Can a priest stop a pentintent during Confession?

I have a friend who recently went to confession. They were confessing some serious sins (alcohol/drug abuse) and a litany of other sins they committed while struggling with their addiction. They told me that at their recent confession, the priest stopped them during the confession and just started talking about the importance of entering a program, counselling, 12 steps, etc…which I think we can all agree is very important. However, when my friend told them they clearly had other sins they needed to confess the priest told them something to the effect, that all of those sins were directly related and a result of their underlying problem with alcohol/drug abuse…and that he could probably name the rest of them…and that it was not necessary to focus on those individual sins, because that would be in a sense scrupulous, but that they wanted them to focus on their root cause, which is the alcohol and the drugs…then my friend asked if they would be absolved of all of their sins, since they did not state all of them and they priest told them Yes…and then they asked if it would be necessary to state the unconfessed sins at the next confession, and the priest said no…they are all forgiven.

My friend came to me for advice and while I wanted to tell them to trust the Priest, because they are ordained ministers of God and acting in persona Christi during the sacrament…I just was not sure if the priest was within his bounds to do this during confession. Is this ok? In such a case, are all the sins forgiven? Is another confession required. Any help and advice will be great…especially from a priest, deacon, or other trained person in this area. My friend is stressing that they may still be in a state of mortal sin and doesn’t know who to ask…I would like to try and help them out.

Please tell me what you think. Thanks and God Bless.

sounds like your friend found a wise and caring priest

general rule for confession: don’t monday-morning quarterback your confession. Find a priest you trust and make him your regular confessor, and keep it between him and you, without asking the input of third parties.

So that means they can approach and receive the Most Blessed Sacrament and no other confession is necessary? Thanks

if the priest gave him absolution yes, if the priest gave him a reason why he could not be absolved at that time, with direction how to proceed, no. In either case, neither you nor are are party to this confession so why are we discussing it? If he had further questions as to the validity of his confession he should ask the priest as no one else can properly advise him

Because they were unsure if the priest would be able to give them good advice…they had never encountered this before and they thought that if they approached the priest and hinted at the fact that they thought they handled the confession wrongly, then the priest would get angry, so they turned to a friend…there is nothing in Church teaching that says a person can not turn to a friend for advice on any matter…if my friend wishes to disclose/discuss their confession to me, that is their choice.

If your friend has a substance abuse problem, the sins that he or she commits while they are abusing alcohol or other substances, may not be mortal sins, due to their lack of full consent. So the priest seems wise in directing them to root out the primary cause of their problem. Until this is attacked head on, they will continue to commit the same acts, and not be able to overcome the issues that lead them into sin.

St. Dymphna pray for them.

Hi michaeldaniels,

If the priest absolved your friend of their sins at the end of the confession, then all the sins your friend committed were forgiven. When a priest forgives someone of their sins, all that person’s sins are forgiven. That is unless the person going to confessor was purposefully withholding something they did. That doesn’t apply to your friend, since they wanted to confess everything.

Their sins are forgiven and your friend should rest at ease.

Excellent advice. Your first instinct to tell your friend to trust the priest was correct. I hope he does follow the priests advice to find a counselling program. I will be praying for him (her).

I concur with the others who say your friend found a wise priest. A couple of points from Pardon and Peace by Father Alfred Wilson, C.P.Roman Catholic Books]— a great book on the totality of the Sacrament of Reconciliation from all angles/perspectives.

“…After confession keep your soul in peace and be on your guard–**this is a point of cardinal importance–**against giving access to any fear about the validity of the Sacrament, either as regards the examination of conscience, the contrition, or anything else whatsoever. These fears are suggestions of the devil, whose aim is to instill bitterness into a sacrament of consolation and love.” (Chapter V, pg 67)

“…After confession is not the time to examine ourselves to find if we have told all our sins. We should rather remain attentive and in peace near our Lord, with Whom we have just been reconciled, and thank Him for His great mercy. Nor is it necessary, subsequently, to search out what we may have forgotten, We mus tell simply all that comes to mind; after that we must think no more about it.”
"…Remember, in conclusion, that according to the common opinion of saints, the fear of sin is no longer salutary when it becomes excessive. (Ibid).

These next two quotes may be a little blunt…but they also might be the direct wisdom/insight he needs in this case…and maybe other Sacrament of Confession May be a direct help to your friend’s concerns about the priest:…“But the priest is may be mistaken!” O course, he may. But remember this:[INDENT]

“1.If the priest is fallible****, he is certainly no more fallible than you. The desire to revise his judgments amounts to an unconscious usurping of his position. It is** judging God’s appointed judge,** and that is pride and want of faith and has no kinship whatever with zeal or tenderness of conscience. ** It is the self-opinionated attitude of private judgment.”**

“2. Fallible or not, the priest is reductively infallible, because his judgment will be respected in heaven. “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them. Whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.” Your judgment isn’t guaranteed anything, so you will be wise to relinquish it and leave judgment to the priest.”(Chapter XVII, pg 217).

[/INDENT]I hope this is helpful…
Pax Christi

Good point, puzzleannie! I was wondering some of these same things myself.

There are 2 distinct issues here. You said “they were unsure if the priest would be able to give them good advice”. Priests are not necessarily trained or qualified to give “good advice” when dealing with alcoholism/substance abuse–in fact, most are not. This priest might have been, or might not have been. But that isn’t the point. The priest certainly can impart forgiveness and absolution. Depending upon the circumstances, sometimes a priest does need to stop a penitent and say “you’ve already confessed that sin because what you are saying now is a ‘part of the whole’ which was already confessed.”

When we are absolved, all of our past sins are forgiven. Only if the penitent intentionally chooses not to mention a sin is there a problem. Your friend needs to trust his confessor in this. If the priest absolved him (which you didn’t specifically state, but I think we can presume that it happened), then he was forgiven and absolved of all his sins.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.