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.
Today the burden given to Father is heavier than any he has ever known. The young person sitting in front of Father lacks the one thing necessary for a fruitful confession: genuine sorrow. No other time in Father’s ordained life has a person confessed out of an evident desire to boast about the vile thing he has done. But today’s confessor has apparently fallen in love with the evil committed.
And still, Father has but one task—to guard this admission with his life.
Father looks into the eyes of the young confessor sitting before him. The eyes are as frank as he can ever remember.
“You’re not going to tell anyone about this, are you?” the confessor probes.
“I won’t tell anyone a word of what you’ve said,” Father replies. “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’s jaw twitches. He is evidently contending with 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 bow down, giving way to a 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.”
“Not-not if you continue in what you’re doing.”
The confessor is silent for a beat.
“I never said I would continue. If you want to do something useful, 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.”
A prodigious lie. A lie so audacious, Father must swallow down the unction to shake the truth out of this young one.
He winces at the dilemma before him. Being a man of faith, it is not his place to doubt. It is only his place to listen as the remorseless begins 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…”