Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fallen nature

I am watching Oprah Winfrey's interview of Lance Armstrong. Impressive. I just want to comment on a few things.
1. It's not easy to come out publicly and tell the world how you have been deceiving them. On that account, I give credit to Lance Armstrong. That's not to say I approve of what he did.
2. There are a lot of parallels between Lance's story and another man I knew: the founder of the congregation I was a part of for 24 years. Fr. Maciel, like Lance Armstrong, committed many abuses, denied the abuses, accused those who wanted to expose him as liars, and had a whole team of people around him helping him to cover up the story.
3. Unlike Lance Armstrong, Fr Maciel never admitted his guilt. And that's the truly sad thing about this. Fr Maciel was a priest, a defender, a preacher of the truth. But Fr Maciel never had the courage of Lance Armstrong to come out publicly and admit his errors.
4. Many people were hurt by these mens' deceptions. Some will be healed by hearing Lance Armstrong's story. Others will not.
5. Many of us hurt others by our willing deceptions, and pride and fallen nature lead us to keep on living the lie to protect our own pride and self worth. What redeems us is when we accept or failings, accept responsibility for all errors, and asking for forgiveness, first from God, then from others, we are able to live a new life.
6. I don't presume to know anything about Lance Armstrong's faith, but he is on the right track.


  1. In case you missed it, here's the drinking game for the Lance interview: http://www.theradsport.com/the-lance-armstrong-interview-drinking-game/

  2. Not knowing the truth of MM's last moments, lets agree that at least he did not publicly repent of anything. Lance did. OK.
    What we must keep in mind is that Oprah does not forgive sins, God does. Public admission of guilt and an apology are great, as a sign of true repentance, but they are insufficient, and as a priest you must know that. The "public confession and forgiveness" is not the Catholic understanding of sin. That is a very Protestant, American influenced idea (yes, I'm from the US too.)

    You must keep in mind that a public admission of guilt does not erase the evil done, and Lance is no savior for having done it; yes it is perhaps virtuous and a good sign of honesty, but it is a sever reductionism from the true grace of forgiveness which we are called to live. I never made a statement on Oprah apologizing for kissing that girl, cheating on that test, etc. etc. but I have been forgiven.

    Are priests not called to be bearers of true mercy, not watered down feel-good pity parties that make a public spectacle of how great Lance is for admitting his crimes? Had MM admitted in public, would everything have magically been OK? (of course, I'm not saying it's good that he continued to lie till the end, that compounds the evil it seems, but the point is that Calvinist influenced US has no forgiveness of sins, and turns to public humiliation; Catholicism believes in infinite mercy)

    1. Well, HangingOn, I stated clearly, "I don't presume to know anything about Lance Armstrong's faith, but he is on the right track." If he were a practicing Catholic and came to me for confession, then of course I would administer the sacrament without reserve.
      Whatever one's faith, admitting one's error publically does in some way repair for the damage done. Maybe he's Catholic. Maybe he did go to confession. Maybe his penance was to publicly admit his guilt. Who knows?
      I consider it a grave error to judge the state of someone's soul simply by what is said publicly. Maybe it is also an error to judge one's priesthood by what he publishes on his blog.

  3. @HangingOn, I don't see it as an "either/or" situation. People like Lance Armstrong or Marcial Maciel can come clean publicly AND confess their sins to a priest. They don't have to choose one or the other. I can only assume that Catholic priests do confess their sins, and that includes Frs Alvaro, Sada, Bannon, Garza. I personally believe it would be better to do BOTH - go to a priest and confess all AND publicly repent of all wrongdoing and make a heartfelt attempt at restitution. It's too late for Maciel, we'll never know if he confessed to a priest, we only know he never made any public confessions nor did he make any restitution. However, his inner circle have it within their power to do this, and could bring about a great deal of healing through honesty, transparency, significant apology and restitution. Let's not give in to obtuse legalism - "confessing is enough". I think there is much more required. I'm not a priest, but when we pray "I confess...for what I have done and what I have failed to do" I think this is the sort of "failed to do" that we are praying about.


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