My usual Question Time with Mark Bonocore

Sts. Peter and Paul Catechism Ministry
Sts. Peter and Paul Catechism Ministry

An exchange between me Godwin Delali Adadzie and Catholic apologist Mark Joseph Bonocore some years ago when I was still learning more about the Catholic faith. It was formerly hosted on my Catholic apologetics ministry’s site Sts. Peter and Paul Catechism Ministry.

I would like to please know that is it permissible to have a confession over the phone.

Not under ordinary circumstances, no. Confession is a Sacrament that must be done in person, since it’s based on personal contact between the penitent (the one confessing his sins) and the priest, who acts in the Person of Christ in service to the penitent. However, in very extraordinary or emergency situations, an exception can be made.

Also incase one wants to have a confession on a Mortal sin that he feels deeply sorry about and accidentally the person dies without making that confession what may happen to that fellow?

If this person is truly sorry for their sin, but cannot receive Confession, then God will of course forgive him. In such situations, Christ Himself will act as Priest and absolve them of their sins prior to death. Here, one must understand the distinction between ordinary situations and extra-ordinary situations. In an ordinary situation –that is, a situation over which a person has some control, this person is responsible for certain things. So, if you can get to Confession but don’t do so, then you are responsible for neglecting it, and your sin remains. But, if you cannot get to Confession (through no fault of your own), but still have a true desire to go to Confession, and would go to Confession if you could, then this is an extraordinary situation, and you are not responsible for it. God makes special exceptions in such cases. For example … If you stole a lot of money, and were then sorry for committing this sin … In order to truly repent for this sin, you would be responsible for returning the money to the person you stole it from. This is an ordinary situation. But, if someone stole that money from you and you don’t have it any more, and there is no way for you to earn that much money (or any money) to repay the person that you stole it from, but you are still genuinely sorry and repentant for this sin, then God will still forgive you because you are sincerely sorry in your heart. This is an extraordinary situation because you simply cannot repay the money that you stole, since it is beyond your power to do so. So, in short, if we sin, we are responsible to Confess our sins to Christ within His Church (that is, in the Sacrament of Confession) because, if we sin, we sin against both Christ in Heaven and against the Church, which is His own Body, here on earth. So, we must be reconciled with the Body of Christ (the Church), and this is done through Sacramental Confession. But, if it is impossible to receive this Sacrament, through no fault of our own (e.g. you are shipwrecked on a deserted island and there is no priest), then this would be an extraordinary situation, and so if one dies in this state, the one is not responisble and God will forgive you apart from Sacramental Confession. Yet, if this situation changes before you die (e.g. you are rescued from the island and restored to civilization), then you are then responsible to go to Confession and be reconciled with Christ Sacramentally in His Church. This is the distinction.

What will be your answer if someone ask you:
1. Why are you are Catholic?

I think St. Augustine said it best 1,600 years ago. He wrote:

“The Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep
me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the
Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by
hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests
keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the
Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down
to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of
‘Catholic,’ which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church
has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called
Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no
heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in
number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian
name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they
should…. With you, where there is none of these things to attract or
keep me…. No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with
ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion…. For my part, I
should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the
Catholic Church.” –St. Augustine, Against the Letter of Mani, 5,6:PL 42,176

2. Why do you believe in God?

Because I have personal knowledge and experience of Him, and because belief in Him has been passed down to me from my forefathers going back at least 2,000 years. All people of the world naturally believe in some kind of “God.” Being religious is natural to the human species. And, if one looks at all the manifestations of religious belief, Catholic Christianity is by far the most historically and theologically consistent and reasonable. So, a far better question would be: Why does anyone not believe in the God of the Catholic Church?

3. What do you think would happen to you when you die?

I think that Jesus Christ will take me into His Kingdom, even as He promised. This is my hope and my faith, and the hope and faith of all Catholic Christians. This is what we trust in: the promises of Christ. We merely don’t take those promises for granted, since Jesus told us very clearly that we must remain faithful to Him until the end. If we are not faithful to Him, then we should not think that we will enter the Kingdom when we die. If we sin, we must repent of this sin and return to fidelity with Him.

and finally
How do you know you have the Holy Spirit.

I know that I have the Holy Spirit a) because I have been Baptized into Jesus Christ (see Acts 2:37-39) and I have been able to live in holiness because of that (a holy life is impossible apart from the Baptismal grace of Jesus Christ) and b) I can say with utmost confidence that Jesus Christ is Lord. According to 1 Corinth 12:3, no one can say that Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit.

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