Day 491: Absolution

Catholicism includes the practice of the absolution of sins by an ordained priest after the sinner confesses his/her sins to said priest.

What is interesting about this practice is that, for many Catholics, they end up using absolution as a Get out of Jail Free card - doing all sorts of "sinful things" and then confessing to their priest. The priest will then give them some way to show their penance and so earn God's forgiveness. And therefore get into Heaven.

This pattern revealed itself to me when I was watching Don Jon, in which the main character would participate in activities that are labeled as "sinful" by the church, but go confess to a priest every week, the priest would tell him to recite a few prayers, all would be forgiven and then he would just continue with the sinful behavior. This was a cycle that repeated every single week.

Do some, or all, members of the Catholic church regard this kind of behavior as abusing the "gift" of absolution? I cannot answer that, but I can say that that sort of behavior is an exploitation of the principles of the religion. Doing this would create a mindset within a person of thinking that they could do anything they want because they believe that they will be able to go confess to their priest and pay penance and so be forgiven. Obviously this is a destructive mindset to have as it causes people to live without comprehensive consideration for the consequences of their actions.

How is this cycle of "sin and forgiveness" similar to other parts of our lives, even for those who are not Catholic? We each develop a keen ability to justify our own actions, so absolving ourselves of feelings of guilt and responsibility. This justification is not the same as forgiveness, it is closer to being shameless.

For those who use self forgiveness, it is also possible for our self forgiveness to turn into self absolution - absolving ourselves of our sins in order to continue "committing sins" guilt free. This is not self forgiveness, it is another form of justification. Real self forgiveness only exists when one corrects ones behavior and thoughts. Real self forgiveness is the act of giving yourself the opportunity to correct oneself without the baggage of your past smothering you. Anything else is an abuse of the principles that forgiveness embodies.