Today we celebrate the feast day of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, an Italian lawyer who became a priest, a very famous moral theologian, the founder of the Redemptorist priests, brothers, and nuns, an archbishop, and then a canonized saint.
It is very timely that we have his commemoration day in our calendar because one of the most pernicious errors that has arisen in the Church in the past forty years is that concerning the whole reality of sin and repentance, and particularly the use of the Sacrament of Penance. As a result of the false ideas which were spawned by some in the wake of Vatican II, it was often preached and taught that we Catholics are neurotics because of our guilty feelings over our sins; that sin is not nearly as widespread as we have been taught; that we should emphasize love and heaven, rather than guilt and hell, and that the Sacrament of Penance is totally unnecessary since we can confess our sins directly to God, who loves us. Now, if you follow this erroneous set of ideas to its logical conclusion, you will never go to confession again, you will lose all your fear of sinning and thus offending God, you will do whatever you please, moral or immoral, you will continue to receive Holy Communion even after committing serious sins without receiving the Sacrament of Penance, and finally your moral life will totally collapse. Look around you; it happens regularly. A young man I spoke to some years ago admitted that he was living with his girlfriend, that he went to Mass only about once a month, but that when he DID attend Mass, he received Holy Communion. Those receptions of Communion unworthily simply added to his sins of fornication and missing Mass on most Sundays.
The birthrate among American Catholics is about the same as that among others, which indicates that Catholics are practicing contraception as much as those outside the Church are. And yet, I imagine that when the Catholics who do that attend Mass—at Christmas, Easter, weddings, and funerals— they receive Communion along with everyone else. And that is gravely sinful.
This distortion of the moral principles regarding sin, the need for repentance and the Sacrament of Penance, and then the realities of heaven and hell must be combatted for the sake of those whose immortal souls are endangered by these false doctrines. Let us pray, through the intercession of Saint Alphonsus, patron saint of moral theologians, that these errors will be laid to rest and that there will be a return to the solid moral principles of Christ and His Church. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.