It is a parody of Catholicism to suggest that you can sin all your life, but as long as you get a final confession in before the final curtain is drawn for the last time you'll be alright, and then the Big Guy will let St. P let you in through the Pearly gates. But, saying that, it's not that much of a parody! The basic pattern here is: sin - repentance - forgiveness (... and repeat). The assurance, of course, is there that you will always be forgiven (if your piety is genuine). I've always thought, however, that the certainty of forgiveness, in this scenario, rather cedes power to the sin and to the sinner: they are both considered to be given, presumed as a constant, elemental, essential, even vital. We are the Fallen, after all, so sin is what we do, what we are mired in, what we are. Asking for forgiveness, then, is something of a PR stunt: future sins are in the pipeline, probably already being planned and certain to happen, forgiveness for them will be asked at the appropriate time, after the sin has been enacted and, no doubt, thoroughly enjoyed.
Now, that might all be rather slipshod theology, but it seems to me to be a pretty useful analogy for what is going on in our society right now. Saying sorry has reached epidemic (or should that be pandemic) proportions. Politicians do it all the time: bomb a country because of a lie they've concocted, then say sorry for the lie once it has done the work required of it. Journalists keep pressing those in the City whose greed and stupidity precipitated the credit crunc at least to beg pardon for what they have done. And now even the London Evening Standard is getting in on the act: "Buses and tubes will carry a series of messages throughout the week that begin with the word "sorry." The first says "Sorry for losing touch". Subsequent slogans say sorry for being negative, for taking you for granted, for being complacent and for being predictable."
This then, I portentously proclaim, is the era of Catholic capitalism: just as nasty as capitalism has ever been, but now with deathbed confessions, pious apologies and the desperate need for absolution. "Forgive us our sins," say the politicians, the bankers, the media and the generals, for, in some dreadful parody of Nietzsche's concept of eternal return, "we shall certainly commit them again and again and again."