Rorate Caeli

The Marginalization of Confession

It’s a fact. Do you doubt it? Consider these simple observations, which I derive from over four decades’ residence as a Catholic in the diocese of Buffalo, NY:
Most parish priests schedule confession times about a half hour before the Saturday Mass.
It is rare that more than one priest is available for confession in the same parish at the same time (admittedly, this is largely because most parishes don’t have more than one priest on staff anymore).
It is also rare that confession times are scheduled during the week.
Even with these abbreviated hours, priests spend much of their time sitting in their comfy reconciliation rooms, staring at the wall. Parishioners arriving early apparently prefer to sit in the pews, chatting up one another in fellowshippy ways.
How many parishioners attend confession weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Do you need both hands to do a finger count?
If a bar chart of total number of parishioners vs. total number of parishioners attending Confession the previous Saturday were included in the church bulletin, would the latter bar be larger than, say, a pencil line? Would it even be visible?
How many priests give more than a rare passing remark about this phenomenon in their homilies?
How many priests deliver that rare passing remark in a context and a tone suggesting that (a) sin is a deadly serious matter, and (b) confession of sins is positively crucial to the saving of your immortal soul?

When was the last time you heard a priest say from the pulpit in even a vaguely imperative way that the reception of Holy Communion knowingly with a mortal sin upon one’s soul is itself a mortal sin?


  1. Be assured there are some places where the sacrament of penance thrives.In my parish two priests hear after the saturtday morning mass,three priests hear in the afternoon and three priests hear before the holy hour on wednesday.We do preach about penance and sin.We preach about Christ's love but also about His judgment.We also wear cassocks in the confessional so people know thatb this is a liturgical rite.

  2. I'm a teacher in a Catholic school. On a regular basis, I make reference to going to confession, and tell the students to go to confession. I can not tell you the strange looks that I receive when I say that. It is clear that 99% of them have not been to confession once since their first confession, and worse they take communion every Sunday without thinking twice. Probably none of them have been taught, and since I'm not teaching religion this year I'm not supposed to digress.

    There are 2 reasons for this: 1)negligent priests 2) Negligent parents. If anything could send you to hell as parents, it is not taking your children to Church and confession. If anything will send you to hell as a priest it is failing to instill in your congregation the need for confessing your sins, and sitting in the confessional for more than 15 minutes on saturday.
    So that when I say it, or the one conservative teacher says it, they glaze over. It sounds ridiculous. My priest never told me that. My parents never told me that. Why should I go to confession? Worse they fall into the protestant conception of "I'll just confess my sins to God, not a man."
    It all starts at baptism and what the priest does in Church, or in this case is not doing.

  3. I'm going to suggest the idea to my Parish priest for Lent. It wouldn't be too difficult, or distracting to have the priests make a tally of confessions during the week, then each Sunday print the number in the bulletin along with the number of registered parishoners. I'd bet those numbers might get better once people realized how few people actually go to confession, even in a traditional Catholic framework.

  4. Yes, unfortunately the norm is marginalization. But, here's an encouraging post: at our parish (St. John Cantius, Chicago), five confessionals are manned prior to each mass. Each line is generally 5-15 people deep.

  5. My 10-year-old son and I go to confession every week, usually on Saturday. We make a kind of "pilgrimage" out of it, riding the Metro from Virginia to the National Shrine in Washington.

    The National Shrine has confession every day for blocks of two hours, several times a day. There are usually at least three, sometimes five priests hearing confession. And there are almost always lines.

    My parish church has long lines for two confessionals before the Indult Mass on Sunday.

    I noticed going to Memphis at a somewhat liberal parish that there were two confessionals and long lines on Saturday.

    You are both right and wrong, Ralph. The Sacrament has been woefully underpreached and underused in the last few decades. There is a resurrection of the Sacrament of Penance going on, led by laypeople who simply want to be good Catholics and by faithful Catholics. This is one area where the "New Movements", so unloved by Trads, have been VERY good for us. And the Trads themselves, of course, have been VERY good, too.

  6. Well as painful as this may sound to most who read this the majority of confessions in the novus ordo church are invalid since the ordinations of ALL novus ordo "priests" since 1969 are invalid to the complete reckovation of the traditional ordination rites.

    To see the parallel in invalidity look to Pope Leo XIII encyclical on the invalidity of Anglican orders.

    Yes, words really do mean things.

    The solution is to have a general confession heard by a traditional priest as soon as possible since hell is forever.


  7. Oh, I forgot that the invalidity of course extends to any indult "priest" who was ordained under the novus ordo rite.

  8. I guess, if you're right Tradosaurus, the visibile Church is gone, then and the gates of Hell have prevailed ... time to just sit back and wait for Our Lord to come and fix everything ...

  9. Tradosaurus, I'm sorry to have to tell you that it's actually the absolution of schismatic priests which is invalid. Do you know anything about theology and canon law? In order for a priest's absolution to be valid, he needs faculties from the local ordinary - the Diocesan bishop. No schismatic priest will have such faculties. I believe that is one of the many factors motivating the Pope to reconcile the schismatics (whom I love!) - that their absolutions may be valid.

  10. Dear hibernalis, old-time reader, that is a complex question. Let me remind you that there was NO canonical sanation of any kind of the absolutions performed by the priests in Campos in the 1983-2001 period, only the forgiveness of their own personal "eventual faults", not anything else (I do not wish to extend this complex discussion any further). But, even if you are right, we should avoid the "schismatic" term, for many reasons.

    Tradosaurus, as I've made clear in another commentbox, we here hold the validity of the new rites of sacraments.

  11. Ian, et al,

    This is in reference to the objection most brought up by those in the novus ordo religion that "the gates of hell would have prevailed" or "the Church would have defected from the faith".

    What does the Church mean by the "gates of hell"? Let's listen:
    Pope Vigilius, Second Council of Constantinople, 553:

    “… we bear in mind what was promised about the holy Church and Him who said the gates of hell will not prevail against it (by these we understand the death-dealing tongues of heretics)…”

    So the gates of hell are the tongues of heretics. So yes the tongues of heretic will not prevail against the Catholic faith as long as there is a small remnant maintaining the faith whole and inviolate.

    Can one find the faith whole and inviolate in the novus ordo Church? No. How about the sspx? No. Just as in the Arian heresy the faithful were reduced to a handful so is the Catholic faith today.

    In addition, just because the vast majority of novus ordo ministers are not priests (and therefore cannot absolve anyone's sins or affect the consecration) does not mean the Church (the visible faith) has defected.

    As a noted Catholic apologists stated:
    "The jurisdictional hierarchy (all those possessing offices with ordinary jurisdiction) could conceivably defect from the Church by falling into heresy as long as there is a valid Catholic priest or bishop who possesses the full deposit of faith (even if that person doesn’t possess ordinary jurisdiction) the ecclesiastical hierarchy is represented and remains intact. And those few remaining Catholic priests or bishops of the remnant, even though they don’t govern any territory or possess ordinary jurisdiction, would have jurisdiction supplied to them automatically by the Church to operate for the salvation of souls. Episcopal Consecrations without the consent of a Pope (since there is no Pope) by such bishops would of course be lawful in such a state of necessity."

    Although Pope Leo XIII speaks about the Anglican orders in his Apostolicae Curae, of Sept. 13, 1896, he might as well be talking about the novus ordo orders:
    “For this reason in the whole Ordinal not only is there no clear mention of the sacrifice, of consecration, of the sacerdotium [sacrificing priesthood], but, as we have just stated, every trace of these things, which had been in such prayers of the Catholic rite as they had not entirely rejected, was deliberately removed and struck out. In this way the native character – or spirit as it is called – of the Ordinal clearly manifests itself. Hence, if vitiated in its origin it was wholly insufficient to confer Orders, it was impossible that in the course of time it could become sufficient since no change had taken place.”

    So those who have problem with the invalid novus ordo orders need to take it up with Pope Leo XIII.

    Pray hard that we may be the few that are saved.



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