The Parish of
From the vicar
Occasionally mention is made of the Catholic Privileges, graces which are the foundation of a holy life within the Church of God. Even if the phrase is not familiar to you some of the privileges certainly will be, not least the Sacrament of Confession.
The Book of Common Prayer contains the following statement within the first exhortation at Holy Communion.
And because it is requisite, that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God's mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned Minister of God's Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God's holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.
Canon 113 of the Code of 1603 determines the status of such confession within the Church of England. Under this canon the priest is forbidden to make known what any person has confessed, even after the death of the penitent. This is called the Seal of the Confessional and it is the guarantee of confidentiality which every penitent has so that, when seeking absolution, he can make an full and honest confession. This is an essential part of Church doctrine held by the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Churches as well as the Church of England.
Those who make use of this sacrament will know what a joy it is to receive absolution after confession. There is frequently a feeling of liberation as the past is left behind, but also a renewed sense of hope as the penitent once again catches a vision of God’s love and his purposes for us. Through the Sacrament of Confession broken people are put back together again; healing and wholeness become a possibility. It is the most wonderful gift.
Tragically there are those both within and without the Church today who wish to abolish this provision. The reason they give is that those who confess to the abuse of children should not be permitted confidentiality. In the midst of child abuse scandals this may seem superficially attractive. Unfortunately those who hold this view rarely have any understanding or experience of confession and grievously misrepresent it both in nature and in purpose. Those who do understand such things know that any penitent approaching a priest in confession must be seeking absolution for the sacrament to be valid otherwise the attempt to make confession is a malicious and ungodly act. If absolution is genuinely sought then if the abuse of a child or other vulnerable person is confessed then the penitent will be told that he must confess the crime to the authorities before such absolution can be given. There is no cheap grace.
The reality known to priests in confession is that such abusers do not avail themselves of this sacrament. If there have been any then the exceptions prove the rule. Those who do come fall into three categories. There are ordinary men and women who avail themselves of the sacrament as part of their spiritual journey, as a challenge to their discipleship. Then there are young people who are exploring matters of faith and need someone to talk to, not necessarily to confess sins, but to seek the ghostly counsel and advice which the Prayer Book encourages – teenagers go to confession at Walsingham by the hundred. Finally there are the victims of abuse. Priests frequently testify that they have never been approached by an abuser, but that they have by victims of abuse who need a safe space and a sympathetic ear, perhaps speaking about their ordeal for the first time. On such occasions it is clear to see why the Sacrament of Confession is a Catholic Privilege, a wonderful grace which God uses to put broken people back together and to give hope for the future.
It is a matter of profound sadness that those who feel they need to ‘do something’ about the scandal of child abuse should choose one of the means which God uses to bring healing to his people. The Catholic Societies and others in the Church of England are determined to fight any proposal to abolish the Seal. The recent National Assembly of Forward in Faith called on the House of Bishops to re-affirm the Seal of the Confessional as 'an essential principle of the doctrine of the Universal Church, as received by the Church of England'. The Assembly also called on priests of The Society to reassure the faithful that they will maintain absolute confidentiality with regard to what is confessed in sacramental confession.
Amen. Confessions made at St. Peter’s will remain confidential. Keep the Seal.
Further articles may be found in New Directions or at www.forwardinfaith.com or from Father Andrew.
Pray for Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith, for those who will be called to a martyrs death in 2019 and for the continuing work of the Barnabas Fund.
From the diary
Wednesday 2nd January, 10.00am Mothers’ Union Corporate Communion(The Circumcision)
Sunday 6th January The Feast of the Epiphany
Wednesday 16th January, 8.00pm Parochial Church Council meeting in the Parish Hall
Saturday 19th January Concert with Janine Carnac’s pupils. Details to follow.
Tuesday 22nd January, 8.00pm United Service at St. Peter’s. (See below)
Friday 25th January, 7.00pm Said Mass (Conversion of St. Paul)
From the Registers
28thNovember Lawrance Hurst (aged 84 years)
7thDecember Ada Johnson (aged 94 years)
20thDecember Joan Pryde (86 years)
Lent 2019: Stations of the Cross
Would those who are interested in following the Stations please give Fr. Andrew an indication of when they might be available to join him.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019
‘A Pilgrimage of Prayer’
Sunday 20th January, 10.30am Covenant Service between Bushey and Oxhey Methodist Church and St. Matthew’s, Oxhey at St. Matthew’s.
All mid-week services will last for 30 minutes and will be followed by light refreshments.
Tuesday 22ndJanuary, 8.00pm Meditation at St. Peter’s, Bushey Heath
Wednesday 23rdJanuary, 10.30am Prayer Stations at St. Matthew’s, Oxhey
Thursday 24th January, 10.30am ‘New Ways of Praying’, Bushey and Oxhey Methodist Church
Vicar: Fr. Andrew Burton SSC, a priest of the Society. (020 8950 1424). Usual day off Monday.
Churchwardens: Mr. Peter Mould (020 8428 8307); Mrs. Anne Swerling (020 8950 8923).
Bushey Heath Parish Church