Monday, September 20, 2010

Confession No Longer Seen As a Holy Gift--Sacrament

Most surveys of those who have left the Church in Korea show that Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciiation) has been their biggest stumbling block. A detailed study made by  Catholic Peace Broadcasting, the Peace Weekly and the Future Research Institute confirmed the survey results: The requirement to go to  Confession is seen as a burden to many Catholics.

Personal obstacles such as work, school, and doubts about the Church would be the reasons often cited in most surveys.  But when we look at the obstacles that stem from the organization of  Catholicism itself,  Confession would be cited as the most important reason for leaving the Church, followed by meaningless liturgies, being hurt by members of the community, too many financial burdens,  poor sermons, the Church having little influence in society, and the bad example of clergy. 

Two similar surveys in Seoul and Suwon had the same results. Combining personal and Church-related reasons for leaving the Church, most indicated that being too busy was the most important reason, next in importance was Confession. In another survey, when asked what can the Church do to facilitate their return, answered: make Confession less of a burden

In Korea if you go three years without confession you would be considered tepid statistically. In many parishes, twice a year a ticket is given to Catholics and returned when they have gone to confession, placing it in a basket in the confessional.  According to Church teaching, frequent confessions are recommended but there is no obligation to go to confession if one is not in serious sin. This is a teaching that is not well understood, but it is part of our Catholic tradition and Church law (Code of Canon Law #989).

Although Confession, being the Sacrament of Reconciliation, should be a consolation and settling of accounts, we have learned mostly from the survey results that many of our Catholics consider it a great burden. The Catholic Weekly, in a recent article on this subject, mentions that many who  are not in the state of grace  and  not prepared to go to confession stay away from Church.   Furthermore, many who are in the habit of sin find that going to confession is meaningless, so they also stop going to Mass; they do not feel they can break the habit of sin. The article mentions that the teaching on Confession has not always been good, nor have our Catholics understood it correctly.

Can the Church make it easier to go to Confession? Some attempts have been made to lessen the burden.  However, the difficulties of  going to Confession are also a blessing for those who can overcome the difficulties; they may come from an incomplete understanding of sin and the difference between confessions of devotion and of obligation. With more clarity on the essential nature of Confession, what is now seen as a burden might be seen as an opportunity for self-renewal, a second baptism.


  1. I am struggling myself with this very issue at the moment. I want to return to mass attendance and go to confession, but can't break the habit of sin. I can't honestly make a good act of contrition until I can say with reasonable assurance I won't commit the sin again, currently due to my perculiar circumstances I can't make that claim.
    For a while I still went to mass but eventually people were wondering why I never took Holy Communion and even sometimes the priest asked me to serve mass, and it was extremely awkward to do this and not receive communion.
    Years ago due to the overnight fast, if you never received commuion no one thought you were a terrible sinner. Also there was never an expectation that one ALWAYS receive communion at every mass they attended, the social pressure perhaps leaned towards not receiving frequently. Now the reverse is true. So many people that shouldn't receive do receive, and mostly becaue the social pressure pushes them towards going when they aren't prepared. With confession numbers so low, I would guess a majority of recipients are sacrilegious these days.
    Anyway, the only suggestion I have for the Church is to make confessions more available and frequent before or even during mass.
    In France recently I went to a holy hour with exposition, the priest was in the confessional and in a far corner of the church was a nun sitting at a small table with a sign that said "available for counseling". My assumption was that she was there to greet any of the general public that always wonder into the old churches in France, to answer any questions they have about the church, or about confession etc.
    It is a nice idea and might help with assisting people who are curious, but perhaps not ready to enter the box.
    I know I would have liked to talk to her as I have a few questions I need to ask someone that knows, before I can prepare to make a good confession to return to the church.

  2. Anonymous, if you don't go up for communion, please go up for a blessing. If you cross your arms, like so:
    the priest will know that you cannot receive communion and you want a blessing.

    By receiving a blessing, you are directing your heart towards God and God in his mercy will heal you towards time.

    As for true contrition, all of us know that we will sin again after confession. We will not be perfect in this life. What is important is that you are truly sorry for your past sins and that you truly desire to be free from future sins. If you stumble again, confess again, pick yourself up, and strive again. Keep trying. God in his mercy will help if you trust in him and his strength and not only on your own. Read the lives on the saints. All struggle with sin but all have been perfected by that struggle.

    Peace and love to you.