Faith and the Law, Volume 6
Which is Which?
James J. Griffin
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was six months ago,” the penitent said, from his side of the dark confessional booth inside St. Augustine’s Church.
“I understand,” Tad answered, from his side of the screen separating the two men. “All are sinners, each in their own way, myself included. And just exactly how have you sinned, my son?”
“These are my sins, Father. I’ve been angry, very angry, at a dear friend of mine. I have also been deceitful. I’ve lied to friends, acquaintances, and business partners. I’ve snuck around, looking for files, in order to obtain information I was searching for. In fact, I even stole, to get my hands on what I was searching for.”
“I see,” Tad said again. “And was there a particular reason you did all of this?”
“There was, Father.”
“And did you obtain the information you were searching for, information which might prove quite valuable?”
“I did indeed,” the penitent whispered.
“And where might this information be?” Tad asked.
“I have it right here, Father. I thought perhaps you could return these papers to their rightful owners.”
“Perhaps I could do that,” Tad answered. “However, I would need to examine them first.”
“Of course, Father.”
The penitent slid a folder through the small opening at the bottom of the screen. Tad took the folder, and placed it in his lap.
“Thank you, my son.”
“You’re welcome, Father. Will I be forgiven?”
“I’d already figured that out on my way to the jail,” Horatio Swenson answered. “There’s no need to ask for my forgiveness.”
“Thanks, Horatio,” Tad said. “And your sins in obtaining these papers were forgiven before you even brought them to me. In fact, considering what good this information will hopefully do, your actions would probably be justifiable in the eyes of the Lord, and not sins at all. If they contain the information which will convict Wentworth and his fellow conspirators, then the good you have done will far outweigh your minor transgressions in obtaining these files.”
“I’m glad, and relieved, to hear that,” Swenson said. “Can you tell me how Thomas Rafferty is doing?”
“You thought he was in a safe place once before, Tad,” Swenson pointed out.
“That’s true,” Tad conceded. “However, this time, he really is. Now, Horatio, your penance will be six Our Fathers, six Hail Marys, six Glory Bes, and buying me dinner and a drink at the Golden Palace. We’ll meet there tonight, at seven. Now, make your Act of Contrition, while I give you absolution.”
“All right, Tad, I mean, Father.”
Swenson recited the prayer, while Tad absolved him of his sins.
“May almighty God bless you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
“Thank you, Father,” Swenson said. He exited the confessional, and the next penitent entered.
Tad barely heard any of the sins the rest of the penitents confessed. He wanted nothing but to get back to his room in the St. Augustine rectory, to start examining the papers Swenson had brought. However, it was a busy day for the Sacrament of Penance. The lines at all three confessionals were long. It was well over an hour and a half before the last person made their confession, and Tad, along with his fellow priests, could return to the rectory. Tad excused himself from supper by explaining he was meeting a friend for dinner. He went upstairs to his room, shut the door, lit the bedside lamp, took off his shoes and stretched out on his bed. He opened the file, took out the first sheet of paper, and began to read.
“Let’s see what we have here. Hmmm. It seems to start with Judge Morris Harvey. Why am I not surprised? Is it because he released each of those men brought before his bench on low bail? Or perhaps it’s because he seemed very friendly with each and every one of them. Or, could it possibly be that the good jurist seemed extremely prejudiced against Prosecutor Talbott, and the evidence he presented during the hearings? Harvey overruled every last one of Talbott’s objections. No, it was probably all of those reasons.” Tad shook his head, and smiled ruefully. “You know, Tadeusz Jankowski, it’s not right for a priest to become so cynical. You’re supposed to look for the good in all men and women, not the evil. That’s supposed to be Chaz’s department.” He shook his head again. “Speaking of my prodigal brother Chaz, I wonder how he’s doing. I haven’t heard from him, or his doctor, for a few days now. Well, I’ll just have to keep praying for him, and hope for the best. If I don’t hear from either of them by Wednesday, I’ll send a telegram down to Kerrville, to Doctor Lundgren. Besides, if there was any bad news concerning my brother, I’m certain I would have heard.”
“Lord,” Tad prayed. “I’m sure going to need Your guidance on what to do here. Either that, or a miracle. And we’ve got to work fast, Lord, You and I. The bishop’s not going to let me remain on leave much longer. I’ve been neglecting my work, and my parish, for too long now. Well, I reckon I’d best keep on reading. Perhaps there’s something more in these papers which will give me the answer I need. All I have to figure out is which strand to pull to unravel this web. And if there is something in here which will lead me to that thread, Lord, I sure hope You help me find it.”