“Robert Philip Hanssen is a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years from 1979 to 2001” (Wikipedia).
The FBI has a press release here from just months before September 11, 2001. The History Channel (also youtube) provided much through original post-hoc interviews of the players. All this can be total fabrication, of course. The FBI has everything to gain by getting people to lie about this fellow. But, for the sake of argument, let’s just say it’s all true and then discuss why it is that it is said that he remains an enigma to the FBI in his actions, a mystery as to how he could live such a double life. There is no conundrum about it at all, that is, if we go by what the reports say.
Bob is Catholic. He repented. He went to Confession. I wasn’t there. I’m sure the priest didn’t talk about it. This information came from Bob himself. It’s said:
“He goes to a priest. And the priest says: ‘O.K., here’s what you’re gonna do. Don’t do it anymore. Donate the money to Mother Teresa and all will be forgotten.’ And that’s what happened.” — But seven years later he started spying again. — (Traitors Within)
The last statement about “again” is the key to the FBI’s misunderstanding, their wondering how it is that such a seemingly devout, conservative fellow would start up the espionage he had apparently sincerely given up. That “again” bit is an assumption that must be mistaken. The reason is that the espionage already effected had an ongoing effect continuing to put people at risk from the first confession right through any others. Giving up any money to charity, to “Mother Teresa,” doesn’t cut it. He would have to reverse the ongoing damage of putting people and indeed the entire country at grave risk. He would have to turn himself in.
But I don’t say that the priest should demand that he turn himself in before giving an absolution. After all, in turning himself in, Bob might not ever have the chance to go to Sacramental Confession again. So, O.K., the first confession the priest might give him an absolution telling him, however, that he shouldn’t try to come back for another absolution if he didn’t turn himself in. He might have a chance for confession in prison, right? Though maybe not. However, he would have to undo the ongoing damage his espionage was presently causing. Going to Confession multiple times without undoing ongoing damage to people and to the country isn’t right.
I will say this as well: I’m Pope Francis’ Missionary of Mercy. If some traitor or spy or whatever comes to me for Confession in the same situation as above, I’ll absolve him. And I will keep the secret unto death. Even under torture. Not to worry. Jesus has paid the price for those sins. It’s the least I can do. However, know that he won’t get any absolution the next time he comes to Confession if he hasn’t in the meantime turned himself in, that is, if what he has done still puts people’s lives at risk and he has to turn himself in in order to undo the damage. If what he’s done is a once off thing, like betraying a motorcade route, then he can come back to Confession again, even for the same thing. We’ll talk about what repentance means, and what a firm purpose of amendment means, and how not to fool oneself, to be sure. But he can come back to Confession.
Oh, and the conundrum about the double life of Robert Philip Hanssen? How can that be? Look, it goes back to the “again” thing. He didn’t start spying “again” seven years after confessing these things. He was always spying in that the effect of putting people and the entire country at risk was ongoing and he wasn’t doing a damn thing about it. This was working on him all the time. His hypocrisy manifested itself in other areas of his life. It had to. We’re not compartmentalized. He fooled his presumably multiple Confessors. He couldn’t fool his own soul. He was living off the adrenaline of the “power” of his espionage; he was being destroyed by the adrenaline of the “power” of his espionage. When he actively started up “again”, he just wanted another fix of what he never stopped.
Of course, he can repent of all this and now go to Confession once again. No one is a lost cause, ever. Again, what I’ve written above is merely hypothetical as we only know the “facts” through others, right? The priests can’t say anything, right? I presume they all did the right thing. What I’ve presented is a way that shows they could have done the right thing. Don’t blame them.
Note to his ultra-max prison: If you show this to Bob just like you showed him the documentary about himself, and he wants to go to Confession, let me know. I’ll happily make the trip out.