Confession may be good for the soul, but it can be hell on the nervous system.
One of my creepiest Catholic school memories—and they are legion—involved stepping into the confessional.
I don’t know who thought children would benefit from kneeling in a pitch-black closet
I was terrified when the nuns herded all of us little sinners into church to get our spirits buffed and shined.
The worst part came after you dropped the curtain and sat in the dark waiting for the priest to slide back the screen on your side of the box.
The only reason I didn’t run out screaming was that I knew the nuns would be ready to carve my heart out if they caught me going AWOL. So I knelt there and when the slide pulled back, I looked toward the light and did the routine.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…
Once you received your penance, you got the hell out of there—making sure, of course, to politely hold the curtain back for the next victim.
Confession was a struggle, no doubt, and I hated going, but I survived. Which is more than I can say for a lot of characters I’ve seen in movies and on TV over the years.
If you go by Hollywood standards, the confessional is a prime time crime scene for all manner of murder and mutilation. People get shot, stabbed, and strangled—all within this little space.
Penance for Your Thoughts
The latest entry to this large caliber canon is “Mob City,” TNT’s noir-toon about 1940s gang bangers in LA that I happened to watch the other night.
During an early scene a luckless underling is shot-gunned clean out of the booth in a thunderous act of ignition. Can I get an Amen? Can I get a pulse?
AMC started off its western series “Hell on Wheels” with a six-gun sign of the cross a few seasons back as the vengeance-seeking hero took the priest’s seat to nail one of his enemies right between the eyes.
The film “In Bruges” featured a father meeting his maker while trying to absolve his assassin’s sins and a priest gets his collar handed to him in “The Exorcist III”—yes, I saw it—as well.
There was some kind of confessional assault in “The Boondock Saints,” but I don’t think anybody actually died.
Those are only a few cases that I’ve come across and I’m sure there are others.
As an undocumented Episcopalian, I have little to do with the Catholic Church these days, much preferring the Protestant mass apology approach that spares everyone the personal details and reduces the likelihood of being murdered.
Still, I am concerned that non-Catholics will view confession as some claustrophobic version of “The Hunger Games.”
I suppose writers and filmmakers like the spooky surroundings that a church offers and relish the irresistible irony of having an act of violence take place on holy ground.
My advice would be to take it some place else. The confessional as killing ground shtick is way over-played.
As for those of you wishing to convert, don’t worry. You’re not going to get shot during confession…unless you do it yourself.