Confession Makes A Comeback

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 6, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

…said the headline of last weekend’s Wall Street Journal. The article went on to say last spring some Catholic dioceses bought ads on radio stations, buses, billboards and subway cars inviting Catholics to come to confession during Lent.

Why don’t most Catholics nowadays feel a need to go to Confession anymore? Here’s my guess:

– People don’t believe that many of the things they were taught are actually sins. These include sex outside of marriage, using birth control, missing Mass on Sunday, taking the Lord’s name in vain, etc. Many gay and lesbian people do not consider sex with members of their own gender as sinful.

-People don’t believe Hell is for ordinary sinners. Everyone (or just about) is going to Heaven.

-People are not going to make the effort on Saturday to go to Confession and go to Mass on Sunday. There are too many other competing demands for their time and attention. For families, it also means coordinating a lot of different schedules.

-People believe God forgives them if they are truly sorry. There’s no need for a formal Confession.

-Pastors and parish leadership are more focused on making their communities “family-friendly” and warm and welcoming spiritual homes, than stern, stifling, nit-picky places full of rules and “do nots.”

But Confession may make a comeback among Catholics, depending on its presentation from a solely penitent rite to one of healing and forgiveness, including self-forgiveness. I think Confession is a valuable rite: to say we’re sorry, ask for (and receive) forgiveness, make amends, and try to set things right.

Doris Donnelly, a noted author on the subject of forgiveness, authored a contemporary “Examination of Conscience” that I plan to reflect on each week.

She says: “An examination of conscience is a way to hold ourselves accountable before God and each other for the evil we do and the good we do not do. Some refer to it as an examination of consciousness: scanning our motives, thoughts, and actions to detect our loyalty to or betrayal of the priorities of the reign of God.”

“The delicate and difficult part in this process involves what we hold as our guide for accountability. For centuries the blueprint for good conduct was the list of Ten Commandments, until Jesus proposed a very different set of guidelines with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1 – 13).”

“As early as A.D. 150 in a document written by the Shepherd of Hermas, the Beatitudes were accepted as the positive norm of morality for Christians, stressing the ideals of their founder and avoiding the “do nots” of the decalogue.”

“What follows is an examination of conscience and consciousness based on the Beatitudes. It makes sense only if we truly believe that the teachings of Jesus have practical applicability in the world in which each of us lives and breathes. If we admit that relevance, we will find enough power in our fidelity to these counsels to renew the face of the earth.”

Donnelly’s “Examination of Conscience” based on the Beatitudes can be found on

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