Casey FitzGerald 10-17-2016

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Jesus’ stories always provoke, but they also invite. This story stands as an invitation to be connected in our thanksgiving and especially in our confessing. Let the confessions begin in our homes: in the places we live, with the people we love. Let them continue in our places of worship. Let the confessions be made public such that they might reshape local and national discourse. With confidence, let us confess and receive assurance — even when we turn from God, God is faithful still.

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A Louisiana judge has ruled that a state law requiring clergy to report child abuse or other crimes learned in the confessional is unconstitutional because it infringes on religious liberty. At issue is a long-running case involving Rebecca Mayeaux, a 22-year-old who claims that when she was 14 she told the Rev. Jeff Bayhi, a Catholic priest, during confession that a church member was abusing her. Mayeaux claims Bayhi told her to “sweep it under the rug.”

Robert Williamson 01-19-2016

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On Dec. 28, just before New Year’s Day, a Cleveland grand jury declined to indict the officers who killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who had been playing with a toy gun in a park near his home. For many, the news resounded as yet one more tragic refrain in the long litany of our nation’s utter disregard for Black lives. Extinguished in the innocence of childhood, without even a second thought.

Adam Ericksen 10-06-2015
LoloStock /

Photo via LoloStock /

We’d really like to have an explanation that makes these killers “other” than the rest of us. So we say they are mentally ill and demand our society do a better job caring for them.

While it’s true that we need to do a better job caring for the mentally ill, the vast majority of people with mental illness will never harm anyone. Mass murderers don’t tend to be mentally ill.

Cathleen Falsani 09-25-2015

Image via Sarah Vanderveen/Sojourners

“Brace yourself, Father,” I said, taking a seat in a plastic chair facing my would-be confessor in Madison Square Garden’s dimly lit Madison Bar on Friday, a few hours before the start of the papal mass.

The bearded Franciscan priest in his dove gray vestments laughed and said, “No way. It’s all fine. Think of it as a big embrace of forgiveness from your heavenly father.”

OK. I tried to warn you.

“Let me see if I remember how this goes,” I began. “Bless me father for I have sinned; it’s been 35 years since my last confession.”

He tried not to look startled and almost pulled it off.

“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” he said, smiling kindly as he reached beneath his cassock to pull out a small paperback tract that, he explained, contained a list of questions that he could ask me that might make recounting all of my trespasses since the third grade a little less daunting.

Jim Wallis 11-05-2014

We cannot undermine or defeat a group that we do not understand. 

Archbishop John Sentamu. Photo via York Minster (Flickr), via Wikimedia Commons/RNS.

Anglican priests should no longer be bound by the centuries-old principle of confidentiality in confessions when they are told of sexual crimes committed against children, the Church of England’s No. 2 official said.

Speaking at the end of an internal inquiry on whether senior church officials ignored abuse allegations involving children, Archbishop of York John Sentamu said that “what happened was shameful, terrible, bad, bad, bad.”

He said that the Church of England must break the confidentiality of confession in cases where people disclosed the abuse of children. “If someone tells you a child has been abused, the confession doesn’t seem to me a cloak for hiding that business. How can you hear a confession about somebody abusing a child and the matter must be sealed up and you mustn’t talk about it?”

Jesus Cervantes /

'Forgive us for the ways we are broken and not yet made whole.' Jesus Cervantes /

Often we do not know how our words and actions affect and harm others. However, ignorance is not an excuse. As the body of Christ, we must be willing to look deeply at the implications of the choices we make. When those choices cause harm – intentionally or unintentionally – we must repent and ask for forgiveness.

Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith was a cry from my heart and the hearts of my coauthors as we wrestled with what it means to be the church of “Good News” in the 21st century. So many people do not see the evangelical church from that perspective. The church – rather than being Good News – is often a painful place where broken people, judgment, and criticisms prevail.

Bill McKibben 07-09-2014

We stood by as our addiction to fossil fuel ran Genesis in reverse.

Jim Wallis 03-27-2014

I live in Washington D.C., a city in which mistakes are messaged and shortcomings are spun. True confession and true repentance do not occur — unless it is politically advantageous. Naturally, cynicism runs rampant.

In this environment, though we all know our own weaknesses, grace is rarely offered for failures.

Which is why Lent is such an important season on the Christian calendar. It is an opportunity to pause and reflect, to examine our hearts, and to acknowledge the ways in which we have fallen short. But we don’t confess our failures to a public waiting to crucify us. Instead, we confess our sins to one who loves us and was willing to be crucified in order to reconcile us once and for all.

Lent is rarely talked about as a celebration, but it is an opportunity to revel in the joy of forgiveness.

Eric J. Lyman 12-17-2013

Pope Francis passes a crucifix in St. Peter's Square. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service. Via RNS

As part of Pope Francis’ pastoral reforms, all 44 senior members of the Roman Curia, or governing body, must take turns hearing confession at a church near the Vatican.

There is even speculation that Francis himself could hear confessions at the Church of the Santo Spirito in Sassia, just outside the Vatican walls, where his bishops and cardinals have been directed to perform the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

“I think it’s likely the pope will discreetly hear confessions at some point,” said Giacomo Galeazzi, a veteran Vatican watcher from Italy’s La Stampa newspaper. “The pope has long been an advocate of the pastoral aspects of the ministry and now the Curia will as well.”

Ann Marie Somma 04-29-2013
RNS photo by Ann Marie Somma/Hartford Faith & Values.

The new confessional at St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Church, RNS photo by Ann Marie Somma/Hartford Faith & Values.

DERBY, Conn. — The Rev. Janusz Kukulka can’t say for sure that his parishioners are sinning more, but they sure are lining up at the new confessional booth to tell him about it.

For years, Kukulka, was content with absolving sins in a private room marked by an exit sign to the right of the altar St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

But something happened during Lent this year. For the first time, Kukulka really noticed the two confessionals missing from the rear of his church. They’d been gone for four decades, ripped out during the 1970s to make room for air conditioning units during a renovation inspired by the Second Vatican Council.

They must have been a thing of beauty, Kukulka thought. He imagined their dark oak paneled doors and arched moldings to match the Gothic architecture of the church designed by renowned 19th-century architect Patrick Keely.

Their absence was striking, especially when the Archdiocese of Hartford had asked parishes to extend their confession hours during Lent, part of a public relations campaign to get Catholics to return to the sacrament of reconciliation.

So, one Sunday Kukulka announced his desire to the congregation. “I told them I wanted a visible confessional,” he said.

He got one within a week.

Nadia Bolz-Weber 03-28-2012
Way to Freedom, Lukiyanova Natalia / frenta/

Way to Freedom, Lukiyanova Natalia / frenta/

There’s someone who is new here at House for All … actually they are new to church entirely and therefore unfamiliar with liturgy. After coming to House for a few weeks I met them for lunch and asked what stands out for them at church expecting them to say the singing or maybe the community. “You know that part at the beginning where we all say together that we’ve fractured relationships and done things we shouldn’t and stuff?” Uh…I answered…the confession? “Yeah! they said. That’s so amazing.”

There’s a trend in starting new Lutheran churches to actually eliminate the confession and absolution in the liturgy because, well, it just makes people feel bad. And let’s be honest, it’s just a lot more appealing to go to a church that doesn’t make you feel bad.

And I guess there is some logic to that. I mean, if the point of religion is to teach us good from evil and how to choose the good, then who wants to start out each Sunday saying that you didn’t manage to pull that off. Again.

Derek Flood 01-02-2012
Sign for the confessional at Lourdes. Via Wiki Commons

Sign for the confessional at Lourdes. Via Wiki Commons

Everybody needs forgiveness.

But it’s hard to face that. It feels threatening, like an accusation. So we tend to get defensive and start justifying ourselves, rather than seeing the one we’ve hurt. 

If we’re honest, though, we all know that we’ve done things that have hurt others. Probably lots of things.

One thing that still haunts me from my past happened when I was just eight years old. There was an autistic boy at the after school program I was in, and one day I got so frustrated with him that I beat him up.
Brittany Shoot 01-01-2012

Contrition seems more popular than ever.

Sheri Ellwood 11-11-2011
A young woman in prayer. Image via Wylio.

A young woman in prayer. Image via Wylio.

As I have read about the Occupy Movement, I have noticed many individual Christians expressing support, but little public support for the movement from the Christian community as a whole.

I have had mixed feelings about this.

Certainly support of the poor, standing up for social justice, most of what the Occupy Movement is about, coincide with what we are called to as Christian people. Yet I think it would be inappropriate for Christians to try to jump into leadership roles when the Occupy Movement is so diverse and when we have so often failed to take a stand on such issues ourselves.

It seems to me that public confession and repentance might be the best way to communicate our support with appropriate humility. 

With this in mind I make the following confession as a person of Christian faith. I hope others will join me in this or similar confessions.

Timothy King 09-30-2011
I must admit, I was skeptical. Justin Bieber and Jesus -- at least not together -- weren't exactly on my radar.
Nadia Bolz-Weber 07-13-2011

My favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings are the Ents -- an ancient race of giant living, talking, breathing trees in J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional land, Middle Earth. I have a little confession to make: Whenever I hear a reading from Isaiah 55 where it says, "The mountains and hills before you shall burst into song and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands," I always picture the Giant Ents from The Lord of the Rings. And then I picture these clapping trees from Isaiah holding little Hobbits in their branch arms in what ends up a willful conflation of Middle Earth and Major Prophet.

Jason Howard 06-21-2011
It's noon on the West Coast, and Ashley Judd is scurrying to make a live on-air interview with a National Public Radio local affiliate in Berkeley.
Walter Brueggemann 04-22-2011

In Christian confession, Good Friday is the day of loss and defeat; Sunday is the day of recovery and victory. Friday and Sunday summarize the drama of the gospel that continues to be re-performed, always again, in the life of faith. In the long gospel reading of the lectionary for this week (Matthew 27:11-54), we hear the Friday element of that drama: the moment when Jesus cries out to God in abandonment (Matthew 27: 46). This reading does not carry us, for this day, toward the Sunday victory, except for the anticipatory assertion of the Roman soldier who recognized that Jesus is the power of God for new life in the world (verse 54). Given that anticipation, the reading invites the church to walk into the deep loss in hope of walking into the new life that will come at the end of the drama.