Rorate Caeli

Actual confessionals mean more actual confessions

The past few years have seen several parishes around the world restore things like altar rails, high altars, statues, centrally-located tabernacles and other items that used to be commonplace in Catholic churches.

One area, however, that has been largely neglected is restoring (or constructing) confessionals to the naves or transepts of churches.  Even so-called conservative churches have accepted the "reconciliation room" as the standard so long as there is a kneeler and screen as an option inside the office-like room.

Compare the typical parish "reconciliation room" with one of the many confessionals in Saint Peter's Basilica:



Recently a novus ordo parish (pray it will offer the TLM soon) discovered more people go to confession when there is a visible confessional.

An Old-School Confessional Revives Saying "I'm Sorry"

By Ann Marie Somma
Religion News Service


DERBY, Conn. (RNS) The Rev. Janusz Kukulka can't say for sure that his parishioners are sinning more, but they sure are lining up at the new confessional booth to tell him about it.

For years, Kukulka, was content with absolving sins in a private room marked by an exit sign to the right of the altar St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

But something happened during Lent this year. For the first time, Kukulka really noticed the two confessionals missing from the rear of his church. They'd been gone for four decades, ripped out during the 1970s to make room for air conditioning units during a renovation inspired by the Second Vatican Council.

They must have been a thing of beauty, Kukulka thought. He imagined their dark oak paneled doors and arched moldings to match the Gothic architecture of the church designed by renowned 19th-century architect Patrick Keely.

Their absence was striking, especially when the Archdiocese of Hartford had asked parishes to extend their confession hours during Lent, part of a public relations campaign to get Catholics to return to the sacrament of reconciliation.

So, one Sunday Kukulka announced his desire to the congregation. "I told them I wanted a visible confessional," he said.

He got one within a week.

Parishioners Timothy Conlon and Patrick Knott moved quickly to fulfill their priest's wish. They thought about building a confessional, but the cost was prohibitive for the cash-strapped parish. So, they turned to the Internet, where Conlon found an antique confessional for sale in Iowa on eBay.


Conlon flew out to Iowa and drove the confessional back to Derby. Knott's wife, Elisa, donated the $1,100 cost of the confessional in honor of her parents, who were devoted church members. A plaque above the confessional bears their name.

"It's a big hit," Conlon said.

Patrick Knott, who had never confessed in the private room, said a long line formed in February when Kukulka held the first confession in the booth. He was the first to try it out.

"I got celebrity status," he said. "It wasn't bad."

Kukulka said confessions have been up ever since at the church.

Read the entire Religion News Service story here.

It is also noteworthy that the parish's website calls what everyone in the world knows the sacrament of penance as: "confessions".  Not "reconciliation", or "healing", or other psychological names that have not increased the frequency of confession since Vatican II.

22 comments:

dmw said...

Using Google's nGram Viewer, one can see reference to Confession as the "sacrament of reconciliation" one the rise in 1970, spiking in the mid-1990s, and starting to fall again. http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=sacrament+of+reconciliation&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=

Mountain Man said...

No kidding! What's old is new again. 2000 years of excellence overcomes 50 years of disasters!

backtothefuture said...

The difference between the two is staggering. You can tell that with the traditional confessional that there's something mysterious about it. The modern one, I don't know if I'm going to confession or having coffee with the priest.

Dan Hunter said...

We have to drive 50 miles one way to the nearest parish with confessionals, and they do not offer confessions on the only day we can get there.

We feel like Fr. Damien on Molokai going to confession once a year [Almost]

Beefy Levinson said...

If you build it, they will come.

Long-Skirts said...

Ann Marie Somma writes:

"Not "reconciliation", or "healing", or other psychological names that have not increased the frequency of confession since Vatican II."

MORTAL’S
SIN

Save the planet
Save the whale
Save the cans
Don't inhale.

Save the changes
Save your screen
Blend the genders
Pukish green.

Save the documents
Save the file
Save yourself
For fashion style.

Save the animals
Fur and skin
But save your soul...
Now that's a SIN!

Michael Ortiz said...


My parish has lovely refurbished Confessionals--and not many penitents.

Overall, though, this post is correct.

Fr. Jay Finelli said...

Not neglected here! One of the first things I did. A parishioner paid for a brand new confessional. See the fourth picture down. http://www.holyghostcc.org/about/gallery/tour-of-the-church/

ka said...

The destruction of the confessional together with the loss of a sense of sin are both factors responsible for the decline in attendance at confession. People who wish to confess do not wish to sit down and have a friendly chat with a priest eye to eye. They wish to confess to God and are more able to to confess serious sins when it can be done anonymously. St John Mary Vianney was said to be able to forget everything he had heard when he left the confessional. Today's priests may not have the same experience os him.

Donald said...

I would guess that virtually all people prefer to confess anonymously. I never understood the rationale behind the movement to install "reconciliation rooms."

Katalina said...

There is absolutely nothing in the 16 documents of Vatican II on the Sacrament by changing it to "Reconciliation" The only Sacrament to undergo a name change was Extreme Unction was changed to the "Anointing of the Sick" But as far as This Sacrament it is called in the VII document "Sacrament of Penance" the RITE is called "Reconciliation" but the correct name is "Penance" or "Confession"

Marko Ivančičević said...

http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=paschal+mystery&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=

http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=sacrifice+of+the+Mass&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=

Very interesting.

authoressaurus said...

Are those "before-and-after" pictures from the same parish?!

JB said...


I remember going to one of those "reconciliation rooms' not too long ago and the priest was actually reading the newspaper while i confessed. I could hear him flipping through the pages. something like disgust welled up in me but i ignored it.

Kenneth J. Wolfe said...

Father Finelli -- very nice. By brand new, do you mean new to the church, or newly constructed? Either way, job indeed well done!

Mr. Paul said...

Is that a plug-in knee-warmer? Awesome!

Dr. Mabuse said...

Maybe it's a vibrating kneeler, like those old Magic Fingers beds you used to find in hotels back in the 60s and 70s.

Fr. Jay Finelli said...

Kenneth J. Wolfe - The confessional was built and dedicated in 2012. Before that, there was a little "reconciliation room," in which the penitents knees would almost touch the priests knees. It's now part of the sacristy.

jac said...

I love the confessional boxes when the penitent and the priest cannot discern their respective faces.
I hate the post VATII confession rooms, eye into eye with the priest.

JM said...

"Reconciliation Rooms," what a sixties, "Serendipity" - style joke. No sin, no judgment, just disharmonious relationships. A shame, but no need to go all "confessional," right. It's IM OK YOURE OK writ large. The farther you get from VAtican II the more you can see the lunatic side of its aftermath that diminishes the supernatural. It may have done some good: it certainly did some bad.

Clayton Orr said...

I've been to confession in a confessional, in an office, and in a reconciliation room, facing the priest and not. I was forgiven in each setting.

In all the parishes I have attended, the main difference between those with a high number of confessions and those with a low number of confession is how often the priest preaches about sin and forgiveness. The second difference is how often the priest hears confessions. The style of confessional is pretty low on the list of factors. I don't really have a preference.

Auriel Ragmon said...

Eastern rite Catholics and Eastern orthodox confess facing the gospel book and the Cross. The priest stands to the side and hears the confession (which is to God) as a witness. then he places his stole on the head of the penitent and pronounces absolution. so it is face to face, more or less, and not anonymous. Holy Communion, Baptism, confirmation are not anonymous. why should confession and absolution be anonymous. what are people scared of?