We Have Great Capacity to Deceive Ourselves

Matthew Kelly
Matthew Kelly

This past Saturday I went on a diocesan men’s retreat featuring speaker Matthew Kelly. He was hilarious, and the retreat was excellent.

At one point he brought up the idea, which he said he has heard from both Catholics and Protestants, that we don’t need to confess to priests. We can just confess to Jesus silently in our hearts.

But, Kelly said, our capacity to deceive ourselves is great. It’s so great that we don’t even realize how much we can deceive ourselves. And that means that we can make Jesus into our own image of how He should be. We can deceive ourselves into confessing when we want to, as we want to, the sins that we consider sins.

This interesting because Reformed Protestantism (Calvinism) emphasizes our own depravity and inability to do anything that is truly pure. Everything we do, even after becoming Christians, is tainted by sinfulness in some way. And yet Reformed Protestants believe strongly that we confess our sins to Jesus directly without any intermediary. They don’t put together the reality of self-deception and how easily “me and Jesus” becomes an echo chamber of me and my own errors.

The other aspect of confessing your sins to Jesus through the priest is the communal one. We are members of the visible Church. Our sins harm the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ. We need forgiveness from God and also reconciliation with His Body. Also, at a human level, knowing that you must confess your sins to a priest is a great deterrent to committing sins. Because it is a humiliation, in a good way. Keeping everything between you and God lets you avoid accountability to other people, especially your brothers and sisters in the Church.

The Retreat

The retreat itself was short and sweet: just a half day on Saturday. I like Kelly because he hits the fundamentals. He’s all about evangelizing Catholics who have fallen away or who are nominal and deepening the conversions of practicing Catholics. His stuff is basic, but when I read the basics I realize that I am not doing half of them. That’s a good reasons for Lent right there: to recommit to doing the basics: prayer, study, giving, evangelizing.

Eliot Morris played some songs during the retreat, and I liked them so much I bought his CD. Do check out his music and give it a listen.

Kelly’s organization, Dynamic Catholic, is doing something great: they are making a professionally done, multimedia Confirmation program. The Catholic Church has no standardization on Baptism classes, nor on Communion or Confirmation ones. So every parish does their own thing. I go to a great parish but the Baptism class included a VHS video from the 1980s with the cheesiest priest you have ever seen in your life, along with 80s hairdos and clothing. Fortunately our parish’s DRE also gave a great evangelization talk of his personal testimony of the saving gospel. But not all parishes have a great DRE.

Dynamic Catholic is going to make world-class Confirmation, Communion, and Baptism programs and give them away to parishes. For free. This is awesome and so needed. We have signed up as Ambassadors, giving a little to the organization each month, to help them accomplish this goal.

Only 17% of the 70+ million Catholics in our country go to Mass each Sunday. We have to do something to stem this enormous tide of Catholics falling away from the Faith. Kelly’s organization is doing something about it, and I’m impressed by it.

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13 thoughts on “We Have Great Capacity to Deceive Ourselves”

  1. I, on the other hand, cannot stand Kelly. His patronizing style and downright incorrect analogies about the faith makes his message more superficial than substantial. I actually fear that his errors, as the many found in his book “Rediscover Catholicism”, starting with the analogy that opens the book, would be spread out, as if we didn’t have enough errors in parish programs.

    PS: for the purpose of disclosure, I loath motivational speakers like Kelly; nothing could demotivate me more about mankind than the need that some feel to listen to such platitudes.

    1. Augustine,

      I can see how he could strike you that way. But realize you are not his target audience. He is seeking to prod nominal Catholics or fallen away ones or those who just don’t know their Faith well. He is trying to get people in the door, if you will. This is the “milk,” in a sense, while the “meat” can come later and be delivered by others. That’s my take.

      1. > “You are not his target audience”

        Absolutely, and a little bit of showmanship can do wonders for those disconnected from the Faith.

        It’s a rather unfortunate example now, given what’s happened, but I always felt the same way about Father Corapi. I knew people who looooooved his talks…but they never really did much for me. That’s fine. If he helped draw people closer to Jesus, great. I’d find help elsewhere.

      2. Milk is fine, but spoiled milk ain’t.

        For instance, in “Rediscovering Catholicism” he tells that dystopian story about a world plague and the sacrifice of the little boy to save mankind. It makes me cringe in many leves, from the tyrannical state violating someone’s life as its property and a thing to the father giving up his son. Kelly proposes it as an analogy to our salvation by the Lord’s Passion: wrong.

        Rome was not a benevolent state seeking the common good, but merely a parasite state appeasing the powerful in Judea. Our Lord freely submit Himself to His Passion, He was not a pawn of the Father. This is just for starters and is downright heresy to propose it as reflecting the mystery of the Passion of the Lord. Even my son cringed at this distortion put forth by Kelly!

        Giving this poison to nominal Catholics is deadly! That’s why I fear his unsubstantial message dressed up in great oratory being spread out.

    2. He’s not for everyone, that’s to be sure, but he calls people back to the Bible, Rosary, spiritual reading, fasting etc…and that’s all good in my book.

      Would you mind explaining a little bit more about what you regard as errors in his book?

      (Dynamic Catholic also offers great books at discounted prices so you can order a load for your parish and give them away)

      1. Devin, if you’re only doing the Evangelization sign only “moderately well” than there is no hope for the rest of us! 😛

  2. I read Rediscovering Catholicism when I was becoming Catholic. Perhaps I was too much of a neophyte to see the [alleged] problems with its theology. The fruit of the book, at least in my parish when a couple thousand were given to our members, was notable: we built a perpetual adoration chapel, volunteers sprang from every corner, new life in general.

    I’ve never read a perfect book.

  3. We do have a capacity to deceive ourselves.

    Jesus said that , “everyone is a liar”.

    We confess that, as well. In our church we have a corporate confession, in unison, “We have sinned against you O Lord in thought word and deed. By what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves…”

    And then we receive the absolution.

    And of course we confess to Jesus, specifically. And to our pastor, if we wish. And to any other brother or sister in Christ, if we feel so moved.

    We really do take our sin seriously. So much so that we realize that we are bound in it…and cannot escape it. We need a Savior.


  4. Our sins harm the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ. We need forgiveness from God and also reconciliation with His Body. [This was perfect]

  5. Speaking of confessing to a priest, you said:
    And yet Reformed Protestants believe strongly that we confess our sins to Jesus directly without any intermediary.

    I read an excellent explanation on the internet recently. I don’t remember exactly where nor the exact wording. But someone said, something to this effect, “My wife is Protestants and we had just been to a Catholic seminar. She could understand almost everything but objected to the idea that one must confess to a priest. It struck me that in order to be Baptized, one can not baptize oneself, even in the Protestant denominations. So I asked her, “Did you baptize yourself? Or can anyone baptize themselves?” She answered, “No. Of course not.”

    Why do you think this is so?

    Its not the same thing, we’re talking about the forgiving of sins.

    Your sins are forgiven in Baptism. Its the very same thing. We are Baptized by a representative of the Church because He represents God and in God’s name declares us cleansed of sin and members of the Church. That is the same thing that the Priest is doing in the Confessional. He is declaring your sins forgiven in the name of God.”

    I thought that was pretty good.

    As for Matthew Kelly and other Catholics like him. I can find fault with many of them. But I think the best tact to pursue is declared by St. Paul:
    Phil 1:12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
    13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
    14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

    Let us simply rejoice that Christ is preached and good fruit is resulting. Ultimately, we will all be judged by God. Who is to say that we aren’t preaching and teaching in error as well.


    De Maria

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