Confession Questions

Is it acceptable and/or customary for the parish priest not to have regular confession times, rather it be by ‘appointment only’? Additionally, am I correct that we have the right to anonymity during our confession?

Our parish only does confessions by *appointment only *and, I thought all parishes were to have a some sort of ‘screen’; even if it be a sheet on a line if the church has no confessional.

Our priest only does confessions face-to-face in his office, and communal penance 2 times a year, which is done in the adjoining hallway – in full view of the congregation.

Although I know Father has heard it all and he probably would know who is confessing anyway even with a screen, I still feel uneasy about the face-to-face confession. He’s kind of a crabby, unapproachable, not very personable guy to begin with. He makes people very uneasy as it is and not feel open to discussing day-to-day things; let alone our most private matters. This is so very difficult for someone like myself that is terribly nervous confessing as it is.

Plus making an appointment for a basic confession just doesn’t feel right to me for some reason. I’m not sure whether it’s because I feel like I’m bothering Father if it isn’t any thing of real major mortal sin. But, just like everyone else, I do sin and don’t want to receive communion unworthily.

We live a very rural area where the next nearest Catholic Church is 2 hrs. drive one-way; so going to another priest is not an option due to disabilities.

Also, if this is not right, what steps would we take to resolve it without causing a big uproar or offending Father? I’m a new Catholic and don’t want to make waves.

I do not know if scheduled times are necessary (though they are certainly a good thing), but I have read that you are supposed to have the choice as to whether or not you confess it face-to-face.

If the priest will not listen and you are uncomfortable, you should get in touch with your diocese.

That’s outrageous. His behavior is unacceptable.

As a priest, he must, must, must be available to you in closed confessional.

I doubt the effectiveness of this, but you might want to speak/write to the bishop.

Rather than opinion, here’s the canon law

Can. 986 §1. All to whom the care of souls has been entrusted in virtue of some function are obliged to make provision so that the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them are heard when they reasonably seek to be heard and that they have the opportunity to approach individual confession on days and at times established for their convenience.

Can. 964 §1. The proper place to hear sacramental confessions is a church or oratory.

§2. The conference of bishops is to establish norms regarding the confessional; it is to take care, however, that there are always confessionals with a fixed grate between the penitent and the confessor in an open place so that the faithful who wish to can use them freely.

§3. Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause.

Canon Law has set forth norms on how Confessions should be heard. Anonymous confessions have to be provided for.

Do I contact our diocese/Bishop? What action then do they take? Will Father know I’m a complainer?

Hi karennascargo3,

The facts of the law have been quoted already–yes, you are supposed to have the option of anonymous confession. Whatever your pastor’s rationale is for his “procedure,” I would suggest a conversation with him (or a letter) where you simply state your desires and the reasons supporting your request. I wouldn’t bother with quoting canon law, at least at first–just tell him your own wishes and how it would help you if you could be anonymous, etc. If this first letter/conversation does not change things, then you can bring up canon law.

I would not involve the bishop until you have spoken to the pastor and found him to be completely unresponsive. Of course, if you then go to the bishop and the bishop talks to the pastor, the pastor will know/assume that you are the one who talked to the bishop. I have no idea how the pastor would react to that.


I like going to my church and seeing my priest for Confession as often as possible. I also don’t care if there is a confessional booth, screen, etc or not, but I do care that it is just myself, my priest and God hearing my confession. All the church’s in my area have set times for confession, but I have also requested special confessions by appointment before, when I felt it was necessary. The one thing I would suggest is to check out other Catholic Church’s near you for a better confession situation. I’m not saying that you should leave your church, but if you can find a priest that you are more comfortable with, or that you feel is a better confessor, by all means, take advantage of that situation. I sometimes don’t feel real comfortable telling a priest that I see all the time my sins, especially if they are a bit more private. (sexual in nature, etc.) I have found another priest that is about a half hour away from my house, that I sometimes feel more comfortable going to. I also think that he is a better confessor and seems to help me more and put my mind a little more at ease. I would never tell my priest this, but then again, if he were to ask me, I also wouldn’t lie about it. As a matter of fact, I think it has actually come up in confession before and he was not upset about it at all. P.S. I didn’t tell him that I thought the other priest was a better confessor and I’m glad that he didn’t ask. lol!!!

I can relate to these problems with the priest not making himself avaible in the confessional. I also live in a rual town with only one parish of roughly 200 families, although our numbers are decreasing. The next parish is at least a half an hour away depending on what part of the county someone lives. Our priest will hear confessions in the confessional, thank goodness, however we have to approach him and ask him to hear our confession. I am not comfortable with this at all. But I have found that he is not going to change. Before this priest we had a wonderful older priest, over the age of retirement and he actually retired in the county so he continued to say mass every week, and he would sit in the confessional every morning before every mass allowing anonomous confessions to be heard!

I’m sorry to hear that you too are having issues with your priest. We must remember that they are still human first and because of this they just like us can be cranky and stubborn. I hope you are able to contact your Bishop and he makes a statement about this issue and hopefully he resolves this for you!

God Bless,


Talk to the priest. If his problem is that no one ever showed up, ask if he’ll make himself available for anonymous confessions even once a month, even for just 30 minutes before Mass, with the understanding that he’d be available for “overflow” after Mass, if the group who shows up doesn’t finish.

If you are the only one who ever shows up, then there is a degree to which you aren’t going to be completely anonymous. (This doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to use a confessional where you can collect your thoughts without being in your confessor’s direct gaze. Stick to your guns on that one, if it is important to you.)

If you have made efforts to talk to the priest and get nowhere, if you can tell the vicar of clergy that the priest would not even make himself available for 30 minutes once a month, then it can hardly be said you are a complainer. That is the minimum a pastor would expect to put in, even with a congregation of only a handful.

If you or one or two others are the only ones who ever show up, then once a month may be the most often you’re going to get scheduled confessions.

Having said that, if your priest objects that no one ever comes, you might ask how many times, in a homily, he has issued a blunt invitation. There is a widespread misconception that “nobody goes to confession anymore.” I’ve heard this from a Catholic married in the 1940s! If he doesn’t tell people they ought to be coming, often and in no uncertain terms, and they don’t do anything that totally appalls their own conscience, they probably won’t. If they do something so bad as that, and the parish is small, they’ll probably find a confessor at that parish 2 hours away to confess to! If he isn’t inviting people, then, if he’s not making it a gracious invitation, his prediction that “no one will come” is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Getting people into the confessional has become a lot of work, and work of deep graciousness, at that. Thank goodness for our confessors who are going at that labor with a will!

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