Confession questions about children


I’ve always had a good experience with confession. Thinking back at my first time practicing it in Catholic school, several times with a priest without my parents knowing – thank God I had good priests teach me. But we are parents living in THIS day and age and I have a couple of questions:

  1. About children going to confession. As parents, we are our child’s protector and basically their first face of God. In this day and age, parents need to be careful. While I have a deep respect for the priesthood and our parish priest, I don’t fully trust her alone in a booth with a priest. That’s just the way it is. One day she will be old enough and she will be fine and no longer need us to “hover.” *We homeschool, talk to our children, they are confident kids, they spent time away with us near by through classes at church with peers and etc. We are also a Navy family and don’t get a chance to truly get to know a priest or military chaplain before we have to move again – so we are protective. I will be educating our child on not only how to make a confession but what the priest is suppose to do and not suppose to do. We have come up with ideas such as practicing confessing to us and telling us what the priest says after her confession as a rule. Other alternative, I’ll just wait until she is older.

  2. I have a hard time with priests who do not report child abuse. They are in the business of protecting life, do the lives outside of the womb matter? Yes. I understand the idea is that it is a sacrament in which all can be forgiven as per what God said, however if you are dealing with folks who have a mental illness, confession can just be an excuse to get a “clean slate” and then…ooops do it again.


Do not hold your child back from confession if they are ready. My parents rarely gave us the opportunity to go when I was growing up and it tore me up inside. I wouldn’t make your kids tell you their sins or pennances either.

I’m truly sorry if your life experience has led you to feel this way. So many people are hurting from this kind of abuse.

I suggest you ask the parish what kinds of protections are in place. It might set your mind at ease some.

You could also go try out different churches to see which confession rooms give least access between the priest and penitent. I prefer face to face because I need facial cues but I was in a confessional booth one time that was a confusing pegboard box. Nobody is touching anyone in that situation.


No no no…I said I had a good experience. My issues lies with trusting human beings (priests) with the children we are suppose to protect. I’ve known people close to me who were either verbally “abused” or physically in confession.

I learned the church decided on the age of reason to be 7 or 8 because a particular Pope wanted to be alone with a 7 year old. That may or may not be true. But why did they decide it to be so young? Makes me wonder.


If they’re old enough to know they’re sinning, why withhold them from the graces the Sacrament brings any longer than necessary? Why leave them hanging in a state of mortal sin and unable to receive the Eucharist?


That is a point, but it’s not strong enough to help us feel totally secure about it. She’s 7. I don’t think our insecurity is irrational at all.


Would a priest’s opinion help you?



Do you trust her alone with anyone? A teacher? A coach? A male relative? 'Cause, as it turns out, statistically speaking, she’s safer around a priest than just about any of those others. If you think otherwise, then you’ve bought into the hysteria.

Nevertheless, I get it… :frowning:

Teaching her to break the seal of the confessional is a very bad idea. The possible outcomes, it seems, are:

  • she’ll tell you everything… but learn that she can’t say in the confessional what she wants to, 'cause she’d have to tell you, too. In other words, you’ll teach her to mistrust the confessional.
  • she’ll say what she needs to in the confessional, but not tell you about it. In other words, you’ll teach her to lie to you.

Neither of those seem like what you want. Right?

So, maybe another alternative: how about if you scout out confessionals and only allow her to go to traditional ones (separate rooms with screens), and not to ‘reconciliation rooms’? Yeah, it’ll likely be a “dark room” experience, but if that’s the trade-off you require…

If priests start revealing what they hear in confession… then you might as well stick a fork in the sarament; it’ll be done. Would you confess anything if you thought there was even a remote chance that your confessor would reveal to someone else what you said in the confessional – would you ever trust confession? Of course not. After all, if it’s ok to reveal sexual abuse, how about other criminal activity? How about that one fling you had? How about that time you lied to the IRS or under oath?

No… confession is either confidential, or else it’s nothing at all.

More to the point, if a child abuser knew priests could reveal what they heard, do you think they’d go to confession? C’mon, now… :roll_eyes:

And, in confession, there’s at least the opportunity to ask them to seek help. Turn the confessional into a tool of police investigation, and you lose even that opportunity. Is that really what you want?


The Church has not decided that seven is the age of reason. The Church recognizes that normally developing human beings have the use of reason by the age of seven and based on this understanding, they are bound to the ecclesiastical law regarding confession around this time. This is consistent with the secular scientific knowledge of developmental stages of children.

Regarding your concerns, can you check parishes in your area and see if any have confessionals or reconciliation rooms where the people inside can be seen? Those are becoming more common.


Yes, thank you.


Good to hear that! Now I wish I just asked that question about rooms people can be seen in. Thank you.


To add, I’ll share with you my observations of kids preparing for their first confessions and communion at my FSSP parish.

They had a number of classes organized by parents/adults. The priests had them all in a group and showed them around the Sacristy and Confessional to see what’s inside both and expose them to the liturgical garments: garments the priest would be wearing in the confessional. They took each child aside, one by one, and talked quietly to them in the main church for all to see, quizzing them on their understanding of mortal/venial sin and the like. When kids go into the confessional, their parents generally go first and make theirs, and while their child confesses, they wait right outside at a nearby distance while still respecting privacy. Then they go off and are done!


That was so they could receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion at an earlier age. I would worry more about family members since they have a higher chance.


Gorgias said all that I could have possibly said about the subject. The only thing I would add is that every confessional I’ve ever seen in a church in my own diocese has had a window on the outer door, and if it did not have a window–or a transparent one–then the priest and penitent were physically separated by a barrier of some kind and not accessible to one another. Most dioceses seem to be adopting such precautions, as it were.

As a priest, I do find it somewhat unfortunate that just the fact of being a priest is made suspect by our culture–as Gorgias rightly pointed out, the statistics favor a very different story than the common media narrative. There have been abusers in the priesthood, this is something on the radar again lately because of the revelations about Cardinal McCarrick and other high-profile cases. And even one abuser is too many. But there are more good priests out there than not.



Are you in Australia ?


No we do not. If she’s with her karate teacher, he never takes her or any of the children out of our sight. We are in the room. If she is in VBS, I am in the hall ways with my younger twins volunteering. I wouldn’t trust her alone with the Pope. She is not allowed to spend the night at anyone’s home, none of our kids are. As far as trusting her with my parents (my father). No, I know my parents, statistically she’s safer with them than a priest I do not know.


I don’t think it’s necessary or charitable to question the faith of the original poster, nor to try to attribute her concerns to mental illness.


You’re mistaken. A priest cannot reveal anything he hears in confession, regardless whether it’s the criminal or the victim doing the talking.

Outside the confessional? That’s a different story.


Hi Fr.

I understand this, I am aware it just takes one to ruin it for all. It’s not a gamble I will take with my children when they are so young. This does not mean I do not believe in good ones. I think Gorgias had an answer for my concerns but he is not fully correct. I do not trust her alone with just anyone, especially at this age.

I will continue to scope out other types of confession rooms in different churches.


No. Is this a true question or a jab at me? :slight_smile:


I took the question to mean that, since in Australia, they’ve been vetting the idea of forcing priests to reveal what they’d heard in the confessional, he thought it might be the case that you’re more open to that idea 'cause you’re from there. :man_shrugging:

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