From a reader…
My family and I are converting to the church from Protestantism. We are a family of six and we have been turned away from confession at multiple churches because the half hour before Vigil and Sunday Mass wasn’t enough time for the priest to hear our confession. Of course, a half hour actually means 20 mins as the procession and “getting situated” makes a half hour 20 mins. We have been told to “make an appointment.” I hesitate to make an appointment because that would prevent anonymous confession. The only mid-week confession is about 1.5 hours away at the Diocesan Cathedral. I can only surmise that everyone receiving the Body and Blood of Christ must not sin much…
Question: From my observation of availability and praxis, do Catholics actually believe what they say about confession?
Yes, those who have been adequately instructed believe. However, when for decades lay people have seen that priests and bishops don’t seem to care about A, B or C, they, too, will stop caring about A, B or C. It stands to reason. If you turn your back on the Blessed Sacrament, don’t genuflect or kneel, use confessionals as broom closets, invade the sanctuary with all sorts of folks with questionable roles, use dopey junk music, tear out statues, build ugly churches….
Joanna Bogle is a British convert to Catholicism who wrote a book about conversion in 1994 entitled, Come on In, It’s Awful (UK HERE). Hold on to your hats.
Do not be afraid. You have made the right choice, for this is the Church that Christ founded. For that reason, there can be no other Church once we come to figure that out.
As you and your family move more deeply into the sacramental life of the Church, the Enemy of your souls, Satan, will throw up tremendous roadblocks to stop you. Many of those roadblocks will come from Catholics. They will even come from some bishops and priests. We are, after all, a pretty weak and sinful lot. I shudder at the idea of what might be were the salvation of the world to rest on our shoulders. BRRRRR
Fortunately, it does not.
God has used 20 centuries of feckless and craven bishops, lazy, vain and ignorant priests, gossippy and bitter laity, grasping and shiftless religious to build up the Church and His Kingdom.
God does not choose those who are worthy. He chooses those whom it pleaseth Him to choose. Sometimes our more heroic sides come out, built up by the grace God gives us.
It is sad that, in our day and age in many places, the wonderful and essential Sacrament of Penance (Confession, Reconciliation, whatever we are calling it these days) has been so neglected, so restricted.
Christ Jesus left us this beautiful sacrament as the ordinary means to obtain forgiveness for our sins. GOD gave us this sacrament because HE wants us to use it. This is HIS will about how we are to approach Him. He gave us this sacrament to avoid Hell, to grow in holiness, to resist sins. But, nowadays, based on published schedules in many parishes, the Sacrament of Penance has been kicked to the proverbial curb, marginalized, shunted to the corners of the calendar, and, if you are luck, given space for a few brief moments before the Saturday vigil Mass.
You would think that liberals, who consider infallible Pope Francis’ pronouncements on things like global warming or redistribution of wealth – matters that have nothing to do with the Roman Pontiff’s brief – would give even more consideration to his pronouncement on things that the Roman Pontiff really does have a stake in, such a the importance of going to confession! Time and time again during his still short pontificate, Pope Francis has underscored the important of the Sacrament of Penance. We even have iconic photos of him hearing confessions and going to confession himself.
What more do these priests and bishops need, for all love?
One of the problems at the heart of this dearth of confession times is the silence in priestly formation and current literature about cura animarum, the cure or care of souls. This is where the terms “curate” and French “curé” come from. Those with the care of souls are too teach, govern and sanctify the people in their charge. They duty bound before God, angels and men in this care of souls. They will be called to account to God for the care that they give. If they help many souls avoid Hell and come to Heaven, they will be welcomed into the joy of their Master. Those who do not, and who let souls slip through their fingers, will be left in the outer darkness.
Fathers, if you are parish priests and have the obligation to hear confessions, hearing confessions can help to keep you out of Hell. If you are parish priests and you don’t hear confessions or you won’t teach about confession, you will probably go to Hell. Just try to deny it. Just. Try.
Back to the questioner, a couple things.
First, in your preparation to make your profession of faith and enter the Church, go ahead and make that appointment with the parish priest for this important sacrament. If you are concerned about anonymity, ask that the priest meet you in the confessional, perhaps getting into “the box” a few minutes before your scheduled time.
Second, you might pen a brief letter to your local bishop, and describe to him how hard it has been to figure out how to go to confession and ask him why confessions are not more available where you and your family live.