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