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Supply Side Confessionomics

With the 25th just around the corner, confession lines are growing longer as Catholics try to get themselves cleaned up for Christmas, at least in some parishes.

I've always been struck by the lack of availability of confession in so many parishes. Some priests offer confession once a week for 15-30 minutes on Saturday afternoon and then wonder why no one shows up. Sure, they may throw in a communal service during Advent and Lent, but if you can't make it that night, you're out of luck.

Surprisingly, I've found that parishes that offer confession the most tend to have the most penitents (and the longest lines). The explanation, I believe, lies in supply side confessionomics.

The reality is, a lot of us don't limit our sinning to Saturday, so there is a need for the sacrament throughout the week. The other problem is human sloth. Confession is often viewed liked going to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned. We are always looking for excuses to avoid it, and lack of availability is a great excuse.

If on the other hand confession is freely availably, that's one less hurdle to get your soul in the box. If your parish has confession for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening every day, it's hard to say in good conscience you can't fit a visit into your schedule.

The bottom line is the greater the supply, the lesser the excuses, and the greater the demand. And that is supply side confessionomics. If any economist out there have done any work on the elasticity of confession demand I'd be most interested.


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Comments (2)

This is a good point, and your observations ring true.

Allow to me to interject what I believe is another cause.

At some point, parishes began eliminating, or greatly reducing, individual confession time but retaining the Advent and Lent communal services. Thus, I think the mind of the average Catholic started to believe that this was a sacrament relegated only for special times of year. They think that penance is only for penitential seasons. They see penance as a biannual ritual rather than a moment of God meeting man in the sacrament with much needed absolution. And thus, they don't believe they need to go on an individual basis.

This doesn't entirely explain it, but it may in part.

Brian Logue:

I think you are on to something here.

When I lived in the Twin Cities Confession was always available at one parish or another and every Day at St. Thomas in my own back yard. No excuses. I now live in a city that has 5 parishes and they all offer the sacrament at relativly the same time, Saturday afternoon. If unable to attend between 12pm-4pm on a Saturday you have to travel to another community and hope they have different times to offer. That is doable here as it is fairly urban, but not convient. What about rural communities? It must be even harder.

Thanks for a great site...

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