Confession On the Comeback?
Although fewer people sought absolution in the post-Vatican II era, it appears as though confession, also known as the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, is on the rise in the Diocese of San Bernardino.At this morning's Angelus, Pope Benedict announced his presence at an event he was supposed to preside over (but didn't) last year: a communal penance service (Rite II) in St Peter's Basilica, with ample opportunities for individual confession and absolution.
The Sacrament of Penance allows Catholics to confess their sins to a priest through a screen in a small closed confessional, under cover of darkness. They were then granted absolution from the priest.
But some things about confession have changed. The pitch-dark stalls of the confessional are mostly a thing of the past. Today, some confessionals have windows and many seeking confession face their priests.
Not all confessions are private anymore, either. Some of the devout partake in communal penance services.
The Rev. Michael Manning, pastor of St. Anthony's Church in San Bernardino, said he has seen the numbers rising at weekly confession services every Saturday and for seasonal penance services....
It isn't just older Catholics who are coming to confession, either. It's a good mix of young and old alike, Manning said.
"I think what's going on is we're living in a world that has become much more sensitive to our spiritual life and afterlife," he said. "The whole challenge of the afterlife is very strong in movies and television, and I think the media is simply mirroring the concerns of people these days. People are realizing they need more.
"There's an awareness of fragility of our own lives, with the war and the accounts of so many people who are dying. The security we once had we don't have any more with the gangs, violence and the war."
Rice agreed and said events such as Sept. 11, 2001, the war in Iraq and the sexual abuse that occurred within the church may be driving people back to confession.
"I think people are just looking for answers as to why these things are going on," she said.
The service is scheduled for this coming Thursday, and the youth of the diocese of Rome were offered the pontiff's special invitation.
It'll be Benedict's first public appearance in "The Box"; the late Pope John Paul II heard the confessions of laymen in the Basilica on most of the Good Fridays of his pontificate.