CONFESSION BOXES ARE EMPTY
CATHOLICS have more or less abandoned the Confessional and the making of a personal confession to a priest.
Why is this? When I was growing up in the 1960's in Dublin you could go to confession nearly at any time of the day in so many churches. And when I went to confession in those times there was ALWAYS a queue.
When I was a priest in St Peter's Cathedral in Belfast in the late 1970's FIVE PRIESTS would have been kept busy hearing confessions for THREE HOURS every Saturday.
As well as that people were constantly ringing the presbytery door bell to go to confession.
And on top of that I used to spend many hours each week hearing confessions in St Louise' Girls school on the Falls Road and in St Peter's Boys secondary school in the Whiterock area of Belfast.
NOW churches are empty of so called "penitents" and priests very often just hold confessions for 15 minutes before Mass.
And if you look at who is going to confession it is nearly always people between the ages of 50 and 90.
As a younger priest people used to stop me on the street and ask for Confession. I used regularly hear Confessions in social clubs if I was out for a pint with parishioners.
Now, I am not in a parish and I probably get asked for confession no more than 6 times a year.
What has happened to Confession? I would say a number of things have happened:
1. LESS CONCENTRATION ON SIN:
There is massive less concentration on SIN both inside the Catholic Church and among people in general than there used to be. Very few priests preach about things like sin and confession and even when they do people ignore them.
Many people, even Catholics think - "I do not do anybody and harm and I would do anyone a good turn". So people feel that they do not sin.
2. THINGS NO LONGER "SINFUL":
When I was growing up the BIG SIN was anything to do with SEX.
Now people regard things like sexual thoughts, masturbation, sex outside marriage, homosexual activity, etc., as NORMAL and HUMAN.
3. THE SCANDALS:
Ordinary people do not think that they should have to go to a priest to confess. They feel they can tell God they are sorry.
Furthermore priests are being publicised on a regular basis for being more SINFUL than ordinary people - with PAEDOPHILE PRIESTS and priests involved sexually with women and men.
People wonder why they should tell their LITTLE SINS to a man who is probably up to more than they are.
A SEXY MONK:
On one occasion I was standing outside a church in the diocese of Down and Connor where some monks were giving a retreat. A young woman ran out of the church in tears. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that the monk in the confession box where she had been going to Confession asked her to suck his finger while he relieved himself sexually!
Personally I have had both good and bad experiences of Confession both as a penitent and a priest.
In my early days the priests and church drove me round the bend about sex, sexuality and sexual sins.
On a small number of occasions I was propositioned in Confession by a priest.
But I have also had some very positive experiences as a penitent and a priest.
I suppose its like everything else - Confession can be properly used and also abused.
I would be interested to hear people's views.