Realism obliges a person to accept his faults and take steps to correct them, which begins with an examination of conscience before confession. It is inside the confessional where one’s pride falls to the floor – not the pride that everyone needs to thrive, but the pride that prevents a person from making an honest appraisal of himself.
There is a scene in my novel that highlights the need to confess. In this scene, Joyce Contorado goes to Father Ralph for confession and expresses her love for him again. There is an earlier episode at James O’Hara’s home and one in the sacristy that reveals an inappropriate relationship between Joyce and Father Ralph. He tells her to go to another priest because he is involved in the same sin; he has the same feelings for her. One could say, rather crudely, that the pedal hits the metal in the confessional – in this unusual case, for both priest and penitent.
A good confession is in three parts: 1) a penitent admits that she has done something wrong, 2) she expresses remorse and 3) she promises not to do it again.
In Joyce’s confession, she has not admitted to doing something wrong and she has not broken off the affair. Her confession is not complete, because she isn’t really asking God for forgiveness.
Her sin and Father Ralph’s sin and their attempt to overcome it is an example of Catholic realism. Neither Joyce nor Father Ralph are saints, and neither is living a life of heroic virtue. They can amend their error and go back to confession, but a firm purpose of amendment must be present.
Dissenters, too, cannot go to confession, because they object to some part of the moral code or because they are living a life that does not conform to it. There are examples of dissenters in my novel.
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