Saint Giles and an Australian Confession

By the Master of Saint Giles, ca. 1500

As I was perusing over breakfast, I noticed that today is the olde feaste of Saint Giles, an 8th century hermit in southern France, who happens to be the patron of a good confession, inspiring me to make mine this morning on this first Saturday before Mass. He is also one of the ‘fourteen holy helpers’, an elite group of saints, so to speak, particularly effective in their intercession for specific causes. For many years, Giles was one of the most popular of saints, and his shrine a place of pilgrimage well into the 16th century.

In an anachronistic legend recounted by chroniclers, an angel apparently revealed a grave sin of Charlemagne’s to Giles, as he was celebrating Mass, that the emperor had not confessed. (Reservations about this legend are based on the temporal fact that Giles died in 710, and Charlemagne would not be born until 742, so it must have been some other potentate named Charles, if the story be true).

But anon, it is little wonder that the confession of one’s conscience to a priest, while kneeling inside a wooden box (and least until the invention of those ‘reconciliation rooms’, where one knows not where to kneel…) is still an enigma to this flattened, materialistic, non-sacramental world. Just as they cannot see Christ in the (apparently) ordinary ‘bread’ of the Eucharist, so too they cannot see Him in the ordinary priest.

So, in this emotionally over-wrought age, the secular authorities in Australia want the Catholic bishops to order priests to reveal any confessed sins of ‘child abuse’, especially of the sexual variety. What they don’t realize is that the seal of confession is ‘inviolable’, not based on any human stricture, but God Himself. The whole point of the sacrament is for the penitent to reveal his entire soul to Christ, through the ministry of the priest, in complete freedom and, quite literally, con-fidence, that is, ‘in faith’, with no reservations.

Regardless of the spiritual dimension, do the authorities think that perpetrators of child abuse will reveal their malfeasance to a priest, knowing they will be turned in?

I wonder what the law is concerning psychiatrists and psychotherapists? What too many of these new secular confessors don’t realize is that we cannot heal spiritual problems with material means. As the song has it, ‘there ain’t no drug that can cure this ill’. Sin is not a neurochemical disorder, although it may eventually result in such. Sure enough, our violations against God may also involve criminal activity, it is not such that the penitent is there to confess; even if the priest may command that he turn himself in as part of his ‘penance’, the priest cannot reveal such to anyone else, nor turn then penitent in himself.

And, in the end, we need a place that is free from State interference, where government and its ministers dare not tread. This may be manifested exteriorly, in the ‘sanctuary’ laws of churches, and even our homes, but primarily it is an interior thing, in the secrecy of confession, prayer and spiritual direction, where the soul may be ‘alone with God’, to seek that truth that will set her free, and either choose to follow that truth that leads to eternal salvation, or reject it, and, well, leads to the other option, so to speak. The Devil and his minions are doing all they can to have us choose the latter, and seem to be prowling around more than usual these days.

Saint Giles, ora pro nobis!