Sins and Their Cure
A Practical Guide to Confession for those who wish to transform themselves in order that they may help to transform the world into God's Commonwealth.
By the Servants of the Catholic Crusade
First Published, 1916
Abridged Edition, 1917
The object of this manual, which has been thoroughly revised, is to give to those making and hearing confessions an alternative to current tracts, both Roman and Anglican. The tracts of the present day reflect the bankruptcy of the. modern church, 'and show how it has failed to challenge the World, and how feeble is its fight with the Flesh and the Devil. The Catholic Crusade recalls people to the living theology and sane casuistry of early and mediaeval times, not trying to copy the mere letter of the past, but to recapture its spirit. We have studied the works of Dante, Chaucer, Piers the Plowman in their treatment of sin, and such manuals as the Layfolks Catechism, John. Myre's Instructions, Dunbar's Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins. In their brave attack on the sins that really matter they put to shame the sickly manuals of the present day. We have in these pages attempted to do for our own generation what those earlier works did for theirs.
The Confessional.is here treated not as a luxury for the few, but as a necessity for the many. The .Sacrament of Penance is considered throughout as a debt we owe not only to God but to man. We need the Absolution of God and of His Family, for it is not against Him only that we have sinned, but against His Family also.
Feast of Our Lady in Harvest, 1925.
SINS AND THEIR CURE
THE Church is God's instrument to transform the unjust and brutal kingdoms of this world into the Kingdom of God, praying daily: ,. Th)' Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth." It is itself, in spite of the corruptions and disloyalties of its earthly members, the seed of, the attempt at, the beginnings of the Kingdom of God, the Divine Commonwealth.
The failure of the Church, founded by Jesus Christ, to transform the world, is largely due to the failure of its members to transform themselves into fit soldiers of His Army.
THE SENSE OF SIN
The fat and drowsy satisfaction with self, which marks many, is a sign not of health but of death: dissatisfaction, sense of failure, humility, repentance -- harnessed to a keen desire for something better -- is life.
Religion and Revelation are the intensifying of what is most natural and human, and this is because the origin of the natural and human is God. God, in coming into the human world was coming "unto His own," to show to men their proper nature, infusing men with a new life, but a life not alien to the true human nature, which, however corrupted by sin, did originally come from that same God who now transforms us. We can sometimes, therefore, get some hint of the "divine commonsense " of religious teaching by considering the human emotions at their intensest moments. Search the best love poetry of nations, or remember your own experience in the case of great friendships. In the human heart, when most alive and responsive, there is a curious blending of pride and humility -- the person is proud to love and be loved, but there is also a keen sense of unworthiness and abasement.
This being the nature of man, "Lord, I am not worthy" is not the cry of the degenerate but of the regenerate.
THE NATURE OF SIN
Human nature being rooted in the God of Justice and Comradeship, it follows that every thought and act against Justice and Comradeship is a sin against our own nature and so against God.
As we can only serve God if we serve our neighbour -- for we were created to serve God by serving our neighbour -- and as all sin is either deliberately against our neighbour, or su:ch as enfeebles us and lessens our energy to serve him, all sins -- however secret -- are against mankind. We are bound up together for good or for evil, so that corruption in the individual spreads through the whole body, and goodness in the individual radiates through the whole body.
If all sin is disloyalty to mankind, how much greater a disloyalty it is to the Divine Army in which we are enlisted for the very purpose of fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil. E:very act of sin weakens the Army, clogs its activity, and brings it into contempt. Every deliberate act of sin on the part of a Christian is the act of a traitor.
The soul of every man is meant to be a splendid and living thing, for it was made in the image of God. In the mouths of some people the term "self-respect " has a smug and odious sound, but in their true sense honour and self-respect are virtues of no mean value. Sin forfeits that self-respect. Every offence against our souls destroys that unity of nature in which alone men can rejoice in the life for which they are made. Sin saps the vitality, wounding the nature and bringing it down into the dust of death. We may sin by omission as well as commission. The usual word for sin in the Bible means 'missing the mark.' This mark is the standard of living set by Christ. He who says 'I have never done any harm to anyone, I have nothing to confess ' generally has a conscience which is torpid or diseased. A man must obey his conscience, but he may obey his conscience and be damned all the same, for he must see to it that his conscience is alive and properly educated. Mortal sins are serious offences deliberately committed with full knowledge of their sinfulness. Examples of mortal sins are -- deliberate cruelty, trying to 'get on' at the expense of other people, hardness of heart, refusal to seek the truth, blinding of oneself to facts, cant, unchecked indulgence in the desires of the flesh, bitter contempt of other people. Our lighter offences are called venial sins, examples of these are -- being careless about getting to church in time, or about beginning our work, having an outburst of temper against someone to whom we really bear no malice, carelessness (or inaccuracy where it is not a habit), and many other little sins, also more serious offences when they are committed in partial ignorance, or without full consent of the will.
Venial sins are hindrances to the good life and should be confessed to God either at home or in church, but we are bound to own up to mortal sins, not only to God and the particular person whom we have hurt or wronged, but also to God's Family -- or its representative the priest -- because in the case of such sins we need a hard and searching repentance, together with the forgiveness of God and. the Fellowship whom we have offended. The forgiveness of the Fellowship, given through its spokesman the priest, carries with it the forgiveness of God, for wherever men are gathered together in fellowship there is God in their midst. So important is confession that the Church maintains that where it is impossible to come to a priest we should make confession to a layman, for somehow or other we must get right with God, with the particular person whom we have wronged, and with mankind and the Divine Army whose cause we have' let down.' Only the fool says' I never apologise': healthy-minded people always own up. Such common sayings as 'getting it off one's chest' and 'open confession is good for the soul', show what is the common judgment of ordinary people. To be always justifying oneself is the act of an idiot: confession is the act of a man. It is, of course, possible to come to confession to one's own damnation -- just as, for example, a person knowing what the Capitalist system is and yet supporting it takes Communion to his own damnation. If one comes to confession without repentance, or without a sincere desire to repent, the effect is damning; but there is, in the case of the real penitent, by means of the spoken word of forgiveness, an inrush of the life-force and goodwill of God and of His Family. This Sacrament of Forgiveness is no magical thing, but is the giving forth by God, through the Community and its spokesman the priest, of grace to maintain that unity in the Fellowship that sin has broken. In early days such confession was often made publicly in the presence of the local group of Christians. Reality in religion should bring a restoration of this, but the Christian Church demands at least that a person shall come and own up to his sins before the priest, who is the representative not only of the local congregation, but of tile whole International Community.
IN PREPARATION FOR CONFESSION
Kneel and say:--
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Almighty God, may I be hard with myself and gentle with others, that I may thoroughly search my soul and fearlessly confess my sins, by the grace of Christ my Redeemer. Amen.
God, who didst teach the hearts of Thy faithful people by sending to them the light of Thy Holy Spirit; grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and to adventure in heart and mind wherever thou dost lead: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Remember that the object of your life as a Christian is to work with God in bringing about that Commonwealth on earth in which His nature of Justice, Comradeship, Generosity and Beauty is reflected and expressed in the life of the whole human family.
Examine your life -- its acts, its failures, its motives -- in the light of this truth.
The attached list of questions is intended to be an aid to such self-examination.
(1) The Sin against Humility -- Pride
Pride is the sin of setting myself above God and my neighbour instead of being their servant.
Have I failed to recognise God as the source of the Justice, Order and Beauty in the Universe and in Mankind and so been unthankful?
Have I thought of myself and not God as the source of what is good or clever in me?
Have I been contented with myself and despised my neighbour?
Have I been fatuous enough to be conceited about my looks, my cleverness, my wit, my virtues, my money, my position, my dress, my strength, my eloquence?
Have I been self-centred, unwilling that others should share my life?
Have I prided myself on my "respectability," saying "I keep myself to myself"?
Have I been anxious to be more important than my neighbour?
Have I told lies from fear of losing the good opinion of others? or in order to gain their good opinion?
Have I been a popularity-hunter?
Have I, through pride, sought unpopularity?
Have I patronised other people -- been a prig -- enjoyed dictating to others?
Have I pretended to be more pious than others, scorning them as "unsaved " or " unspiritual "?
Have I despised people because they are of another race?
Have I enjoyed being misunderstood, and indulged in self-pity?
Have I boasted that I can do things that I know little about, and done them to the hurt of my neighbour?
Have I bored people by boasting of the things I can do, and by talking excessively about myself and my affairs?
Have I used my gifts just to show off?
Have I, through conceit, refused to respond to good leadership?
Have I done "good" for the sake of gaining praise rather than for love of God and my neighbour?
Have I despised the Fellowship, refusing to give reasoned and intelligent response to the common judgment of Christ's Holy Church in matters of doctrine, worship, or discipline?
(2) The Sin against Charity -- Envy
Envy is the grudging spirit which destroys the love of comrades.
Have I been jealous of the good fortune, popularity, charm or happiness of my neighbour?
Have I been pleased at his misfortune?
Have I disliked anyone being loved or praised more than myself?
Have I misjudged or underrated others -- imputing evil motives, or listening to the same with.pleasure; or have I, on the other hand, flattered, or in other ways been insincere?
Have I taken pleasure in telling my neighbour of his bad deeds, or talked of them, when it was not necessary to do so?
(3) The Sin against Comradeship -- Hatred
Hatred is ill will towards my neighbour.
Have I been bitter in my heart against my neighbour?
Have I encouraged thoughts of revenge or given way to the same?
Have I been pleased with hurting my neighbour, with hurting children, or with hurting animals?
Have I used sarcastic or bitter language merely in order to hurt others?
Have I been inhuman, hard-hearted, void of pity?
Have I been pleasant to other people but cold, quarrelsome or neglectful to members of my own family?
Have I been angry with anyone without a just cause?
Have I been malicious, or unwilling to forgive?
Have I hurt others by telling lies about them?
Have I read other people's letters without their knowledge?
Have I been ungracious towards my neighbour?
Have I been sullen or spiteful, and have I been habitually nagging, sulky, or cantankerous? Have I taken a joke against myself in a bad spirit?
Have I not tried to love my enemies, praying for them and trying to serve them?
In upholding the just quarrels of my country, or of an oppressed class or nation, have I done so without malice against our enemies?
Have I indulged in, or acquiesced in, cruel sports or fashions, or in scientific experiments clearly involving crueIty?
Have I so neglected "the Rules of the Road" or other common courtesies and conventions as to endanger the lives of others?
(4) The Sin against Natural Lust -- Sinful Lust
Lust is the natural passion of a healthy and vigorous nature. Sinful Lust is the misuse of natural passion.
Do I remember that my body and the bodies of my neighbours are temples of the Holy Ghost and.therefore, to be kept in fitness, temperance, and chastity, and should be clothed, fed, and housed properly?
Have I been prudish about God's gift of sex, calling unclean what God has made clean?
Have I recognized in marriage a loving relationship in which can best. serve the cause of God and the people?
Have I abused marriage by excessive indulgence or in any other way?
Have 1 entered into marriage being unwilling, for selfish reasons, to have children?
Have I artificially prevented children? If so, what is my motive?
Have I unjustly withheld myself from my partner?
Have I tried to destroy unborn life?
Have I indulged in solitary sins against my body?
Have I so used pictures, books, conversation, as to encourage impure thoughts, so impairing. those energies which God gives me with which to serve my fellows?
Have I thought impurely about sexual things without trying to check myself, or have I deliberately encouraged such thoughts?
Have I used courtship, dancing, going to shows, etc., in such a way as deliberately to excite my sexual desires?
Have I done impure things alone?
Have I done impure things with others?
Have I tried to excite others to impurity?
Have I committed any unnatural vice?
Have I resorted to evil houses, etc.?
Were the objects of my desires unmarried or married persons, or persons of the same sex?
Have I indulged sinful lust by acts of cruelty?
Have I committed any other sin against sex whereby I injure my neighbour, or is there any other circumstance which makes my sin. worse, whereby I destroy myself as God's servant?
(5) The Sin against Temperance -- Gluttony
Gluttony is contempt of God's gifts of food and drink.
Have I thanked God for His gifts of food and drink by real enjoyment of them -- using them in comradeship and appreciation to keep health and gaiety, not dulling my vigour by excess either in eating or drinking?
Have I used intelligence in the matter of food, making my meals from foods which conduce to a healthy physical life?
Have I used foods the preparation of which entails cruelty to animals?
Have I been drunken, misusing beer, wine, etc.. which should be an aid to gladness, in such excess as to make myself dull, bestial and quarrelsome?
Have I imposed on the good nature of those who could not afford to "treat" me by allowing them to pay for food and drink?
Have I habitually grumbled about food and drink, or indulged in overmuch love of delicate living?
Have I taken food or drink which in ordinary cases would be reasonable, when there was not enough for members of my family, or when other people whom I could have helped have gone short?
Have I through an excess of duty to my home or parents so overworked that I have sacrificed my health or right leisure?
Have 1 failed to develop the creative faculties of my children by doing things for them that they should do for themselves, or by depriving them of their right to choose their clothes, friends, leisure, etc. ?
Have I allowed a passion for tidiness to make me so particular that others have felt ill at ease?
Have I been too strict in dealing with my children, or "spoilt" them by over-indulgence?
Have I worked to such excess that I have neglected recreation or the company of my fellows?
Have I so far as possible kept the fast days, abstinence days, and the fast before communion, as acts of discipline to make me a better soldier in the fight for God's Commonwealth? (For a list of fast days and abstinence days see the Book of Common Prayer).
(6) The Sin against Generosity -- Avarice
Avarice is setting up the idol of Gain in my heart in place of God and my neighbour.
Have I desired, above all else, to "get on," even although I knew it was at the expense of my neighbour?
Have I habitually "sponged" on others, taking advantage of their good nature, especially when they could ill-afford to help me, or invited their pity by giving an untrue account of myself?
Have I taken advantage of the weak or the poor -- paying less than I ought to someone who could not well refuse to take the smaller sum, taking advantage of the ignorance of my neighbour?
Have I stolen or cheated or in any way deceived my neighbours, or not attempted to restore goods gained in such a way?
Have I contracted debts, especially with poor people, with little prospect of paying, nor done my utmost to repay?
Have I taken advantage of the ignorance of my poorer neighbour in buying or selling?
Have I passed false money, especially on my poorer neighbours, charged exorbitant prices to the poor, evicted them or distrained upon them when they were unable to pay, especially when my own bare necessities were not imperilled?
Have I cheated at my work or my play; put in bad work although in receipt of fair pay?
If I gamble, in what spirit have I done so? As a Christian sport, or in deadly earnest for the sake of gain? Have I gambled to the hurt of my family, or with anyone who cannot afford to lose?
Have I been stingy and miserly; spent money that really belonged to my wife (husband) or children, and was not my reasonable pocket-money, in a public-house or in other ways?
Have I been unjust in not giving generously to the needy, the Church, or to any causes I thought true?
Have I voted for parties which deliberately support the Capitalist system?
Have I supported the Empire, especially in its exploitation and enslavement of other peoples?
Have I sided with those who want to keep things just as they are, even if I know they are bad things, because I want to stand well with the powerful, or through fear?
(For employers, and those who live on unearned income).
Have I, by taking rent or interest, or by other means, desired to live -- or justified myself in living -- at the expense of my neighbours without trying to do any adequate work in return?
Have I tried my utmost to pay anyone I employ a living wage, or to see that the workers employed in any concern from which I draw dividends have the best conditions possible under the present system?
Am I doing my utmost to bring about a just system, or have I not tried to change the system because of the effect that such a change would have on my position as an employer, or as a receiver of rent or interest?
(7) The Sin against Eagerheartednes -- -Apathy
Apathy is the failure to be eager to give my life in the service of God and my neighbour.
Have I kept before me '"God's quarrel," ever striving to "put down the tyrants from their thrones and to exalt them of low degree "?
Have I been sluggish and indifferent in the face of wrong done to God and my neighbour, content that men, women and children should live stunted lives (living without the food, clothing, houses, music, beautiful things, leisure, comradeship and freedom which belong to a full human life)?
Have I cared whether other people's claims on life are satisfied, or only my own or those of my family?
Have I been so busy putting the world to rights that I have neglected my wife or husband or children, my father or my mother?
Have I let my likes or dislikes of individuals bias my attitude to the Cause?
Has my service in the Cause been so impersonal and abstract that I have not cared for people as individuals?
Have I tried to find the remedy for the poverty, suffering, and lack of freedom with which the world is filled?
Have I blinded myself to the evils in the world -- refused to face the facts -- in order that my peace of mind shall not be disturbed?
Have I supported "my country, right or wrong" -- failing to oppose unjust actions on the part of my country or its Government? Have I agreed to the evils in the world because to join in the fight to alter them might lead to --
(a) Loss of money, position, comforts, or prospects?Have I failed to develop my mind and body, that I may be a useful servant of God and my neighbour?
(b) Disturbances in my family and loss of friends? .
(c) Working as a comrade with the poor, the despised, and the failures of society?
HOW TO CONFESS
When the priest is ready, go up to the Confessional and kneel down
The priest will give the blessing. Then say: --
I confess to God Almighty, to Blessed Mary, to all the Saints, to all my comrades, and to you, father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed, by my fault, my own fault, my own grievous fault. Since the time of my last confession, which was (say how long ago) I remember the following sins.
Here make your confession. When you can remember no more, say: --
For these, and all my other sins which I cannot now remember, I am heartily sorry, firmly intend to do better, most humbly ask pardon of God, and of you, father, penance (advice) and absolution. Wherefore I beg Blessed Mary, all the Saints, all my comrades, and you, father, to pray to the Lord our God for me.
FORM OF ABSOLUTION SAID BY THE PRIEST
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to His Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive thee thine offences: and by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
When you have left the Confessional you may use some form of thanksgiving as the following: --
THANKSGIVING AFTER ABSOLUTION
O Lord, I heartily thank Thee for having forgiven me all my sins, and for restoring me to the Fellowship of Thy Church. By Thy help I will try to love and serve Thee and my neighbour all the days of my life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me praise His Holy Name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; Who forgiveth all thy sin, and healeth all thine infirmities; Who saveth thy life from destruction and crowneth thee with mercy and loving-kindness. He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickednesses. For look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth, so great is His Mercy also toward them that fear Him. Look how wide also the east is from the west, so far hath He set our sins from us. -- Ps. ciii.
PRAYER WHEN ABSOLUTION IS DEFERRED.
Create in me a new heart, O Lord, and give me grace to renounce all sin and obtain from Thee full pardon of mine offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(1) The priest is the doctor of souls and is no more shocked at what you tell him about the diseases of you soul than your family doctor is shocked at what you tell him about the diseases of your body.
(2) The Priest cannot,, under pain of the awful penalties, disclose by even a hint what passes at confession, or so much as mention it again to you unless you yourself desire. (Canon 113 of the 1603 A.D. Canons of the English Church).
(3) You are to confess your own sins, not those of other people. Names of other people should never be mentioned in confession.
(4) Don't gossip in your confession or about your confession. No reference should be made to advice given you in confession save for the purpose of helping another. To talk about such advice would most probably suggest what sins you had confessed, and the priest might be accused of having disclosed what had passed at your confession.
NOTE ON PENANCE AND RESTITUTION. -- Before the priest gives absolution, he will give you a penance -- probably the saying of a prayer or psalm or something of that sort. This is a small thing in itself, but it is intended to symbolise your willingness, on being restored to the Christian Fellowship, to do what the Fellowship requires of you.
You must, of course, so far as possible, make restitution to any particular person whom you have injured. Absolution would be refused, or at least postponed, if the priest were not convinced that you meant to do this.
WHEN TO CONFESS
The Christian Fellowship has always held that we should go to confession whenever we have committed mortal sin. But in view of the fact that we often tend to put off doing what is an unpleasant duty, and in order that such slackness should not lead to the entire neglect of confession, the Church in England made it a rule that its members should go to confession at least three times a year -- at Christmas, Lent, and Whitsun.
The Church in earlier days was concerned about the whole life of men -- not only that they should be creative in their work, but also that they should have recreation for body, mind and spirit. It therefore insisted on holidays, on which Christians should recreate their spirits by joining with their comrades in the Mass -- the Common Meal of Fellowship -- and should spend the remainder of the day in generous acts, and in rest, games, sports, and any other form of recreation for body and mind, abstaining as far as possible from their ordinary work. These holidays in England were: --
All Sundays. St. Nicholas, December 6. Conception of Our Lady, December 8. St. Thomas the Apostle, December 21. Christmas Day, December 25, and several days of Christmastide. St. Stephen, December 26. St.John the Evangelist, December 27. Childermass, December 28. St. Thomas of Canterbury, December 29. Circumcision, January 1, Epiphany, January 6, and several days. Conversion of St. Paul, January 25. Candlemas, February 2. St. Matthias, February 24. St. Gregory, March 12. The Annunciation, March 25. Easter and three days. St. George, April 23. St. Mark, April 25. Sts. Philip and James, May 1. Invention of the Cross. May 3. St. Dunstan, May 19. St. Barnabas, June 11. The Ascension. Whitsun and three days. Corpus Christi, first Thursday after Trinity Sunday. St. John the Baptist, June 24. Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29. Visitation of Our Lady, July 2. Translation of St. Thomas of Canterbury, July 7. St. Swithun, July 15. St. Margaret, July 20. St. Mary Magdalene, July 22. St. James, July 25. St. James, July 26. Lammas Day, August 1. Transfiguration, August 6. St. Lawrence, August 10. The Assumption of Our Lady, August 15. St. Bartholomew, August 24. Beheading of St. John the Baptist, .August 29. Our Lady's Birthday, September 8. Holy Cross Day, September 14. St. Matthew, September 21. Michaelmas, September 29. St. Luke, October 18. Sts. Simon and Jude, October 28. All Saints, November 1. Martinmas, November 11. St. Hugh, November 17. St. Edmund, November 30. Local Dedication and Patronal Feasts.
Contrast the above list with the holidays -- significantly called "bank" holidays -- now allowed to the workers by their masters. The modern Church -- Anglican, Roman, and Eastern alike -- has feebly given in to Capitalism in this matter of the people's holidays, as in all else.
We should fight for the revival of as many of these holidays as possible. Meanwhile, we should when possible be present with our comrades at Mass on these days.
MARRIAGE -- FORBIDDEN TIMES.
Marriage used to be prohibited from Advent Sunday until eight days after Epiphany, Septuagesima until eight days after Easter, Rogation Sunday until Trinity Sunday inclusive. Modern Industrialism and the curtailing of holidays and leisure makes it impossible always to enforce these prohibitions, but God's Fellowship considered that at these great seasons the claims of God and His Commonwealth should come first.