Ask a Priest Anything...about Confession!

I have offered similar threads before in the Lounge, but this one I will open up to the general public.

What is it you’d like to know about confession? I will answer questions, with two caveats:

  1. I will not answer questions that arise from scrupulosity, as this will not be helpful.
  2. I will not violate the sacramental seal, directly or indirectly. Obviously.

Feel free to ask what you’d like, and I will answer as best I can! And perhaps @InthePew could offer his input as well; I don’t know if any of our other Fathers posters are still around, but feel free to tag them as you see fit.



Father, what would you recommend for examinations of conscience before confession? I mean, maybe there is a really good resource for Catholics who haven’t been for a while, as well as for Catholics who are fairly regular-goers but want to deepen their faith life, or ones that you have found are particularly good with teens or young people. Can you give us any guidelines?


Thank you very much Father for opening the floor for questions!

I’m sure you’ve seen multiple versions of the Examination for Conscience. Is there a particular one you’d recommend as being the “best”? I know that’s a rather vague term, but have you seen one that you would recommend the most?


How often do you confess your parishioners? My parish has it for 30 minutes on a Saturday morning. That’s all.

Is this a normal amount of time each week or do you devote longer?

God bless you, Father.

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Thank you for doing this!

Do you think differently about your parishioners after hearing their confessions?


I’d like to know why priests nowadays (outside of perhaps the traditionalists and the Latino parishes) don’t push harder for their parishioners to go to confession regularly, as in once a month year-round, instead of just Christmas and Easter when there are huge penance services with all kinds of visiting priests coming in to help. Does the fact that priests would have to devote more time to hearing confessions, at least in some parishes, have anything to do with it?

I just came from confession today as it’s First Saturday, and the usual 2 priests were having confession for 1 hour, and they both had a continuous line for the whole hour as is usually the case at this parish. I see similar things at all the other area parishes, which tend to be very large, so it’s not hard to get maybe 40 people coming out to confession every week when you have a total congregation of several thousand. 40 people is about 20 per priest over one hour, which means each confession gets an average of 3 minutes and everybody will get to confess. But if several thousand, or even 500 which is a fraction of the total parish membership, were coming to confession every month, there’d have to be more time and more priests allotted to hear the confessions.


Is there an Act of Contrition you prefer hearing? The one I see in the confessional isn’t the one I learned in the mid-1960s. Does it ever rattle you when a person wings it and gives you one shot from the hip? Like do you scrutinize it at all to see if it conforms to the criteria? Is it OK to simply say something like “I’m sorry Lord, through your help I’ll try to better in the future.” For the record I like the old one that starts “Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended thee. . .” Thanks.


I am a convert, and I struggle with this thought. I don’t know if my protestant background causes this or not? Anyways. If I go to confession about once a month and if my venial sins are forgiven during Mass, (also assuming no mortal sin has been committed) what do I confess? Just anything from the last week after Mass? I struggle with the idea of bringing up sins that I’ve already been forgiven. I can’t get an answer from anyone that helps me, because I want to use the grace of confession, but even with an examination, I don’t know exactly what I should do.
Thanks if you can help!


Father I know this can sound kind of silly but sometimes I think why not to offer a chance for confession once in a while in public spaces in which there are everyday a lot of people including lapsed Catholics (for example inside a mall, an airport, a popular park etc)? Maybe around Lent or Advent?


I only one time had a priest not have me say an act of contrition. My understanding is that Confession is still valid. I’m not sure why this priest skipped it. I was the only one there at the time so it wasn’t a time issue. What are your thoughts on a priest not requesting an act of contrition?

Also I heard we should pray for the priest before we go to Confession. Are there specific reasons for this?


I’ve been wondering the answer to your first question, myself.

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My questions echos @CatholicMO. As a baptist convert, we were always taught examination of conscience on a daily basis or as we sinned. I am assuming most of my sins are venial rather than mortal (and we had no variance in sin - sin was sin was sin). Now I try to get to confession every two months, most often confession lack of charity, pride, lies to get out of social situations. Do I continue as I am doing?


Ditto! In my parish I’m very visible as one of the long standing volunteers and one of the few male readers and singers. In the confessional the priests recall my struggles with sin from previous confessions and we can discuss them as if the priest knows me personally, so I find it embarrassing when a few minutes after discussing my intimate faults (again!) we encounter each other outside the confessional and talk about parish business as if nothing had happened.

Thankyou, Father, for volunteering your time with this great opening, and thankyou to you and all our priests for their work in the confessional.


From what I’ve read, (which I need to do more reading) confession used to be public around the first several hundred years of the church. And when Constantine took over it became private because well, he’s the emperor. What’s the justification for us to continue to do it in private. How do we know that’s the right way to go?

Did St. Peter take confessions? I know Christ gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins. Which makes sense to have confessions the way we do. I will continue to go to confession and we teach our kids to do so as well. It’s our weekly family thing. Just curious to know how did the apostles take confession as well?

Thank you so much.

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After listing sins in confession to the priest, does one have to make the following statement prior to absolution, “I am sorry for these sins and all my past sins”?

Father, thank you for opening this thread up for us.

What would you like for new Catholics about confession? Also, how do I allow my parents to understand the meaning of Confession? We have only been Catholics for a few years now (6 years for me and 4 years for my parents)


How does the priest determine what penance to assign?


I hope not. I just realized I forgot yesterday :frowning:
I did generally indicate contrition and that I needed God’s help overcoming the sins I had mentioned.
Priest proceeded straight to his usual pep talk and absolution (this is a priest I have been to several times as he’s close by).

I would like to know why an act of contrition is not made during Confession nowadays. When I have asked in Confession when I should make an act of contrition the priest tells me to do it after Confession in the Church before I leave.

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Father, I have a basic confusion about confession that is due to insufficient education as a child:

Could you explain to me the reason confession is necessary? I understand the necessity of having your sins forgiven, and understand and believe that catholic priests have the power to forgive sins in Christs name, passed from Him through the Apostles. But I also believe that God hears my prayers. Unlike the other sacraments which by their nature require either physical acts (Holy Communion, Baptism, etc.) or witnesses (Matrimony), I dont see the essential role the priest plays in the forgiveness of sins. I have even heard many Catholics say things like “you arent really talking to the priest in the confessional, youre talking to Jesus, he is just standing in for Him”, and that mindset makes the priests presence seem unnecessary.

Again, i understand its something they are authorized to do by God, but in saying me praying for God to forgive me in my heart is not enough to save my soul, we are saying God almighty needs a human middleman in order to forgive my sins, which I am having a hard time grasping.

I know this frame of mind is incorrect, so I am misunderstanding something, or missing a piece of the puzzle. Can you clear this up for me? God Bless.

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