Soon after Father’s ordination, he discovered that his own soul was at substantial risk of being sullied by the secrets of his confessors. Still, the fact remained that no matter what his ears heard, his mouth could not speak. He’d taken an oath that if a story wasn’t his to tell, he wouldn’t tell it. These kinds of oaths could never be broken without severe consequences.
Father understood that the soul of nearly every man was a treasure trove—more appropriately, a dump—of sagas and secrets. The cost of keeping a secret generally exceeded its worth. Fortunately, a confessor could barter his burden with a priest in exchange for a clean conscience. The confessor would trust the priest to hold in his heart the revelation that had been poisoning the confessor’s own soul.
Today the poison administered to Father was more potent than any he’d known previously. The young person sitting in front of Father lacked the one thing necessary for a fruitful confession: genuine sorrow. No other time in Father’s ordained life had a person confessed out of an evident desire to boast about the vile thing he had done. Yet, today’s young confessor had apparently fallen in love with the evil committed.
Father knew the world was not ruled by intelligence; it was ruled by emotion. There were few emotions more powerful than regret. For this reason, the confessional would always be a necessity. Yet, if emotion were lacking in the confessor, what was the point of any of it? Could the secret sin of the unremorseful be forgiven?
God alone knew. Father had only one task—to guard the confessor’s secret with his life.
Father looked into the eyes of the young confessor sitting before him. The eyes were frank, as frank as he could ever remember.
“You’re not going to tell anyone about this, are you?” the confessor probed after the admission was complete.
“I won’t tell anyone a word of what you’ve said,” Father replied. “However, you have a duty to make right what you’ve made wrong. If you’re truly sorry, if you truly seek forgiveness, you’ll listen to your heart. Your heart knows what is right.”
“And if I don’t have a heart? God will love me anyway, won’t He? You people say God loves everyone. Or do you people lie?” The confessor clearly struggled to fight off a smirk. “Besides, I doubt any of this can really be made right. It’s too late.”
“It’s never too late. You’ve already confessed once. You’ll do it again.”
The confessor’s lips bowed down, giving way to an ugly grimace. “You want me to go to prison? Is that really what you want? Who knows how long I’d survive that. What’s happened in the past belongs to the past.”
Father grappled for a breath. “Not-not if you continue in what you’re doing.”
The confessor was silent for a beat. “I never said I would continue. If you want to do something useful, just pray for the girl. She’s the one who needs your prayers. And grant me forgiveness. That’s all I came to you for. I’m sorry. So, so, so sorry.”
Every so often lies were told in the confessional—Father knew that. Yet, he’d never witnessed one so blatant as this confessor’s sardonic insistence of remorse. Still, being a man of faith, it was not Father’s place to doubt. All he could do was listen as the un-contrite began reciting the Act of Contrition.
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because of Thy just punishment…”