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Psychologist says Italians returning to confession for therapy

A boom in the number of Italians going to confession suggests not so much that Italians are rediscovering their Roman Catholic roots but that they are turning to the confessional as a substitute for therapy, a leading psychologist said this week.

Massimo Cicogna, Professor of Psychology and Anthropology at Rome University, said the number of Italians going to confession had increased 20% this year, to 20 million. This was partly because of a search for spiritual enlightenment and partly because of the impact of last year's Holy Year marking the start of the new millennium, he said.

A study of 2500 Italians who had begun going to confession again showed, however, that many regarded the experience as a form of analysis or therapy, in which they could tell their troubles to an invisible priest rather than to a visible psychoanalyst. This was especially true of women, he said, 54% of whom said they used confession in this way, compared to 43% of men.

Professor Cicogna said his study indicated that 22% of Italians used the confessional to discuss their marital problems or to confess infidelity, 22% to express their professional frustrations or dissatisfaction with life, and 12% to vent their feelings over family relationships.

Monsignor Alessandro Maggiolini, Bishop of Como, told Il Giornale that the use of of the confessional as a substitute for the psychoanalyst's couch was a misunderstanding of the religious function of confession.

London Times