The Value of Canon Law
Several weeks ago, the bishop of my diocese took the initiative to have a day of confessions in every parish, similar to what has been done in other dioceses. Today, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. I heard confessions with two other priests (one being another canon lawyer giving a parish mission for me this weekend.) I was amazed at the people who came. We heard confessions without stop until well past 2. Then there was another line-up for our normal Saturday confessions from 4 – 5 p.m. It has been an exhausting, but very rewarding, day. All I can say is, I thank God I have a canon law degree. People who think confessions are just about listening to, “I was impatient,” are wrong. Today was a beautiful and humbling day for me, as a priest. But I don’t know how I could have gotten through it without my knowledge of the Code. I can only sympathise with my brother priests who had to do this with only their seminary ‘penance and anointing’ course. Not enough! No way! If nothing else, I am convinced that priests, especially the newly-ordained, need regular seminars, courses, whatever, on confessions and law and a whole host of other things. A penitent comes to unburden her soul and Father doesn’t know what to tell her? or worse, gives him incorrect advice? because he doesn’t know the law. It doesn’t matter how nicely we can say it, or how kind we can be, if we are giving the wrong advice, or no information, we are harming souls. No wonder there is so much confusion out there. Tell every bishop or seminary formator you meet: train your seminarians and priests in canon law more than you are. After today, and fifteen years as a priest, I am convinced of it. Next time you run into a priest who is a canon lawyer: give him a hug!