Bad Priests For Confession

Has anyone ever known a Priest that was bad at doing confessions? I had the worst confession of my life today (Where I believe I may have committed sacrilege). Never before have I really had this problem, but in the environment I was in, it was uncomfortable, awkward, and simply weird. I’m not blaming my cowardice on the Priest, but it probably never would have happened if it was a Priest that was better at it. Has anyone ever been to a Priest that made you feel uncomfortable and awkward?

Other than directing a person to sin, what can a priest really do in a confessional that can make it such a bad experience?

Confession is pretty straightforward, you confess your sins, repent and the priest gives you absolution. Even if he messes up the ritual, as long as he says “I absolve you” the sacrament is effective.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

I’ve had a certain priest hear my confession multiple times who is very stern - almost condescending - in how he speaks to me. The homilies he gives to are also very unwelcoming. I understand the need to convey the seriousness of sin but I don’t feel any Christian gentleness or love along with it.
I usually try to go to anther priest if possible.

Yes. Oh, yes! I have learned that Jesuits say the darndest things. Sometimes they even like to say those things in the confessional. I suppose confessional secrecy is something owed to the penitent, but I feel some duty of confidentially and thus I will not divulge the contents of the conversation. However, I can say for certain that there are priests who man confessionals that say outright heretical stuff. This is not nit-picky stuff either. No, I am talking way out in left field bazaaro stuff.

The best advice that I can give is to do what most clerics and religious do. You go to confession and you have a spiritual director. They are not the same person.

What you want in confession is to confess, repent and be absolved. If the priest says something off the wall, it has no effect on the sacrament.

For guidance with your spiritual life you go to a spiritual director who may be a priest, but need not be. It should be someone who knows about the care of souls and the spiritual life.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Agreed, Timon. :frowning:

Well, it was just awkward from the get-go. I asked him to do the Confession after Mass, which he was very annoyed by, and throughout the entire thing I made mistakes (Such as forgetting to confess sins and interrupting him so I could confess them). He’s usually a nice and funny guy, but he seemed very annoyed that I asked and he was very short with me the entire time.

But I have to ask you about the possible sacrilege (Since you’re very knowledgeable). Basically, there is a particular sin which I originally thought was Mortal (Since I did it out of Lust), but during the Confession I thought, “There’s no way this is a Sin at all”. And when it was time to say my act of contrition I decided that it was, but I didn’t want to say “Hey wait”, because he was annoyed enough already. I don’t think it is now, but at that time I thought it was, so does this make it a sacrilege? I was a coward for not mentioning it because I was afraid I would annoy him (Which I don’t know why he was annoyed anyway. If I was a Priest I would be thrilled that someone asked to go to Confession). What do you honestly think? If you need to know the supposed sin, tell me through private messages because I really don’t want to state it (As it is rather… odd).

Thank you for your input.

As a general rule, when one is unsure about one’s confession, it is best to go to confession again and confess whatever one left out.

A priest must always hear the confessions of penitents. There are times that are more convenient and others that are less so. If you say that Father is generally a nice guy, you may have caught him at a bad time. For all you know, he could have been feeling sick.

One piece of advice for the future, have a plan before you go to confession. That’s why examination of conscience is good, because it helps you pull your thoughts and you can just go in and start with, "I accuse myself of . . . . " and cover everything.

When in doubt, confess it.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

I had a plan, but the plan backfired as there were three sins I really wanted to confess, but during the confession I decided the one wasn’t a sin at all, but then I changed my mind at the last moment, but I couldn’t confess it because I was supposed to say the Act of Contrition and I didn’t want to tell him I had one more as I had done it a minute before and he was annoyed about it. Was it a sacrilege at all because I felt pressured not to say it, or was it still my fault?

For something to be a sacrilege there has to be intent. The way that you’re explaining it sounds more like anxiety on your part, not intent to withhold something.

Just go back to confession and get it over with. You can even tell Father what happened the last time. He may need to hear how his behavior distresses the penitent…

I wouldn’t tell him “It’s all your fault.” That would not be kind. But you can say, “I wanted to say this at the last minute, but was afraid that you might be annoyed if I back tracked” or something similar. Don’t lie to him, just explain it in a way that gives him the complete picture. He can’t advise you for the future, if he does not have a good picture.

People often complain that the confessor does not give them the counsel that they need. I often wonder if the confessor has a clear picture.

One more piece of advice. If you’re going to confession and the confessor looks annoyed, just say what you have to say. Father is a big boy and he’ll get over it . . .IF he’s really annoyed.

If he doesn’t want to be annoyed in the confessional, he should join a monastery where he will never have to hear confessions again.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Some priests just don’t make brilliant confessors, which is sad, but just the way life is. I rarely get to see my favourite confessor (he’s at a different parish and I only see him on Sundays if I missed the confession times during the week). He’s brilliant. My regular confessor is good though I could do with more fire-and-brimstone. The two confessors I’ve had one-off-confessions with weren’t particularly bad… but their form in the confession was jarring (one asking me to make my act of contrition after leaving the confessional and the other one not making very clear when he wanted me to make it).

I really like it when a confessor asks you to pray for him after absolving you.

I’ve noticed that there is one priest in particular who gets impatient when a penitent (that would be me,) is vague or disorganized, and started jotting down brief notes. This particular one also likes it if you are organized with type and number of sins. I’ve also noticed at Mass that he stresses, “Let us LISTEN to the Word of God,” and glares at people who follow along in missalettes, insists on the congregation singing hymns acappello (he glowers at you if you don’t sing.) I’ve come to the conclusion that he just seems to have a less than flexible personality. Fortunately, there are other priests in that parish.

I really can’t blame someone getting a little impatient when a penitent is disorganized, because that wastes time. Confessional times are limited to half an hour, twice a day, and from what I’ve seen elsewhere, where thirty minutes once a week are set aside for confessions, that’s actually pretty liberal. Ideally, we’d all get very individualized attention in the confessional, but that’s unreasonable to expect when there are (happily) a lot of people trying to get into confession in that half hour block of time. I don’t think it’s the least bit reasonable to expect an insightful confessor every time I go to confession, but it is important to feel that Christ is welcoming my attempt at penitence. However, the priest behind the screen isn’t necessarily going to be another St. Pio or St. John Vianney, and if we don’t know what our intent was at the time we committed these sins, how do we expect them to know?

Stop worrying about sacrilege, or whether this sin is mortal or venial, or that sin is mortal or venial. Do an examination of conscience well before your confession. Write down notes, if you must, and keep your confession as brief as possible. Remember that priests have little time, and they deal with many overly scrupulous, sometimes befuddled, pentitents. Don’t ask a priest to hear your confession after Mass, unless you are in danger of dying. Simply make a plan to attend the next scheduled confession time at that or another parish.

I see a similar thread about confessions in the liturgy forum. It seems that there is a definite pattern of scrupulosity. (And that comes from someone who confesses every two weeks.)

If you honestly didn’t think it was a sin (honestly- not just that you were embarrassed) at the time you confessed it, you’re probably ok. Mention it in your next confession (you don’t need to mention it here though- publicly or privately- you do not need to tell anyone your sins outside of confession). The priest you went to seems to have a problem. I suggest you avoid going to him unless you are absolutely desperate.

I must have missed this on the first read through: You mentioned that you asked him to hear your confession after Mass. Maybe he’d be more helpful if you went to confession at the posted time, or, if you feel you need some assistance in sorting through, if you made an appointment with him to confess. I generally go to confession at the posted times, but if there is something that is really weighing on my mind, as well as once a year (I like doing a spiritual housecleaning once a year to clean up the “venial junk” that’s hanging around,) I make an appointment, and I prepare in advance for it.

I’ve never liked hearing of priests being disgruntled because someone asked them to hear a confession that wasn’t at 7:30pm on a Saturday. Likewise those who ill refuse to hear a confession for those reasons.

A priest should be willing to hear confession 24/7. The only time they should legitimately refuse is if they are celebrating the Holy Mass which cannot be interrupted.

Well, it’s something I definitely did not want to confess, but I don’t believe I withheld telling it out of fear. I remember having a genuine feeling of “How could this be a sin?” so I didn’t confess it. But once I decided that maybe it was, it was time to say the Act of Contrition.

I actually plan on going to a Priest at the cathedral, as Father Wesley is renowned for his confessions. People drive a very long way so he may hear their confessions. Sometimes people don’t even go if he’s not hearing confessions. Every time I go I never feel pressured or nervous. It’s a very welcoming environment, and I always confess every sin I have, no matter how embarrassing. However, I will go to one of my local Priest’s confessions again, and I might mention him being unwelcoming. I just don’t know how I would say it without him being hurt, as he is a good Priest. The reaction I can honestly see him doing is to yell in the confessional about it.

Indeed. Many people complain about Priests not being able to help them, when most don’t paint a good picture, and when half the time they’re not even talking about their sins. It actually annoys me that people ask for personal advice on things that have nothing to do with their sins in the confessional. Confession is about the forgiveness of your sins, not other personal problems. I don’t know why people think Father isn’t able to speak outside of the confessional about their personal problems.

I’ll definitely just confess all of my sins next time, regardless of how annoyed Father is. He can be annoyed all he wants, but the salvation of my soul is more important than taking five minutes out of his day. I know it’s not right to ask Father more than once to hear you confession when it is not scheduled, but a lot of it is his fault. He’s scheduled to do it from four-thirty to five, and he only does for about ten or fifteen minutes and then he quits. Granted, he does that because there’s not usually lines, but the reason for that is probably the same reason I don’t like going there. With Father Nick, there was always long lines for the confessional, but after he left confession lines have suffered greatly. The reason is he doesn’t really give counsel or help. Regardless of how black and white you paint the picture, he simply says something along the lines of “Okay, great confession. Pray that the Lord will help you avoid these sins, and pray three Our Father’s for an increase of vocations as a penance. Now say your Act of Contrition.” It really doesn’t go much further than that.

That’s not exactly precise, but very close. A priest must always hear emergency confessions at the drop of a hat.

If the priest is a religious, he has to schedule confessions in a manner that does not take him away from community functions. It he’s on his way to the Divine Office with his brothers and you’re not dying, he can politely ask you to wait for him to be free. This is going to vary from one religious community to another. Some religious communities were founded as communities of priests. It is understood that their life revolves around the priesthood and priestly ministry.

Many communities such as Franciscans, Benedictines, Cistercians, Missionaries of the Poor, Missionaries of Charity, Discalced Carmelites and others, were not founded as communities of priests. They have priests, often many of them. But these priests are monks and friars with conventual duties.

Generally, superiors don’t make an issue out of an occasional interruption. Often, the lay people don’t know the conventual schedule. Why should they? But if a priest makes it a habit of missing community functions to hear confessions, then he will be called to task. Even Padre Pio had a confession schedule that allowed him to pray, play and eat with the friars. When he did absent himself from these functions, it was with the permission of the superior.

Most superiors are reasonable. Just take a case like Padre Pio’s. If there is a waiting list to go to confession, the superior is going to find a way to work around this so that the religious does not become a full-time secular priest. No superior may allow one of his friars or monks to drop the common life. But superiors do have a lot of authority and they can juggle with schedules. Also, it’s not healthy. Even Padre Pio needs to eat, pray, use the boys’ room, etc.

We have to be careful with our expectations. A priest should always hear a confession. However, a priest must also be prudent with the use of his time. If he is a religious, he has other obligations that he cannot ignore and it would be unfair for the faithful to expect him to ignore those obligations. Even recreating with his brothers can be an obligation in some religious communities. Again, we’re talking about not making it a habit to miss these functions, not the occassional situation when a person comes to the door, not knowing the schedule. In charity, that person must be welcomed. The priest must hear his confession.


Br.JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Within the last 18 months I’ve had a couple of minor uncomfortable experiences, both of them with the same priest. (I suppose you could say that I should’ve learned something from the first one!) The first one, I’d been going through a spell of depression, was feeling very low and, to be blunt, I confessed that I’d been having suicidal thoughts. The priest didn’t bat an eyelid and just said “God bless your good intentions, say X as your penance and make a good act of contrition.” Yes, he did his job and most people would probably say that’s all he’s there to do. But at the time it seemed a bit too minimalist a reaction to someone who may have been having problems.

The second time, the priest misunderstood something I said in confession. When I tried to clear up the misunderstanding, he got annoyed and responded loudly, making reference to the sins I was confessing - loudly enough that I was seriously concerned his comments could be concerned by the people who were waiting in the line outside the confessional. And I got one or two “looks” as I was leaving. :blush:

In the above case, if the priest is not trained in spiritual direction or counseling, it’s better not to say anything. Suicidal ideations are serious matters. The priest has to be careful not to say the wrong thing. Sometimes, a priest may ask if you have seen a professional, but not always.

The second time, the priest misunderstood something I said in confession. When I tried to clear up the misunderstanding, he got annoyed and responded loudly, making reference to the sins I was confessing - loudly enough that I was seriously concerned his comments could be concerned by the people who were waiting in the line outside the confessional. And I got one or two “looks” as I was leaving. :blush:

That’s unfortunate.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

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