A Secret History of Confession

320pp 2014 OUT OF PRINT P658



Would you tell your deepest secrets to a relative stranger? And if you did, would you feel vulnerable? Confession has performed a complex role in society and created mixed feelings in its practitioners. It can provide immense psychological relief, but since the sixteenth century the seclusion of two individuals in the intimate 'dark box', often discussing sexual actions and thoughts, has eroticised the experience of confession. In an erudite history, Cornwell draws on his own Catholic boyhood and weaves it with the story of confession from the early church to the current day, where its enduring potency is evidenced by everything from the Vatican's 'confession app' to television talk shows.

A brilliant book, and an important one. Confession turns out to be the key that explains so much that is discreditable in the history of the Catholic Church. DAVID LODGE