By Deacon Theodore Feldman
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Boston MA
Many of us are highly gratified that at last the financial crimes, the lies, the cover-ups, the silencing of those who spoke truth to power, have been laid out in the open. We have welcomed the apology published by the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council and are breathing a sigh of relief, accompanied by the exclamation: “Finally!”.
I would like to ask, however: Is this apology, posted on the OCA website and elsewhere, a confession? Is it possible to confess over the internet?
Confession is a first step towards the healing of one’s relationship with the community of the faithful and with God. What must be the context of confession?
We confess in the Temple of God and in the presence of the community of the Church (the priest standing in for the community, for practical reasons).
We confess our sins, and the community responds with prayer. That is the rite of confession. The context of confession, then, is the Body of Christ gathered in prayer. This is the beginning of healing.
Welcome as it may be, therefore, the public apology of the Synod and Metropolitan Council is not a confession. It cannot effect the healing that is worked by confession made in the midst of the worshipping community. Where then can we find that healing?
Certainly the individuals of the Synod and Council will make their confessions. But given the public character of the harm that has been done, the usual mode of private confession does not seem sufficient. Indeed, even in our parish life we find that individual, private confession does not suffice for the full healing of the Church, for we supplement it with the rite of forgiveness – as do many monasteries on a daily basis. The rite of forgiveness supplies what is lacking in individual confession: direct contact with the worshipping community.
The rite of forgiveness was proposed for the All American Council, but because of the large numbers involved a truncated version was adopted. Let our bishops then lead us in the full rite of forgiveness, in all our parishes. If it is not practical to visit every parish for this purpose, several neighboring parishes might meet together as they did for the “town meetings.” This would be a truly sacramental beginning to the process of healing.
In this way we may hope to escape the infinite regress of recrimination and self-justification, in which we are now caught.