Monday 21 December 2009

So Where's the Contrition?

What is contrition?

Concise Oxford English Dictionary definition
Def. 1: the act of being contrite (contrite: feeling or expressing remorse)
Def. 2: (in the Roman Catholic Church) the repentance of past sins during or after confession

Frank MacDonald, "Confession is good for the soul". The Globe and Mail, Aug. 7, 2009.

The review itself is basic, covers the material and I have only one major problem. I don't understand see how "Father MacAskill's life takes on a sense of horror". I may be wrong, but it really is unclear that the Bishop's Man (as I prefer to call him) feels a sense of horror that might, just might, lead to contrition in the Roman Catholic sense. I think that the writing implies that that is what is happening, but nowhere does The Bishop's Man ever state that that is the problem. We are supposed to imply it from his descent into drunkenness, his searching for Bell, and his erratic behaviour. Even before Danny's suicide, he had some inkling that sexual abuse might be the problem, but he never tries to address it with anything other than "call me" to the boy.

I wonder if the author thinks that the Bishop's Man should feel a sense of horror and therefore assumes that he does.

Is this a realistic "confession" from Father MacAskill? I listened to the author discussing how he went about finding whether or not his portrayal of the Bishop's Man was authentic/realistic. He gave it to priests he knew and others who said that it was. If this is truly a valid portrayal of a Roman Catholic priest, no wonder the church is in trouble.

This leads to my question - confession, the book may be, but where is the contrition (def. 2) - where is the repentance?

Feminist theologians like to talk about just what repentance means. The term they focus on is metanoia, which means "a turning around". That turning around means making a change in your life. It is more than saying, "I'm sorry." and then getting on with your life. It is more than, "I won't do that again". It should include some form of restitution. What does the Bishop's Man do in the end? He submits his resignation to the Bishop, has a big fight with the Bishop, tells his story to the lady friend (aunt to Danny) with whom he has become close, has a really good sit down with Father Bell, goes off for a month's vacation in the Dominican Republic (I think that's where the lady friend has her holiday home). BUT most of all, he still keeps, not only all the secrets that he kept before, but some new ones. Doesn't look like he's learned a whole lot. Seems that he's doing more running than he is facing up to who is and what he did. But maybe that's just me!

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