Confession Question


So, I just have a question about how I should really approach confession and the priest. I know that the priest sits persona christi, which is in the place of Christ. But that kind of confuses me when I am talking to the priest, because I am not sure if I am supposed to treat him like God? I have a regular confessor whom I know personally. Do I still call him by his name and treat him the way I always do and talk to him as if I usually do? I feel like, if I were to treat him as just the priest I know, it takes away from the confession b/c I start to see him less as Christ and more as himself. But at the same time, this makes going to confession harder because when he asks me questions about my life, I don’t really know how to respond – I feel like I would treat Christ differently than I would treat this priest. If I talk to the priest, I can’t just say things like “Oh remember what I told you last week?” or whatever, b/c that’s not the way that I would say things to Jesus. But I’m not sure if I am supposed to treat the priest as himself or as Jesus. I’m sorry if I am being confusing at all, but if anyone could help me figure out how I am supposed to treat the priest during confession, I would be very grateful!


I would just treat him like the priest you know. The point of Confession is for you to give a frank and honest confession, receive advice and be given absolution. You say that to not treat him like the priest you know would make it harder for you to make a good confession. That is your answer then. You go to Confession to confess, if treating him like the priest you know makes it easier to confess, then that is what you should do.


I typically call a priest “Father” even in casual conversation with him. I might use his name to single him out from a group of priests present, but when I call a priest by name I always use his surname, particularly because that is the established custom in my parish, and also because I consider it more respectful.

It is a difficult question when you suggest to a priest that he recall something that came up in a prior Confession. I know some priests who would be unwilling to reveal anything in that regard, due to the inviolable Seal of Confession, even to a person who is putatively the same one who confessed it in the beginning. So tread lightly on these matters: It is best to form your recollection as a complete retelling of the event: “I once confessed that I stole a piece of candy from the store, and you counseled me that this was a mortal sin.” But don’t expect a priest to acknowledge his actions or to supply any details on his own.

Otherwise, I would say that you can recognize the spirit of ordination alive in your priest and his action in persona Christi without resorting to shock and awe in his presence. I tend to be respectful of the office but adjust my conversation appropriately to a cleric I know well, a cleric who is a stranger, or a cleric who is in a position of authority over me. Those are all different situations, although they do not matter much in the confessional.


Be respectful of his office, and treat him with respect. But don’t overdo it. He is acting “in persona Christi”, but he is NOT God.

Remember, Jesus set up His Sacraments to be delivered to us through His priests, and He wants us to be comfortable to approach them.


In Catholic culture we call people even the priest by the name they were baptized with. It is a protestant thing to call someone by their sur name.


I can assure you that my Catholic culture is just as thoroughly Catholic as yours is; we are not Protestants, and yet we refer to priests by their surname as a sign of respect. This is in contrast to the happy-clappy days of “Father Joey” and “Father Ricky”


I don’t get how referring to a priest by “Father First Name” is disrespectful or happy-clappy. There was a long thread about this in the traditional forum a while back. I don’t have time to look at it, but the bottom line is that it varies from culture to culture, and is affected by whether or not the priest is a member of a religious order. In the Byzantine church, we refer to our priests by Father First Name. He is our father, after all. While there needs to be respect, a comfortable closeness and familiarity with one’s father is also appropriate.


Yep. In my diocese, I have been corrected many times by priests when I address them as “Father surname.” Or even when I refer to another priest as Father |I|surname." "You mean Father “first name”? It’s a culture thing.

But during Confession I generally address the priest as “Father” without a name – it just seems more comfortable that way.

Because he is “in persona Christi” while administering the sacrament, I try to be more mindful about the office of the priesthood than who the confessor might be.


In Catholic culture we refer to people by the name they were baptized with…in Protestant culture it is a sign of respect to use the surname…if you want to embrace a PROTESTANT culture…have at it baby! :shrug:


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