The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession
By John Cornwell
Basic Books, 2014, 320 pages
Roman Catholicism is a ritualistic, works-based religion, which teaches salvation is earned by partaking in its clerically controlled “sacraments” and by obeying the Ten Commandments. In “The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession,” journalist and former Catholic seminarian, John Cornwell, examines the Catholic sacrament of penance (renamed “reconciliation”). Cornwell traces the history of the confessional and argues that the scandalous sexual abuse of children by pedophillic priests often had its origins in the dark box. The accounts of abuse are nauseating. I felt I needed a shower after reading this book.
The Catholic faithful abandoned confession in droves to the point where now only 2% participate regularly (once a month or more) and only 12% participate at least once a year even though they’ve been taught failure to participate in the sacrament at least annually is a mortal sin. It’s all a sham. While Cornwell does not write from an Evangelical Christian perspective, The Dark Box is valuable for its unflinching elucidation of this abhorrent Catholic practice.
The Catholic clerics of Europe achieved great power and wealth by positioning themselves, often times forcibly, as mediators between God and mankind. But the Good News proclaimed in the Bible is that Jesus Christ died for our sins and salvation comes freely to all those who accept Him as their Savior. No one can be justified before God by trying to keep the law (Gal 3:11). The law only reveals to us that we are sinners in need of the Savior. We don’t need an earthly priest as our mediator. Only Jesus Christ perfectly obeyed the Ten Commandments. We must go directly to God and ask Him to save us through the atoning sacrifice of His Son. The thief on the cross did not need a laundry list of rituals and sacraments for salvation. He simply put his faith in Jesus Christ (Luke 23:39-43). Only after we accept Christ and are made righteous in Him can we serve God and obey Him (Ephesians 2:10).
If you ask Catholics why God should allow them into heaven the vast majority will answer that they hope to merit heaven because they have lived a relatively “good” life, betraying an absolute ignorance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A Catholic, cleric or lay person, can never have true spiritual joy because their standing before God is based on how well they adhere to Catholic ritual and obey the Ten Commandments. Catholics believe they lose their salvation every time they break one of the Ten Commandments but if they were honest with themselves and God they would have to admit they constantly commit “mortal” sins in thought, word, and deed or by omission on a daily basis. There’s clearly no salvation down that road.
“Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God.” – Galatians 3:11
” As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” – Timothy 2:5
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – I John 1:9
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10
Jesus didn’t come to save the (self) righteous, but sinners. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” – I Timothy 1:15
Catholics teach that its priests command Christ to come down from heaven at the mass where they claim to change bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ, offering Him up hundreds of thousands of times daily all over the world, as a continual sacrifice for sin. But the Word of God says sacrifice for sin is finished (John 19:30). The curtain to the Jewish temple’s Holy of Holies was ripped apart from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross to signify that sacrifice was finished and all could to come to God through Christ our sole Mediator (Luke 23:45).
“Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” – Hebrews 7:27
“But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” – Hebrews 10:12
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