I’ve been reading internet discussions of what people who are in mortal sin should do if COVID-19 restrictions are keeping them from confession. These discussions are full of scary and even life-endangering advice.
Most of it appears to be coming from people who are trying to use this situation to bully and terrorize the unfortunates who will listen to them. I guess they do it to amuse themselves. Or maybe they enjoy the sense of power it gives them to scare people and put them into a state of religious jitters.
The truth as I have lived it for many years, is that nothing — and I mean nothing — can separate you from the mercy of Jesus Christ. God wants to save us. He gave us the Church, the mass and confession to help us, to give us concrete assurance of His Love and Acceptance. He did not give us these things to terrify and paralyze us with constant fear for the state of our souls. Quite the contrary.
We are in a time of what I honestly regard as small-time confusion and peril. I am not making light of our current situation or COVID-19. But compared to some of the things I’ve faced and survived, it’s small-time. Even if it kills me, even if it drives the economy down to dust, it’s still not the worst. Not even close.
I know a lot about being separated from God. I also know a lot about the mercy and forgiveness of God. Only someone who’s made as much of a mess of things as I have in my life can know these things. I know how it feels to walk away from God, and I know how it feels to go back to Him.
God does not want us to go to hell. He will never let anyone Who reaches out to Him end up there. You can rely on that. I am not speaking from theological training or Church teaching. I am speaking from lived experience of His grace. If you have committed a grave sin and are temporarily blocked from going to confession because of this virus, do not let a bunch of sadistic internet bullies terrify you.
Everything they are saying to you is a lie.
What do you do if you’re in mortal sin and you can’t go to confession?
It’s pretty simple.
1. You say you’re sorry. You get down on your knees and you pray with real sorrow and repentance and ask God to forgive you.2. If you have sinned against another person, consider if it will harm them or someone else if you call them and tell them what you’ve done and that you’re sorry.
If your confession to them will do harm — if it even might do harm — then accept that part of your penance is bearing your shame and keep your mouth shut. If you are absolutely certain that it will not harm them or anyone else, then do it. Call, confess, say you’re sorry.
3. Promise God that you will partake of sacramental confession as soon as it is possible. Resolve to do this. Don’t get in a fluff about it. Just mean it when you say you will go to confession when you can. This pandemic will pass and you will be able to fulfill that promise.
4. Trust God and stop worrying about it. You’re square with the Almighty. (Just be sure you actually do go to confession when you are able.)
This is not theology. I don’t even know if it jibes with Catholic teaching.
But it is a lived reality, something I have experienced, a walk I have walked. You. Can. Always. Trust. God.
If you are sincere in your sorrow and you genuinely repent, He will cleanse your soul if you ask Him. If you can’t get to confession for some reason — I think a pandemic is sufficient reason — just promise Him that you will go as soon as you can, and then actually go when you can.
The God Who made the universe, Who made you, Who became human, walked among us, suffered with us and then consented to be tortured and hung naked on a cross and mocked and made fun of while He was dying in agony for us will not leave you stranded in a time of crisis.
Again, I do not say this from formal theological training or from a platform of official clerical authority. I say it as a follower of Christ who has experienced His grace and love and who knows absolutely that it is reliable and unfailing.
If you reach out to God, He will grasp your hand.
Rely on it.
And don’t let religious bullies who try to erect barriers between you and your salvation confuse and terrorize you out of your peace that passes all understanding.