Freddy Gray Notebook
Is Confession on the rise again? A number of priests of England and Wales noticed a proliferation of Catholics lining up outside the confessional before Easter.
Westminster Cathedral witnessed a sort of week-long confessionathon in the run-up to the Triduatn. Every day in Holy Week, a long procession of penitents snaked its way down the side of the great church. Young sinners could be seen looking nervously at their feet, while the old-timers, rosaries in fists, spied gaps in the queue.
What could account for the apparent revival of this vital sacrament?
It might, in part, be a consequence of last year's synod of the world's bishops on the Eucharist. Since then Pope Benedict XVI has issued several reminders that the faithful must be in a state of grace to receive Communion. Maybe the message is trickling down to us laity, whose understanding of mortal sin has often been muddled by waffiy catechesis.
Yet there could be a wider cultural force at work. The desire to shun individual guilt and blame others for one's failings is almost irresistible to modern minds. But that selfish urge is strangely, and perhaps increasingly, attracted to its intellectual opposite, which is precisely what one finds in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Today, apologising to God through a man in persona Christi is so counter-cultural that it has a certain rebel appeal. Of course, it would be ridiculous and tasteless to suggest that the Act of Contrition is now somehow fashionable. Nevertheless, confession is not as repugnant to people, especially the young, as it was 10 years ago.
"You don't know me, so don'g judge me", the great adolescent mantra of the last two decades, is wearing thin. That attitude is more for the pre-pubescent crowd these days.
Still, regardless of what people think about the sacrament in theory, practising confession remains difficult. No doubt there are some guilt-junkies who just can't keep themselves away from the box, but most Catholics find it hard to go however much as they think they should. I have started trying to motivate myself with the promise of a cigar afterwards. Leaving the church, 1 head straight for the tobacconist and buy a cheroot. Then I find a park bench and start puffing. The experience is momentarily satisfying, though I don't know if I actually like cigars. So it almost becomes another form of penance. Is that good? There is an odd tendency among comment writers bashing the Church to refer to how many leftfooted acquaintances they have.
It is comparable to the way anti-immigration bores begin ' their arguments with; "Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are black, but.."
Matthew Paths, in a recent article in the limes, ridiculed people who believe that Pope John Paul II had anything to do with the astonishing cure of a nun from Parkinson's disease.
In between excoriating phrases about the silliness of such "superstition", Parris announced: "I know lots of nice. clever Catholics, thoughtful men and women, people of depth and subtlety:" Well, that's good to know, but is this not just a facile device for justifying nasty prejudice in the rest of the article?
Parris went on: "Words cannot express my confidence in the answer to the question whether God cured a nun because she wrote a Pope's name down. He didn't.
That's it then, folks, close the Cause. No, no use crying "Santo Subito", Matthew Parris says there's nothing in it.
NASWUT, the largest teacher's union, complains that children are eating too much junk food and wearing sexually provocative clothing.
Quite right, but doesn't the one tend to cancel out the other?