That would be confession, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. With Lent now upon us, many places are offering it more frequently, with some dioceses even publicizing it. But are people buying what the Church is selling?
The Catholic Anchor in Alaska takes a look:
Some fear it. Others feel embarrassment. A great deal of anxiety seems to accompany most Catholics before they enter the confessional. That anxiety keeps 45 percent of Catholics away from the so-called “lost sacrament,” according to a poll conducted in 2008 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate or CARA.
Yet for Catholic priests, including many in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, hearing confessions and giving absolution is one of the most rewarding aspects of their priesthood.
According to Dominican priest Father Vincent Kelber of Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage, confession is a sacrament many do not truly understand.
“People are afraid to go to confession,” he admitted. “We allow ourselves to have misconceptions about it.”The pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church Father James Barrand thinks the misconceptions are due to in part to a lack of proper teaching.
“There is a lack of formal catechesis on the types and serious effects of sins. Priests are afraid to discuss sins for fear of offending individuals, so our people’s understanding of sin or transgressions is formulated by pop culture,” he explained.
Father Kelber agreed and stressed the urgency of educating Catholics about the importance of the sacrament — breaking down false beliefs and fears.
“If you make it available and preach it, people will use it,” he said.
The biggest misconception Anchorage priests say they hear about the sacrament is the idea that people need only go directly to God for forgiveness and skip the confessional. The error in this belief lies in the difference between forgiveness and absolution, Father Kelber explained.