Confession Concern

An odd thing happened to me at Confession today. Now, the Priest who was there I find to be theologically liberal (he once advised me that, if I can’t get to Confession, just ask God to forgive me and I can then receive Communion :frowning: ). He also knows/believes that I am Scrupulous, which as best as I can tell, I am.

Anyway, the Priest tells me that I misuse the Sacrament of Reconciliation because I thinking too much about sin. This always confuses me because isn’t the Sacrament of Reconciliation about you have committed sin (either mortal or venial, in this case I did have mortal sins to confess) and you want to be absolved of the sin?

So, the Priest asked me if I was sorry for my sins and I answered “Yes” (I worried now did I lie or something, was I really sorry, I don’t know…I don’t know if that is my Scrupulosity or what) and then assigned me a Penance. I asked the Priest shouldn’t I actually confess my sins, and he replied negatively. He then gave me Absolution and sent me on my way.

Is this a valid Confession? I feel like it isn’t because I wasn’t allowed to actually confess anything…

  1. You went to confession. That shows you were sorry for your sins, regardless of how you actually “felt” at the time.

  2. You followed the priest’s lead and answered his questions as honestly as you could.

You made a valid confession. Don’t post-mortem it!

But what do I do at my next Confession, whenever that is? Don’t I still need to Confess unconfessed mortal sins? After all, I was not really able to confess anything, mortal or venial, today.

Hey Brother! Cluny is right on the money.

Counter-question: Is this priest the priest you have chosen to be your one confessor?

No, he is not. Basically, at my parish there are four Priests that hear Confessions. There is a daily time every weekday (4:45 PM-5:15 PM) when there will be a Priest in the rotates daily and it is kind of random so it is hard to know which Priest you’re going to get (kind of like Forrest Gump’s “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you’re going to get,” :slight_smile: ).

I’ve had priests who have done this too. Whether the absolution is valid or not, I never have a sense of peace when I’m not allowed to confess my sins “with the lips,” so I confess them the next time I go to Confession.

1450 “Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction.”[49]

1455 The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.

1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.”[54]

When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”[55]

1457 According to the Church’s command, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.”[56] Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.[57] Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.[58]

1458 Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.[59] Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful:[60]

Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear “man” - this is what God has made; when you hear “sinner” - this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made … When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light.[61]

So, was my Confession valid or not?

I have to admit it is this kind of stuff (the Priest messing with Confession) that gets me really angry towards liberal/progress/modern Catholics. I mean, if they want to screw up their own faith, that is, I suppose, their right and it’s between them, their conscience and God, but now they mess up my faith as I try to be a good Traditional/Conservative Catholic who takes Confession very seriously. It is not some psycho-babble ‘healing’, it is the one sure place where one can find forgiveness for their sins, but certain Catholics have turned into a mushy-mushy affair. Is it okay for me to get angry over these kinds of things?

EDIT: I am not directing my ire at anyone who posted here, but towards the Priest who caused this confusion for me.

A good way to confess to the same priest each time (which I know you’re aware is essential for the scrupulous), is to make an appointment with him. Having one confessor very strictly means having only one confessor. Brother, you need this. Choose one whose orthodoxy you are confident in.

So, was my Confession valid or not?

Yes, it was. You need to let yourself up from being pinned to the floor by this and do what Spirithound has suggested. I agree with him 100%, you really do need that kind of Reconciliation, at least for a while. Find a priest you don’t have doubts about and seek his advice.

The Sacrament, as all Sacraments are, is an outward sign of the invisible grace. As such, the constructs of the visible, physical aspect of the Sacrament are spelled out to give us each a way to approach Reconciliation in the right way and for the right reasons. If you try and use the articles of the Catechism as some sort of “go-no go checklist,” a purpose for which it was not designed, there would be a lot of invalid confessions all over the world.

Consider the case of a person with a truly contrite heart who hasn’t set foot in the door of a church in scores of years. Finally God’s grace pulls him back one day and he goes to confess. How long would you realistically estimate it might take to confess with the lips 20, 30, 40 or more years of mortal sins? It could very quickly turn into a ridiculously long recitation of the same thing over and over ONLY for the purpose of meeting some formalistic model of how an ideal confession should go. The poor Priest, who is only there to absolve you and give you penance along with mercy, comfort, and encouragement wouldn’t get to eat, sleep, use the facilities, pray, say mass, return phone calls, visit the sick, etc. for a good week or more, maybe.

Even though they are listed as specific articles, they have to be approached with common sense. It’s very common for priests to call a halt to the long laundry list of sins, and I suppose you’d have to ask each individually why they do it. Maybe ask that question in the Ask an Apologist section if it hasn’t already been asked. But common sense would indicate that the focus of that Sacrament is supposed to be on the Sacrafying, the getting back of that sanctifying grace that puts you back in communion with God and His Church. Reciting a long, long litany of sins would take the focus off that and put it on the human behavior. Another good reason I could think of is that in a good examination of conscience, you not only have to look at what you did, but why. Does it take separate examination of 702 instances of lying or coveting to get to the bottom of that kind of question? Probably not. The fellow who missed Mass the whole month of April because he was too lazy and didn’t give it proper importance likely had the same reason for not going in May.

Now please do not take my philosophical views as doctrinal, or view them in any way that puts me in opposition to the Church. I am NOT. I’m merely trying to assuage your feelings of Sacramental incompleteness by giving you practical reasons why sometimes what appears to be “the letter of the law” is not followed. Try to remember also that the Priest is acting in persona Christi, making your confession in reality between you and God. When you do your part and you hear those words “I absolve you…” you ARE absolved by God even if the Priest makes you feel like you got shortchanged in some way.

At my next Confession, do I need to confess all the sins I was unable to confess today because the Priest would not let me?

DOShea makes some very good points…Welcome!

You don’t need to confess these sins again, as you have been absolved of them!

But you do need to find a regular confessor, one you trust with your soul, and then follow his advice… This is the way out of scrupulosity and into an understanding of forgiveness==it ain’t mushy - love and forgiveness are very, very real and very, very solid!!!

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