What killed Confession?

Anthony Zimmerman
Letter to Homiletic and Pastoral Review
July, 1991
Reproduced with Permission

Editor: Mr. Cunningham asks why Confession declined over the past thirty years (January 1991). The Pill killed Confession! And the IUD and sterilization, and abortion, and adultery, and fornication, and divorce, and attempted re-marriage, and sodomy. The lucrative Pill piped a tune, and a bewitched Catholic multitude marched in this macabre procession. While they march, confessionals gather dust.

We confessors used to help dispose people for absolution - including those who confessed adultery, fornication, withdrawal, use of the condom. When they said, "Never again," we said, "I absolve you."

But Pill-&-Co.-couples usually don't walk into the confessional with a mind to change their lifestyle. They (yes, THEY husband assenting with wife) took the Pill yesterday and today, and are firmly resolved to take it tomorrow. Missing even one day could mean for them a total catastrophe: a pregnancy. That, for their mindset, is as bad as a car wreck, bankruptcy, fire, war, the end of the world all happening on the same day. They are not ready for a change of lifestyle.

Is taking the Pill grave matter? Then the confessor must dispose them to change their lifestyle before he says, "Ego te absolvo." Saying those words changes lives.

Is taking the Pill NOT a grave matter? Then the Pope is wrong, and Christ spoke nonsense when he said, "You are the rock on which I will build my Church." We know that Christ spoke no nonsense. He is living Truth. And we know that taking the Pill IS grave matter.

"Lord, give me chastity ... but not yet," so prayed an ambivalent Augustine who had not yet met Ambrose. In the presence of Ambrose Augustine changed; he became chaste. Couples CAN become chaste today; they can confess: "Yes, I give up the Pill. Yes, I'm sorry about that sterilization." The priest then imposes his hand, "Deinde ego te absolvo." That's how it must be. There is no other way for this sacrament to function with the power of Christ. Multiplying Confessions which are not for real has little purpose.