… A 2003 survey of over 1,000 Catholics, conducted by sociologists James Davidson and Dean Hoge, indicates that while 46 percent of Catholics celebrate Reconciliation once a year or more, 53 percent never or almost never do. In addition, only 38 percent of Catholics say that private Confession to a priest is “essential to [their] vision of being Catholic.”
In a 2001 article in Commonweal magazine Boston College historian James O’Toole wrote: “We seem to be in the process of reducing the number of sacraments from seven to six—by default.” A closer look at the “most endangered sacrament” reveals that, though there are signs of hope, this trend isn’t likely to reverse itself anytime soon.
Most endangered sacrament? Well this sacrament has been getting the silent treatment. Silence from the Bishops, pulpits, CCDs, etc. If people went to the hospital and found that the emergency room was only open on Saturdays between 5 and 5:30 pm you know there would be an outcry. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is truly the emergency room for those in mortal sin. They have been pronounced dead in their relationship with God and are revived and restored to life. Flat lined to grace and restored to a healthy pulse. Sure they always say "or by appointment", but doesn’t making an appointment somewhat remove the canonical right to anonymous confession? And what about all of us suffering from the cuts and bruises due to our venial sins? Sorry clinic hours are limited.
… Catholics born after Vatican II have never experienced the long Saturday lines at parish confessionals. Most are likely to have experienced Reconciliation as part of an Advent or Lenten communal penance service followed by individual Confessions, which comprises the vast majority of Reconciliation celebrations today.
Since my parish has confession before all Masses I would dispute the claim that people never experienced long lines. I suspect that other parishes that have frequent confession also have long lines.
While some Catholics may shy away from the sacrament for fear of confessing their sins to another person, an informal survey shows that a sense of sin and a sense of right and wrong is still alive and well in the hearts of minds of many Catholics.
When asked if they thought of themselves as sinners, many answered quite bluntly.
“Yes. I am a sinner,” says Manuel Gonzales, 37, of Los Angeles. “If we don’t see ourselves as sinners, we are in denial.”
It is very easy to just acknowledge that we are sinners. If someone is severely sick and they agree that they are sick, but don’t go to a doctor then their idea of sickness is not very well developed.
Jose Torres, 43, of Norman, Oklahoma, says he will only receive Communion if he has gone to Reconciliation beforehand.
“I need to be free of sin before I receive Christ and the Eucharist,” Torres says. “If I go [to Communion] with sin, I commit a double sin, and I don’t want that.”
Though people can also err in the opposite direction. If you are not in mortal sin your venial sins are removed via the Mass. "blots out venial sins, and wards off mortal sins." Pope Innocent III
“Until there is a new kind of religious consensus formed, revival is going to be very difficult,” says James O’Toole. “It won’t happen until there is a replacement for the cultural supports Catholics have had in the past.”
In other words, it may be a long time, if ever, before Reconciliation can be removed from the top of the “endangered sacrament” list