A few weeks ago, I blogged on how the public responds to our “heroes” when they fall from grace. Many examples exist to make the point – Tiger Woods, General Petraeus, Michael Vick, and, of course, Lance Armstrong. Since then, Lance, who for years has vehemently proclaimed his innocence, finally went to the high priest of secular confession, Oprah Winfrey, and before a worldwide audience confessed to doping, lying, and bullying those who had dared to tell the truth about him.
The dust is still settling, and one senses the full truth is not yet out. The public is still making up its mind about Lance. Many argue he still doesn’t “get it”, and views himself simply as one of many who cheated by doping. A few days ago, he reiterated his feelings of being cycling’s “fall guy,” and called for amnesty for cyclists who have doped. It’s almost as if we should feel sorry for him, as if he were the victim, not the perpetrator.
How do we take these new comments in relation to his “confession” to Oprah?
The saying goes that “confession is good for the soul.” Of course, confession in a religious sense, specifically within a Catholic sense, is a very serious rite and has a long tradition. St. Thomas Aquinas, an advocate of confession, noted it was only one of three necessary steps in the process of penance. In his Catechism he says:
“Three things must be present in the Sacrament of Penance: contrition, which is sorrow for sin together with a resolution not to sin again; confession of sins, as far as possible; and satisfaction, which is accomplished by good works.”
Whether one is Catholic or not, if we use Aquinas’ teaching as a model for confession and forgiveness, where does that leave Lance? Did his mea culpa pass muster? Did we see genuine contrition and sorrow, and a resolve not to lie, cheat, or hurt others again? Did he come fully clean, confessing all his wrongdoings? And is he on a path to make right his wrongs by related good deeds and actions?
Clearly, a big step has been taken but one senses there is a need for more… what do you think?