Slate has an interesting if unhelpful little piece about Catholics and Confessing - specifically why the former ain't doin' the latter.

What stands out about this piece is the irony of a let-it-all-hang-out generation that somehow abhors the idea of anonymous confession.

But it's strange that so many lay Catholics should have abandoned the confessional even while secular culture is increasingly awash in confession, apology, and acts of contrition of every sort. Parents own up to pedophilia on Jerry Springer. Authors reveal their fetishes and infidelities in self-lacerating memoirs. On Web sites like Daily Confession and Not Proud, the anonymous poster can unburden his conscience electronically. The confessions on these sites are displayed in categories borrowed from Sunday school lessons: the Ten Commandments or the seven deadly sins. At least one posting I read was framed in the language of the Catholic confessional. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," it began before going on to catalog a series of mostly mundane misdeeds. (Others are simply odd: "I eat ants but only the little red ones. They're sweet as hell and I just can't get enough.")

All this public confessing testifies to the impulse to share our deepest shame. So, why isn't that impulse manifesting itself in Catholics practicing the ritual that was created expressly for that purpose? Of course, Catholic penance—whether it's done in a confessional booth or in a face-to-face meeting with a priest, an innovation introduced in 1973—is supposed to be private and confidential. It may be that in an age of media-fueled exhibitionism, some people want more attention for our misdeeds than can be had from whispering a list of sins in a box in a church. But those Internet confessions won't count toward absolution in the eyes of the church any time soon. "There are no sacraments on the Internet," declared the Pontifical Council for Social Communication unequivocally in 2002.

Despite a reasonably fair analysis of the situation, the author misses the most obvious factor keeping Catholics from receiving absolution: the prevalence (yes I'm using this word properly) of the idea that there is no such thing as sin. Call it relativism, call it the "loss of the sense of sin," no matter: if Catholics don't believe that their actions are in fact sinful, why should they seek forgiveness for them?

Another small point that sticks out: the author asserts that the Sacrament's "official" name is "The Sacrament of Reconciliation". This is untrue. The "official" name (according to the Catechism) is actually "The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation".

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on November 18, 2005 10:35 PM.

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