Recently, several prominent Catholics have been tweeting about confession on Twitter. The consensus seems to be that Catholics frequent this sacrament less than they should. I want to not only present the problems but offer solutions.
First the stats,
How often Catholics in the U.S. go to confession:
2% once a month or more
12% several times a year
12% once a year
30% less than once a year
Source: Patrick Carey, “Confession”
— Matthew Schmitz (@matthewschmitz) October 2, 2018
Now a concrete example of a problem,
Just saw this on a parish website and did a double take. And then wanted to cry. Something *really* happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Do we really believe that? pic.twitter.com/Xwa0h4OUia
— Sr. Theresa Aletheia (@pursuedbytruth) October 9, 2018
Every parish needs more than 20 minutes a week to help God’s people with this sacrament.
Solutions to get Catholics to Confession More
Posts like this lead me to look for solutions. The first – and often hardest step is admitting we have a problem. However, that alone is insufficient, we need to propose solutions. I want to point out solutions people gave which I think are helpful. I don’t think there is one silver bullet but I think combining a bunch of these will help. These are meant to help brainstorm and I don’t endorse every word others suggest here.
It seems my followers go more than the average in Matthew Schmitz’s tweet.
How much do you like / go to confession?
— Fr Matthew P. Schneider LC (@FrMatthewLC) October 9, 2018
About 90% who responded fall into the first two options (most frequent 14% of Catholics) with 1/3 answering “weekly.” It shouldn’t be too surprising that most of those responding to a priest’s poll on Twitter will be more active in their faith than average.
More Times for Confession
Many agreed with Sr. Aletheia above that a huge problem is that many parishes offer confessions only for a short period and often at times that are inconvenient. Often the suggestion is to have the sacrament before Mass but depending or circumstances other times may work well. A parish near me has Tuesday adoration at 7pm with the opportunity to confess during it, and it is always a full hour for 2-3 priests confessing.
More confession times all throughout the day. Talking about confession in homily. I have NEVER heard a parish homily that mentioned confession. Homilies about how sin separates us from God, how to actually go to confession (for those who forgot and are afraid of looking dumb) etc
— Lauren Enriquez (@LNEnriquez) October 3, 2018
I was an altar server growing up & did not start regularly going to Confession until I started going to SS. Cyril & Methodius in Metro Detroit where Confessions were 30 mins before each Mass & homilies educated people about receiving the Eucharist w/o mortal sin.
— JFitz (@JFitz1104) October 3, 2018
More confession times at Parishes. More emphasis on need for Confession.
— Eileen D (@TipItForMaggie) October 3, 2018
A few ideas:
Restore mandatory Friday abstinence, as the bishops of England and Wales have done.
Offer confession before every mass, and during the first part of every mass at which another priest is present.
Be sure confessionals are designed to preserve a certain anonymity.
— Matthew Schmitz (@matthewschmitz) October 3, 2018
Help People Understand Sin and the Sacrament
Many also noted that they or others don’t understand the gravity of sin, the reality of the afterlife, the need for confession, or how to confess.
Personally, I haven’t been to confession in probably 20 years. I’m guessing since Confirmation. I don’t even know what to do or say at confession.
— Tara Salvi (@TCSalvi) October 3, 2018
The near disappearance of Confession among most Catholics is because of one thing having been lost, just as only one thing will bring back most Catholics to its frequent practice: fear of the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. People simply no longer believe in that threat.
— Fr. Matt Fish (@frmattfish) October 3, 2018
I’ve had priests tell me I don’t need to confess venial sins. Maybe preaching on the good of confession even for venial sins would help.
— cat friends (@raissathomas) October 3, 2018
If you don’t know how to confess, here are instructions from a diocesan initiative.
Ensure All Possibilities Are Available
Different people have different needs and tendencies: some want face to face, some want a screen; some want a priest who knows them, some want a priest who doesn’t know them. I think as a Church the best is to offer people flexibility here.
Offering it for more than thirty minutes on a Saturday afternoon would be a great start. Also, I don’t know if the church I’m currently attending even has confessionals.
— Jane Lebak (@JaneLebak) October 3, 2018
I think personally, because of my disability and circumstances, I can only access face to face confession. And since my favorite priest left, one must build a relationship with their confessor. I have decided that it serves no purpose to go to unknown priests for confession…?
— Vickie Roark (@seven4liberty) October 3, 2018
Oddly in Poland, where there’s the highest rate in the world, people preferred confessors who don’t know them.
— Fr Matthew P. Schneider LC (@FrMatthewLC) October 3, 2018
This probably sounds silly, but sometimes with the confession hours, I would have to arrange for childcare, and just having some sort of trusted childcare service that the parish could put up, maybe once a month, would be SO HELPFUL.
— Karina Tabone (@Illustr_Prayer) October 9, 2018
Clean up our House
Finally, we need to clean up problems we have either with confession or the Church in general. This is about removing obstacles people have to confession.
I think some people are scared to go to confession either because of a bad experience or someone else’s bad experience
— ������� � ������� (@MStypula) October 3, 2018
As a conflicted Catholic,, I don’t go to confession. With the way the Church has handled clerical sexual abuse over decades, we can’t tell a good priest from one who is merely putting on a facade of being good. I don’t want to confess to a priest who may be far worse than I am!
— Carol Mason (@OneMadMama) October 7, 2018
Hopefully, some of these ideas will help to increase your own or your parish’s use of the sacrament of God’s mercy.