Back to Index

Unpleasant Sunday memories

Commenting on "Unpleasant Sunday memories", Mary Huyck, having reached middle age, writes: "Do you realize that the Episcopal confession (I can't speak for what goes on in England) now no longer refers to "miserable offenders"? I always rather liked being a miserable offender, but now this is not given me as an option. Also, in the past (i.e. the 1950s and 1960s) we said that we were "not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under Thy table," but alas this also has been stricken. Furthermore, we always said that "there is no health in us." I'm sorry to report that this is no longer the case. Through no effort on my own, I have become a much more virtuous person, and I regret this fact".

My comment: I spared WAISers the complete text of my childhood confession of sin, but it is still in my poor memory: "There is no health in us. But Thou, oh Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders. Spare Thou them that confess their sins, restore Thou them that are penitent...etc". This was a legacy of the heritage which made the Catholic Church so unpopular. The General Confession replaced the individual confession, which gave priests so much control over their "sheep"--usually women; the resentful and impenitent rams became anticlerical, suspecting that the confessors knew all about the household's dirty linen. They might even know that the husbands beat their wives. Used to seeing Catholic confessionals, I was nevertheless surprised to visit a shrine in Hungary, where in the yard before the church were two long rows of confessionals. Business was obviously good. Now in anti-clerical France, the confessionals have a sign saying "accueil"--welcome, a much more Christian approach.

At Christian Oxford the faith was clearly weakening. Belief in the Trinity and acceptance of the 39 articles were no longer required. The Dean was and still is the head of Christ Church, but with reduced powers. We had to sign out at the porter's desk four time a week by 7 a.m. or attend chapel. Nearly all of us rushed down to the porter's desk just in time. We still had to take a divinity exam, known popularly as "divvers". I stupidly took it, not having heard that it was to be abolished. I could have avoided it just by waiting. When it was abolished the public was given assurances that religion would flourish as always at Oxford. I did not notice it. My major was French, and Professor Gustave Rudler was an anti-clerical who thought my interest in religion a quaint anachronism. My scientific friends held a similar view.

The future or religion and its relations with science are an important subject. The Catholic Church may be forced to face the issues of celibacy and papal infallibility. What about the cult of the Virgin Mary and her national manifestations such as the Virgin of Guadalupe? The present pope talks of declaring her a co-redeemer with Christ. However much people may revere her, it would only strengthen the insistence on celibacy. That would seem to be a step backward, and time marches on.

Ronald Hilton - 4/29/02