When Confessionals Are Turned Into Broom Closets!

From Fr George W. Rutler’s ‘Weekly Column’







Thirty-five years ago I admired the neo-Gothic buildings of a Catholic college in Westchester County. But I was surprised to find that the confessional in the beautiful chapel was being used as a broom closet. There had been some misunderstanding about aggiornamento, or bringing the practice of the Faith up to date. That was the College of New Rochelle, begun in 1904 by the Ursuline sisters whose Religious institute was founded by Saint Angela Merici and who have graced the Church since 1535 with hospitals and schools and missionary work. They have not been unique in their numerical decline. In the United States since 1965, when the Second Vatican Council ended with sentiments of a “New Springtime” of the Church, Religious sisters have declined from 181,421 to 47,160, and most of those left are aged. This year the College of New Rochelle will close.

While various factors for all this may be cited, many Religious orders, trained in obedience, accepted bad advice from misguided and misguiding theologians and leaders. Bishops often have been at fault, timorous about correcting error, cheerily giving out diplomas while the spiritual foundations of the schools sank. It took a courage usually lacking to point out that serious mistakes were being made, and many Religious dug into their errors, abandoning community life and even Religious habits, and replacing doctrine with secular dogmas about “Peace and Justice” and “climate change”—all witness to the dictum, attributed to various sources, that ”Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”

Such need not be the case, given a dose of humility and sanity. Those who stubbornly will not admit mistakes are easily annoyed when shown new Religious orders, faithful to classical doctrine and religious practice, that are rapidly growing. Something similar is happening in education. Take just two examples: Thomas Aquinas College has emphasized quality over size since its founding in 1971 and has become one of the best regarded colleges in California. This year, it is opening a beautiful additional campus on an historic site in Massachusetts. Its California chapel, built in the Spanish Mission style, is a magnificent witness to Catholic heritage, as is the new chapel planned for Christendom College in Virginia, which was founded just a few years after Thomas Aquinas College. In the few years of their existence, although primarily lay institutions, Thomas Aquinas has produced 60 priests, 44 consecrated Religious women and men, and 26 seminarians; Christendom boasts so far 80 priests, 55 Religious, and 22 seminarians. Those colleges have not turned their confessionals into broom closets.

Any individual or institution that seeks happiness on its own terms will not find it. Chesterton asks, “Do you have joy without a cause…?” On Laetare Sunday, the Church rejoices in the true cause of joy, which is God Himself. The failings evident in practical experience testify to what happens when vanity tries to usurp Him.

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5 Responses to When Confessionals Are Turned Into Broom Closets!

  1. Very fine essay, full of truth and good sense. But a friend who is a grammar-Nazi said, “That headline – ‘confesionals.’ Are ‘confesionals’ the same as ‘confessionals’ or are they something different, so that they can be used as broom closets?”

    [A moderator replies: No RJB, more likely a slip of the Editor. Thanks for pointing it out. Headline duly corrected.]


  2. kathleen says:

    Yes, those Spirit of V2 “brooms” were used to sweep all tradition, piety, and beauty out of the Church! No need for confessionals anymore (they decided); confessionals are put to far better use as broom closets.
    Honestly, is it any wonder that thousands of heartbroken Catholics were driven out of the Church, unable to bear the wonton destruction of their Faith, most notably, the ‘Mass of the Ages’? I was only a child at the time all this got going, but I remember the shocked disbelief and sadness of my parents.

    And they’re still at it, shuffling those deckchairs on the Titanic, refusing to admit they were wrong!
    Fr Rutler: “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results”.
    Only this time new generations of Catholics, and older ones who have wised up on what was the true intent behind the so-called “Spirit of V2”, are fighting back to rebuild what insanity destroyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Crow says:

    Too true, Kathleen, but there are often vicious responses against traditional priests by ‘progressive ‘ Catholics. An example is Tasmania, as detailed by Dr Shaw in his article, where a woman attacked a young priest for his traditional attitude (reverence, in reality). I think they hate it because it is a loss of power for them. My experience of the NO parishes is that they are run by a small group of bossy parishioners, most of whom know nothing about music or liturgy and they are not willing to give up their powerful positions.
    While it means that NO Masses are mostly inadequate, it does illustrate the human weaknesses that we strive against and that Vatican II gave free reign to, in spite of 14 centuries of wisdom. The NO community does not need confessionals though, because there is no sin – that all disappeared with the bad old Latin Church.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pray! Pray for them and pray for us. God hears our prayers.


  5. kathleen says:

    The NO community does not need confessionals though, because there is no sin – that all disappeared with the bad old Latin Church.

    You’re dead right, Crow. In most NO parishes you never hear much about sin (if at all), and most importantly, the terrible consequences if we do not repent of our sins and confess them. The confessionals in many NO parishes are rarely used – so sad! And If you plead with your parish priest to make specific times and days for Confession, all sorts of excuses not to do so are forthcoming. Of course it is also true: if the priest never preaches on sin and the necessity for Confession, there won’t be any lines of penitents either!

    At funerals the most progressive of NO priests assure us that the deceased person, no matter how far away they were from the Church at the time of their death, is surely now in Heaven! It is a terrible injustice for the dead soul who is probably in great need of those prayers right now, intercessory prayers they have been denied.
    The same goes for the doctrine of Hell: it is as if it never existed! Do they believe Our Lord was joking when He warned us again and again in the Gospels of the danger of Hell?
    But no sin = no Hell of course.

    So then, what did Our Lord come to save us from?


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