The Sacrament of Confession has indeed changed a great deal over the centuries. For one thing, it’s not called the Sacrament of Confession anymore but the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Although you do have to reconcile yourself with God, you still have to confess your sins.
Maybe it would be best if we call it the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation, but since it seems most people find it difficult to go for the Sacrament because they are too lazy, we can’t go around making the name longer. With a shorter name, perhaps people will at least talk about it.
The Church has been working for centuries trying to see how she can make the sacrament more palatable or maybe convenient (if I would say) for everyone, and that is the truth.
Now, this is how it was done in the earlier days;
Way back in the early church after one had confessed, that person had to do penance that lasted for years. He would stand outside the church in sackcloths and ashes with a sign around his neck stating what it was he had done to cause him to stand outside the church in the sackcloths and ashes. It was like being on the cover page of a National newspaper every day, only that this time, it isn’t just your picture, it’s actually you!
Well, it didn’t stop there. As that person’s penance went on he or she got to get dressed again and stand inside the church, at the back. Then, after some more time, that person would come in a little further and maybe stand at the corner. He or she would then eventually work their way back to the Communion rail.
At that point, everyone could tell just where you were in your penance by where you were located inside the church, and the people already knew what you did because of the sign around your neck. That is really embarrassing.
Again, this would shock you. People were confessing altogether. It was then the Sacrament of Penance.
The Sacrament of Penance started fading away until some Irish monks invented the Confessional which might still be more popular than the face to face practice of recent years. It is not called the Sacrament of Penance anymore either. But then, in order to get to reconcile with God, there is going to be some Penance. But then calling it the Sacrament of Confession, Penance, and Reconciliation is of course way too long.
Some others have been saying that at their parish they still do this group confession stuff. This is a situation where no one has to confess individually and the priest gives the whole lot of them absolution.
But group confession is only allowed in emergencies. Sometimes it is because there is a shortage of priests. One can have group confessions if there is just no other way to have confession at all. If it were centuries ago, you would ride no matter what through the dusty, muddy road for hours into town to get to church and confession and then ride a several dusty, tired and possibly dark hours back.
way stressful than now when you jump into the car, with the radio blasting, a bag of chips for the journey and maybe videos in the back seat for the kids.