I made mention of this in my homily today: a special day for the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Diocese of Brooklyn (see the ad above). Other places around my area are also promoting the sacrament.
One of loneliest places in church these days is the confession line. The act of confessing one’s sins, a requirement for Catholics, has sharply fallen over several decades with evolving views on sin, penance and the stature of the priesthood.
But now Pope Francis and church leaders, in a push to draw people back to confession, are highlighting what clergy say are the healing, uplifting aspects of the sacrament and focusing less on themes like punishment and condemnation.
The Paterson Diocese and Newark Archdiocese are using websites, newspaper ads and highway billboards to get the message out. Under diocesan guidance, local churches have also added one extra day a week to hear confession during Lent, the period before Easter when penance is considered a Catholic duty. And the pope, in an image seen and talked about around the world, confessed to a priest last week in public view.
But will these efforts change attitudes among Catholics, many of whom believe confession no longer is a necessary part of the faith?
“It’s not something I look at as something I need to do to be a good Catholic, but I always know it’s there if I feel a need to go,” said Keith Ahearn, a churchgoer who lives in Oakland.
Ahearn said seeing Pope Francis’ example of confession did cause him to think twice.
“I have to admit,” he said, “seeing the pope going to confession was a pretty powerful thing.”