Catholic Converts Most Attracted by Penance, Pope and Mary

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan told reporters that the three teachings of the Church that adult converts find most attractive are the sacrament of reconciliation, the pope, and devotion to Mary.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Cardinal Dolan made the comments during an interview with reporters that took place on October 15 at the Synod of Bishops in Rome. While covering a variety of subjects from the goings-on at the Synod to the Al Smith dinner scheduled to take place on the evening of October 18, he brought up the subject of confession and how, contrary to popular opinion, it remains attractive to many people, especially the young.

“Any parish priest will tell you that when you’re working with the RCIA, one of the things that attracts new Catholics is the sacrament of penance. Another is the role of the bishop of Rome, and another is devotion to the Blessed Mother. Those three things were kind of deemphasized after the council, but those are the things that work,” the Cardinal said.

“It seemed a truism after the Second Vatican Council that the council did away with the sacrament of penance, which of course is not true. If you read the document, it called for a renewal of the sacrament, a deepening of it. I’m afraid that on so many levels we just gave up. We said, ‘Well, that ain’t going over,’ so we stopped trying. Jesus never did that, he never gave up. If you see the messages of the gospel, they’re constant, and he kind of had a bad habit of repeating himself. He didn’t give up on saying things over and over again.”

Dolan went on to say that the sacrament of confession is one of the “baits we have on the hook” for young people.

“They will often say that the church seems impersonal to them, a little faceless, nameless, impersonal. Boy, you can’t find a more personal sacrament than penance. This is one-on-one. Remember the days of vast general absolution? People said they did it because the sacrament of penance became so impersonal. Is there anything more impersonal than a kind of vast drive-in carwash with general absolution? That seems pretty impersonal to me.”

He added: “There’s nothing more personal than one-on-one, actually articulating sins and hearing an unworthy ambassador of Jesus say you’re forgiven. That’s very personal, and young people like that.”

The Cardinal’s revelations are helpful as we look for ways to evangelize during this Year of Faith. For instance, consider inviting someone back to the sacrament of reconciliation. Perhaps a friend or family member in need of comfort will find it in a book of prayers to the Blessed Mother. When discussing current events, look for ways to interject the writings of the Holy Father into the conversation.

Let’s set our “hook” with “the bait” we need to lure souls to Christ!

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