Back in the 70s when Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan were working for peace, I noticed that some English news readers had trouble pronouncing Mairead correctly, I mentioned this one evening at home only to have my mum, who was preoccupied with her knitting, launch at me; “How dare you say that, they do a lot of work those women and no one is paying them for it.” Confusion reigned. My sister repeated what I had said, mum was placated, but then my other sister’s boyfriend piped up, he was very curious to know “what on earth did you think he said?” Mum, bless her, admitted she had not really heard me at all.

Once for work I was sent to the bank to get paying in books. Dealing with a cashier who knew who I worked for I ignored his testy demeanour as I replied to “what do you want?” with “paying in books please”, and quite cheerily I did it too.

“Stay here while I go out the back get one” he said (where he thought I might go I will never know)

“Do you have two?” I replied

He launched at me! Everyone working in the bank came forward, I was totally bemused, it didn’t seem an unreasonable request, but hey! What did I know.

When someone asked him what the problem was he put on a whiney voice to quote me, so “Do you have two?” sounded like “do you have too?”

Neither of these misinterpretations were intentional but they serve to illustrate how easily we can be misinterpreted.

A few years back Bishop Conry tackled the issue of people popping into confession week in and week out, rattling off a list of sins, being absolved and popping off again. We’ve all heard of it, we might have done it. I recall a conversation when a chap told me he would have to remember to add something new in the confessional after his team were trounced at home. He relayed that it was very annoying as he always went to confession on home match days so he had only been “done” a couple of hours. But next week was an away match, he goes to confession on the way to pick up his dry cleaning he told us. I remember seeing a parallel.

Bishop Conry’s advice was very sound. Simply put he told us to think about what we were confessing rather than rattling off the same sins every week. Doing it rote is not the way with this sacrament, give it some thought, it’s not just dry cleaning for the soul before you go out in your best clothes on a Saturday night.(that’s me speaking)

When Bishop Conry said what he did, I did not come across one person who disagreed. But on Twitter I have found that some people think he was wrong, what has been heard is an emphasis on going to confession less often.

This thread was picked up and run with again when in another recent interview the bishop made the most heinous admission. When he was a child he……..I can hardly bear to write it…….made up sins in the confessional.

Now, I may live in a parallel universe or I may just only ever mix with rather strange people, but this is a conversation I have had with all of my many siblings (I’m the second youngest of nine boys and three girls), probably all of my Catholic friends, certainly all of my school friends, and a good handful of cousins and extended family members. It’s something we have all done.

I can tell you this, Father Kirby who was the priest I said this to can’t because 1- the seal of confession, 2- he’s dead. Bored with the usually “bless me father for I have sinned it is six weeks since my last confession. I have lied I have cheated I have teased my little brother and not washed my hands at tea time” I decided to spice it up a bit “I broke a window” I said. Fr K replied “No you didn’t Anthony, if you had, I would have known”, which was true.

Fr K always encouraged me with “is there anything else?” as a child I didn’t see this as encouragement, more a challenge, so maybe he’d get an “I swore in the playground” or “I broke Susan Mine’s pencil because she called me Anthony Flabbergast” which was the whole point of him asking, there was more for me to think about. But if there wasn’t something, I would sometimes make something up, other times I would simply say “er..no Father.”

Annoyingly for Bishop Conry this admittance comes hot on the heals of his facilitating A Call To Action in his diocese so his detractors will use it as a further stick with which to beat him. They’ve already given him a metaphorical kicking over the Blake Blog Debacle but this has just been grist to the mill to them.

Bishop Conry shared his words as spiritual support for the faithful of his diocese, they were meant to be edifying. The way he has been treated by people who disagree with him has not been Christian at all.

I hope they confess it.

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