Monday, March 2, 2015

Catholics Can't Walk the Walk Unless They Talk the Talk

There's a rather optimistic saying among criminal defense lawyers: nobody talks, everybody walks. Of course, someone always talks, usually your client long before you ever meet him. Sometimes, though, nobody talks and everyone does, indeed walk.

Steven Lee Goff walked into a police station on Easter Monday, 2013 and talked. He confessed to the murder of a friend and partner in crime 23 years before, a murder he had gotten away with. He had kept his silence and his liberty, but became convinced that something was more important than liberty, or, rather, that he was not truly free as long as he kept his secret. He is now serving a sentence for murder.

What do we face after we go to confession? "Say a prayer for the blessings in your life?" A decade of the rosary? Whatever it is, it cannot compare to spending the rest of our lives behind bars. Yet when we take into account how great a Majesty we have offended through our repeated sins, and the gates of Heaven our confession opens, can we say even the price paid by Steven Lee Goff would be too much?

Are our sins as hard to confess as murder? Surely, the paltry catalog of petty sins most of us carry could be confessed without too much injury to our own feelings.

Sometimes the Bear does not understand humans.

Nearly every week he trundles off to confession, and sees the same ten or so people out of a parish of 500 families. Either his parish is the home of hundreds of people who never sin, or confession is scandalously neglected. Yet everybody, without exception always goes to communion.

Steven Lee Goff confessed to murder and his secular penance was to live the rest of his life in a small cage containing a bed and a toilet. Yet the vast majority of people in the Bear's parish would need a map to find the confessional in their own church.

There are many reasons for this. Sin is simply out of style in our age. A demon of Pride stands between us and the confessional. (The Bear always says that sound you hear when you walk into the confessional is that demon of Pride hitting the floor.) We tell ourselves, "I'm not any worse than anybody else."

Lent is a great time to get into the habit of regular confession. It really isn't that hard, and gets easier. It is beneficial to face your sins regularly, and to identify your weaknesses. Best of all, there is nothing in this world like hearing those blessed words of absolution.

Here's some free legal advice: when it comes to confession, you can't walk as a Catholic if you don't talk the talk -- that talk that begins "bless me Father, for I have sinned."

(Steven Lee Goff's story is told in the Lent 2015 ed. of The Word Among Us.)


  1. Bear,
    I read the article by Mr. Goff. He says that it was Pope Francis who inspired him to begin the process of turning back to Christ some 23 years after murdering his friend. If that is true, it is the first factual reference that I have heard, seen or read about of a person actually beginning the process of repentance based on the influence of the Holy Father. Good on the Holy Father and on Mr. Goff. I need to go to Confession.


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