With the Help of a Good Confessor

Yesterday a fellow parishioner confided to me that she does not go to Father Barnes for confession, but goes to a confessor in another town. My friend’s reason? “I’d just be embarrassed. Most of my sins are truly venial, but Father B’s my friend,  and I—(shrug, grimace)” This reminded me of my quandary when converting: Should I confess face to face or behind a screen? And to whom?

The Archdiocese of Boston has launched a web site to encourage Catholics to go to confession more often during Lent. (Some of the back story is here.) Hot on the trail of St. Joseph, I am now reading a biography of St. Teresa of Avila, who was devoted to St. Joseph and for whom one confessor was a particular source of strength, comfort, and spiritual mentorship. After a while, the good father probably knew who Big Terry was, even when she spoke from behind a screen. I imagine she had a powerful voice.

All of which leads me to the question: Confession? Do you go? (Please answer the poll at right.) Do you go anonymously or face to face? Do you go to the same confessor each time, or—and I think many do this, I certainly have—take the heavy stuff to someone who doesn’t know you and the trivial stuff to your parish priest? (Please comment below.)

Here’s my thinking today, after two years as a Catholic: If I am really, truly serious about cultivating my spiritual life, as St. Teresa was, I will go to confession regularly (once a week or at least once a month) and I will always sit face to face with a priest whose counsel I have come to trust. I know that he is “only” an intermediary and that the absolution I receive is from God. But by confessing to my parish priest or one who gets to know me and my recurring sins, I am accomplishing two things.

First, I’m taking a big whack at my pride, that is, if I’m giving a good confession and not just trying to look good by looking contrite. Been there, done that. I want Father Barnes’s good opinion of me as much as anyone’s. To tell him what’s worst about me puts that good opinion at risk, or at least it does in my prideful imagination.

Second, I get double benefits: God’s absolution and the counsel of a wise man. I do not have a spiritual director, per se, and although I have thought about “hiring” one, every time I do think of it, I realize that I already have one, Father B. Between the pulpit and the confessional, he gives me all the spiritual advice I can handle.

What’s your experience?

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  • I'm not Catholic so I can't/don't go to confession…but it's something I've craved for years now. The sweetest moments I've had with friends are when we confessed our sins to one another – especially if we had sinned against each other. Truly, nothing is sweeter nor creates such a strong bond. While it takes humility to do such a thing, I think it's necessary. We are sinful persons and we can't act like we're perfect, though we should be striving always for perfection. St. Paul exhorts us to confess our sins one to another. I recall learning that the early church confessed their sins before the whole congregation. Now THAT would be intimidating. But how much closer would we be as a body if that were STILL the case?Sometimes I'm not even sure if something was/is a sin and just want to be able to ask "Is this really a sin?!" It's an odd thing when you come to that place in your life where you crave that kind of authority. 🙂

  • When I was young (from aged 8 until 16) my mom dropped us off at the 'Old Stone Church' every Saturday for 4:30 pm Confession. During the week my siblings and i were to keep a mental list of all the mortal and venial sins we committed during the week. My mom was quick to remind me at many, many turns during the week to "Remember that one for Saturday. It's a venial sin…" There was only the 'screen' back in the day, and the lines were very long. What never occurred to me until about a year ago is the fact that I never once saw either my mom or my dad in the line for confession! These days I generally go to confession five, maybe six times a year — always face-to-face. Whomever is the confessor-du-jour will listen and offer counsel and absolution. I make it a condition that, if my 11-year-old goes to confession, I am in line right behind her. My philosophy is that if she needs to confess, then most likely as her parent I need to confess as well!

  • Jan

    I read something somewhere about this once, and I will have to go hunt it down. But, my personal feeling is that face-to-face confession sometimes ends up being more like a conversation than a confession. It's a big distraction for me, and it's also easy to feel like you can sit there and 'justify' what you've done, much as you would to a friend, rather than just stating your sins and asking forgiveness.There is a time and a place for spiritual direction; the confessional is not the best place for that, although sometimes that might be the only time one has access to a priest's full attention.

  • goodalice19

    I go to my regular priest and face him. Many in our parish tell me they confess at other churches, for the reasons you stated above. But I have nothing to lose, basically. When I converted in 2009 my parish priest recommended that I annul both of my former marriages. I did not know what I was getting into. I do not know how many of your readers have undertaken this process. It is very tough. I was (brutally) honest in describing the entire histories and owned up to my own role in the failures. Although the process was wrenching, it was also freeing inasmuch as the priest I confess to already knows the worst of me, and now can perceive me as someone who is attempting to improve, and may yet be saved. Thank God.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, thank you for this post. Because of this blog, I went to confession about a month ago – after many years. I confessed to "at least five years since my last confession," but in reality it's closer to ten. The priest asked, "is that all?" when I mentioned missing Mass and not being as loving as I thought I should be to my mother and husband. I said, "That's all for now." He gave me absolution, but I did not feel the relief I remembered from my youth. I plan to go again soon and be more sincere. I left out so many sins that I kidded myself into thinking were only venial. But weren't! I'm seriously thinking of going out of town to do this because I would be recognizable by my parish priest. Such a dilemma! I was also reluctant to take too much of my pastor's time – I could see that others were waiting for Confession and I didn't want to open the floodgates after ten years. I've paid good money to marriage counselors, but some struggles linger… so I won't answer your poll, because I don't fit into one of your categories. But I look forward to further discussion on this topic!

  • face-to-face confession sometimes ends up being more like a conversation than a confessionSo, in other words, Confession isn't psycho-therapy? There has been a concern that there is a danger that it might be seen as if it is.As for me, I might have done face-to-face once when I was a kid and the CCD teachers kind of prompted us to do so (my memory of so long ago is sketchy), but I do not and would not now. The lack of anonymity would be a significant problem in making a full and complete, i.e. good, confession. Hence, one of the reasons that I typically go to a different parish (plus their hours are more convenient).Priests have told me that they really don't pay attention to the person's voice, that they go into a kind of zone and they pretty much forget everything that was said moments after stepping out of the confessional at the end of the day, but still, it would make me uncomfortable.Besides, although the priest is there, we really are not confessing to him — we are confessing to God; and although it is the priest who voices the words, he acts in persona Christi, that is, it is Christ who works through him to provide absolution. I can be a lot more open about my shortcomings when I'm not looking someone else in the eye.If I was seeking spiritual or other direction, I might want a face-to-face encounter, but since I am there to offer contrition and seek forgiveness and get right with the Lord, behind the screen is the way for me. I can get spiritual direction another time.

  • Here's an interesting set of 159 comments on the matter from Fr. Z's site. A good wide range of opinion.

  • Flexo, be grateful you don't live in the day where ALL confession was public, though you only had to confess the big three: adultery, murder, and apostasy. Penance often involved kneeling outside the community's gathering place (not everyone had a church building yet) and asking the forgiveness of everyone who came in. AND being dismissed after the Gospel and homily because you couldn't go to communion.As for me, my spiritual director was also my confessor, until he had the nerve to die! I'd rather go to someone who knows me who can ask the questions I need to hear. I once went face to face and the priest kept his eyes shut the whole time. What was the point of that?Every sacrament has a moment of physical contact. That gets missed if you always use the screen.

  • James

    I checked once a month on the poll but generally (depending on events, i.e. sin or circumstances) it's 6 weeks on average. I don't have a regular confessor but do consistently go to confession at a local chapel so it's always with one of three priests each of whom is superb. I will never except in an emergency receive absolution face to face. I can speak with candor to a spiritual director or a therapist, but confession is another matter. The confines and anonymous nature of the confessional booth enable me to feel secure enough to freely confess my sins to Christ's earthly mediator. It can sometimes be difficult enough for me to confess my sins under orthodox conditions let alone face to face with a familiar or strange priest. Also, by way of clarification for Michelle – in the Sacrament of Penance catholics seek the forgiveness of God for our sins. Confession and human forgiveness can bring a measure of relief and peace but will not cleanse our souls from the stain of sin or remove the impediment sin puts between us and sanctifying grace. I don't mention this to be critical but I think Confession is probably the most widely misunderstood Sacrament of the seven by non catholics and perhaps by some catholics as well.

  • James ~I did understand that about the sacrament of penance. I guess I didn't flesh out my whole thought there. It seems like the feeling of a friend forgiving me would be similar to having the absolution of a priest. While I still confess my sins to Christ (whether alone or with another or to a priest if I could), that physical, earthly relationship seems like it would be even sweeter. Does that make any sense? The two things I crave the most being a non-Catholic looking in are the Eucharist and Confession. Sadly, as you said some catholics don't understand the sacrament, I think rather a lot don't understand most of the sacraments, which is why the Catholic church as a whole has a very bad reputation amongst the Christians I grew up with. It makes me very sad. It also makes me sad when I hear of ex-Catholics being "saved from The Church."

  • Shannon — that's why so many people waited until they were on their death bed to make a sacramental confession. It was for that reason that the Church wisely saw the need for anonymous confessionals.James — I can sympathize, but I think that Anointing of the Sick has Confession beat by a wide margin on the misunderstanding scale. Partly because there is so little catechesis on it at any level that even the most devout Catholic could not really explain why it is a sacrament or what it does (hint – part of it includes forgiveness of sins as well).

  • Ferde

    I checked once a month, but like James, it's probably closer to every 6 weeks. I usually go face to face because I'm seriously deaf and can't hear beans in a confessional. Most confessions are at the Carmelite chapel, but every now and them I'll see Fr. Barnes just to let him know he's still in my loop. He never asks me where I've been and never will. At confessions priests are truly anonymous and it doesn't matter whether he's friends with me or not. He's a priest, I'm a sinner. That never changes. My most consistent worry is whether I've covered everything. I try to get everything in and I know God knows I try, but it still bothers me. I always feel I have more to confess than I confess, but I can't, for the life of me think of what it is. Maybe next time.

  • James

    It was not my intent to denigrate face to face confession, I'm merely stating my preference for receiving the sacrament and why. As Shannon pointed out Reconciliation in the early Church was a difficult and involved process. Fr. Seraphim Beshoner of the "Catholic under the Hood" podcast has a terrific episode on the evolution of the sacrament in Church history and some quality insights as to how and why the penance accompanying confession is intended to be a healing and not a punishment. Michelle – I think I understand in so much as earthly(human) confession is palapable in an emotional and physical sense (a hug, e.g.) as opposed to the Sacrament of Penance which requires a leap of faith that is more an act of will rather than emotional experience. As a Sacrament confession is always spiritual though not always obviously cathartic. Each has their place and don't resist your craving in this regard. Flexo, I see your point on the Anointing of the Sick or as I was taught in the last century "Extreme Unction". I certainly hope that I'm not standing at the edge of eternity without it's grace.

  • Warren Jewell

    Wow! I gotta get back to read everything more deeply. But, I have to confess: I LOVE to confess.Confession is how I emulate (and, actually, effect) being a convert. But, too, you can see I love a chatty way with things. Before there was the face-to-face Reconciliation box, I already introduced myself to my confessor. I wanted any who knew me to add to his prior advice, if any. Plus, comment on my 'returns' to certain sins. We all need help keeping an eye on habitual sins.I won't say that I love some of what I have to confess, sometimes. But, confess I must. And, forgive and forget God does. But, He can't forget what I haven't confessed, and He so wants to forget. He never wanted to have them on His mind, to begin with.So, I confess at least monthly. And, if I could get around better and there were more scheduled confessional hours I probably would do so weekly.

  • I went to confession this afternoon and then found your post here when I came home. I typically go once a month but that is a fairly new thing for me. For about 10 or 15 years running I went maybe once a year if I was lucky. I have started making this a part of my life though as I am trying to be more involved in the sacraments. Since starting back on a regular basis I never go face to face. It isn't about embarrassment but its easier for me to focus on the sacrament and also to remember that I am talking to God rather than to the priest. I will say this, going regularly to confession is perhaps the single most important thing I could have done to grow closer to God. It's irreplaceable.

  • Anonymous

    I recently returned to the Sacrament after 17 years. I found that I needed to make an appointment because it had been so long and I had a lot to say and I tend to ramble anyway. But more importantly, I needed my pastor to know I was coming so that I was committed to showing up. I had made several drive-by attempts at just showing up at scheduled parish confession times, but never made it further than the parking lot.Fortunately, I've always preferred face-to-face anyway. As a child I always felt faintly ridiculous with the whole lining up with hundreds of classmates, kneeling in the dark behind a screen and whispering. The new rite allowing face to face was promulgated when I was in the 8th grade, and I was very happy to leave behind feeling "weirded out" by the "box."

  • Webster Bull

    Up in the middle of the night on the way to the medicine cabinet (still fighting a cold) and, wow, what a great bunch of comments! I'm convinced, as I was when I posted on taking kids to confession, that confession is one of the non-negotiable essentials of Catholic life. Some things stand out in the comments so far:Michelle (non-Catholic) hungering for confession; Mujerlatina being wise not only about her parents but about (accompanying) her kids; Anonymous 7:56 writing that s/he went to confession for the first time in years because of this blog (thanks for encouraging us!); lots of good back-and-forth on face-to-face vs. not (thanks to James, my good friend, for being in-your-face as usual!), I will give serious thought to this issue for myself, because I understand some of the pitfalls of face-to-face; and of course my friend of friends, Ferde, chiming in with his usual take-no-prisoners honesty. Keep the comments coming! And now, sniffle, back to the sack.

  • @Mujerlatina I'm with you about leading our children to confession by example. My 9 year old daughter is very nervous about going to confession. We do not MAKE her go to confession but we do make sure she has plenty of opportunities, and she may have to wait praying in the church while her parents go to confession. We are trying to show her that it's an important part of our faith and she should be open to the sacrament whenever she feels the need.

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes I wish there was a video or a recording of what a "really good confession" looks and sounds like. I am definitely one of those visual learners. Of course when I went through RCIA we saw a mock demonstration but it was just that a shallow laundry list of sins, not in my perception what a true confession would look like. While I attend confession a few times a year I often am not sure I am making a "good confession" I do make an examination of conscience and try to cover what I can think of but sometimes it is a laundry list for myself, other times I share my sins and then when I talk further I feel as if I am making excuses for my sins. For example am I just supposed to confess my selfishness or do I state it and then share an example of how it reared its ugly head. I think sometimes I do feel the pressure of the "line of others outside the door" and feel like I have to keep it short. Sometimes when I hear someone talk about their confession it makes me question "could I be doing this better?" Confession is definitely a good experience for me I guess I would just like to "do it better" if there is a better way.

  • Webster Bull

    @ Anonymous 12:45,As a recent convert, I appreciate your sincerity. It's easy for converts to fall into thinking that "I have a lot of dumb questions, but it's only because I'm new. I'll find the answers eventually. Meanwhile, I'll shut up and act like I know." So I don't ask the questions, like, "What makes a good confession?" From my limited experience, I would say that the onus for a good confession is all on the confessed and not at all on the confessor. I think we "rate" priests by who's a good confessor and who isn't. Which is probably a waste of time. A good confession has to come from me, and I guess I would use two criteria to judge whether a confession was good in hind-sight: How painful was my confession to confess? (How deep did I dig?) and How joyous did I feel afterward? I've had pro forma confessions, where I felt like I was going through the paces, and I've had a couple of confessions that really picked some scabs, opening me up to fresh air.

  • Maria

    Why the Drop in Confessions?"We now ask, why the drop in Confession? In the light of the forgoing, it follows that hearing confessions places a heavy demand on the generosity of a priest. To tell not just one sin, but all of them and, if they are grave, with all their attending circumstances, this takes time. And on the part of the priest it takes a lot of patience.If he is to give the penitent the opportunity to do what Christ, speaking through the Church commands them to do, they have no option. The priest must be convinced that it is worth the effort. This, in my humble estimation, is the hub of the problem. Is it worth the effort? First in Holland, then in France and then gradually elsewhere, ideas began to spread that were at variance with the Church's which in this case is Christ's explicit teaching and some of these ideas at variance with the Church's teaching were circulated by bishops.Like what? The early confessions of children were discouraged until by now, a whole library of propaganda exists trying to tell priests why they should not hear children's confessions until long after they have gone to Communion and well into their older years.Borrowing from the Protestants, who abolished auricular Confession the practice of giving indiscriminate general absolution came into prominence.We return to our question. Why the drop in confessions? In my judgment, mainly for two reasons. First because of the prevalence of so many strange ideas that have penetrated the priestly mind. And priests can be brainwashed like anybody else about auricular Confession not being of divine origin, but an ecclesiastical invention. As one pastor, a good man, when after asking me about this, I told him and he began to argue. Are you sure? Are you sure that Christ wants individual confessions to be made to an individual priest? That’s the first reason, strange ideas.Secondly, because these ideas have combined with the natural lethargy of a priest. Priest or no priest, we all have the same seven capital tendencies which, in my line-up, is pride, lust, anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony and, that's right sloth. So these ideas combined with the natural lethargy of a priest to spend, sometimes hours, in the confessional. These ideas became a convenient excuse for not doing what only faith and a deep faith even makes intelligible, let alone inspires the willingness to put into what sometimes must be heroic practice, as only a priest understands. Saint John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, was canonized, one of the reasons for his canonization and later declaration as patron of parish priests, so the Church said, was that he spent so much time sometimes sixteen hours a day in the confessional, hearing the confessions of the thousands of people who came to him.I am asking the question the third time – why the drop in confessions? Very simple. Because of erroneous ideas and because human nature has in enough priests obscured their faith vision of themselves as ambassadors of Christ's mercy".Interesting, huh?

  • Allison Salerno

    Re: making a "good confession." Has anyone read this book? I have not but it looks very worth while…Frequent Confessionby Benedict Baur, OSBAfter Vatican II, a major weapon in the arsenal of struggling Catholics was turned into a marshmallow. Frequent Confession became "necessary" only for those "in mortal sin," it was thought (and sometimes taught). Out of print, too, went this hugely popular volume on both sides of the Atlantic, easily the most methodical book ever written about the many uses of Confession for spiritual growth. Confession, its author makes clear, is not a counseling session. Rather, says the late German Abbot, Benedict Baur, OSB, frequent Confession has "high value in the spiritual life" — and can help you overcome various weaknesses, bad habits and perverse inclinations.

  • Webster Bull

    @ Maria, What is the source of your quote about the drop in Confessions? @ Allison, I'll send you a copy if you promise to write a post on it!

  • Anonymous

    There are several websites available to help with a good confession. The most recent one I have found is http://www.thelightisonforyou.org. There are different links for adults, married persons, children and teens. Very helpful. Like Webster said, I think that rather than rate my confessor, my time is better spent in evaluating my own contrite heart to determine if I have sincerely examined my conscious,confessed it all, and freed myself from my own sinfulness.

  • Allison Salerno

    @Webster: It's a deal!

  • Maria

    Webster:I am so sorry –it was, of course, John Hardon SJ.

  • Anonymous

    The most important thing is absolution, so regardless of whether it is Fr. Jones or Fr. Smith, behind the screen or face to face, priests are acting in the person of Jesus Christ and that is whom we are asking for mercy. I go to confession several times a month to my parish priest, always face to face. I’ve been to other priests in the past, but have found that in confessing to a priest who knows me, he not only can forgive my sins, but also offer good advice because he knows me. I consider him a good friend and don’t ever worry about my friendship changing by what is said in confession. I have confessed difficult things to him, but have never felt judged. If I need spiritual advice along with confession, I typically make an appointment, as not to take too much time. We do not have much conversation unless warranted by an issue.Through confession, I am grateful to be able to be free from my sins, get good advice, and move toward loving Christ more. All of this through the sacrifices of men to the priesthood. Please pray for vocations!!

  • Maria

    Webster: I go to confession, the 'sacrament of penance'–and does anybody know why they changed it from confession to sacrament of penance–about every 3-4 weeks. I go to an old Jesuit at a church other than my parish. At first, my initial absence from confession had been so long that I had an avalanche of sin to confess. I was ashamed. Then, I had such a wonderful experience that I have continued w/ him. Maybe, out of feeling comfortable. I think –maybe?–that there is merit is seeing the same Confessor. I like what Hardon SJ says–that there is nothing that so blinds like sin. Literally, I could not *see* the Truth until I went to Confession. I was in a state of mortal sin for many decades. Something else that Hardon SJ said–when we are in a state of motal sin we are an agent of the Devil. I was amazed to learn this.Confession educates the soul in its sinful tendencies-mine anyway, and helps me to monitor my sinful inclinations, as it were. It imparts its wonderful peace, yes, but also Grace. Santicfying Grace. Lord how I need grace.

  • Maria

    Allison–Have not read it. It looks interesing. Thanks.

  • Warren Jewell

    Maybe someone – a priest who loves the confessional? – needs to write "Mere Confession"?Msgr. Charles Pope just wrote a blog out of the Archdiocese of Washington (link at bottom) about getting 'deeper' into confession; about the 'whys' as well as the 'whats' of our sins. He also compiled a litany of examination of conscience that I like, from a couple of readings. Then again, I love mixing prayer and thought.Think of Penance not as daunting challenge, but glowing opportunity. Without heaven still would not be ours, to have God lead us to – none of us would fail to sin all across our lives. In all, with all, God be with you.http://blog.adw.org/2010/02/from-perfunctory-penitence-to-compelling-confession-in-four-easy-steps/

  • Anonymous

    goodalice19,I've thought about the process of annulment – I can't believe you went through it twice. Do you have children? I think if I was really honest in Confession that the priest would suggest I pursue this. I wish I had your strength. Can you elaborate? I married a Catholic "in name only" who told me years later that he lied about wanting a Catholic marriage. He said, "Everyone lies when they want someone to marry them." I was a cradle Catholic who fell away during my marriage because I was isolated and abused. I vascillate between yearning for a divorce and wondering if staying in my long term marriage is an opportunity for something approaching sainthood. I would be most grateful if you could shed some light for me.

  • Anonymous

    Flexo said "Priests have told me that they really don't pay attention to the person's voice, that they go into a kind of zone and they pretty much forget everything that was said moments after stepping out of the confessional at the end of the day …."Well, SOME priests have this grace. Others not so much. I avoid my parish pastor as a confessor because he most certainly does NOT have this grace. On two separate unrelated occasions, my parish pastor made comments to me — in public — about the subjects of my confessions. Granted, what he said in public was not a problem in and of itself, but the fact that he does not have a complete respect for the Seal means I no longer go to him for confession. It means I have to drive two hours round trip, except for the twice-annual parish penance services. Needless to say, I wish deeply for more convenient access to the sacrament. 🙁

  • Anonymous

    Thanks to all for the excellent links on making a good confession. I learned long ago it wasn't the confessor but me that was the one who needed to make a good confession but these links provide me with the kinds of tools I have been longing for.

  • RFP

    goodalice19, I can't find your blog on blogger and I would like to contact you. If you see this post, please just respond in the comments section or contact me: kingshounds@gmail.comThank you, Renee P

  • EPG

    As a non-Catholic, I found the level of response to this post fascinating, and encouraging. The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, has a rite for confession and reconciliation. It is, alas, little used, as far as I can see. That may be in part because too much of the Episcopal Church really doesn't believe in sin. There can be a lot of talk about reconciliation, but precious little about repentance.

  • Webster Bull

    @EPG, Yes, the level of response here is remarkable. Glad you mentioned the Episcopal rite, because I thought I remembered something about this, tho as an Episcopal youth I definitely was unaware of it. I think that in the wealthy parish I was brought up in, it might even have seemed "in bad taste." My first (general) confession in the Catholic Church was a memorable experience. I was so nervous before hand, so grateful after.

  • I read this little book over the New Year holiday. I found it helpful.This popular nineteenth century French Catholic writer has assembled over 30 common objections to going to Confession and has answered them all with kindness, wit and wisdom. A book to allay fears and to give courage in approaching Confession, that Sacrament which will unlock the Gates of Heaven for many. Includes How to go to Confession. Pocket size. Confession: A Little Book for the Reluctant

  • EPG

    Webster — Actually, a particular clergyman's attitude to my request for confession was a major cause of my disaffection with the Episcopal Church (at least with it has become over the past several years). It wasn't a direct refusal, but it was an extreme reluctance to engage in the process, or even to establish why I was asking for this, or how I might prepare. Very strange indeed, and I didn't pursue it further.It seems that the Catholics (and the Orthodox) have retained something that is valuable, and that has been lost in the Protestant (and Protestant-ish) wings of Christianity.

  • Webster Bull

    @EPG, If I understand correctly, your clergyman's reluctance hits on a key point about confession: it's not therapy or social work, it's a sacrament of absolution. I imagine all Episcopal priests are comfortable with social work-type intervention. Further, I gather that one of the things that went off the rails in the Catholic Church after VC II was priests and nuns thinking they were social workers; that being "closer to the people," taking off the habit and sitting down face to face would bring more people in, make more people comfortable. NO! What we want and especially what we need is absolution!! That is, a sacrament that actually does something. Like transsubstantiation, except of ourselves.

  • EPG

    I could not even begin to speculate on his motives, or what lay behind his reluctance, although, for all I know, you are completely right. It just was an odd thing. But then, much of liberal/"main line" Protestantism has problems with the whole idea of sin. There _is_ probably a tendency to attempt to address it in the modes of the social sciences.

  • Webster Bull

    @EPG, In my speculative rant I was leaning mostly on Father Barnes's repeated statement that all sacraments DO SOMETHING. They change substance, they change us, as they change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. For a priest to be asked to offer absolution when s/he doesn't believe in such transsubstantiation could be like being asked to perform magic, when you know/think there's no such thing. But again, that's just may speculation.

  • On two separate unrelated occasions, my parish pastor made comments to me — in public — about the subjects of my confessions.Assuming that these went beyond very broad and generalized comments, it is my understanding that such conduct constitutes a violation of the seal of confession — a very grave offense — even though it is to the person involved. The permission of the penitent himself is needed in order to talk about such things outside the confessional. Perhaps a discrete letter to the bishop to have him remind this priest of that?Here's an interesting column by Fr. William Saunders on the seal.

  • This landed in my "in" box this morning"From the sayings St. John ChrysostomDid you commit sin? Enter the Church, repent for your sin, for here is the physician, not the judge. Here, one is not investigated; one receives remission of sins.

  • Sal

    EPG,My experience with confession in the Anglo-catholic parish I attended was very positive. The rector had a wonderful exam of conscience list that I wish I still had today.We confessed at the altar rail, so there wasn't any anonymity, but he made a great point of assuring us that he, at least, always instantly forgot whatever we confessed.Of course, when I converted, I had to make a general confession of my whole life, including everything I'd confessed as an Anglican, but it was good practice…I said "once a month", but like most others, it's actually about every six weeks. I go to our parish priest, and he uses the screen in the confessional in the Eucharistic chapel. I must echo everyone else's thought on the anonymity of the priest as alter Christus, which is why I like the screen- and the kneeler!The most devoted confessees I've ever known were the attendees at our Indult Mass. To the point that the priest finally had to ask those making 'confessions of devotion' to drop back to once a month instead of once a week, to give those with more serious sins a chance to make it into the confessional.Interesting answers to an important question.

  • cathyf

    On two separate unrelated occasions, my parish pastor made comments to me — in public — about the subjects of my confessions.Breaking the seal of confession has the result of automatic excommunication for the priest. If that is indeed what happened, then you must take action, because this has had effects on far more than you.

  • Sharon

    Having witnessed a priest break the confidence of the confessional (and for purely gossipy reasons — no one was confessing to a future murder or any other violent crime, or anything like that), I've never quite been at ease with formal confession and I've chosen to keep confession a private matter between myself and God. Interestingly enough, confession, repentance and contrition have been more genuine and meaningful that way, at least for me.

  • Allison Salerno

    @Sharon That is a grave matter and one that must be reported to the bishop. It could be grounds for excommunication of the priest.