Church scrambles to save ‘endangered sacrament’ of confession

(Crux) As Pope Francis was personally hearing confessions in the Vatican at the beginning of Lent, dioceses at his invitation were launching an ambitious initiative called “24 Hours for the Lord” to invite lapsed Catholics back to the Church and, in particular, to the sacrament of reconciliation.

Confession often goes hand in hand with the pope’s musings on mercy, a virtue he’s invoked to define his papacy. But will his high-profile endorsement revitalize interest in what some say is an endangered sacrament?

The pope’s confession-obsession was on display in his recent book, the New York Times bestselling “The Name of God is Mercy.” There, Francis expands on his now famous “Who am I to judge?” response in 2013 when asked about gay priests.

“I prefer that homosexuals come to confession,” he said, “that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together.”

Last year, Francis raised eyebrows when he announced that women and others who take part in abortions – which the Church considers a grave sin – could be forgiven by any priest in the world, if they went to confession.

“I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision,” Francis wrote in a letter, in which he went on to say “the forgiveness of God cannot be denied.” [More]