Are we allowed to confessional shop?


I know someone who has been avoiding confession for some time. What are the correct answers to the following questions:

What are the standards in regards to faithful choosing one preist to hear their confession over another priest? (Example A: Driving across town to another parish so as to avoid having to confess their sins with the priest they know. Example B: Driving to another parish to avoid confrontation with a priest with whom they are uncomfortable discussing matters inside or outside the confessional.)

In instances where two (or more) priests are hearing different confessions at the same time, is it normal for a person, as they are waiting for either confessional to become available, to have anxiety over having to go to one priest instead of another?

Additionally, suppose a person normally goes confession “face-to-face;” however, the same person is embarrased of a particular sin. What can be said of that person choosing to confess their sins “with screen?”

If a person attends confession, but fails to confess a sin by choice because of fear or anxiety, what shold they do? On a similar note, if a person attends confession, but fails to confess a GRAVE sin by accident, what should they do?

Any other thoughts or comments on this subject will be helpful. Thank you.


Dear T,

People are allowed to avoid any confessor for any personal reason—including the embarrassment over a particular sin. No one is obliged to confess face to face.
One is free to go to any parish he chooses for Confession.

If one chooses to withhold a mortal sin in Confession, that in itself is a further mortal sin and the whole confession is invalid. If the Lord could suffer such agony on Good Friday to forgive our sins, the least we can do is humbly and honestly confess them.

If one forgets to confess a mortal sin, that sin is still forgiven in Confession, but the person is required to mention it the next time he or she goes to Confession as an act of sorrow and contrition. It’s the least we can do in the face of His love for us.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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