Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Confessional Idea

There was a post on Fr. Z lately about parishes not offering enough times for confession, the sad trend of confessions available "by appointment only" (talk about awkward!), etc.

It's got me thinking. On the one hand, I don't necessarily agree with the notion held by some conservative Catholics that constantly available confessions are necessary or even ideal. I think I've said before that a few strategically placed churches in a diocese could have confession all day (perhaps ones associated with a monastery, or the Cathedral, or other place where many priests will be available to rotate), but that it is hardly necessary in the parish. A weekly weekend slot is reasonable and, in fact, I worry from personal experience that being spoiled with daily available confessions can just make one presumptuous in sinning and lazy spiritually that way. There is something mortifying about having to wait to get back on the wagon rather than having instant absolution available as if it's just some toggle-switch for grace. Perpetual confessions are really no more necessary than perpetual adoration, and can become just as distorted an emphasis if we're not careful.

However, all that being said, not all Catholics' schedules are alike. And there may be a way to have confessions be more widely available than scheduling big chunks of time during the week, which many priests don't have (or, rather, they do, but refuse to waste it sitting in a box for an hour when only one person shows up).

Though I don't necessarily like the attitude of "drive-through" confessions in a parish-as-sacrament-factory, I have been chewing over an idea that I'd like to at least see experimented with somewhere.

The idea is this: rectories could have a confessional built along some side wall that penitents could enter from the outside. It would be like a tool-shed; it wouldn't have a door into the rectory, but there would be a connecting screen with a room on the other side, in the rectory. When priests were in the rectory just working on paper-work in the office, or watching TV, or just lounging around or whatever...they could turn on the "green light" hanging outside the confessional (and visible from the street). People would know that there was someone available then, and could go into the confessional. There would be a "doorbell" inside that would ring and alert a priest to come to the confessional on his side, switch the light to red, and hear the confession. If the priest went out, or was showering, or in a meeting, or in bed, or for whatever reason just didn't want to be bothered at the moment...he just would press the button (perhaps it would be remote controlled) turning off the light and the buzzer.

That way, priests could be doing other things around the rectory during the day without having to necessarily set aside a whole hour just for confessions if very few people come. Sure, there would be no guarantees about confession availability during the week, and there would still have to be a specifically scheduled slot on the weekend. But outside that, people would start to pick up on what times the priest was usually home, and could drive by and see if the light was on during the times of day he tended to be available if they were seeking a confession. At the very least, I'd think it would be an interesting experiment to try...


FrGregACCA said...

I would just point out that from an Orthodox perspective, the idea is to have an ongoing relationship with a spiritual father who is also your confessor. Sort of like having a family doctor instead seeing a different doc each time you hit the ER or the doc-in-the-box down the street.

A Sinner said...

Yes, ideally, which is the point of my long disclaimer at the beginning of this post about not liking the idea of "drive-through" sacraments at the Big Box parish.

BUT, at the same time, Catholics do have a tradition in the West of the anonymous confessional that has been spiritually fruitful in a certain way too, even if not ideal in a holistic way.

I'm not really sure how many of your average lay Orthodox are involved in a spiritual-fatherhood type relationship. If it's most of them, that would be great to hear, but something in me doubts that, on a practical level, that much effort is put forth by your average "cultural" believer.

Your average not-intentionally-particularly-devout Catholics certainly don't even go to confession that much themselves (and I'm talking about even in the "good old days"). And confession is really designed to make it as easy as possible for people.

Sometimes you have to play to the lowest common denominator. Those who feel called to do more...will seek it out.

Anonymous said...

Certainly, "A Sinner". That's why I used the analogy I did. While the family doctor thing is ideal, the ER and/or doc-in-the-box is unfortunately also necessary. - Avva Greg

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "psychosexually integrated" in your blog description?

A Sinner said...

Well, the term is actually used in a lot of the modern Catholic literature regarding celibacy to describe a healthy incorporation of sexuality into the personality, rather than the "repression" model that many Catholics have, unfortunately, been historically inclined to follow. In repression, sexuality outside marriage is simply denied rather than sublimated. Catholics have a lot of neurotic guilty hang-ups and self-righteous horror around the topic of sex that are surely not essential to the teachings themselves. But this is adolescent and surely makes life rather emotionally frustrated and barren.

Anonymous said...

In other words, "Freud will set you free!"

A Sinner said...