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Erik Bootsma (’01) Erik Bootsma (’01)A professional architect, alumnus Erik Bootsma (’01) has made a constructive suggestion in response to the scourge of priestly abuse and cover-up:

“As a Catholic who has been shocked by the revelations, and as an architect who deals almost exclusively with building and renovating Catholic churches,” he writes in Crisis, “I would like to offer one suggestion that I believe could make a small but practical contribution to preventing abuse in the future. The Church should immediately call for the end of hearing confessions face to face in ‘reconciliation rooms.’”

A popular development in modern church architecture, these rooms, explains Mr. Bootsma, place “the parishioner face to face with the priest, a position not unlike that of a patient and therapist.” Although intended to make the Sacrament of Penance less intimidating, they have the unforeseen result of enabling “predatory abusers [to] take advantage of the privacy of confessionals to abuse a young person.” Mr. Bootsma thus urges a return to the use of traditional confessionals, consisting of “two separate spaces, each with a separate entrance for priest and penitent … connected by means of a properly fixed metal screen.”

The owner of Erik Bootsma Design, with a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Notre Dame, Mr. Bootsma knows whereof he writes. “These suggestions here are not just the product of theory, but a product of my experience working with dozens of Catholic churches both to build new churches and renovate existing ones,” he says. “I have found through experience that confessionals in this traditional configuration … not only work practically to prevent even the suggestion of impropriety in the confessional, but are spiritually rewarding as well.”

To that end, Mr. Bootsma also proposes that confessionals “be placed within the nave of a church, within sight of the sanctuary and tabernacle,” for another eminently practical reason: “One simply cannot discount the importance of having the Lord himself present during the Sacrament of Confession. Not only does it reinforce the importance of confession as being integral to the life of the Faith, but the power of Christ present in the Eucharist is simply not to be discounted.”