Skip to comments.A Comeback for Confession
Posted on 09/30/2007 1:38:44 PM PDT by NYer
One of the first things Roman Catholics do when they enter the confessional is utter how long it has been since their last confession. But Franca Gargiulo can't remember the last time. Gargiulo is a spiritually thoughtful woman who went to Catholic school as a girl and at 44 still attends Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church in San Francisco. Confession--telling your sins to a priest and receiving absolution--is one of her faith's seven sacraments, but for Gargiulo it now seems as anachronistic as prayer veils and meatless Fridays. "It lost its efficacy for me," says Gargiulo. "It was too much a perfunctory exercise about church rules instead of Christ's teachings."
Increasingly, it seems the only thing U.S. Catholics confess these days is that they rarely if ever confess. In a 2005 survey by the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate at Georgetown University, 42% said they never go to confession. Only 14% said they go once a year, and just 2% said they go regularly. The fading away of one of Catholicism's best-known traditions has finally gotten alarming enough that bishops have begun turning to modern marketing tools to reverse it. "Confession isn't about rationalizing or explaining away the wrongs we do," says Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl, who has used radio commercials and billboard ads to promote the sacrament in his archdiocese. "It's about having the courage to admit them and experience the healing forgiveness that's waiting."
Any revival effort has a long way to go. Confession has been in steady decline for decades. Reasons range from long-standing doubts about church teachings to the current obsession with public mea culpas that have largely supplanted the confessional booth.
(Excerpt) Read more at time.com ...
i’d be content if Time concentrated on spinning secular current events and left the things of the church to those who understand them.
One oft mentioned cause is Vatican II, the 1960s church council whose reforms stressed what Pope John XXIII called "the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity." Since confession, with its accompanying penances, is all too often associated with the latter, many Catholics use Vatican II as a cue to scratch the sacrament from their to-do list.
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Protestantization of the Catholic Church was the smoke of satan, Pope Paul VI said entered the Vatican in 1962. The quote above is a telling tale of how devastatingly effective it was in making the sacraments "empty rituals" (favorite Protestant term) in the hearts of Catholics.
As a Franciscan and a concerned Catholic, I would like to invite all fallen away Catholics to return to confession and the Eucharist. If we all come back to the Eucharist, maybe sanity will return to this country and the world.
Thank you for the invitation! Are you a lay Franciscan?
One of the biggest hurdles many Catholics must overcome to return to the Sacrament of Penance, is a misunderstanding of the role of the ordained priest. They tend to forget to whom they are making their confession. I personally confess to having once been a misinformed Catholic.
It was the words of our Lord to St. Faustina, however, that shone a light on this beautiful Sacrament.
Today the Lord said to me, Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrents of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls. (1602)
These words, as our Holy Father said when presenting his study on St. John Chrysostom, must be impressed on children, like on wax. It is our Lord who waits for us in the confessional.
I am a professed Secular Franciscan, and you are 100% correct. It is important to understand the sacraments and receive them with full confidence, in order to receive a wealth of graces. I have been a recipient of so many! But it’s a shame few take our Lord’s word for it. This world would be a better place if more folks viewed the Church as the Ark of Salvation rather than an institution to be scorned and vilified. ;-)
**Increasingly, it seems the only thing U.S. Catholics confess these days is that they rarely if ever confess.**
This is changing. More and more confessions at my church.
The two marks of a good Catholic Church:
1) How long are the Confession lines?
2) How many seminarians/religios in training to you have from your parish?
We used to have only one hour of Confessions a week. That wasn’t working. The priest added a half hour on a weekday evening. Sometimes it’s a blowout too.
At Easter and Christmas when we have four to six priests, we have lines out the door.
We have one seminarian at the present and I think two more on the way. Religious life hasn’t taken hold yet.
I don't know about y'all, but my B.S. meter is pegging on this one.
She sounds like one of those idiots who call into C-SPAN and claim, "I've been a Republican all my life, but < fill in blank here > has just disgusted me, so I'm never going to vote Republican again, etc. etc. etc."
Maybe there are some priests somewhere for whom Confession is a mere perfunctory exercise about church rules, but I've never met one. We have many wonderful, orthodox priests in our diocese, but even the kind of loopy ones are still very devoted to Confession. I once went to a church in another diocese which was run by very liberal Franciscans -- but the pastor was a wonderful and very engaged confessor.
Emerging Trends: The Return to the Confessional
The indications are modest, but consistent. The latest one comes from Loreto, where twelve thousand young people received the sacrament of forgiveness, with the pope’s encouragement. And in the seminaries, there’s a return of books for studying “cases of conscience”
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, September 6, 2007 During the two-day meeting between Benedict XVI and the young people who flocked to Loreto by the hundreds of thousands from Italy and from many other countries, something happened that was unexpected in terms of its intensity and breadth: mass participation in the sacrament of confession.
Between Saturday, September 1, and Sunday, September 2, in the large open plain beneath the town and the shrine of the Virgin Mary, 350 priests heard confessions nonstop from two o’clock in the afternoon until seven in the morning, besieged by twelve thousand young people seeking forgiveness.
But even before the pope’s arrival, the rite of penance had been part of the preparations for many of the young people attending the event. Almost all of the pilgrimage venues on the way to Loreto included opportunities for sacramental confession. Such was the case with the abbey in Fiastra, which at times became one giant confessional. Such was the case with the shrine of Canoscio, in the Apennine mountains. Each time, there were dozens and dozens of priests all administering the sacrament at the same time.
This was not an absolute novelty. Great numbers of young people also confessed at the World Youth Day events held in Rome in 2000: 120,000 in three days, in the immense stadium of pagan Rome, the Circus Maximus, which had been transformed into an open-air confessional.
But what seemed at first like a flash in the pan turned out to be a lasting trend. And it is a growing one, especially at shrines and at large gatherings. Of course, the percentage of young Catholics who go to confession is still small. In Loreto, they were less than five percent of those present. But a trend reversal is underway, considering that reception of the sacrament had almost died out some years ago.
Besides, the symbolism speaks louder than the numbers here. The sight of so many young people confessing out of their own free will, during a religious event and before the eyes of all, transmits the message that confession is no longer a sacrament in disuse, but is once again returning into practice and favor.
Benedict XVI resolutely encourages this revival of confession, especially among the young. It was his idea to dedicate an entire afternoon, on the Thursday before Holy Week last year, to the celebration of the sacrament of penance in St. Peter’s, coming to the basilica himself to celebrate the rite, to preach and hear confessions.
And this is individual confession, not communal confession. The latter practice spread spontaneously after Vatican Council II, above all in Western Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia: the granting of general absolution to whole groups of the faithful, after an equally collective “mea culpa.”
This has never been Rome’s position. The only situation in which general absolution is authorized even after the updating of the rite in 1974 is in danger of death, for example with troops on the battlefield, or when there is a severe shortage of priests with respect to the penitents. But this always comes with the obligation that those who have received general absolution must present themselves “as soon as possible, and one year later at most” to a priest, for individual confession of their grave sins.
Nevertheless, the practice of general absolution has continued in many dioceses around the world. The declared intentions of its promoters, including some bishops, was that of saving the sacrament from widespread abandonment. But the result was precisely the acceleration of that abandonment.
In the seminaries and theological faculties, too, communal confession
had and has its supporters. One moral theologian who made himself the standard bearer of this is Domiciano Fernandez, a Spanish Claretian, in a book printed in Italy by Queriniana, “Dio ama e perdona senza condizioni [God Loves and Forgives Unconditionally],” with a preface written by the Franciscan liturgist Rinaldo Falsini.
The plunge in the reception of this sacrament has gone hand in hand, in the seminaries, with the abandonment of instruction aimed at the practical preparation of good confessors. For several decades, “cases of conscience” have no longer been a subject of study.
But here, too, there are signs of a trend reversal. This summer in Italy, the publishing house Ares released a book by an admired moral theologian, Lino Ciccone, a consultant for the pontifical council for the family, entitled “L’inconfessabile e l’inconfessato. Casi e soluzioni di 30 problemi di coscienza [The Unconfessable and the Unconfessed: Cases and Solutions for 30 Problems of Conscience].”
As the title implies, the book lists 30 “cases of conscience,” each followed by guidelines for a solution. The cases are of great contemporary relevance, ranging from abortion to homosexual acts, from divorce to financial corruption. The volume is expressly written for those preparing for the priesthood, as an “exercise booklet” to accompany their books of general moral theology.
But it is also for those who are already priests, and already hear confessions. And its intention is that those confessions be heard more often, and better.
Why can’t Mr. Padgett read Chiesa.com before he writes off confession? In my business (law) it’s called due diligence.
Me me me me me. Are people this stupid? Does this person expect to have an orgasm during confession to get something out of it?
Because few U.S. Catholics consider birth control immoral, Humanae Vitae has led to a wider re-evaluation of what constitutes sin--and whether confession is really necessary.
Incredible. So the re-evaluation of what constitutes sin emanates from the refusal to believe that a sin is a sin. This kind of congnitive dissonance will lead people straight into hell. Heck, forget confession, most Catholics think the obligation to attend Sunday Mass had a built-in sunset in the latter half of the 20th century.
The church's sexual-abuse scandal has also taken its toll. Catholics felt that the bishops--many of them accused of enabling pedophile priests--were arrogantly evading the same kind of penance they demand from their flocks.
An understandable reaction but one that completely misunderstands that the priest is acting with the authority of Christ when he absolves sins. Any hypoocrisy of the clergy is independent of their authority in the confessional.
Others, like Gregory Baum, emeritus professor of theology at McGill University in Montreal, call it a belated Hail Mary pass. "Traditional confession," he says, "just isn't part of Catholic spirituality anymore."
That doesn't make it any less obligatory to the faithful. If you took a poll of so-called Catholics, most would agree with his statement. They would all be wrong, of course.
Right. We have a fairly "liberal" priest--the term is too political but I dunno what else to call him, he definitely isn't trad or anything like that--at the church right behind our house. One of those very meek and gentle personalities. He's all about God's mercy and forgiveness in Confession. Definitely not about rules.
I think the person may have in mind some of those priests--perhaps older ones--whose hearts weren't in it: 3 Hail Marys, now take a hike.
Are confessions still being heard in the Catholic Church? Do the number of Catholics receiving the Eucharist reflect the number who have gone to confession?
As they have two millenia and counting.
Is this some kind of joke?
You said it, they are experts on religion all of a sudden?
I don’t think that applies to older ones necessarily. I have gone to Confession to priests in their 70’s and even one over 80 and all were very attentive and compassionate. True, they did not follow the contemporary trend of turning the Sacrament of Confession into a mini-therapy session, they did not chat and give me a bunch of advice. But that is not really supposed to be part of the sacrament anyway unless the penitent asks for or expressly needs spiritual guidance.
It seems your question is sincere, not ironic, so maybe you are not Catholic. NYer or Frank Sheed or some others could probably give you a more theological explanation, but let me briefly state that the number going to Communion (receiving the Eucharist) “should” have some parallel to numbers going to Confession, because it’s a sacrilege to receive the Host unworthily (not in a state of grace, or in a state of mortal sin). However, because Penance has not been properly explained for a few generations, fallen out of style, we now see people freely going to Communion when they should not.
For example, missing Sunday Mass is a mortal sin (without any obviating circumstances such as illness, unreasonable distance, snow storm, etc). So if someone willfully misses Mass for several months, and then goes, they should not go to Communion without first going to Confession. However, it is now very common for people to just attend Mass when they feel like it, and not bother with Confession. They seem ignorant of church teachings, or the rationale behind them. They are also depriving themselves of many opportunities for increases of grace.
I always lied in Confession. As kids we’d make up trivial stuff and hold back on “impure thoughts”, etc. The goal was to avoid a lengthy penance, which I ignored anyway.