With coronavirus restrictions lifting, priests looking to welcome Catholics back to church should rethink their confession schedules – and start talking more about the sacrament in the pulpit.
That’s according to Archdiocese of Philadelphia evangelization director Meghan Cokeley, who said that a lack of convenient times for the sacrament of reconciliation, along with a poor understanding of its significance, are leading to declines in overall Mass attendance.
“Sin is like spiritual cholesterol, and the arteries (of the church) are clogged,” she said. “This is a hidden spiritual reality, but it actually explains why there’s so little life.”
Cokeley said that many local Catholics have advised her that traditional Saturday afternoon confession times “are terrible as far as accessibility, (especially) for young families.”
Respondents to a survey by Cokeley said that Sunday mornings and weeknights were more viable for receiving the sacrament.
Aside from logistical concerns, however, the lines for confession have been shrinking for years.
A study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that in 2005, 42 per cent of Catholic adults said they never went to confession, a number that rose to 45 per cent in CARA’s 2008 follow-up polling. The latter study found that 30 per cent participated in the sacrament of reconciliation less than once a year.
Numbers from a 2015 Pew Research survey were slightly more encouraging, yet still found a “lukewarm embrace of confession.”
But the data that really shocked Cokeley came from a recent five-year study by the Malvern-based Catholic Leadership Institute, which surveyed some 17,000 practicing Catholics from the Philadelphia archdiocesan area.
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