The dread, damp palms and anxiety may still be there, but Catholic confession has moved out of the dark, creaky booth where a priest listened to penitents and then meted out penalties to every last sinner to show up.
The confessional box has largely given way to a lighted room where priest and penitent can gaze into each other’s eyes and have a private conversation about lapses in holy living. That’s especially true in Arizona, where Catholic churches tend to be newer.
Or sinners can still anonymously recount their wrongs kneeling behind a screen on a table in a well-lighted room, uttering the traditional words, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned” and noting the date of the last confession. Largely gone is the dark confessional booth, tagged the “sin box,” with a kneeler and demarcating shuttered divider between the two parties.
Personally I prefer the older confessionals to "reconciliation rooms" and especially the type displayed in the picture. I have never seen one setup like that, but it seems rather problematic to me. For one I guess you would have to approach this confessional cubicle from a specific angle to retain the canonical right of the individual penitent to remain anonymous. The other problem I would see is that a traditional confessional or a dedicated room would at least act as a baffle to help to prevent people from overhearing your confession. An open confessional would require awaiting penetents to stand much further away to avoid this problem.
Now of course compared to what happens during this amazing sacrament the furniture involved in facilitating it is of no consequence. Though I think we need a visual indicator that the sacrament of confession isn’t something mundane, but something quite exceptional. What could be more exceptional than forgiveness of sins when we truly repent?
I have also always wondered how someone who is forced to make an appointment for confession retains there canonical rights to anonymity? Would you have to give a false name and then say you will meet the priest in the confessional at a certain time? Would you have to confess to giving a false name?
On the light side the confessional pictured looks like it would make for a really challenging game of ping pong.