Seeking Understanding and Absolution in All The Wrong Places
Thomas A. Droleskey
The late George Michael Steinbrenner III, principal owner of the incarnation of all evil in the world, the New York Yankees, from January 3, 1973, to the time of his death on July 13, 2010, nine days after his eightieth birthday, went to "confession" during the 1981 World Series between the American League champion Yankees and the National League champion Brooklyn, er, Los Angels Dodgers. Yes, the man who led a partnership's purchase of the New York Yankees from the Columbia Broadcasting System on January 3, 1973, went to "confession," except that it was quite public and not to a priest. The man who heard his "confession" and gave him "absolution" was none other than Howard William Cohen, better known professionally Howard Cosell.
The scene of the "confession" was a pre-game interview on the American Broadcasting Company television network prior to Game Five of the 1981 World Series on October 25, 1981, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine's Dodger Stadium. Steinbrenner had been seen sporting a cast on his right hand and wearing his arm in a sling the day after the Yankees were defeated by the Dodgers for a second straight game, tying the series at two games for each team. Steinbrenner claimed that he had slugged out two Dodger fans in an elevator who were badmouthing the Yankees, although many commentators at the time believed that Steinbrenner had slugged out some wall, perhaps in an elevator or perhaps elsewhere. No "victims" ever emerged to claim that they had been hit by Steinbrenner or to sue him for injuries they may have sustained.
For his own reasons, however, Steinbrenner claimed that he had hit the two fans, "confessing" this offense to Howard William Cohen, aka Howard Cosell, on the American Broadcasting Company television network before Game 5 of the 1981 World Series. Steinbrenner was contrite as he explained his version of how his hand got injured. Cosell listened attentively, saying at the end of the session, "It's all right, George. We understand, George. We forgive you, George." Absolution from Howard Cosell. To use the stock phrase of the late, great Mel Allen, "How about that?" Indeed, how about that? Absolution from Howard Cosell.
Actually, George M. Steinbrenner III was far from the only figure in public life to have gone "to confession" in all of the wrong places since the advent of the television. Indeed, "public" confessions were the bane of the radio and television program Queen for a Day, on which four women would compete with each other to tell their tales of woe. The woman with the most woeful saga (as measured by an applause meter) was awarded prizes and heralded as "Queen for a Day." Queen for a Day, however, was tame in comparison to the shameless venting of matters of internal forum (that is, matters that belong in the Confessional of a Catholic church) in public in order to receive "absolution" or "understanding" or "compassion" or "affirmation" from the hosts and studio and home viewing audiences of a variety of television talk shows that began to make their appearance in the late-1960s and thereafter (The Phil Donahue Show, The Jerry Springer Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the Sally Jessy Raphael Show, among many other such "programs"). "Advice" programs broadcast over various radio networks have served the same purpose over the years. And those involved in crimes, either as perpetrators or accomplices or victims, have become minor celebrities as a result of talk show appearances (see: Butafuoco-Fisher, May 13, 1992).
This was all brought to mind thirteen days ago when I was getting a haircut against the background of the constant noise emanating from a box called a television. All manner of chattering heads were blabbing on and on about football player at the University of Notre Dame du Lac, Notre Dame, Indiana, where I had commenced my graduate studies in political science forty years ago earlier this month and from which I received my Master of Arts in political science on January 10, 1974. The football player in question, whose name I had never heard and have no intention of researching, not that I could pronounce it or understand its origin, was attempting to "explain" himself because he had garnered publicity for himself, evidently, by "falling in love" with a woman he had met over the internet, getting further publicity when the woman "died' and as he entered into a period of "grief" prior to some sort of barbarian contest known as a football game. It turns out, the story goes, that the woman never existed, that the entire thing was a hoax. The football player at the University of Notre Dame du Lac and his claque of enablers and sycophants went to great lengths to deny any involvement in the hoax.
What a world of craziness. Utter and complete craziness.
There are so many avenues now by which people can "explain" themselves while they make excuses for their sins and/or point the blame at others for their misdeeds. So-called "social networking," which is a gigantic waste of time (I was advised to try Facebook to promote my Mets' book, taking all of a week or two to decide that I wanted nothing to do with this at all and I intended to stay off of it and other such things no matter how many sales it might cost me in the long run), has made it possible for people to seek "understanding" and "absolution" from others on a nonstop basis. Very few people are content to wait until the General Judgment of the living and the dead on the Last Day for the intentions of all hearts and the exact circumstances of all lives to be made known in order to make manifest the just judgment and loving mercy of Our Divine Judge, Christ the King. Everyone wants "vindication" now. Everyone wants to be "absolved" and "understood."
This just continues a trend begun in the late-1970s an continues to this very day as scores upon scores of celebrities have "confessed" to Barbara Walters on a variety of "news" magazine programs and specials, although former President Richard Milhous Nixon flatly refused Walters's invitation to "confess" what she saw as his "cold, remote" personality with a curt and to the point, "Why don't we get serious, Barbara?" retort in a 20/20 interview on May 6, 1980.
The late Diana Spencer confessed her sins against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments to Martin Bashir, host of the British Broadcasting Company's Panorama program.
Then Arkansas Governor William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, with his wife Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton playing the part of the understanding wife, confessed to "having caused pain" in his marriage in a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft on January 26, 1992. Clinton was not so forthcoming exactly six years later, on January 26, 1998, when he denied his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, who "confessed" all to Barbara Walters at a later point, having to change his story when he addressed the American public the night after he was interrogated under oath by Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr, August 17, 1998, and admitted that he had an "inappropriate intimate relationship" with Lewinsky.
Indeed, the scorched earth policy of Clinton and his minions unearthed dirt on numerous Republican office-holders, including U.S. Representatives Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), Robert Livingston (Louisiana), Dan Burton (R-Indiana), and Bob Barr (R-Georgia), forcing each to make public confessions. Livingston, who was in line to succeed the neo-penitent named Newton Leroy Gingrich (R-Georgia), made a teary-eyed confession on the floor of the United States House of Representatives on December 19, 1998, during the debate prior to vote on Clinton's impeachment.
Well, the public confessions of the high and mighty and of the low and forlorn have continued over the years. As a result of former Senator Gary Hart (D-Colorado) and the infamous former President William Jefferson Blythe Clinton), candidates for public office are now forced to make public "confessions" of sins that used to be confined to the internal forum of the confessional, where they wiped away, to be revealed to one and all in the true exact context of their commission only on the Last Day at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead. Candidates even hire private detectives to "discover" "dirt" that they may have forgotten, including not only matters pertaining to conjugal purity but to financial irregularities and to "unfortunate" "slips of the tongue" (including ethnic and racial and religious slurs). Preemptive "confessions" have become the rule of the day in public life, although there are still skeletons that come out of the closet the "old fashioned way," that is, without the cooperation of those who would prefer the skeletons to stay exactly where they have been, out of sight, if not necessarily out of mind.
Some who have yet to "perfect" the public confession include Peter Edward Rose, Sr., whose "evolving" confession of having bet on baseball games while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds from 1984 to 1989 came after fifteen years of adamant, defiant denials that he ever bet on baseball games. There is also the case of Orenthal James Simpson, who has "written" a book explaining how he might have murdered his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman. Much like the case of Peter Rose, Simpson's actual confession won't come until there is a big enough payday to warrant it. Baseball players such as Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez have given interviews to "friendly" interviewers to confess their use of anabolic steroids while playing baseball.
Almost no one, including most Catholics attached to the structures of the counterfeit church of conciliarism, has any concept of the internal forum of the confession. Yet it is that the very nature of man, who has been made by God to know, to love and to serve Him as He has revealed Himself to us exclusively through His Catholic Church, demands that he "go to confession" somewhere even though most people alive on the face of the earth today do not believe in the Sacrament of Penance.
The climate today thus demands the revelation of matters that belong in the internal forum of the Sacred Tribunal of Penance in public. Man has to "invent" various kinds of confessionals once he rejects the plain truth that Our Lord established the Sacrament of Penance, wherein penitents confess their sins to an alter Christus and receive Absolution if they make good, integral confessions and have a sincere purpose of amendment and a truly contrite for their sins because they offend God, Who art all good and deserving of all our love, with these words, which are read during Holy Mass on Low Sunday each year:
When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.(Jn. 20: 22-23)
Reject the plain meaning of these words of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and one will have to invent "confessionals" and to find "confessors" to "absolve" them. Public confession is an important part of the naturalistic "twelve step" programs that are founded in the belief that each person "defines" his own "higher power." Public confession is also part and parcel of Protestant Pentecostalism. The irony here is inescapable: people who reject the Sacrament of Penance--and thus believe that the entirety of Christendom was wrong for nearly 1,500 years--"confess" their sins openly to others from the pulpit. Among the most famous of these Pentecostalist "confessions" have been those of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. The same is true in evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant denominations when some pastor is accused of embezzlement or a sin against conjugal purity. The "penitent" comes forward and is then "forgiven" by his superiors (so much for the equality of all believers, huh?).
Private confession, under the "seal" of the couch, so to speak, to psychotherapists or psychologists or psychologists is one of the most common means by which those are steeped in objectively Mortal Sins seek to have their natural sense of guilt, which God desires to use to get them into an actual confessional in an actual Catholic church, assuaged and explained away. The "high priests" of psychoanalysis make a fortune trying to assuage senses of guilt and to make "whole" the lives of lost souls who have forgotten who have never known--that the price for the forgiveness of human sins was paid by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on the wood of the Holy Cross as He shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood to redeem us, providing also with the means, Sanctifying Grace, to reform our lives and to grow in holiness as the consecrated slaves of Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.
By contrast, you see, a Catholic understands that he is a sinner in constant need of accusing himself in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance. It is in the Confessional that our sins, both Venial and Mortal, are to be confessed to the best of our ability to recall their number and the circumstances in which they were committed.
It is in the Confessional that we are to express our sorrow the particular sins committed since our previous Confession and to renew our sorrow for every single sin of our past life (which helps to take care of those sins we may have forgotten to confess at one point and cannot now recall).
It is in the Confessional that we are to receive a word of instruction from a priest, who acts in persona Christi as the alter Christus to apply to us the merits of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus upon our sin-stained souls.
It is in the Confessional that we receive the particular penance assigned to us by the priest as a condition of the Absolution administered to us during each Confession we make. It is the Confessional that we receive the graces to strengthen us in our ancient battle against the adversary in order to help to root out the weeds of sin in our lives, begging Our Lady, she who is our Life, our Sweetness and our Hope, to help us to aspire to have the highest place in Heaven next to herself.
As noted above, the good, the bad and the ugly of each one of our lives will be revealed on the Last Day at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead. Although there may be occasions when it is necessary, after sound advice from a validly ordained priest, to reveal some forgiven sin or fault or series of temptations to help someone who is struggling against a similar set of sins or temptations. It might be considered pastorally prudent now and again for someone even to speak publicly about such matters, once again acting after consultation with a pastorally wise and prudent priest. In the main, however, we are to leave our sins in the Confessional once they have been confessed. While we must be conscious of making reparation for our sins--and those of the whole world--to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we must have confidence that our sins no longer exist once they have been Absolved by a validly ordained priest in the Sacrament of Penance, taking solace in these words of the Prophet Isaias:
Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from my eyes: cease to do perversely, Learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow. And then come, and accuse me, saith the Lord: if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool. If you be willing, and will hearken to me, you shall eat the good things of the land. (Is. 1: 16-19)
There is no time to delay making a good Confession, especially in this season of Septuagesima (Ash Wednesday is but two weeks away from today!), which is why the practice of the weekly, devotional Confession is one that is good to maintain. We take so much time to care for the body on a weekly basis. Isn't the care of the soul more important than that of the body, starting with the Nightly Examination of Conscience and leading to the weekly Confession? Saint Alphonsus de Liguori explained the ways by which the devil seeks to delude us into delaying making a good Confession:
Let us imagine a young man who has fallen into
grievous sins, which he has already confessed, and
who is restored to the friendship of God. The devil
again tempts him to relapse: the young man resists for a
while; but, in consequence of the delusions suggested by the enemy, he begins to vacillate. Tell me, young man, I
say to him, What will you do? Will you now, for this
miserable pleasure, forfeit the grace of God, which you
have just acquired, and which is more valuable than the
whole world ? Will you, yourself, write the sentence of
eternal death, and condemn yourself to burn forever in
hell ? No, you answer, I do not wish to damn myself, I wish
to be saved: If I commit this sin, I will afterward confess it.
Behold the first delusion of the devil! Then you say that
you will afterward confess it; but in the mean time you
lose your soul. Tell me, if you had a jewel worth a
thousand crowns, would you throw it into a river, saying I
will make a diligent search for it, and hope to find it ?
You hold in your hand the precious jewel of your soul,
which Jesus Christ has purchased with his blood, and you
voluntarily cast it into hell (for in punishment of every
mortal sin, you are condemned to eternal fire), and say; I
hope to recover it by a good confession. But should you
not recover it, what will be the consequence? To recover
the divine grace, true repentance, which is the gift of
God, is necessary. Should God not give you the grace of
repentance; should death overtake you, and not allow
you time to go to confession, what will become of you?
You say that you will go to confession before the lapse of
a week. And who promises you that you will live for a
week ? You then say that you will go to confession tomorrow.
And who promises you to-morrow ? St. Augustine
says: "God has not promised to-morrow: perhaps he will
give it, and perhaps he will not." Perhaps he will deny it
to you, as he has denied it to so many others who have
gone to bed in good health, and have been found dead in
the morning. How many have been struck dead in the act
of sin, and sent to hell ? And should the same happen to
you, how will you be able to repair your eternal ruin? Be
assured that by this delusion—I will afterward go to confession—the devil has brought thousands and
thousands of Christians to hell. It is difficult to find a
sinner so abandoned to despair as to wish for his own
damnation. In committing sin, all sinners hope to repent
and go to confession; it is thus that so many miserable
souls are lost: and now there is no remedy for their
But you say: At present I cannot resist this temptation.
Behold the second delusion of the devil, who makes it
appear to you that at present you have not strength to
resist your passions. First, it is necessary to know that, as
the Apostle says, God is faithful, and never permits us to
be tempted above our strength (1 Cor. x, 13). Moreover, I
ask, if you are unable to resist your passions, how will you
be able to resist them hereafter? After you have yielded
to one temptation, the devil will tempt you to other sins,
and by your consent to sin he will have gained an
increase of strength against you, and you will have
become weaker. If, then, you are now unable to
extinguish the flame of passion, how can you expect to
extinguish it when it has grown stronger? You say: God
will give me his aid. But this aid he gives you at present.
Why, then, do you not correspond with his grace and
conquer your passion ? Perhaps you expect that God will
give you more abundant helps and graces after you have
multiplied sins. If at present you wish for greater help and
strength, why do you not ask them from God ? Ask, and it
shall be given you (John, xvi, 24). God cannot violate his
promise. Have recourse to him, and he will give you the
strength which you require in order to resist every
temptation. God does not command impossibilities; but
by his commands he admonishes us to do what we can
with the actual aid which he gives us; and when this aid is
not sufficient to enable us to resist temptations, he
exhorts us to ask additional help, which he gives
whenever we pray for it.
Then, my God ! why hast Thou been so bountiful to
me, and I so ungrateful to Thee ? We have been
engaged in a mutual contest. I fled away from
Thee, and Thou didst seek after me. Thou didst confer
benefits on me, and I offered insults to Thee. Ah, Lord !
the goodness alone which Thou hast shown me ought to
enamor me of Thee ; for, when I multiplied sins, Thou didst
multiply Thy graces. And when have I merited the light
which Thou now givest me ? My Lord ! I thank Thee for it
with my whole heart, and I hope to thank Thee for it
eternally in heaven. I hope in Thy blood for eternal
salvation, and I hope for it with certainty, since Thou hast
treated me with so much mercy. I hope that Thou wilt give
me grace never more to betray Thee. I purpose, with Thy
grace, to die a thousand times rather than ever again
offend Thee. I have offended Thee sufficiently. During the
remainder of my life I wish to love Thee. And how can I
but love a God who, after having died for me, has waited
for me with so much patience, in spite of the numberless
injuries I have done him. O God of my soul! I repent of all
my sins with my whole heart; I would wish to die of sorrow
for them. But if I have hitherto turned my back upon Thee,
I now love Thee above all things; I love Thee more than
myself. Eternal Father! through the merits of Jesus Christ,
assist a miserable sinner, who wishes to love Thee. Mary,
my hope ! assist me; obtain for me the grace always to
have recourse to thy Son and to thee as often as the devil
tempts me to offend God again. (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, Preparation for Death, pp. 232-235.)
Yes, we must never delay to have recourse to Our Lord in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance. We must go to Confession in the one and only right place, a Confessional. We must emerge from the Confessional with that Firm Purpose of Amendment, pledging to receive Holy Communion with greater fervor and devotion, making time in our schedules to adore Our Lord in His Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament, praying Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary with meditative reflection and reading from Sacred Scripture and some short excerpts from the lives of the saints every day.
Saint John Mary Vianney was known to spend up to eighteen hours a day in the confessional to bring dead souls killed by Mortal Sins back to life and to give strength to souls that had been weakened by Venial Sin. Padre Pio spent much time in the confessional, having the ability also to "read" the souls of his penitents. The former Francisco Forgione had five rules for growth in the interior life:
He had five rules for spiritual growth: weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation and examination of conscience. In explaining his spiritual growth rules, Padre Pio compared dusting a room, used or unused on a weekly basis, to weekly confession. He suggested two times of daily meditation and self-examination: in the morning to "prepare for battle" and in the evening to "purify your soul." Padre Pio’s motto, "Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry" is the synopsis of his application of theology into daily life. A Christian should recognize God in everything, offering everything to Him saying, "Thy will be done". In addition, all should aspire to heaven and put their trust in Him and not worry about what he is doing, as long as it is done with a desire to please God.(L'Osservatore Romano, May 5, 1999)
Our Lady is the Queen of Mercy. She stands ready to help us to make use of the Confessional so that we can be cleansed of even the least trace of attachment to our Venial Sins, thus coming to understand more fully how we caused her Divine Son and herself, our Co-Redemptrix, to suffer such unspeakable horror during the events of Our Lord's Passion and Death and Burial--and so that we can see the love that prompted Our Lord to offer Himself up to the Father in Spirit and in Truth on the wood of the Holy Cross to make it possible for us to have an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise. A soul who understands the toll it caused the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary to suffer will come to despise sin and to seek to please these twin Hearts that wrought our salvation atop the stink hole of Golgotha.
With trust, therefore, in Our Lady, may we pray the Salve Regina after the completion of each of our Rosaries this Passiontide in reparation for our own sins and those of the whole world, praying for the conversion of all men and all nations to the Catholic Faith, especially by means of her Most Holy Rosary, so that sins will be confessed privately and Absolution administered solemnly by those ordained to the sacerdotal, hierarchical of the Chief Priest and Victim of every Mass, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ:
Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Vita dulcedo et spes nostra salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Evae.
Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes,
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eja ergo advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tui
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.
Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Viva Cristo Rey! Vivat Christus Rex!
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Saint Joseph, Patron of Departing Souls, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Saint Martina, pray for us.
See also: A Litany of Saints
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?