Cardinal Coccopalmerio Revises Act of Contrition?

(February 23 – Steven O’Reilly) If one would like to see a prime example of the sorry state of Catholic thought these days among many in the hierarchy, look no farther than Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s interview with the Jesuit magazine, America. Reading it, my first gut reactions alternated between wanting to laugh (in disbelief) and to vomit (in recognition the Cardinal was actually serious). From part of this article (emphasis is mine):

He (Cardinal Coccopalmerio) cited as an example the case of a woman who is free to marry according to church law and decides to enter into a stable relationship and lives with a married man, whose wife had left him with three young children. In such a case, he explained, “the children would now consider her their mother and for the man, she is his life,” as she means everything to him. If she eventually recognizes the problem with her situation and decides to leave, then her husband and children will find themselves in great difficulty. But the cardinal said, “If this woman concludes ‘I cannot leave. I cannot do such harm to them,’ then this situation, where she wants to change but cannot change, opens the possibility of admissions to the sacraments.”

In such a situation, the cardinal said, there is the recognition of sin and the sincere desire to change but also the impossibility of making it happen. In this situation, he would tell her, “remain in this situation, and I absolve you.”

Good grief! The woman is living in a public, illicit relationship with a man married to another woman. No amount of insert-sob story-here theology can change this, or justify it. Those wanting to justify communion for adulterers living more uxurio are contorting themselves into the strangest shapes and positions trying to find the perfect ‘concrete situation.’ No sob story is not ‘sobby’ enough. No sob story cannot be made ‘sobbier.’ There is always a better sob story. The ‘sobbiness’ of these examples paraded before us seem to grow like the size of the fish your friend Bob said he caught on the lake three summers ago.  How about-there is a man who has several mistresses (in addition to his wife) with whom he has stable relationships, all of whom (and his 200 kids-some very sickly) depend on him (and he means everything to his women) and he cannot end these relationships without great difficulty because [insert additional sob story details here]…but he is conscious of the irregularity of his situation…etc. Bingo!  Step right up! Give that man absolution and communion!

Read the interview with Cardinal Coccopalmerio. Note that he says of his example of the woman in the affair: “where she wants to change but cannot change, opens the possibility of admission to the sacraments.”  What does the Cardinal tell such a woman?  “Remain in this situation, I absolve you.” Based on Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s approach, the form of the Act of Contrition should be modified accordingly to conform to this new sob-story sacramental theology.  How about:

Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven, and the pains of Hell. But, most of all, because they offend Thee my God who are all good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life at some point in time in the indeterminate future when, or if, it becomes more practicable for me to do so. Amen.

One cannot do evil that good may come of it. Bishops and priests who support such a practice will become accomplices to the undoing of the sinner who comes before them in the confessional.

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He lives near Atlanta with his wife Margaret. He has four children. He  has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, set during the time of the Arian crisis. Book one of the trilogy will be completed in 2017. He can be contacted at





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