This one's for you Linda P.! And for all the gang at the Bludhaven list.
"Once upon a time, there was light in my life,
But, now there's only love in the dark,
Nothing I can say,
A total eclipse of the heart."
(Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler)
St. Mary's Catholic Church
The panel in the confessional slid open.
A young man's voice said, "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was...uh...(laugh)...about ten years ago."
"I see," said the Priest. "What have you to confess today?"
"Um...well, I...I...I haven't been a very good Catholic. The man who raised me, he's not very religious although he's a very good man. The best. But that's no excuse for my skipping out on church and the sacraments all these years. I guess, I never felt like I'd be welcomed back after my parents died..."
"You're always welcome here. What's on your mind?"
"I..uh...I helped to kill a man. I mean, I didn't actually take the shot, but I walked away and let someone else kill him. And I know I should have stopped it and now everything in my live has gone to hell...uh...sorry...gone to pot..." (Sniffing sounds from the other side of the screen).
"That's a very serious sin. Did you wish this man dead? You know that the desire can be as bad as the act itself."
(softly) "Yeah. I wanted him dead. He'd hurt so many people and he was threatening all the ones I loved. Innocent people who'd never done him any harm, just so he could get back at me, y'know?" (voice breaking, but he forces the words out) "Worst of all...my fa-...the man who raised me. He adopted me, finally, and he...he's proud of me. I can't tell him. I just can't tell him about it because he...God...What would he think of me then? I've tried but the words...words just dry up..."
"Are you afraid of his censure?"
"Censure? He'd put me in cuffs and haul me off to jail!" (barely audible) "Not that I haven't tried that already." (more audible) "And worse yet, there's this woman...she and I are...uh...sleeping together...I've done her wrong too."
"In what way? Are you married to her?"
"No. She wants to get married and I guess I should. I let her shoot him, the...the...the guy. I could have saved her from that if I'd just stopped her. And I don't know how to feel about her. I don't know what I feel. Some of it's rage and hurt, like all this is her fault. And the rest is knowing that I'm responsible, I let it happen. I let it all happen. And everything she did to me."
"Everything she did to you?"
"After she sh...shot him, she pulled me onto the roof and we h...ha...had sex. I mean, I didn't want to but I coulda stopped her if I needed to, y'know? Why didn't I stop her? I was just frozen there and told her I wasn't interested and the next thing I know, half my clothes are off and she's...she's...having a great (voice breaks) time. And I never threw her offa me, just like I never took the gun away from her and walked away while she killed that guy."
"I see. What sins do you feel that you committed?"
"Um...murder? And...and...fornication, probably. I mean we aren't married. And I probably should add that I've slept around a lot before her. Never been married."
"Have you killed or hurt anyone else?"
"Well, no, to the killing except in war. I've been in a few wars, but that was to protect Tama...uh...these freedom fighters. I fight, but to protect others, always. It's mostly that or in self defense. I am...I was...a police officer, so I used to fight and use a gun on duty."
"This 'murder' you feel you committed. Were you in any danger of getting hurt or killed that night?"
"Well, yeah. He wanted to kill me. To destroy me completely and all my friends and family. That was his plan and he laughed at me because he knew that I don't...didn't...kill. It's against the moral code I was brought up with. Against everything my...father...taught me. And that man was killed with a gun. Bru-...my father...hates guns."
"So, you wanted the man to die but you didn't take any action to cause it?"
"I didn't stop it! I should have prevented it!" (scraping sound, like he's fallen off the kneeler and climbed back on).
"You're ashamed to admit all this to your adopted father?"
"Yeah. I've gone against every moral he ever taught me. Excuse me..." (voice breaks and trails off).
"Do you have anything else to confess? I assume you haven't been to church in a while? Skipped the Holy Days of Obligation? Didn't keep the fasts?"
"Yeah, I've skipped mass. We're not eating fish on Friday anymore, are we?"
(Priest chuckles) "Not anymore, although there are fast days throughout the holy year. Let's just say that fish on Friday is now optional. Try to get to mass more often and pay attention to the big two: Christmas and Easter. Any commandments to be concerned about? Covetousness?"
(Penitent snorts) I don't envy anything that anyone else has.
"Theft? Swearing? We've already covered the Lord's Day. Have you borne false witness?"
"No. None of that. I could probably be more respectful of my 'parents'. I give Bru...I mean, my adoptive father a hard time sometimes but I know he only wants the best for me. He hated it that I became a cop and worried a lot about me."
"Most parents of police officers do worry. Tell me, this 'murder' of yours, did it happen while you were on duty?"
"No. I wasn't there as a police officer. What should I do?"
"Do you have anything else to confess?"
"No, I think that's it."
"In terms of a criminal penalty, that's up to you. It doesn't sound to me like you murdered anyone. I take it that if this man had stopped his actions against you and your family, you would have been satisfied?"
"Oh yeah. I just wanted him gone. I wanted him away from everyone I love, but I knew that wasn't gonna happen. I didn't want him killed."
"Well, then, it sounds to me like your biggest sin is what we in the religious life call having a 'scrupulous conscience'. That means that you have an unwarranted fear that something is a sin, when it isn't. It's more a state of mind than anything else. You seem to feel that you are responsible for the actions of others, when you are not. This kind of thinking can lead you to despair and to doubt the grace of God and his forgiveness. Ask yourself why you feel so anxious about things you can't control? I see that much of your motivation relates to you and your adoptive father. Perhaps you should think about your relationship with him. Next, you and the woman, based on the description you gave me, it sounds like you had non-consensual sexual relations. Is that correct?"
"Well, I outweigh her by about fifty pounds. I could have thrown her off...but...Uh...yeah. I didn't want it. But it's not like she raped me or anything. I mean, I'm a guy!"
"Uh huh. You'd be surprised what I hear in a church in the middle of downtown Bludhaven. In any case, I think that many of your difficulties are not of a spiritual nature, but that you need to discuss them with someone with professional training. On the spiritual side, however, I do see some problems."
"You're code is both too rigid and not rigid enough. You are scrupulous in what you deem your responsibilities, but you do this to please your adoptive father. Who is your God? Ask yourself why you do what you do and for whom? That falls within the Commandments as well. You are to honor your parents, but you are to have no other gods before God."
"I...uh...I don't know what to say...I have to think about this..."
"Think about it. And in the meantime, your penance is to keep the Commandments and attend mass for four weeks in succession. I won't make this part of the penance, but I really think that you should talk to a professional about your relationship with your father."
"What? No Hail Mary's and Our Fathers?"
"Sorry, we don't do that anymore. Well, are you sorry for all these sins?"
"Oh yes, yes I am. I'll do the penance."
(Priest) "God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
"Then May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints, whatever good you do and suffering you endure heal your sins, help you to grow in holiness, and reward you with eternal life. Go in peace."