Bad Advice in the Confessional…

Back a few weeks, talking with a group of guys about Confession. Now, they were talking about confessions they had given and ones I hadn’t received; but will still talk in as much generalities as I can, because this is an area that needs to be addressed to priests and that the laity could hear, too.

As they were talking, they mentioned bad advice they had been given in the confessional (and I’ve both given and received bad advice in such a place, so not casting aspersions, here), when they mentioned something that caught my ear. As many men do, there is a struggle with the ‘solitary sin.’ The advice given was along the lines of ‘find a girlfriend, get married, this problem will go away.’

Uhhhhhh….. NOPE!!!!

This is terrible advice! And if you have ever gotten such advice, I am sorry.

Priests: If you have ever given this advice, please stop!

Why? The following reasons:

  1. This problem can have deep roots that need to be addressed, it doesn’t just ‘go away’ upon marriage. Explore with the penitent the ‘why’ of the thing, as that is what is going to help it go away. And it takes work for this problem to go away, and a whole helping of God’s Grace; by giving rather shallow advice, you are depriving the penitent of both of these aspects.
  2. This advice is demeaning to women and to married life. Intimacy in married life is not about an outlet for sexual urges, it is a sign of the deep spiritual, emotional and physical connection that exists between a husband and wife. And she is worth more than just being a sexual play toy for her husband. Please read the Theology of the Body!
  3. Not all men (nor all women) are called to marriage. By giving such advice, they are all being lumped into something to which they may not be called, discretion is a better part of valor, here.

Anywho, this hit a nerve with me and really seems to miss the mark as to what Confession ought to be about. I’m constantly learning how to be a better confessor, hope this helps some of the brothers to do the same.

re Thom Brennamen

On August 19, 2020, Cincinnati Reds Broadcaster Thom Brennaman uttered an ill-conceived and ill-advised homophobic slur as the broadcast returned to air. Thinking his mic was still dead, he spoke a word that was full of hatred and bigotry towards those who experience same sex attraction, a population in the Church and in society that already has a strong perception of not fitting in and marginalization. As Mr. Brennamen acknowledged later in the broadcast, this momentary and solitary word could likely cost him his career and livelihood.

This is tragic on all sides. Tragic for the population within our community who felt slighted and maligned by his statement. Tragic for him and his family.

A day later as I write this, I see two aspects of a Catholic Christian response to this situation: a deep respect and compassion for those who experience same sex attraction and secondly a need to forgive Mr. Brennamen for this action.

In the three paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that treat the topic of homosexuality, paragraphs 2357-2359, the journey and experience of these individuals is rightly called forth. As rightly noted, ‘the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.’ They are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters; and are among us. It is a distinct honor for me to serve as the local chaplain for Courage, International, here in Cincinnati where I have the honor and privilege to meet with several of these brothers and sisters on a weekly basis to hear how the Spirit is alive and active in their lives and how they have willingly and joyfully embraced the cross of Jesus Christ through this experience. No, it is not easy for them, yet they find support and fellowship through this experience.

Through Courage, several of the members talk of being ‘accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ for the first time within the Church; finally breaking that strong sense of isolation that the devil so often uses to keep us apart from God.

Rightly, the Catechism calls forth that ‘every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,’ which is where Mr. Brennamen, sadly, stepped into error and likely caused further pain to a community that already knows pain and isolation.

As I write this, I think, once again, of John Bradford’s powerful statement, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.’ Mr. Brennamen was given much, and as such, much was expected. He was expected to be above slurs such as the one uttered on this fateful broadcast. And he is likely to suffer much due to this indiscretion, rightly or wrongly.

Yet, we have a call to forgive him, for we recognize that we are all sinners in need of redemption and conversion. Luckily, most of us do not sin in such a dramatic and public way; but we all still do sin, if even just in the quiet recesses of the heart. As we reach out to forgive him for this transgression, so also do we ask God to forgive our own transgressions. Certainly, above all else, we should pray for him and his family; as we should pray for all those who experience a marginalization due to the sins of others.

Will Mr. Brennamen broadcast another game for the Reds? Only time will tell. Should he broadcast another game for the Reds? Only God will know for sure. 

Might we all learn from this experience to check our own expectations and biases that we can grow closer to every brother and sister in Christ.

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