Sunday, September 23, 2007

Confession making a comeback

~from The Wall Street Journal
Sin never goes out of style, but confession is undergoing a revival.

This February at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI instructed priests to make confession a top priority. U.S. bishops have begun promoting it in diocesan newspapers, mass mailings and even billboard ads. And in a dramatic turnaround, some Protestant churches are following suit. This summer, the second-largest North American branch of the Lutheran Church passed a resolution supporting the rite, which it had all but ignored for more than 100 years.

To make confession less intimidating, Protestant churches have urged believers to shred their sins in paper shredders or write them on rocks and cast them into a "desert" symbolized by a giant sand pile in the sanctuary. Three Catholic priests from the Capuchin order now hear confessions at a mall in Colorado Springs., Colo.

Worshippers are answering the call. During a "Reconciliation Weekend" at churches in the diocese of Orlando, Fla., this March, more than 5,000 people turned out to confess. When five parishes in Chicago joined forces last year for "24 Hours of Grace," where priests welcomed penitents from 9 a.m. on a Friday to 9 a.m. the next morning, about 2,500 people showed up.

Several factors are feeding the resurgence. Aggressive marketing by churches has helped reinvent confession as a form of self-improvement rather than a punitive rite. Technology is also creating new avenues for redemption. Some Protestants now air their sins on videos that are shared on YouTube and iTunes or are played to entire congregations. And the appetite for introspection has been buoyed by the broad acceptance of psychotherapy and the emphasis on self-analysis typified by daytime talk television.

"Every day on Jerry Springer we see people confessing their sins in public, and certainly the confessional is a lot healthier than Jerry Springer," says Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski, who last March sent out 190,000 pamphlets calling on Catholics to confess.
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