Abusing Confession?

Recently, one of the priests at my parish commented that he thinks some people abuse confession. I got the feeling that I could very well be such a person. I’ve always been uncertain when I should go to confession, especially since I struggle with a recurrent, habitual sin, and it’s this recurrent sin which is usually the center of my confession. I kind of feel that both priests at my parish are kind of tired of hearing the same ol’ song and dance, as it were, especially since I’ve made such little progress and since it seems that I just cannot seem to rely upon God’s grace - and I really feel it’s to the point that the priests don’t expect to hear anything else from me.

My question is, though - how is it possible to abuse confession?

I want so dearly to confess monthly, and for it not to be about the same thing, but, well, it just seems that I have a problem and it’s taking an awfully long time to correct it. I get so mad at myself anymore, though, because not only do I have to bear the guilt of the sin, but I am frustrated to the point of tears wondering if I should go to confession sooner rather than later based on how serious it is or isn’t. My pastor thinks I should try relying more on the mercy of Christ when I enter into such sin rather than immediately running to confession, and maybe I should, but I feel so dirty, and (to be honest) my friendship with Christ is all I really have and when I damage that…well, I seemingly have nothing.

Anyway, beyond all this - how is possible to abuse confession? That’s my question.

Confession is an avenue of grace available to all who sin. You are only required to confess mortal sin, but you are encouraged to also confess veniel sin. Assuming that you are not having scrupulosity issues, there is no reason in the world that you should not go to confession monthly or even every other week if you like. If your priest has a problem with thay, then I have a problem with him :frowning:

I don’t think you are abusing confession. I think confession is there for precisely the reasons you state - to help us get over habitual sin. :slight_smile:

I once heard a homily from daily mass on the radio once and the priest says confession is a lot like grocery shopping. When we grocery shop we generally buy the same thing over and over - milk, bread, cereal. Confessing our sins is the same - most people struggle with the same set of vices and have to confess them over and over.

There are three valid ways I think people abuse confession:

  1. Scrupulosity - i.e. trying to go too frequently (like every day), or confessing things that aren’t really sins, or comming in with a large list of venial sins.
  2. Treating the confessional as a counsueling/spiritual direction session. I think such matters should be discussed and handled outside of the confessional.
  3. Willfully witholding sins in the confessional.

I understand where priests may be coming from because I’ve been told on numerous occasions a lot of what they hear is the same thing and much of it is sexual in nature. However, in my opinion, these are the easiest mortal sins to commit and a lot of them can be committed in the privacy in your own home.

I once got “yelled at” in the confessional because I went back to the same priest to confess a sin of this nature, and he was wondering if I had anything else, because he reads the paper and said there are sins that do more damage to the community. I just felt very uncomfortable because not all of us rob banks or are serial killers.

Hope this helps.

The way people can abuse confession is when they
a) have no true contrition for their sins
b) have no true intention of avoiding the near occasion of sin,
c) are using confession to make their consciences feel better so that they can sin again, thereby presuming on God’s forgiveness. Epistemes, that is not your case!

That is a separate case from a person who is truly repentant, does his or her best to amend his or her life, and onen who falls into an habitual sin.

I would think that an abuse of confession would also include situations where a penitent insists that “X” is a sin despite the confessor’s assurance that it isn’t, and the individual then gets argumentative about it and/or shops around and uses other confessors’ time until someone is found who agrees with them.

The first thing to do is make regular visits to the blessed sacrament and Ask Jesus for the grace and strength to help you overcome this particular addiction to sin.

Second-obtain understanding of why it is a sin, from a theological perspective. You may find that you are erring in your though process about that particular behavior.

Third-Recognize your sin when it is first occuring, then as an act of will, substitute another more appropriate (but desirable) behavior during that time when you are tempted.

Fourth-realize that God gives us **free will **and that you are strong to be able to walk away from ANYTHING that will interfere with you relationship with the Our Heavenly Father.

Fifth-Realize The Lord is the guest of your soul. Do everything to prepare a wonderful place for your guest, knowing that He is watching you, and knowing that you want HIM to stay, because He is proud of you in your fight against temptation.

Finally- keep the eyes of your soul fixed on Christ.

Unless the penitent is suffering from scrupulosity (which is currently a very rare condition in the U.S.), if he/she insists that “X” is a sin, it probably IS a sin, regardless of what the confessor says. Remember, the Church teaches that even a good work if done for any other reason than the love of God is sin. I have been know to do good for a person simply because I know it will infuriate him. I have also been known to tell the absolute truth to an individual knowing he will misinterpret it and believe a lie. Clearly in both of these examples, I am guilty of sin although I have done nothing “wrong”.

You really can not abuse the Sacrament…unless you go in there without a hatred of sin, sorrow for the sins you confess, and a firm purpose of amendment…as long as you have those three things every time you enter the confessional, you CAN NOT abuse the Sacrament of Confession. I am a once a week confession person…I go no matter what (the majority of the time)…I love the grace I receive every time I go…it helps me to be a better Catholic. And do not let a priest tell you, you are coming too frequently…what does he think he was ordained for? Find a better confessor if you run into that problem…Confession is one of the MOST important jobs a priest has and the Sacrament should be made available to the faithful…it is very rare now, but I usually go to a Church that has confession daily before each Mass and several times on Saturday.

I used to have fairly frequent habitual problems with impurity, and my confessor stressed at the end of every confession: “KEEP COMING TO CONFESSION.” There’s not point living in despair any longer than you have to. Don’t be overscrupulous of course, but if these are habitual mortal sins (as opposed to habitual swearing, etc) by all means seek out a confession as often as you fall. Otherwise, monthly or biweekly is reasonable, IMO. :slight_smile:

How is it possible to abuse confession?

Not possible, if you are sincere.

I could see that certain kinds of scrupulosity or “spiritual gluttony” could be an abuse of the sacrament, under certain circumstances. For instance, if you use the confessional as your personal counseling/spiritual direction time when you haven’t made an appointment and are just going during the, say, one hour every Sat. night that a busy parish alots for confessions.

You know, when there’s a whole line of people behind you who won’t get to go to confession because you’ve taken up 25 min. of the priest’s time in what should have been a scheduled confession.

This is very important. We MUST respect the time of our busy priests. Simply state the sin in as few words as necessary. If you need counseling, make an appointment. In the confessional, “be brief, be sorry, begone.”

In some cases, “abusing the sacrament” may really be “abusing the priest and the others waiting in line.”

I think you and ac claire hit the nail on the head. No need to share life stories, and every minute detail of your sins.

I go to confession on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and usually struggle with the same sins. I usually confess with the same set of priests and they are well aware of my struggles. Most priests I have been to understand that we have our own unique vices and weaknesses.

If you are unsure whether something you did is a mortal sin or not, it’s probably not a mortal sin (since you are unsure). Ask your priest or spiritual director outside of the confessional their opinion. If you want to be aboslutely sure you’re absolved of any wrongdoing, confess it anyways (and maybe preface it with “I committed sin X, Y and Z, but I do not know if it was mortal or not but I wanted to be complete”).

I think preists can be a bit scandalized if we can go into too much detail about some sins, especially those of a sexual nature. Preists are human like the rest of us, and probably struggle with the same urges that the rest of us have. No need to get to wordy in some areas.

In the end, all that’s really required, is enough information so the priest knows the sin he’s abosolving you of and the frequency of said sin if remembered. Any other information, if needed, the priest will ask. For example, “I lusted a few times, fornicated with contraception once, and was dishonest at least once” gets the point across, and takes 15 seconds to say.

My pastor thinks I should try relying more on the mercy of Christ when I enter into such sin rather than immediately running to confession

Unless I mistake you, (and I do not think I do), you “immediately run to confession” precisely BECAUSE you believe in, rely on, and long for, the mercy of Christ!

The problem is that your pastor has convinced himself that his time, or his comfort, or his desire not to be bored, or his desire for more sleep, or whatever, is more important than the salvation of your soul.


To those who will, undoubtedly, find my comments overly harsh toward poor, “busy”, Fr. X, I make my reply in advance by quoting St. Teresa of Avila and paraphrasing St. John Vianney.

Teresa: “I would trade 10,000 lives for a single soul.”

John Vianney: “Give me souls, and you can have the rest.”

I don’t believe that you are abusing Confession. I say that because it is rather obvious that the possibility of even doing such a thing has caused you great concern. Monthly Confession is not an abuse… If I’m not mistaken, JPII encouraged weekly Confession as it’s good for the soul. I know that personally I find myself going to Confession every 2 to 3 weeks.


I belive that a person who is “scrupulous” is abusing the Sacrament.

You proclamated that you have a 'Habitual sin" and keep on confessing it over and over.

Doesn’t this tell you something: you need the help of profession, a psychologist or psychiatrist, but still need the graces of God. As you said your confessions are not helping, this is why. Priests are not trained to be psychologists… If it is a problem that a priest cannot help you with, than, in all charity, seek a counselor, pssychologist, psychiatrist.

An analogy would be if one is an alocholic, do you seriously think by going to confession, he is going to be cured? NO! It takes both confession and a counselor to get to the point.

Epistmes, if you have a problem and insist that confession will take it away so you say, well I’ll do the same thing because I know I will be forgiven. This would be an abuse because whatever your problem is, you think by going to confession you are going to be
cured.Confession is not majic. The confessor can only tell you so much, but in your case, I highly would recommend a counselor and try to go to confession when you think you are cured; although you can go to receive the graces. By you confessing the same sin, the priest is probably asking why don’t you get help if the graces are not helping you?

My suggestion would be go to a counselor and keep on going to confession, but as you expounded, you still have the same sin, so in essence, you need outside help.

If I knew what your sin was, but I understand that is confidential and you are not obligated to tell me.

1] If confession IS NOT HELPING YOU, than
2] You must see a counselor because if you do not than you are abusing the confessional if you have the concept, well, I can do this sin over and over, and I will be forgiven. You must have true sorrow and be working on your problem to make any progress, if notl than YOU ARE ABUSING THE SACRAMENT OF CONFESISON.

If I can be more help or if you want more practical advice, email me a private message.

God’s blessing be upon you.

Im sorry Provigil, but your advice is way off…to put it bluntly, it is wrong and you are misleading a Catholic who is struggling, yet trying to do right…Yes, it is great that one receives graces from Confession…those graces enpower us to live our lives as better Catholics and be stronger in the face of sin…but the most important aspect of Confession, is that it restores you to a state of grace instead of being dead in a state of mortal sin…A person who is putting themselves in a state of mortal sin constantly due to a habit, whether it be alcohol, drugs, sexual, gambling, over eating, etc…can go to confession daily as long as they have a firm purpose of amendment, a hatred of sin, and have perfect or imperfect contrition (sorrow). You are assuming the OP and others like them are guilty of the sin of presumption and also scrupulous…I don’t believe the OP is guilty of that and in fact, most people who have sins of habit are not either…they go to confession and leave each time hell bent on never committing those same sins again…yet they do. Their confessor will tell them whether or not they need to seek the help of a professional outside of confession…and granted, it is great for the sinner to seek the help of a professional on their own to overcome this particular sin…and yes, I am aware that culpability can be reduced due to several factors, but the fact is, that according to the OP’s conscience, he feels he is in a state of mortal sin and in that case should be going to confession as often as he or she sees fit (that is not to say they shouldn’t seek professional help as well) I just think it was way off our beliefs as Catholics and the teachings of the Church to tell this person what you have told them…before giving advice that could be damaging to ones understanding of The Church and especially a Sacrament as profound and important as Confession… [edited] …because in a time where hardly no one goes to confession, I am happy to see people show up and I think a sinner who is honestly working on their sins should be commended for going to frequent confession, not discourage…how we sin is ultimately how we are purified…


For your influential statements, I attended a reputated seminary in the US–the only seminary owned by Rome–the Pontifical Josephinum Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.
To retort your statement, I have and NEVER will give DECEPTIVE advice. We are taught this in the seminary. Yes, Confession restores one to grace, BUT, if your SINS are still being acclimatized, what good are the graces doing? Are they taking the main virulence probem away? NO!!! Why can’t you APPREHEND this? “A person who is putting themselves in a state of MORTAL SIN constantly due to a habit…alcohol, drugs, sex, etc, can go to Confession daily as long as they have a firm purpose of amndment, hatred of sin…NOW, obstruct what you just said, Michaeldaniels. Your interpretation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is really not in convert with the Church. Michaeldaniels, a person who refuses to give up alcohol, drugs, etc, and still goes to Confession–this is a firm purpose of amendment: NO!!! It is ABUSING the Sacrament. Are these people getting any better from the graces? NO!!! I am sorry to incongrus you, but I have had counseling courses in the seminary and a class in the “Sacrament of Confession.” What you are latent is, OH, I can take drugs and still be forgiven by going to confessison. If the person refuses help or give up taking drugs, etc, this is a MOCKERY of the SACRAMENT and should be REFUSED absloution. You are missing the undiminished picture. WHY go to Confession when these people are commiting mortal sins willingly. Can’t you discern they need PROFESSIONAL help?Sometimes a sinner will REFUSE to get that “EXTRA” help, so it is the duty of the priest to mention this. DO you see this as a TRANGRESSION? Please be apprised, I have and NEVER would tell anyone NOT to go to confession. If Confession is remedial, in essence, they need to seek PROFESSIONAL help
I know they receive the graces, but the graces are not CURING the problem. Let’s be realistic about this: you are saying, well, I can take drugs and I know if I go to Confession, I will be forgiven? This is NOT ABUSE? Please do not put words in my mouth that are COMPRESSED!!! Without the help of grace…cowardice which gives in to EVIL, and the violence which under illusion of fighting evil only maskes it worse. CHARITY is the greatest SOCIAL COMMANDMENT. It RESPECTS others and their rights.
” I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendats may life." {Deuteronomy 30:19}

May the Holy Trinity bless you and infused into your soul a better comprehension ot the Sacrament of Reconcilation.

My two cents :twocents: on the exchange between Provigil and michaeldaniels:

Those who think that they are in the state of mortal sin should go to confession as often as they feel necessary (unless scrupulous, then they should obey their confessor). I think you both agree on that.

Regarding counseling: yes, it can be helpful in overcoming various addictions, but if the wrong counselor is chosen, it can do more harm than good. A counselor who does not approach their profession with a strong sense of God’s law (or natural law) may tell a client that there is nothing wrong with masturbation, nothing wrong with extramarital sex, nothing wrong with acting on same-sex attraction, etc., and could thus help the person become more firmly rooted in the sinful habit.

I agree, it is probably better to find a priest that you can trust and who can give better spiritual advice than to find a counselor. Given the state of that field right now. Priests also have the advantage of being able to pray and discern what is best for the person. Which maybe not all priests do, but I’d bet that much fewer counselors pray about their patients.

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