Pastor’s Desk ~ October 15, 2023

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

This weekend I am happy to announce that our former Parochial Vicar, Fr. Andrew Pacheco, will be covering the Saturday 7:00 p.m. Mass in Spanish and the Sunday 7:30 a.m. Mass in English. At the same time, Fr. Stuart will be covering for Fr. Pacheco in Fort Bragg. This will provide each of them with a temporary change of scenery, while allowing Fr. Pacheco to begin a few days of respite from his pastoral duties. I think this is a good arrangement for all involved, parishioners as well as priests, especially priests like Fr. Andrew who are alone in remote parishes.

It’s easy to get in a rut. There are entire weeks when I do not, except when on pastoral duties, travel outside a 6-block radius of the rectory. Even diocesan meetings, which used to be held at the Chancery, now provide the alternative of attendance via Zoom. Paradoxically, the same technology that makes communication so immediate also creates more and more physical distance between human beings.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that more and more people bring their smart phones not only to Mass (presumably to follow the readings), but also to Confession. For some time, there have been several Confession apps available for download. They not only help with the Act of Contrition, but also facilitate an Examination of Conscience. The next step would be a Confession app for the clergy, in which the priest can enter particular sins and the app calculates the penance to be given.

It’s not that far-fetched. Many years ago when I was in school in Boston, the local alternative newspaper, the Boston Phoenix, published an article detailing their investigation of local confessionals. The imposter-penitents went to Confession with a cassette recorder (yes, it was that long ago), confessed a set list of “sins” in multiple parishes, recorded their penances, and then published a report as to which parishes offered the better “deal.”

For openers, I’m happy to note that the Phoenix went out of business 10 years ago while the Church, whose imminent demise they cheered on with spiteful glee, is still providing the Sacraments of salvation, in Boston and the world over. The other, more serious point, is the futility of trying to quantify grace, which the Church has alternately practice and resisted for over a millennium. This is not God’s limitation, but that of humans.

At Vatican II, the question of confession-via-telephone was raised and resolved. The sacraments of the Church must be celebrated and received in person via the natural human voice. If there could be Confession-by-phone, by what logic could there not be televised Masses during which the remote faithful could place a loaf of bread in front of the screen and have Holy Communion? There cannot be true Confession or Communion without community, and that is the unique reality and strength of parish life, which nothing can truly replace.

Fr. Bill Donahue

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