Let me start by saying that I’ve always been a firm believer that the Sacrament of confession is a treasured gift from God. Confession is part of our Catholic identity, and we need it now more than ever before.
Unfortunately, after reading some accounts of abuses by our clergy, it appears that some opportunistic predators have defiled this blessed sacrament as a means to take advantage of their victims.
This violation of the sacred trust with one’s confessor is psychologically difficult to reconcile for many faithful Catholics.
Aside from the physical opportunity of being alone with a predator during confession, there are also the psychological and emotional aspects of sharing one’s deepest and darkest secrets with a person who may use them for blackmail. This aspect is especially frightening for parents sending young children into confession.
Countries are beginning to attempt the passage of laws to break the seal of confession and require confessors to report instances of abuse that have been confessed to them, and I’m not sure if this would help or hurt in the long run.
Here are a few ideas that I’ve seen floating around which may address these issues:
-Returning to traditional confession booths with partitions (may address some of the physical issues?)
-End face to face confessions (may restore some anonymity)
-Having a third party present during confession (could be optional, for parents or caregivers?)
-Allowing recording devices to be present
-Making use of the telephone or internet for remote confession and absolution (may also help make confession more accessible)
At a time when confession attendance is at an all-time low, what can the Church do to restore people’s trust in confession?