The practice of private confession also burned onto the Western soul a principle that is not native to the other influential civilizations of humanity: that the individual man, woman, or child is above the tribe, nation, state, and collectivity. Because men were willing to spend hours on end, in huge city cathedrals or tiny rural chapels, amid the coldness of winter and the heat of summer, attentive to the woes of both king and beggar, listening compassionately in order "to make known to his people their salvation through forgiveness of their sins, the loving kindness of the heart of our God who visits us like the dawn from on high...to give light to those in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death and guide...into the way of peace" (Lk 1:68-79), the concept of the dignity of the individual hit home. It because clear through this one-on-one dialogue that God, through his representative, loved each man as an individual—regardless of race or rank. ... all were equal as they waited for the sacrament, and if someone tried to alter this egalitarian state of affairs, priests were quite capable of calling the violator to order. One such incident from the seventeenth century occurred when a wealthy white lady in Cartagena, Colombia, jumped the queue, going ahead of a black slave, but found that it was all to no avail since the confessor, Father Peter Claver (1580-1654), insisted on hearing the slave's confession first.I really love this book although it is taking me a while to work my way through it.
William J. Slattery, Heroism and Genius