The Factors Influencing the Attitude of Roman Catholics towards the Sacrament of Reconciliation: A Study at Holy Spirit Cathedral, Accra

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

According to the Roman Catholic teaching, sacraments are the outward signs that give inward graces to those receiving them (Chapman, 1994). They were instituted by Christ and entrusted to the church as outward signs of inner grace. They are the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Matrimony and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. They contribute in the most effective manner to establishing, strengthening and manifesting ecclesiastical communion. The sacrament of penance and reconciliation which is the main focus of the researchers is the rite wherein one expresses a specific weakness and sincerely asks God for the grace to overcome such weakness in the future. In other words, penance and reconciliation was defined as that sacrament which an individual who repents acknowledges sincerely and has the will to render atonement. This sacrament then offers the individual the need to convert a new possibility, to recover the grace of justification and to help Christians to respond to this call of Christ. Like all the other sacraments, penance and reconciliation has the efficacy of indispensability. These are absolution by the Priest called the 'form' and the three acts of the penitent: the Contrition, Confession of sins and an intention to change from the old way and this is called the 'matter'. According to the Code of the Canon Law 965 of the 1983 Code, only a priest is a minister of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Furthermore, Canons 989 and 983 of the 1983 Code states that all Catholics who have reached the age of reason are bound to confess their sins (Coriden et al 1985). This implies that anybody in the church who has been baptized holds and professes the Catholic faith can make use of this sacrament. The sacrament produces many effects which are not only spiritual but also has social dimensions as well. Through confessions the sinner is reconciled with the church. It offers a new possibility to convert and recover the grace of justification. It brings about healing of both the soul and the body. Such people experience a great relief and a healing love of God through the sacrament of reconciliation.

However, contemporary society is experiencing a very significant and revolutionary cultural shift called the post-modern condition which makes the rites for the celebration of the sacraments in the Christian Catholic Church, especially the sacrament of reconciliation, appear outmoded. Conroy (2008), in his study said for quite a good number of people in the church today, claim they can do without these sacraments. For others, the sacraments can be celebrated and appreciated only in the manner they want it. Such Catholics question the whole idea of the rites, rituals and symbolism that have to do with the celebration of the sacraments. In addition, they question the authenticity of liturgical rites and the reality of sacramentality in the post-modern world. This problem, which is already evident in the more developed cultures of the Western society, is fast creeping into Africa and Ghana in particular, and specifically the Archdiocese of Accra in the Holy Spirit Cathedral where the research was conducted. The aim of this study is to find out what characteristics of Catholics who attend service at the Archdiocese of Accra in the Holy Spirit Cathedral influence their attitude towards the sacrament.

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Recently, it has been observed that people do not frequently attend confessions as before. This is deducible from the common sides of penitents' due for confession in long queues in parishes on Saturdays evenings. However the situation has taken on a new look in recent in times. Research has also shown that Catholics of former days had a very positive attitude towards the sacrament and therefore frequented it. The common sides of penitents due for confessions are no more. This research therefore is aimed at finding out the effect of personal characteristics like level of education, position in church, age and gender on the recent attitudinal changes towards the sacrament of penance and reconciliation in the Holy Spirit Cathedral Parish in Accra. …