Confession line or seating order?


Does anyone notice the difference in some parishes when it comes to Confession? At one parish, everyone lines up in the aisle to go in for Confession. At another one, people remain in the pews, wherever, kneeling in prayer or seated.

It’s so hard to tell who’s doing an examination of conscience, who’s saying their penance and who’s waiting to go in!?!?! What’s up with that??? It’s very frustrating.

I wish it were the same to each and every parish so that everyone knows the routine. When we line up, while everyone is seated, we get the strangest looks. As if we’re bucking the trend.

Does anyone know “the rule” about the order of going in to Confession?

On a side note, how do you feel about double confessionals where a penitent is seated to one side of the priest while another penitent is making their confession at the same time? I prefer the one penitent per Confession, rather than a possible 3 way. Just venting. :confused:




There is no “rule.”

My American side agrees with you that there should be standardization.

My human side says wait, no, it doesn’t really matter.



The only rule you should concern yourself is the rule that you should go!

And, why should you be frustrated because you can’t tell who is examining their conscience and who is doing penance. God has it figured out, you don’t need to!

Let go, and let God!


But your favourite is when somebody leaves the confessional and half a dozen people look round as they do not know who is next and three people all get up at the same time.



Unless there’s an absolutely massive crowd in the church, it’s normally not too difficult to keep track of who was already there when you arrived. And unless Confession time is about to end and you may not get to go because of queue jumpers, does it really matter what order you go in?


It is good to see from your post that there are plenty of people going to confession! If only that were the case everywhere in the Western world.


Because you don’t want to be rude and accidentally “cut” in front of someone who thinks they are next.

Do you just drive down the highway without a care in the world as to who is changing lanes or exiting? Do you just let God figure it out?


Just never lost any sleep over it…to each his own, we each have our crosses to bear I guess!


I sympathize. I went to confession at our new parish and was like "wow, no liine! Lucky me. So I stood outside of the confessional and when I tried to go in about someone told me about all the people in the pews were in line ahead of me. The 25 icy glares was confirmation enough. They sit in the pews and move in a “s” like motion around until they are in the pew next to the confessional. It has always seemed awkward to me.

Lines people! They are human nature for a reason!!!


I sympathize. My own parish is a no-line parish. What’s more confusing is that confessions are heard on Sunday mornings before the Divine Liturgy, so any number of people might be in the church for various reasons, not just confession. It is often hard to know who is waiting for confession. It works itself out and becomes clear eventually, but not without quite a bit of non-verbal communication between us all. The parish closest to me is a line parish. Three confessionals, very clear lines. It is efficient and clear, but the wait can be long and it would be nice to spend that time in quiet prayer in a pew.


There are no rules about lining up or staying in certain seating areas. It just depends on the parish. I’ve seen lines most of the time. When I was in Europe admiring the beauty of an old church, I accidentally sat on a bench along the wall where other people were sitting before I realized it was actually a confession line.
As for “double” confessionals, that’s the kind I grew up with so I wouldn’t have a problem with it. There were little doors on each side that the priest slid open for whoever’s turn it was, so I don’t recall really hearing anything that was meant for the other side.


I am totally against the double confessionals at my parish. My teenage son would have been on the other side while I was confessing had my DH not stopped him. On that same day, I was in line, 3 penitents away from the confessional, and we could hear the entire confession of the person inside. Pretty bad stuff. I tried so hard to not listen. Then we heard the priest reprimand him! Everyone in line smiling sheepishly and embarrassed. If we could hear everything 3 penitents way what about the person right there on the other side ?
What if it was my 19 yr old or worse still my 13 yrld ? Who was on the other side?
That day my elder son said this is too embarrassing! I’m worried if I don’t find another way he might not want to confess again and loose his soul ? He will not confess to known priests. So far he’s been very co-operative though it has been a challenge sometimes.

I think each penitent needs their privacy, and yes there should be certain regular standards followed at every parish.


I totally agree. The desire for order and clarity stems from a sense of justice. I would hate to cut in front of someone as they may have to go to Confession earlier because they are serving at Mass or because they may have an appointment or something like that.


Our confessional is in the back of the church and there used to be those that would just hang out in the back pews for no apparent reason. They are no longer there…I wonder if our pastor said something to them.

Often when I get there, the confessional is open- available. If not, it is pretty easy to see who is waiting. Lent is usually a busy season and a line will form at a respectable distance.

We have the double-sided confessional, except that one side has been modified to be face-to-face. I am often on the face-to=face side when the priest will hold up his hand to stop me because someone has entered the other side. He leans over and tells them he can only hear one at a time.


I’ve never been to confession in a double-sided confessional, but I don’t think I’d be terribly comfortable with it. It seems there would be a chance of being overheard with another person just a few feet away. This sounds rather strange coming from me, since, in the Byzantine Rite, we confess out in the open, in front of God and everybody. People tend to keep a respectful distance away from where a confession is being heard, though, and it is never as close as a few feet.


Sigh. If only all parishes could set up a take a number system :wink:


At my parish we just line up. The only problem is that we’re forced to be in front of the doors, which can make it difficult for people coming in. It would probably be better if we lined up at the aisle nearest the confessional, but the pastor would have to make that call.

As for your idea of a numbering system, I once went to Confession where that was in place. I went to see Fr. Corapi preach and there were lots of confessionals set up. Each confessional was numbered and the penitent carried a card with the number on it. When they were done the came out and handed their number to the next person in line. Worked beautifully. That wouldn’t be necessary for regular parishes, though. Mega parishes, maybe.:wink:


No line? Bizarre. never ever seen that.
It’s not a problem around here. We only ever have a crowd at the bi-annual Penance services. And then each priest has his own line…8 priests at a time.
People around here do not frequent confession. :shrug:
I keep talking It up to the students…few takers. It’s a shame.
People just don’t realize how wonderful it is.


It is truly a beautiful Sacrament we all stand in need for!

It bothers me that it’s done differently at some churches. I’m always so anxious of “jumping” in front of others who were waiting because I didn’t “take a head count” on who was there first, what they were doing when I walked in, etc. Lines take the guesswork out of it all and I can truly focus on a good examination of conscience.

Regarding the double confessional: Sadly, the whole double confessional idea really turns some people off to coming to Confession in the first place.

My husband refuses to go to our local parish for that very same reason. We usually end up driving over 20 minutes to another church that has the line and one Confession at a time.

I’m sure if my husband, a practicing Catholic, won’t come to **our parish’s **Confession, then how many others (fallen away, etc.) are staying away for the very same reason?

Perhaps it is something I could bring up to our pastor. But how can I word it without sounding self-righteous? Any ideas.




it’s an easy fix:

A sign that says “NOT IN USE” on one door, and CONFESSIONAL on the other.
And get the priest to only use one side.

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