Sunday, June 7, 2009

The "Confession Crisis" and James 3:1

This isn't technically a Staten Island story, but I just have to comment on it. A Vatican big shot is complaining that the Sacrament of Confession has been in "deep crisis" for decades and he blames the problem on the faithful, who have become unable to distinguish between good and evil. I am just flabbergasted at the ignorance and arrogance of such an ivory tower pronouncement, which just goes to show how out-of-touch with reality our hierarchy is. I wonder if these cardinals and bishops ever have any actual contact with real people or real parish life, or do they exist in some amber-preserved, perpetual 1964, where they read Kung and Rahner and eagerly await the fruits of the aggorniamento.

The concept of sin has practically been banished from Catholic discourse in the United States. When was the last time you heard a priest even mention the word? All we hear from the Father Feel-Goods of the American church is pablum of the "God-is-love" variety. Even in connection with something like abortion, on which the Church is quite vocal in opposition, the women who murder their own babies are treated like innocent victims. And when blatant public sinners like Nancy Pelosi or John Kerry, who are accomplices in the deaths of millions of babies, receive Holy Communion from the hands of our nation's bishops, what are we being told about the need for Confession? Sin obviously doesn't exist, so what need is there for repentance?

This "crisis" is nothing more than another symptom of the dumbing-down of American Catholicism, which can be laid square on the doormat of the clergy. If you meet American Catholics under the age of 60 who know anything about the Faith besides how "accepting" God is, I'd bet the farm that most of them are either autodidacts or they were catechized by older, well-informed relatives. Our priests have simply abdicated their duties. Sheep naturally go astray, but it is the job of the shepherd to guard them vigilantly and, if necessary, to keep them in the flock with pastoral correction: sometimes by the sound of his voice, sometimes with the crook. Unfortunately, our shepherds are too distracted by things like ecumenical games, political causes (of the Left and Right), active dissension, aesthetic fripperies (church improvements, ecclesiastical accoutrements) or just the languid enjoyment of a comfortable sinecure.

As I pointed out, the priests are petrified of even mentioning things like sin, Hell or repentance anymore. However, Confession is still available at most churches for those "in the know". But even in this, look at how the priests discourage this Sacrament. In every single church I know of, Confession is only offered late on Saturday afternoons for, at most, a half hour! At some churches, the scheduled time is only 15 minutes! Just visit the links to Staten Island churches on the side of this blog. This is insane. First of all, I don't think Saturday afternoon is a very convenient time for most people. That's really the one day working people have to attend to their private affairs, whether it's home repair, banking, entertainment, family activities, etc. I'm not saying it shouldn't be offered on Saturday- it should, since we need to be prepared to receive the Eucharist the next day- but there should be other times it is available and certainly for longer than a half hour. Churches used to offer Confession before every Mass on Sunday. Other churches offer it during the week.

Our Lady of Victory in downtown Manhattan is a great example. Confession is offered every weekday from 8am to 9am, from 12 noon to 1:30 pm and from 5:00 pm to 5:30. These times make it very convenient for workers who want to go to Confession but who don't want to go out of their way on Saturdays to do it. In addition, the ample opportunity offered by this church makes me feel encouraged to take advantage of it. When a priest only offers this Sacrament for a half hour each week, it looks to me like he's only doing it grudgingly and I would thus feel uncomfortable and self-conscious about going to him. If the dearth of penitents is the excuse a priest gives for the paltry time he devotes to it, I guarantee that if a priest would actually start emphasizing the need for this Sacrament and explaining the benefit one gains from it, he would have his hands full hearing Confessions.

So, please spare me the laity-bashing. If we've gone down the wrong path, it's because our shepherds have been lax. "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more severely than others." James 3:1


Can I Change A Life? said...

I was glad to see you back at my blog (though I don't update nearly enough.) It reminded me to check on yours.

Confession has gotten to be a big issue with me because I was away for so long, and am finally realizing what a gift confession is.

My priest doesn't talk about sin in terms of individuals like Nancy Pelosi, but certainly tries to show us the many ways in our own lives things come between us and God, things we might not even think of otherwise. Confession times are posted as the "opportunity for confession". I love that wording. And he stays "until all are served." Which means, of course, we don't have confession before Mass, but we do have weekly confession.

In our city in general we have plenty of confession times. If anybody wants to go, there really is no excuse.

Your blog really makes me appreciate where I live.

Staten Pilgrim said...

Hello again and thanks for visiting. I just realized I was a bit unfair; I checked the websites of several of the Staten Island churches, and I did see that more than a few devote a whole hour to Confession on Saturdays. Still, that doesn't change the fact that many of them don't and that we_never_hear what we should be hearing from the pulpit because, I guess, it's considered too "judgmental". Nevertheless, I'm glad to see I was wrong about some of the parishes.

Matthew said...


I just found your blog through St. Blog’s Parish Directory, and I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome you to the Catholic Blogsphere.

Fr. Peter West said...

Hello. You left a comment on my blog a while ago. I'm still learning about blogs. This is the only way I know how to contact you.

I am in residence at Immaculate Conception Rectory on Targee Street in Staten Island, but I work full-time with Priests For Life. Send me an email at I'd be hapy to talk to you. Fr. Peter West

Eucharistic Guardian said...

Don't Be so harsh. Our Lady said that we should "Pray for our Priest". Without Priest, there would be no Eucharistic - No Mass. Instead of venting MG - post positive ideas that would promote and aid the problems you view around in the Church. Venting and bashing are not positive fruites - convey your frustrations with a positive aspect. This is important. God Bless - G

Eucharistic Guardian said...

some grammar errors in previous post - its late - do not pay attention. thanks

Staten Pilgrim said...

Eucharistic Guardian: There is nothing contradictory about respecting the priesthood and at the same time being honest about our priests' failings. It is precisely_because_our priests are so important to the Church that we need to be vigilant about their conduct. The hierarchy doesn't do a darn thing, so I guess it's up to the laity to hold their feet to the fire. I don't think what I was doing was "bashing". I pointed out a problem and recommended a solution. What's wrong with that?

In case you haven't noticed, the Catholic Church is in the midst of a_major_crisis in this country. You may attend one of the few vibrant parishes, but have you not noticed what's going on in the rest of the U.S. Church? Have you not read my experiences in some of our Staten Island parishes? I know there are great priests out there, and if you'd care to recommend a parish, I'd be happy to attend and promote it. However, I don't believe in burying my head in the sand. When I see someone doing wrong, especially when it comes to our Holy Church, I call a spade a spade no matter who might get their feathers ruffled.

Anonymous said...

Remember - Fools speak too much... If your eyes witness short comings, then my fellow Christian, it is only because the Holy Spirit has enlightened you. Your eyes were able to see - not for you to use again She, The Church - but rather to pray and speak to others in a way that enables and promotes prayers but not because of what is but because what can be. When St. Francis was ask to rebuild God's Church - do you think he went around yapping about what was wrong - or - did the Lord open his eyes to help?

Should the Lord grant to his children eyes to see - should we just bicker about what is not? I know it is easy to talk about what the heart witnesses - I probably can share many things. However, Our Lady reminds her - to shhhhhh - and to offer it up to the Lord - pray - and try to encourage others to do the same. Less, you be found by someone else in your own scandal Staten Pilgrm.
God Bless

Staten Pilgrim said...

Sorry, but I find that attitude very odd. It is that uncritical attitude that enables every act of corruption, wrongdoing and evil by powerful men, whether in government or in the Church. Just as Paul defied Peter to his face when he did wrong, we believe that it is every Catholic's duty to speak up when the leaders of our Church do wrong.

Anonymous said...

I accidentally found this page, and I feel the need to comment. We should all, of course, lift our priests up- they are our "fathers", our earthly links to the Holy One, but at the same time we should also hold them accountable for their human failings. We are the flock that goes astray when they neglect or diminish their duties! "Sin", th e word AND the concept, should be burned into our brains by those most holy of men, those who should hold our Lord so close to their hearts. We should physically falter when we even think of sin, and I am hopeful when I see the priests of my parish speak out against accepted culture. I am also thrilled that my parish offers the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Wednesday evenings for an hour and again on Saturday mornings following the morning Mass. To add to the praise, nearby parishes have "staggered" their confession schedules... within a 20 minute drive I can to to confession on Monday, Wednesday, & Thursday evenings, plus 4 different times on Saturday. With a little effort most of us in the Atlanta area can open ourselves to the graces our Beloved One desires to bestow upon us. Thanks be to God!

Staten Pilgrim said...

Thank you for your comment Anonymous. Your report on the situation in Atlanta gladdens me.