Confession And V II
Some recent posts on the usefulness of traditional confessionals rather than those strange, vaguely creepy rooms where the priest is locked in with the penitent – who could be a woman, or a young girl – are probably a fitting occasion to make some consideration about different perceptions of the Confession.
I do not doubt most among the V II priests who hear confession believe in the sacrament, and my experience of Novus Ordo confessors is actually, on the whole, reassuring (the only serious exception was… a Jesuit). Still, even the most conservatively minded priest cannot escape the pernicious effect of the environment created by the modern confessionals.
Sitting in front of each other unavoidably creates the wrong atmosphere: the accent is on a chat about our sins rather than our sincere repentance. It certainly doesn't do much for perfect contrition.
Then there is the matter with the posture: in a well-made confessional you kneel, and the priest sits. This isn't casual. It isn't two friends having a chat here, but one wretched sinner utterly ashamed of his inadequacy, and another one acting on Christ's behalf. The difference is substantial.
Then there is the separation: it is nothing less than shocking how simple devices like the grate could be abandoned. Not to see the priest on the other side (which in a big church often means not knowing who he is) helps the penitent to think that on the other side of the grate is, in a very concrete way, Christ Himself. Again, this helps to reach perfect contrition greatly. Compare with the smiling bloke and think what helps you more…
It is no surprise to me that the confessional itself has been attacked after V II, because I do not labour under the misapprehension that V II was anything good. In fact, what has happened to the confessionals and the practice of going to confession shows once more that V II was the work of the Devil, enabling and even encouraging all the abuses subsequently made in its name, and of which V II was indubitably the cause. If you want to attack the Sacraments, you must attack the ways they are executed, so that their sacredness and the grace they impart is at least diminished.
The Devil, who used V II to enter the doors of the Church, made himself comfortable inside and started to attack pretty much everything Catholic; it would have been unrealistic to expect that Confession would be spared.
As to building new confessionals (you will see beautiful pieces of craftsmanship around), I think at least in England good results can be achieved fast, and at little expense. I have often noticed that in the London area confessionals were often “built in”, with a room divided into three: the central part for the priests and the two lateral ones for the penitents, with grate and all. The “chatting rooms” you find around are very often the same room, with the grates and barriers removed. It would therefore be very cheap to reinstall the grates, with a suitable place to kneel, and have things exactly as they were, and should be.
The answer to the present mess is, if you ask me, not only to go back fast to a more traditionally oriented practice concerning confessionals and confessions; but also to grasp whence the problems came and why. Unless we understand that the evil inbuilt in VII is the cause of pretty much every problem plaguing the Church nowadays – including the darling of the secular media: the pedophile priest scandal – we are going to wander in darkness as to the appropriate remedies.
The return to sanity – in this as in every other matter – goes through the demolition of all the innovations of V II; then I would be at a loss to mention to you one single “improvement” introduced after Vatican II that was not damaging to the Church and to the spiritual lives of the faithful.
Vatican II must go, and good riddance. There can be no middle way. A tree is judged by its fruits, and it astonishes me we see poisoned fruits wherever we turn, but there are those who insist the tree in itself is good.