wrong.

So does doing something which the Church teaches is seriously wrong put me in a state of ‘Mortal Sin.”? Not necessarily. We are not in Mortal Sin if (i) we did not do the seriously wrong action deliberately, or (ii) did not clearly know that the action was seriously wrong. The latter might well be the case today given the confusing nature of our secular society. Where there is significant doubt it is usually best to make a good Act of Contrition during the Rite of Penance, still go to communion, make sure we mention the situation at our next confession, and try hard to understand the Church’s teaching more clearly.

Does doing something which the Church teaches is seriously wrong mean I should refrain from receiving Holy Communion? Not necessarily. There are only really two ‘states’ which stop a Catholic from going to Holy Communion: Mortal Sin and/or we are publicly continuing to do the seriously wrong action. If we are in the latter ‘state’ but are not in ‘Mortal Sin’ this means our guilt in reduced by our lack of deliberation or knowledge. But we still can’t go to Holy Communion because of possible scandal.
Examples would be if we ‘are known’ to be doing something contrary to the Church’s formal teaching in the area of marriage or haven’t been to Sunday Mass for a few weeks in a row. Until, by the Grace of God, this lifestyle changes we should still come to Mass and come up for a blessing or just remain seated at Communion time. (Such actions are taken by numerous people for these and also for quite different reasons, e.g. having eaten before Mass, not being Catholic etc.).
Such honesty will be profoundly psychologically and spiritually fruitful for us and our community. The alternative is to foster significant confusion and disharmony in our community. This perennial rule of the Catholic and Christian Church makes no presumption whatsoever concerning the ‘fault’ or ‘guilt’ of the people it applies to. As we have drawn out above there be indeed be all sorts of mitigating circumstances.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:38 am