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Confession Makes a Comeback - didishroom - 02-22-2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/21/us/21religion.html?_r=1



STAMFORD, Conn. — The day after Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni was installed in June 1998 as the pastor of St. John the Evangelist <A title="More articles about the Roman Catholic Church." href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/r/roman_catholic_church/index.html?inline=nyt-org" target=_blank target=_blank><FONT color=#004276>Roman Catholic Church</FONT></A> here, he walked through the quiet sanctuary, appreciating the English Gothic grandeur and tallying all the repairs it required.
<DIV id=inlineBox><A class=jumpLink href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/21/us/21religion.html?_r=1#secondParagraph" target=_blank target=_blank><FONT color=#666699>Skip to next paragraph</FONT></A> <DIV class=image><DIV class=enlargeThis>[url=javascript:pop_me_up2('http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/02/21/us/21religion01.inline.ready.html', '21religion01_inline_ready', 'width=720,height=600,scrollbars=yes,toolbars=no,resizable=yes')]<FONT face=Arial color=#004276>Enlarge This Image</FONT>[/url][url=javascript:pop_me_up2('http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/02/21/us/21religion01.inline.ready.html', '21religion01_inline_ready', 'width=720,height=600,scrollbars=yes,toolbars=no,resizable=yes')]<FONT color=#004276><FONT face=Arial>[Image: 21religion01_190.jpg]</FONT> </FONT>[/url]Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times<P class=caption>Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni reopened the confessional booths at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Stamford, Conn., in 1998. This week, 450 people will engage in the traditional rite.
</DIV></DIV></DIV><A target=_blank name=secondParagraph target=_blank></A>One particular sight seized him. The confessional at the rear of the pews had been nailed shut. The confessional in the front, nearer the altar, was filled with air-conditioning equipment. And these conditions, Monsignor DiGiovanni realized, reflected theology as much as finance.
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s, the Catholic Church began offering confession in “reconciliation rooms,” rather than the traditional booths. Even before the setting changed, habits had. The norm for American Catholics was to make confession once a year, generally in the penitential period of Lent leading up to Easter.
Monsignor DiGiovanni, though, soon noticed that there were lines for the St. John’s reconciliation room the only time it was open each week, for two hours on Saturday afternoon. So within his first month as pastor, he pried open the door to the rear confessional, wiped off the dust of decades and arranged for replacing the lights, drapes and tiles.
Then, in the fall of 1998, Monsignor DiGiovanni rolled back the clock of Catholic practice, having St. John’s priests hear confession in the booths before virtually every Mass. By now, as another Lent commences next week with Ash Wednesday, upwards of 450 people engage in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as confession is formally known, during 15 time slots spread over all seven days of the week. Confessions are heard in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.
“As humans, we’re always deciding that we are God and breaking his commandments,” said Monsignor DiGiovanni, 58, during an interview this week in his rectory. “But God is savvy enough to know that. And God wants us to come back to Him if there’s a contrite heart. Salvation is not just a one-time deal.”
His message has stirred scores of consciences at St. John’s. And while the frequency of confession, and the return to booths from the reconciliation room, puts the pastor and the parish on the conservative end of the Catholic spectrum, St. John’s is a standard diocesan church with a varied congregation — corporate executives, Haitian and Hispanic immigrants, Stamford’s longtime Irish and Italian middle class.
Rosa Marchetti, an events planner for a family-owned chain of restaurants, had grown up dreading the rite of confession. The reconciliation room, while intended to allow priest and penitent to meet in a reassuring face-to-face manner something like analyst and analysand, filled her with anxiety and shame. Six years ago, Ms. Marchetti began attending St. John’s, and these days she makes a confession at least twice a month. Speaking to an unseen priest through a screen seems to her a comfort.
“I’d always feared that the priests would know it was me, and I never wanted to think I’d done something wrong,” she recalled of her earlier experiences. “But at St. John’s, it was explained to me that I go to the doctor for my physical well being and I have to go to confession for my spiritual well being.”
Even so, she recognizes how the practice sets her apart from a national popular culture of celebrity magazines, talk shows, <A title="More articles about Facebook." href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/facebook_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org" target=_blank target=_blank><FONT color=#004276>Facebook</FONT></A> pages and Twitters that is relentlessly confessional and rarely contrite.
“You turn on <A title="More articles about Oprah Winfrey." href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/w/oprah_winfrey/index.html?inline=nyt-per" target=_blank target=_blank><FONT color=#004276>Oprah</FONT></A> and you have women crying to her, confessing what they’ve gone through,” Ms. Marchetti said. “Everyone is so quick to tell the world their problems, but they won’t tell a priest.”
In the hope of reversing those engines, the Catholic diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., has mounted what it calls a “Lenten Confession Campaign.” The diocese’s 87 churches, which include St. John’s, will be offering confession for two hours every Tuesday night in addition to the usual Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning periods.
To promote the campaign, the Knights of Columbus is paying for highway billboards, bus placards and radio and TV commercials — all using a slogan drawn from Corinthians, “Be Reconciled to God” — as well as the printing and distribution of 100,000 pamphlets about confession.
It remains to be seen, of course, whether the multimedia effort can change behavior on a grand scale. Monsignor DiGiovanni has changed it within his parish through a theological version of retail politics: reaching individuals and families through a decade of homilies, conversations and columns in the church bulletin.
The movement to revive confession, using the traditional booth, no less, has plenty of skeptics within American Catholicism.
“Confession as we once knew it is pretty much a dead letter in Catholicism today,” the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a professor of theology at the <A title="More articles about the University of Notre Dame." href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/university_of_notre_dame/index.html?inline=nyt-org" target=_blank target=_blank><FONT color=#004276>University of Notre Dame</FONT></A>, wrote in an e-mail message.
Father McBrien, whose support of female ordination and married priest puts him on the theological left wing of the Catholic Church, added in a subsequent e-mail message that “the practice at the Stamford parish is an anomaly, not a sign of anything else” and at best “part of a small minority” of churches.
Majority or minority, the congregants at St. John’s firmly believe they are onto something. John F. X. Leydon, Jr., a lawyer in Stamford, has increased his pace of confession from once a year to once a month. The eldest of his four children, Mary, will be making her first confession this spring.
“The explanation we’ve given as parents is that none of us is perfect,” said Mr. Leydon, speaking also for his wife, Stacey. “However, we have to aspire to be perfect. And that should be a lifelong pursuit.”
<NYT_AUTHOR_ID>E-mail: gfreedman@nytimes.com



Confession Makes a Comeback - WhollyRoaminCatholic - 02-22-2009

"Don't call it a comeback/I been here for years"
--L.L. Cool J, "[Our Blessed Mother] said knock you out"



Confession Makes a Comeback - Magdalene - 02-22-2009

I have indeed seen older churches with once well used confessions that are now storage areas. Not much space is needed for the 45 minutes on Saturday line up for 6 people anyway.

BUT my new parish is different.  We normally have confession times available 10 times a week but now <b>for Lent there will be THREE daily Masses and confessions at each time and also 2 extra times: 17 times a week!</b>   I have never seen that in my whole life.Wow. And only two priests.  There is also a weekly school Mass and a weekly Mass at a nursing  home.  Our only complaint (how can we even have one?) is that there is no Saturday morning Mass but the parochial vicar is willing to have a 'private' Mass it is looking like.

It is very easy to go to weekly confession at my parish where I used to have to plan my Saturday around the short time in the afternoon that was not always possible to get to.



Confession Makes a Comeback - DesperatelySeeking - 02-22-2009

At our diocese's cathedral, the confessionals are down in the basement next to the dusty saint statues that have also been banished from upstairs.

Is it any wonder that Confession is regarded as unimportant when you see "Confession: Saturdays, 3:00 - 3:15" in the parish bulletin?



Confession Makes a Comeback - didishroom - 02-22-2009

Quote: Confession: Saturdays, 3:00 - 3:15"
Ouch, that's pretty bad. It's like Drive-Through Confession.



Confession Makes a Comeback - Ravenonthecross - 02-22-2009

I'm glad. One parish at a time; soon the whole Church :)


Confession Makes a Comeback - Credo - 02-22-2009

Decent article. A few points of critique:
didishroom Wrote:the return to booths from the reconciliation room, puts the pastor and the parish on the conservative end of the Catholic spectrum

There is no, "conservative end of the Catholic spectrum." One understands this is how the world thinks, conservative or liberal, but it's not how the Church thinks.

Quote:American Catholicism

"American Catholicism" is not real Catholicism, it's Americanism.

Quote:“Confession as we once knew it is pretty much a dead letter in Catholicism today,”

I don't know about that. Outside commentators have been noting the traditional upswing in Church practice for a while now.

Quote:Father McBrien, whose support of female ordination and married priest puts him on the theological left wing of the Catholic Church


There we go again with the phony left/right nonsense.

While women's "ordination" is most certainly a heterodox position to take, there can be legitimate discussion over a celibate clergy.





Confession Makes a Comeback - Credo - 02-22-2009

DesperatelySeeking Wrote:Is it any wonder that Confession is regarded as unimportant when you see "Confession: Saturdays, 3:00 - 3:15" in the parish bulletin?

There's a parish nearby where I live. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm the only person who has gone to Confession there on a given afternoon some weeks back.

To a certain extent there is a supply and demand issue here. Not to be cynical, but if no one is going to Confession, could a priest not use his time better (e.g.: sermon prep)? While there may be some die-hard Modernists out there, men reluctant to administer the Sacrament, most priests would be more than happy to extend the time given the Confession if there were actually people who wanted the Sacrament.



Confession Makes a Comeback - maso - 02-22-2009

Credo Wrote:
DesperatelySeeking Wrote:Is it any wonder that Confession is regarded as unimportant when you see "Confession: Saturdays, 3:00 - 3:15" in the parish bulletin?

There's a parish nearby where I live. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm the only person who has gone to Confession there on a given afternoon some weeks back.

To a certain extent there is a supply and demand issue here. Not to be cynical, but if no one is going to Confession, could a priest not use his time better (e.g.: sermon prep)? While there may be some die-hard Modernists out there, men reluctant to administer the Sacrament, most priests would be more than happy to extend the time given the Confession if there were actually people who wanted the Sacrament.


Yes, of course.
But if their sermons were reminding (or teaching the unaware people) what the confession truly is, what is sin, mortal & venial sins, that nobody should receive the Eucharist if he is in a state of mortal sin,etc... certainly the confession attendance would much increase.
Today the people have no use of the confession because they don't feel guilty of anything: You have only to compare the lines to the Communion with thoses to the confessionals. If I was a priest, I would be very worried



Confession Makes a Comeback - Magdalene - 02-22-2009

Some years back in my parish of about 2000 families, one handicapped man and myself were the regulars at confession. I used to say, "Stan, you and I are the biggest (and maybe only) sinners in this whole parish!"

To bring souls to reconciliation will give any true priest GREAT joy! The renewal of a soul is a tremendous thing. And to get souls to confession, the priest must preach on sin and reconciliation and the need for confession.

For any soul truly seeking holiness monthly confession is recommended. For any soul seeking plenary indulgences, every other week confession is needed. And for those 'going for the gusto' and all the graces and aid they can get, then weekly confession should be a part of their spiritual life.

I know some folks are told that they only 'need' confession if they have a mortal sin to confess and basically this is true BUT if a soul truly is seeking God, then they want to be clean for Him and they desire confession more often if holiness is a goal.