Decline in Confessions

posted by Adam (Southern California) on November 17th, 2005

Here’s an interesting article on Slate about the declining popularity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Personally, it’s been maybe 6 years since my last confession. I ran into the problem of not being 100% in line with the Church teachings. Essentially, I had something of a paradox where to be forgiven of my sins, I had to first be sorry for them. (Of course.) But what if my conscience told me that certain acts I had done were not actually sinful, even though the Church said they were? Doesn’t sin have to be willful? What if we willfully do something that the Church says is sinful but our conscience tells us is okay— or is at least conflicted over? Essentially, I’m conflicted enough to feel that I’d be holding back if I went to Confession and didn’t list these things— but then I could not bring myself to repent for them.

The article hints at this problem but doesn’t go into it in depth.

Add to that my general disgust at the way the church has handled (or, more accurately, not handled) the molestation scandal, and there’s six years with no Confession. I wish I could go with confidence that my soul would find peace after Reconciliation — a wonderful feeling I remember from when I was younger— but the last time I went I felt my Reconciliation was incomplete, that the experience left me with nothing but a storm inside.

Also, I forgot the Act of Contrition, but I suppose I can look that up online now.

Published in: Religion | on November 17th, 2005 | Permanent Link to “Decline in Confessions” | 4 Comments »

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4 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On November 18, 2005 at 22:46 Mike (Worcester) said:

    The Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments. Of these, only reconciliation and the eucharist are things you’re supposed to do with any regularity.

    The eucharist isn’t so bad. You sing, say some prayers, listen to Bible readings, listen to some preaching, and share the body and blood of Christ with your fellow Catholics. Us “cradle Catholics” are brought up going to mass each week, and it becomes sort of a habit. For me, connecting with other people is an important part of being a Christian–if I’m not connected with my fellow parishioners at least once a week, what kind of Catholic am I?

    Reconciliation, on the other hand, is unpleasant in parts. After examining your conscience, you have to admit all your most private wrongdoings to another person. I’ve never had a priest give me a hard time, of course, but I never look forward to speaking my sins aloud.

    I grew up in the suburbs, far from the church, and our family didn’t have a habit of driving into town for reconciliation on Saturday afternoons. As an adult, I’ve failed in creating my own habit.

    Jesus said the two great commandments were to love God and love your neighbor. So if I’m connecting with people by going to mass, but not reconciling myself with God also, that’s not very good.

    I’m surprised that confessing your sins on-line (which he mentions in the article) would have any popularity. Sacramental value aside, confessing to a real person has great psychological impact. After confession, not only do I stand clean in God’s eyes, but in my own.

  2. On November 19, 2005 at 04:38 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Yeah, Reconciliation is a lot tougher.

  3. On July 16, 2011 at 22:02 Chris said:

    1) I deeply sympathize with your situation, and I suggest discussing your dilemma with a priest. Say you would like to make a good confession, but find it difficult or impossible to feel contrition for certain acts you have committed but don’t believe are sinful, even though the Church says that they are. Ask for his advice on how to resolve the conflict, and take it from there.

    2) As far as I know, (and as the priest will probably tell you), it is not necessary to FEEL sorry for what you have done in order to get absolved; what is necessary is to put your trust in God and resolve never to commit those acts again because they offend Him, even if your conscience seems to tell you otherwise. If you resolve never to commit the act again, because it offends God, then you ARE sorry for having committed it. It is a matter of WILL, not of EMOTION. Each of us has a cross to bear, will always be attracted to sin, and will fall again and again because we are weak. It’s part of the human condition and precisely the raison d’etre for the sacrament of Reconciliation. I realize and acknowledge that this is difficult, but that’s the whole point of reconciliation and grace.

    3) Is your conscience really telling you that the acts aren’t sinful, or is it just trying to justify your commission of these acts that you are unwilling to give up? There’s a big difference, so do a deep examination of conscience and be brutally honest with yourself. After all, if all Catholics agreed 100% with the Church on everything, what guidance would we need? The whole point is faith in God and in His Church. If you have this faith, then you believe that what the Church teaches comes from God, and you strive to bring your behaviour into line. If the Church says that something is a sin, (i.e. that it offends God,) then as a Catholic you have to accept it as a matter of faith, and avoid the act. You can’t just consider how you personally feel about it and decide that the Church has to be wrong, that God isn’t really offended, and that you have to be right because you and your conscience feel differently and know better. I shall pray for a quick resolution to your dilemma so that you can once again return to the sacrament of Reconciliation and feel the joy and peace of being forgiven and embraced by God and totally enveloped by His grace. May God bless you in your struggle to find the Truth.

  4. On August 1, 2011 at 21:53 Paul said:

    Chris,
    In fact CONTRITION, i.e., feeling sorry or being sorry for your sins is still an essential element of the sacrament and is necessary to receive absolution. If you’re not sorry or you don’t “feel” sorry for your sins then what’s the point. You are right that presenting one’s self for the Sacrament presupposes contrition.

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