"Unfortunately confession at times undermines and even replaces the genuine inner repentance of a Christian: people feel "entitled" to communion after confession. This contradicts the true nature of repentance. It is a result of the sacrament being narrowly and juridically reduced to "absolution."
Catholic/Orthodox Caucus ping on Confession and Repentance.
He cannot know if people repent or not, so there is no accurate way of 'recording' trends in repentance as that would be known only to God.
Second, I don't believe that people in the past were much more prone to repentance then they are today. History would suggest otherwise.
Confession is something visible (someone always makes it his or her business to 'notice,' especially the priest) so people confess under social pressure, and I don't think that changed since the days gone by. Left to yheir own conscience, I am not sure how many people would confess and how often.
What, pray tell, did the priests whom Luther saw womanizing in Rome, confess to their father confessors? One of the opening preambles of the Vatican I (1870) was 'secularization' and loss of respect for the Eucharist and real Presence, pantheism, rationalism, liberalism, loss of Christian ethics, etc. Just like today.
real changes, if any, are due to Protestant Reformation. Let's be honest and admit: the Protestants won. Their laissez-fair religion is a temptation for man's weaknesses: it appeals to man's ego and self-rigtheousness; it awards grace and requires nothing in return.
In addition to that, Protestant mindset is the mindset of the West which came to dominate the world. It is the backbone of the deity we call democracy. Protestantism is a stepping stone to secularism and secularism to atheism, pantheism or just pure rationalism.
Let's face it: it's easy. Catholic and Orthodox women used to be covered in churches until it became 'offensive.' Where did the idea that it might be offensive come from? Not from the Orthodox or the Catholics!
The Protestants argue effectively: accept Christ and be done with it! After you are 'saved' you can do whatever you want, your sins, past, present and future, are 'paid for.' You are given not only a ticket but a guarantee.
At the end of the journey comes the crown: you are turned into the likeness of Christ!!! They gor rid of the cross and offered only the crown. Neat. Easy. Attractive. Tempting. Sweet. You get to keep your ego and get the reward.
It doesn't get much easier than that. So, while many Protestants consider extramarital relations a sin, the sin 'is covered' with the Blood of Christ, you see, so don't worry; just 'praise the Lord.' Such outlook can only un-do more restrictive religious disciplines because it tells us that we can do what we like to do (sin), and sin boldly, and not to worry about it as long as we 'praise the Lord.'
So, if there is any decline in repentance and confession, it didn't come from the Apostolic side. Protestant Christianity is an instrument that appeals to our 'instincts' and at the same time 'absolves' us of all guilt and responsibility, while providing assurance and guarantee; it is a call to freedom we cherish so much and yet find it so incompatible with our beliefs. That's why I said Orthodoxy is an unnatural phenomenon in the West; a freak.
Individualism safeguarded by democracies is incompatible with unwavering obedience required by the Church.
"When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."
Martin Luther, 95 Theses, Thesis #1.