Can a priest make up whatever penance he wants?


#1

If you go to confession and the priest says the penance involves something extremely difficult like never eating meat again, or never getting married again, or to pray kneeling on rocks for 1 hour each day, etc,etc, are all bound to obey?

In other words, are there limits to the penance?

The priest could always say "I am trying to reduce your time in purgatory", as a justification.

Any thoughts?


#2

[quote="God_Seeker, post:1, topic:342959"]
If you go to confession and the priest says the penance involves something extremely difficult like never eating meat again, or never getting married again, or to pray kneeling on rocks for 1 hour each day, etc,etc, are all bound to obey?

In other words, are there limits to the penance?

The priest could always say "I am trying to reduce your time in purgatory", as a justification.

Any thoughts?

[/quote]

Priests can't give you a permanent penance such as you have listed. I have never heard of penances that you have listed being given out. However, if a priest gives you an absurd penance, you can ask a different priest remove that penance and replace with something that you can actually do. Also, you might report that absurd priest to the bishop because there is something obviously wrong with him. :)


#3

A penance should always bring you closer to God. Asking a person to stay away from his computer forever when that is also how he makes his living is absurd. A penance should not pull a person away from doing good but should encourage a person to turn away from evil. What you describe seems unreasonable and would have to be questioned with another priest or the bishop.


#4

Well, what if someone (like myself) has a background in sexual immorality? It would make sense that the pain of penance would be to abstain from any kind of this pleasure, so perhaps even abstaining from marital intercourse for a period of time.


#5

[quote="God_Seeker, post:4, topic:342959"]
Well, what if someone (like myself) has a background in sexual immorality? It would make sense that the pain of penance would be to abstain from any kind of this pleasure, so perhaps even abstaining from marital intercourse for a period of time.

[/quote]

I think it would be wrong for a priest to ask one spouse to deny the other spouse sex. A priest might counsel one of them if there are issues like the wife has recently given birth and the husband needs reminding that she needs time to recover and he doesn't get that. Or if the wife has a sexual addiction and the husband is feeling used and they spoke to the priest together and they the couple agreed to try prayerfully abstaining for a brief time. But arbitrarily using that as a penance seems unwise.


#6

[quote="God_Seeker, post:4, topic:342959"]
Well, what if someone (like myself) has a background in sexual immorality? It would make sense that the pain of penance would be to abstain from any kind of this pleasure, so perhaps even abstaining from marital intercourse for a period of time.

[/quote]

Hello God Seeker -

Are these questions all just hypotheical, or did a priest assign you an odd or possiblly absurd penance?

If this question is based on a real life penance, do you mind sharing what the penance was?


#7

[quote="phil19034, post:6, topic:342959"]
Hello God Seeker -

Are these questions all just hypotheical, or did a priest assign you an odd or possiblly absurd penance?

If this question is based on a real life penance, do you mind sharing what the penance was?

[/quote]

If its just hypotheical you are over thinking it, or you have a vivid imagination, remain positive the priest knows what he is doing, I have always been treated with kindness, and as I was Jewish it was a very difficult thing for me in the beginning to go to Confesion, now I dont bat an eyelid, it just takes a bit of humility, but the feeling after Confession is like having a sauna bath. Have you read anything on "How to make a good Confession" those sort of books would help you plus try and go to the same priest if your nervous, put you hand in the Lord's and go with complete Trust in HIM.


#8

[quote="Bruised_Reed, post:5, topic:342959"]
I think it would be wrong for a priest to ask one spouse to deny the other spouse sex. A priest might counsel one of them if there are issues like the wife has recently given birth and the husband needs reminding that she needs time to recover and he doesn't get that. Or if the wife has a sexual addiction and the husband is feeling used and they spoke to the priest together and they the couple agreed to try prayerfully abstaining for a brief time. But arbitrarily using that as a penance seems unwise.

[/quote]

Penances are individual, ordering continence would seem to affect the spouse equally.

[quote="Celtic_Maiden, post:7, topic:342959"]
If its just hypotheical you are over thinking it, or you have a vivid imagination, remain positive the priest knows what he is doing, I have always been treated with kindness

[/quote]

I've heard some really tough words about myself, but even then nothing of the kind the OP fears in terms of the penance imposed.


#9

[quote="God_Seeker, post:4, topic:342959"]
Well, what if someone (like myself) has a background in sexual immorality? It would make sense that the pain of penance would be to abstain from any kind of this pleasure, so perhaps even abstaining from marital intercourse for a period of time.

[/quote]

That would be against what St Paul says about marital sex in Scripture, which is that a couple should not deny each other sexual relations except by mutual agreement for a period of time for prayer and fasting. A priest should not impose this on a couple.


#10

I think you are letting your imagination run away with you. Priests do get training in how to administer the Sacrament of Penance and that includes administering penances that are truly going to help the penitent.

I am sure that you have never heard a penance even remotely like the ones you suggest. If a priest does give you one like that ask about it right there in the confessional. If he is serious, speak to the pastor. I am sure the priest will be given counseling in the appropriate way to admonister penance.


#11

[quote="God_Seeker, post:1, topic:342959"]
If you go to confession and the priest says the penance involves something extremely difficult like never eating meat again, or never getting married again, or to pray kneeling on rocks for 1 hour each day, etc,etc, are all bound to obey?

In other words, are there limits to the penance?

The priest could always say "I am trying to reduce your time in purgatory", as a justification.

Any thoughts?

[/quote]

The penance should be in proportion to the sin committed, though, what one priest might think is fair could be different from another, since there are no set guidelines. But yes harsh penances like the ones you described could be given out if the confessor feels it is necessary, but as someone else pointed out, they can't be permanent, though if your confessor is also your spiritual director, then, I believe they can make it, not permanent, but long term.

The only limits I believe there are is that the penintent has to have the resources to do it, is physically able, and that it not lead to the sin being revealed publicly, this is why a priest can't ask the penintent to turn himself in if the sin has criminal implication as a penance, since this would publicly reveal his sin, though he can suggest that he turn himself in of his own free will.

And yes, the priest is correct in saying that the primary reason for penance is "to reduce your time in purgatory" Though, as with everything it should also lead you to grow closer in llove of God through Christ.


#12

[quote="Magnanimous, post:11, topic:342959"]

And yes, the priest is correct in saying that the primary reason for penance is "to reduce your time in purgatory" Though, as with everything it should also lead you to grow closer in llove of God through Christ.

[/quote]

I think this is backwards. Our penances in this life should lead us to grow close in love of God. The reduction of our time in purgatory is a natural effect of our souls having grown closer to God in this life.


#13

[quote="Magnanimous, post:11, topic:342959"]
But yes harsh penances like the ones you described could be given out if the confessor feels it is necessary, but as someone else pointed out, they can't be permanent, though if your confessor is also your spiritual director, then, I believe they can make it, not permanent, but long term.

The only limits I believe there are is that the penintent has to have the resources to do it, is physically able, and that it not lead to the sin being revealed publicly, this is why a priest can't ask the penintent to turn himself in if the sin has criminal implication as a penance, since this would publicly reveal his sin, though he can suggest that he turn himself in of his own free will.
.

[/quote]

If my confessor gives me a particularly difficult penance (which has happened rarely), he always asks me if I accept the penance.

This is from the Rite of Reconciliation for Individual Penance, found here: ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDWFORMA.HTM

[quote=]If necessary, the priest helps the penitent to make an integral confession and gives him suitable counsel. He urges him to be sorry for his faults, reminding him that through the sacrament of penance the Christian dies and rises with Christ and is thus renewed in the paschal mystery.** The priest proposes an act of penance which the penitent accepts **
[/quote]

to make satisfaction for sin and to amend his life.


#14

[quote="God_Seeker, post:1, topic:342959"]
If you go to confession and the priest says the penance involves something extremely difficult like never eating meat again, or never getting married again, or to pray kneeling on rocks for 1 hour each day, etc,etc, are all bound to obey?

In other words, are there limits to the penance?

The priest could always say "I am trying to reduce your time in purgatory", as a justification.

Any thoughts?

[/quote]

None of the things you have mentioned can ever be given as a penance.

Can. 981 The confessor is to impose** salutary and appropriate penances**, in proportion to the kind and number of sins confessed, taking into account, however, the condition of the penitent. The penitent is bound personally to fulfill these penances.


#15

[quote="babochka, post:13, topic:342959"]
If my confessor gives me a particularly difficult penance (which has happened rarely), he always asks me if I accept the penance.

This is from the Rite of Reconciliation for Individual Penance, found here: ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDWFORMA.HTM

[/quote]

You beat me to the punch. You don't have to accept any penance if you think it is beyond your ability to fulfill. Simply say NO and request the priest to provide a different penance. You have an absolute RIGHT to refuse a penance. That doesn't mean that the priest can't engage you in a disscussion of "why", but you simply don't have to accept any penace you believe is improper, for what ever reason.


#16

I've never had a hard or difficult penance to do after Confession. The longest one was saying the Rosary one time, the shortest was just say the Our Father very SLOWLY and reflect on it. I never questioned what I got, I know at times I've deserved worse but I am sure the priest understands what people can do & would not ask people to do something they cannot do.


#17

There's a story about St. Philip Neri assigning a rather odd penance... but then it all made sense in the end. Is that what you're asking about?


#18

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