Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, February 17, 2013
MCW: [crossing herself on hard bench of confessional] Bless me father for I have … sinned. It’s been—
Priest on duty: [interrupting] Not that long since you were here, my child [sighs]. What now?
MCW: [blushing] Gee. Is that how you address sinners these days, with “What now?” Is there an eye roll to go with that?
POD: [contrite] Sorry. Low blood sugar. I’ve been in here over three hours without a break, and the last woman got herself all — never mind. Plus, the pope quit and I feel untethered and … discombobulated. My apologies.
MCW: I know, right? That was some crazy sh— I mean, a lightning bolt on the basilica spire? Anyway, I’m back. I need some fine-tuning. These minor bobbles like ego, and selfishness, thinking I’m right all the time. Oh and envy. And bad thoughts. That’s this morning, in a nutshell —
POD: Bad thoughts is a vast category, my child, like a dark universe. Not minor, not bobbles. Everything pretty much starts with monkey mind.
MCW: [pauses] Am I in the Catholic confessional or did I go through the looking glass? Are we cross-pollinating with Eastern traditions these days?
POD: We have monks, too, here in the RCC, and traditions of reflection and mysticism. Plus monkeys can be dangerous creatures. Evil, unpredictable ones, in need of whipping — is that Catholic enough?
MCW: Well, yes, I mean no, not really … I mean—
POD: Speaking of categories, I do have some checklists here, if you find them helpful.
MCW: [laughs] That’s funny. [pauses] You’re kidding. Right?
POD: I don’t kid much in the confessional. Usually backfires. Lots of people arrive fully unaware of the volume of sins they have committed. It can be helpful to have a framework.
MCW: So … the checklists are for…
POD: All flavors, shapes, and sizes of penitents. I have Seven Deadly, Sins from Romans, Sins of our Fathers, Sins Against Humanity, Sins for Codependent Lovers, Sins for Dog People, Sins for Obsessive Consumers. The Eight Sins of Evagrius Ponticus, which include weariness, a particular favorite of mine. Seven Modern Mortal Sins of the Vatican in 2008 — which includes polluting. Seven Deadly Sins of Mahatma Ghandi, which includes pleasure without conscience, which is absolutely unbridled I-M-H-O. Sins for Dummies — which is a good one a psychologist friend put together for me. And I also have a link to a comprehensive list of more than 500 sinful things in the Bible including whispering and wickedness.
MCW: [scratching head] A link?
POD: We just approved Smartphone and iPad use in the confessional. If someone can use the flashlight app to read the checklists, why shouldn’t they be able to go to The Big Sin List, as I call it, right then and there? It would be hypocritical. And that would be a sin.
MCW: Wow. Electronics? That seems … just wrong. What if you don’t want to know all your sins? What if you just want to stop feeling bad and get some advice, from behind a screen, in the cool, damp, dark of the neighborhood church confessional? What if I just want old-fashioned absolution?
POD: [belly laughs]
MCW: I’m serious!
POD: In order to stop feeling bad, you have to stop having negative thoughts, which turn into negative words and negative actions. It’s not just a simple matter of pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust anymore. Do you know foolishness is one of the sins from Romans 31?
MCW: Speaking of broad categories. I don’t even want to go there. Please. Too much information! God, I’m overwhelmed by all this. A weary, foolish, polluting, gourmand of a whispering woman. And that’s not even what I wanted to talk about.
POD: My child: there are believers in the pews. Can we not speak with less urgency and haste?
MCW: [blushing deeply, then whispering] Look. I’m whispering, which is a sin, but I’m doing it anyway. I came here with the simple notion that everyday negativity is a sin and I wanted to pick your brain about it.
POD: Pick away.
MCW: But now. Well, I don’t want checklists and I certainly don’t want the Socratic method in the confessional. I’m overwhelmed…
POD: That’s on my list of Sins for—
MCW: I don’t want to know! Just. Give me one thing to remember. Just give me one piece of advice for people like me who—
POD: Who what?
MCW: You know what, forget that. Just give me the Sins for Dummies checklist. [instant sound of paper rustling] [folded sheet is slipped through screen hinge] I’m taking this home, and I’ll be back, without my smartphone, for another go.
POD: Works for me. In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti amen…