Consumption v. confession

A century ago, it was common for practicing Catholics to only accept the Eucharist once a year, but to go to confession regularly. Now, apparently, it’s just the opposite. The reasons behind this are myriad, of course, but at least part of gets at Andy’s idea of a posture of cultural consumption supplanting the sorts of disciplines that must be cultivated with diligence and work.

The biggest barrier between Catholics and the confessional, however, may be the real effort it requires. Unloading your transgressions on the Internet takes a few computer clicks—you can do it on your coffee break. But done right, Catholic confession demands a rigorous examination of conscience and real contrition, to say nothing of the prayers you may be assigned for penance and the thinking a priest may ask you to do about the ways you’ve let yourself and God down. No wonder we are more comfortable with the Eucharist service, which demands only that we line up like consumers and accept something for free. Dorothy Day wrote of having to “rack your brain for even the beginnings of sin.” That’s work.

from “Why have Catholics stopped confessing?,” by Andrew Santella, Slate, 17 November 2005 :: via Alan Jacobs

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