When I was growing up in a parish in Ontario in the depression, the lines of Catholics going to Confession on Saturday were as long (or longer) than the lines going to Communion on Sunday.

Not any longer. Now few people go to Confession and almost everybody goes to Communion.

What happened? The British Catholic writer, Clifford Longley, has tried to answer that question. Most priests to whom he has spoken sum up the confession crisis with two words: « contraception » and « divorce ».

Because of the widespread us of contraceptives by Catholics in the last half century, the Catholic family has dropped to the size of other families. Catholics are now persuaded that contraception is not a sin but a necessity and so not a barrier to Holy Communion. But many are unwilling to express that view in the confessional so they drop that practice. Meanwhile 80 per cent or more of the people in the pews on Sunday go to Communion.

Which is where « divorce » comes in. It seems likely that some of those who go weekly to Communion are in irregular marriages. They have divorced and remarried without seeking an annulment or having been refused one. But they will have no trouble finding a priest to tell them that « in the private forum » they are subjectively without sin and are not barred from Holy Communion. Some come to that conclusion on their own.

If the bishops are aware of this state of affairs, they are not saying anything about it. When did you last hear a sermon on obedience? On the matters of contraception and divorce the rule of thumb in the parishes seems to be « don’t ask, don’t tell. » The same rule of thumb also applies to gay people.

Many years ago Catholic women would discuss their marriage problems with a priest in the confessional. Now would a modern liberated Catholic woman, perhaps a feminist, want to discuss her sex life with a celibate male for whom feminism has no relevance and whose understanding of female sexuality is bound to be limited. It seems unlikely. Better to skip confession altogether.

Neither Clifford Longley or I think confession should be scrapped. It has helped many people and I have heard many Protestants say they wish they had something like it.

No, an attempt should be made to make confession more relevant. Any such attempt must examine the current situation with regard to « contraception » and « divorce. » It is not enough for the bishops and priests to operate on « don’t ask, don’ tell. »

Do you agree that confession is good for the soul?



  1. 1
    Joe Agnost Says:

    « Now few people go to Confession and almost everybody goes to Communion. »

    This is because, as I’ve said before (and suzanne has agreed), that there really aren’t many « real » catholics left.

    The only way religion can survive (for many people) is if it’s as convenient as possible. Going to confession is just extra work – work that clearly isn’t necessary to get your communion. So why bother??

    And let’s face reality here – just about everybody (catholic or not) uses contraception these days… forcing catholics to confess this « sin » would result in a non-stop stream of confessors!

    « Do you agree that confession is good for the soul? »

    Well I don’t believe in « souls », but if catholics thought confession really was good for the soul wouldn’t they be doing it?? I think that answers the question right there – and the answer is no.

  2. 2
    Cate McB Says:

    Yes, confession is good for the soul, but the practice of confession within Catholicism?? — that’s a different thing. I have lots of & different kinds of wonderful confessors, but they’re not priests. And absolution, if that’s what one wants — it comes from God and a priest is not needed.

  3. 3
    Karl Says:

    I remember Christian of other denominations saying « God put this on my heart », or God spoke to me and said this , that and the other thing », yet in some cases they were told things in opposition! yet they were CERTAIN it was the real word from God!

    That is what « Confession » to God gets you. A rehash of what you already believe. Yet in Catholic Confession, when the fraud of the « Internal Forum » trumps the actual teaching of the Catholic Church, the result is the same, the dumbing down of the Gospel.

  4. 4
    Chimera Says:

    Is confession good for the soul? I know a lot of cops wish it were literally true — it would make their jobs so much easier! But for me? Not a chance!

    Private stuff is private, though, unless someone chooses to make it public. That goes for sex, marriage, and a whole slew of other things that are no one else’s business, never mind the business of a priest who knows nothing about either.

    Why are priests presumed to be necessary, anyway? If God is so all-powerful, let him eavesdrop for himself.

  5. 5
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    « The soul loves the body » Meister Eckhart, Forgiveness is good for the whole person. The danger is when Confession to a Priest is trivialized, with sexual acts that have nothing to do with injustice. There are serious sexual sins, that need to be confessed, as well as many other evil things. For those of us who do evil things we do need forgiveness.
    When we ask forgiveness for ourselves for things we have done to other people and the environment we must be prepared to forgive those who who have been unjust to us as well.

    The Sacrament of Confession in the Catholic Church heightens the awareness of our evil acts and disposes us to be forgiving of evil acts done to us. For those who do not use a Priest the Our Father, « Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us » according to Jesus, is enough.

  6. 6
    Cornelius T. Zen Says:

    Good morrow, all! « As we forgive those… » In other words, the measure of a Christian is not the willingness to ask forgiveness. The measure of any Christian, of any denomination, is the capacity to forgive, « …seventy times seven times… ». In forgiving others, we forgive ourselves, and we earn forgiveness of The One who watches all that we do. Charity, above all. Let there be peace. CTZen.

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