Friday, 8 October 2010

Is Confession slowly dying out?

I know that's a contentious headline, but let me put two scenarios to you:

Scenario One

At one English, home counties parish where I lived very briefly but did not go to Mass (I was in London at weekends so would go in the capital) I sought out the parish priest to go to Confession during the week a few times. I could have gone in London, but there was always a "will I make it in time" as I sat on the tube heading across town.

After a couple of phone calls I arranged to meet the priest and as the Anglo-Saxons would say, was 'shrivened.' I can't remember when the priest said it, but it was, I think, after a few visits, that he confided in me that I was the only person in the parish who went to Confession. To say I was shocked was an understatement.

How could a busy home counties parish have no-one (let's discount me as I didn't go to Mass there) going to Confession? It seems almost preposterous.

Scenario Two

My second example is of a cleric (not my parish priest, but I have been to Confession with him) who recently told me of a Bishop who, when someone went to Confession, the person was told afterwards 'not to go so often' as his previous Confession had been a week before.

Now I know priests place a lot of emphasis on Confession. I can remember two or three parish priests reinforcing the vital importance of Confession in their homilies, so I don't think this is a problem of the priests. I know many 'locals' who frequent Confession too, so perhaps it isn't as big a problem as I fear.When I went to Confession many years ago (late 80s) at my 'mother church' there would always be a small queue, but then it was a large parish.

Just a thought, but with frequent Communion promoted, might it not be an idea for Bishops to promote (or insist!) on frequent Confession?

I do not wish to come across as "holier than thou" - after all I don't go to Confession as often as I probably should and I, like everyone else, need the help and support that Confession gives to stay on the straight and narrow, and to pick me up when I do stumble.

With this Sacramental jewel in the crown of the Catholic Church free and accessible to all, I do worry that perhaps, it is not used as much as it should be. Or are some parishes better than others?

I would be interested to know what other Catholics think.

P.S. if you get the chance, read the book A Victim to the Seal of Confession, a wonderful story about how and why the seal of Confession works, why it is there and why a priest will never betray that seal regardless of the consequences.


  1. There's an excellent book written in the 20s or 30s by a German Benedictine, published in a new English edition (with a long preface including papal teaching on confession since the writing of the book) by Scepter:

    Frequent Confession: its place in the spiritual life.

    You could get an extra copy and send it to that bishop, with the most relevant parts highlighted ....

  2. When I was a PP down in SE England I had four sessions of Confession weekly, one on Weds, one on Fr. and two on Saturday, and "other times by request". Seldon had a session when no one turned up. But then, I did not hesitate to tell the people that I went to Confession weekly!

  3. Thank you so much. I am a worrier so I am sure the situation isn't as bad as I think. I do hate to think I might come across as not seeing the log in my own eye... but I also think the role of Confession is so important that when the two scenarios I highlighted happen it does concern me (out of charity).

    Re. the Bishop I do not know him - it is what a retired cleric told me (he thought it quite a scandalous remark).