Confession Is Good for the Soul -- Even for Politicians
Catholic Priest Hears Confession
St. Mary Church, Norwalk, CT
Bless me, father, for I have sinned.
For Roman Catholics, these are familiar words; they are the words used by supplicants to begin reeling off a laundry list of venial sins -- and maybe a few mortal sins -- to their parish priest as a prelude to penance and, it is hoped, absolution and Holy Communion.
Not all religions have formal confessionals, but people of all faiths agree with the old proverb, "Confession is good for the soul."
Only the most arrogant would disagree with the proposition that we are all sinners.
Catholics have enjoyed the benefits of the confessional for centuries. Now, I think, it's time for others to benefit.
Few of us would ever consider confessing our sins to anyone but our creator, or at least to our confessor, a priest.
It's not easy for anyone to admit that he or she has come up short of our own expectations. Humbling oneself to anyone, even our creator, takes courage. Few know the humiliation of public confession.
A Lesson in Humility
President Clinton's recent televised confession of one of his sins to the entire world -- in a major, televised speech viewed by millions of fellow sinners -- perhaps could serve as a lesson in humility.
Maybe we should look into our own souls and do some hard thinking about our transgressions.
If we find sin, as we surely will, would we not owe it to the world to declare them openly? After all, if we've been sinful, if we've done things we are ashamed of, wouldn't it be disingenuous of us to cover it up rather than to tell the truth about it?
Certainly, President Clinton should go beyond merely owning up to his transgressions; wouldn't it be appropriate for him to mete out punishment to himself? Maybe get a divorce? Resign from the presidency? Jump off a cliff?
Full And Open Confession?
In fact, wouldn't it be a good idea for us, the electorate, to demand that candidates in the next election give a full and open confession of all their sins -- every indiscretion, every exercise of poor judgment -- as far back as the cradle? The only reason any candidate would refuse such disclosure would be to cover up his past deeds. How else can we know what our next president's character is really like?
As a matter of fact, why limit such disclosures to presidential candidates? Don't we equally need to know the true character of all our congressmen, our senators, governors, state legislators, mayors -- and, perhaps more importantly, our councilmen?
Our employers, too, would like to know of any illegal or immoral blots on our records. So would our lawyers, insurance representatives, doctors and, perhaps more than anyone, our neighbors!
Maybe I Made a Mistake
But wait! It just occurred to me that, maybe, I made a mistake! After all, we're all sinners, aren't we? Who would be left to run the city, the country, the world? On second thought, maybe we're not so bad after all. We do try, don't we?
Besides, public apologies don't seem to work. If you don't use just the right words, there's a good chance nobody will believe you mean it!
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Sept. 26, 1998. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.