Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ask Thugfang: Confession Part I

His Right Dishonourable Loathsomeness, Master Thugfang, is a demon of great infamy among academic circles. He is a frequent columnist for “Tempter’s Times”, an assistant editor for “Wickedness Weekly” and current chair of Tempter’s Training College’s Department of Defense Against the White Arts, after the sudden disappearance of the most recent head under mysterious circumstances. Now, His Right Dishonourable Loathsomeness takes your questions. Having problems with a particularly troublesome patient? Meddlesome enemy agents stymieing you at every turn? Don’t wait, write immediately to “Ask Thugfang” C/O “Underworld Magazine.”

Dear Master Thugfang, I am writing to you from a special assignment. My patient is a Catholic. His erstwhile handler was reassigned on short notice because of the patient’s troubling habit of weekly confession, and I have been placed in charge of the case since I have had some success with this in the past. I even wrote an article for Wickedness Weekly entitled, “How to Keep your Patient from Going to Confession.” Unfortunately, all the tricks and tactics I have used before seem to have no effect on this particular patient. It persists in its stubborn adherence to this habit, so I am writing to you to ask if there is any other technique you know of which I can use?

Sincerely, the Obfuscator

My Dear Obfuscator,

You poor dear idiot. You allowed your ambition to control you, you opened your mouth among your betters, and now look where it has gotten you. You are in up to your horns, and about to go under. Yes, I read that article. Amateurish at best. The sort of thing I would have given a barely passing grade when I was teaching. No originality, no imagination, just a list of techniques gleaned from the standard textbooks. But you had to go and set yourself up as an anti-confession expert, and your controllers took you at your boast.

Well, well, well, looks like it falls to poor old me to get you out of this mess. Pay attention because this may well be too advanced for you.

Obviously, the best place for confession, or any sacrament at all, is on the other side of the universe. We want our patients not to know that they exist. No slightest whisper of the hope that has been placed in front of them should ever reach their ears from a fellow human, and we have largely been successful in that regard.

But some do hear about these weapons, and then we have to scramble to keep them from making use of them. That is what you have been trying to do and it is undoubtedly the right answer. Horrible things happen in the confessional. For one thing, it is typically a no fly zone for us. The only way we can even be present in any useful capacity is if we are invited by one of the humans, and even then we usually cannot bring any real influence to bear unless the human has already come pretty much under our power. These are rare cases. For the average Catholic the power of that sacrament is such that even our most skilled agents are blinded and choked by the atmosphere. Hence, we have no chance to observe and document what really happens. We see only what goes in and what comes out. What goes in is a human soul with our little foothold well established, or even a large foothold, even almost total control. What comes out is a soul completely freed from our work. Every single vestige of our presence and influence has been wiped away, and we must begin all that tiresome work over again. Worse, the soul that has confessed reflects some of the light of the Enemy Himself, and that is a toxic work environment.

How does it work? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Probably the only reason we cannot see or understand it is because it is really total nonsense. The whole concept of “forgiveness” is utterly irrational, the sort of sentimental twaddle the Enemy constantly pontificates about. We in Hell do not believe in forgiveness, do not want it and do not need it. It does not exist. There is no such thing. There is only some (currently) poorly understood mechanism by which the Enemy regains some lost territory.

So, let us just say you cannot keep your patient from confessing regularly. The question then becomes, how can you use confession to your advantage. You cannot prevent it so you must corrupt it.

As I said, you won’t be able to get into the confession itself uninvited, so your work must be done entirely in the time outside of the confessional. You cannot attack the sacrament directly (although research is underway as of this writing) so you must attack the patient’s use of it.

The easiest way to do this is to encourage a “vending machine” mentality towards confession. Encourage your patient to think of the confessional as a forgiveness machine, a process. He walks in and rattles off the major sins he happens to be able to call to mind, (not the really serious ones, just the ones that most struck his fancy as being really sins. As a rule a patient should be utterly unconscious of his most sinful tendencies.) He sits impatiently through thirty seconds or so of platitudinous advice he has heard a hundred times before, says a few Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s and “Cha ching!” Forgiven.

Once the vending machine approach is well established all sorts of doors are opened. The first and most obvious is to undermine real sorrow for sin. Since it is just a machine, and not a person he is encountering in the confessional he can sin as much as he likes, go to confession and be on his merry way. That is almost the perfect attitude towards confession, second only to complete avoidance. The presumption and lack of a purpose of amendment not only completely negate the spiritual effects of the sacrament, they are also sins in their own right, and wherever sin is committed, we are invited in. That’s how you get into the confessional. You get your patient to invite you in. I have had a patient so firmly in my claw that he and I were merrily occupied planning next Friday’s debauchery while he listening to the words of absolution on Saturday afternoon.

Failing that, I advise you to discourage the use of a regular confessor (unless you can find one of our priests). Instead, send him around to whatever priest is convenient for him at the moment. Do this by working on his subconscious shame of someone seeing him fall into the same sins every week, and by reminding him of the truth that any valid confession will have the same sacramental effect. This will open up more opportunities for you. You can make your patient a connoisseur of confessors by encouraging him to critique every priest who hears his confession (pride). It protects him from the nasty habit of developing a relationship with his confessor. In a really good confessor/penitent relationship, the confessor will do a lot of extra-curricular work on those shallower areas that the sacrament itself is not necessarily touching. The priest might start digging into the patient’s subconscious fears, his hidden assumptions, his attitudes, his imagination. These shallow areas are our territory. We don’t need any holy priest who really knows and cares about the patient to be meddling in those areas. Bad enough he is the agent of a supernatural spiritual healing. So get busy and send your patient to a different priest every week. The less his confessor knows his penitent, the more generic his advice will be, and the more patient will come to despise that advice. He will blame the priest, “That priest just doesn’t know me and my situation.” Instead of sticking with that priest and explaining his situation, he will just toddle on off to look for another one.

This also discourages real self-knowledge. A wise priest will get to know his penitent pretty well, and will pass on that knowledge to the penitent himself. A different priest every week will not have that opportunity, and consequently the patient may go through years of confessions without ever really coming to know himself.

It is also wise to make the patient’s preparation for confession sloppy and haphazard as possible. In this you are aided by the natural human reluctance to think about its own sins. Your work should be fairly simple. He will confess only the one or two items that are really burning on his mind, completely unaware of the serious habits and trends forming in other areas. This will not, at first, negate the power of the sacrament to forgive, but it will hamper its power to transform, since the Enemy wishes these humans to be free agents in their own transformation. He cannot transform what they will not allow Him to, they cannot allow what they cannot see, and they cannot see what they will not look for. This is the biggest reason why we have invested so much energy in giving the “Examination of Conscience” a bad name.

If you cannot keep your patient from examining try the opposite tack. Scrupulosity is a useful sin and, in my humble opinion, one of the most entertaining. A human who thinks that every one of his actions is sinful is in the grip of a very profound lack of trust. From there it is a simple matter to attack the patient’s trust in the Enemy, His mercy, and His sacrament. Paired with the right priest, there is no better way to chase a patient away from confession for life, or to make all their confessions worthless. Despair is, perhaps, the most secure sin.

Unfortunately this column has already grown too long, so I will have to address proper post-confession attacks in my next column. I do advise you to read that column, and in the meanwhile to reread and seriously practice what you have read in this one. I am sure I don’t need to point out what Hell thinks of demons who over-represent their own abilities and lose patients because of it.





  1. Dear Master Thugfang, Your well thought out tricks and traps will definitely be reread over the next while. There is much there to be applied with my Catholic patient, and I am beginning immediately. I am also looking forward to your additional column on post-confesson attacks.

    However, through analyzing my patient before and after he goes to confession I have begun to realize why I have been having difficulty. It is due to the one question that you touched on briefly at the beginning of you letter, "How does confession work?" As you said, it is total nonsense to us, completely irrational. Yet, this man believes that it is powerful! So, would it not be better to show him how ineffective confession actually is? Why could we not attack the sacrament itself? I realize that the confessional is a no fly zone we cannot access. However, we could attack his faith in confession indirectly, by playing on his fears that he is revealing himself in a way that makes him vulnerable! Pride is the downfall of many men, as you yourself mentioned, so why don't we help him to realize that he is telling his sins to a mere man... one who might use that information for his own benefit. His pride would then guide him away from saying anything that would make him appear lesser or weak, for no man wishes to be judged by another. I will be considering all these issues critically as I continue to seriously practice your advice.

    Sincerely, the Obfuscator

    1. My Dearest, Darling Obfuscator,

      So wise we are, suddenly! So perspicacious! You grasp things so quickly and even come to conclusions the master had not reached! Well, a gold star for the star pupil.

      Certainly, if you can attack the patient's awareness of the priest's humanity, by all means do so. I have known it to work, but not, usually, in a patient with a well established habit of confessing. That sort of thing is better suited to the lapsed Catholic who is half-considering going back to the Church. That's when you want to trot out a parade of priest scandal stories and bad jokes about altar boys and confessions. Better still if he knew a priest who was an alcoholic, or a glutton, or even simply a bore. Anything to render ludicrous (in his mind as it is in ours) the idea that the Enemy could possibly use such a weak, pathetic sinner to affect His work. Even a cursory reading of the gospels would convince the dullest human that not only is that not unusual, it is precisely the Enemy's usual mode of operation, but most humans don't read the gospels. That is where you make mileage on the priest's sins.

      In the case of a patient who has been confessing regularly for years, particularly if he confesses to several priests, his faith is in the sacrament, not the priest. As you pointed out, he believes the sacrament is powerful, and that is why he goes. He probably doesn't seriously attach that power to the priest himself.

      On the other claw, if you do know anything about the priest, it wouldn't hurt to ensure the patient becomes aware of it. The juicier the better. What if the priest doesn't have any serious faults? Well, you're a demon, aren't you? Gossip, suspicion and lies are as good as a conviction in your patient's culture. Maybe he will stop going to confession altogether, or maybe he will simply decide to quit going to that priest. Either way, the distrust is certainly worth it, if you can make it happen.

      Another thought. I once got a patient to stop going to confession to her regular confessor, who was a very wise and holy man, because I convinced her that every time he preached a homily on gossip he was thinking about her latest confession. I had forgotten that little anecdote. One of my more humorous escapades, if I do say so. In fact, the truth of the matter was that that abominable little prig spent so many hours in the confessional per week he was guaranteed to hear every sin in the book by four-o-clock wednesday afternoon. Make fun of her? Ha! He couldn't for the life of him remember which parishoner had told him what sins, except for one or two of the more colorful local characters. I strongly suspect he had heard a murder confessed once or twice (a few of my colleagues were assigned to local gang members) but given the fate of the priest's handler, I doubt he ever broke the seal of the confessional.

      Which reminds me, I really ought to look you up some time. I have taken a special interest in your career, and we might be meeting far sooner than you ever expected.