Fair warning, this doesn't really qualify as a "fun fact." As a matter of fact, it's a pretty disheartening one. According to a 2014 study from a Georgetown nonprofit organization, only 2% of Catholics regularly go to Confession. Additionally, 75% go less than once per year or not at all. Yikes! Not good!
Let's start with an admission: Confession can be uncomfortable. It's painful to admit when we're wrong, right? It's a vulnerable place to be. It's also daunting because Confession asks us to change; we're called not only to be sorry for our sins, but to resolve to try to root them out of our lives when we say "I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin."
Another fear people sometimes have is that the priest will view or treat them differently after hearing their sins. This is an understandable human fear! Especially when attending Confession with priests that we know, that doubt can creep into our minds. We need to remember a few things when these thoughts come knocking.
Firstly, Confession is much more about God's mercy than about our sins. As Jesus said in John 20:21-23, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you...whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained." It is Jesus who forgives our sins, not the priest. When the priest gives us Absolution, he speaks in persona Christi, just like during the Consecration when he declares "This is my Body...This is my Blood."
Secondly, our priests are there to heal us, not to judge us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1467 says, "He (the priest) can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives." That means that we are protected by an unbreakable seal, the Sacramental Seal of God's mercy and discretion through the priest. It is a beautiful thing!
There is a Flannery O'Connor quote that fits perfectly here when describing why so many are afraid or worried about Confession: "All human nature vigorously resists grace, because grace changes us, and change is painful."
While this week's fact is disheartening, it is more than reversible. We are blessed to have Confession offered at our parish every Saturday at 3:00pm until all have been heard. It's even drive-thru, so no Covid worries! Trust our priests and trust Christ's boundless mercy.
Help bump that 2% number up, and avail yourself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It doesn't matter if it's been a week or 30 years since your last time; Christ, through our priests, is waiting for you with open arms. Come accept His loving embrace!