I made my first confession in a parking lot. It was the early ’80s, and that was how they arranged things — lined up in a parking lot across from the church, with a couple of folding chairs set up on the hot asphalt, parents clustered around just out of hearing distance.
Everything was done as casually as possible at this time, as part of an overall effort to demystify and desanctify the Church. I also remember them painting over the midnight blue sanctuary with the gold stars, and making it beige instead.
As foolish and unpleasant as their likely motivation was, it wasn’t actually a terrible system for first confession. I thought of it the other day when Chris Damian asked on Twitter: “How can Catholic parents responsibly send children to confession, knowing that for half of the last century about 1 in 25 priests was a sexual abuser? And that the Church structured itself to hide this?”
You can quibble about his numbers, which he says are based on the John Jay Report; but I believe it was a good-faith question.
It is undeniable that some priests, just like some men in every profession, are sexual abusers, and that they use their spiritual authority and the privacy of the confessional to prey on vulnerable people.
So here’s my answer:
I thought first of what I taught a class of 8-year-olds when I led a confession preparation class. We learned four basic things about safety in general and not just confession. It occurred to me that these rules didn’t change for older kids. They just need elaboration.
One: My body is made by God, and I’m in charge of it….Read the rest of my latest for OSV.
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