Confession vs Reconciliation

So I know that reconciliation is the name of the sacrament and confession is a part of it. But I’m curious about an attitude I’ve seen. It seems that some Catholics have a dislike for the word confession. For example there have been times where I’ve mentioned going to confession and I have been told “no reconciliation.” This doesn’t make sense to me because I was referring specifically to the act of confessing my sins inside the confessional. Is it wrong for me to say “confession” instead of “reconciliation”? Or is it just that some Catholics dislike how I identify it?

I’m curious about the age of the Catholics who are correcting you.

I’m not sure how old you are. But when I was young we did not yet call it the sacrament Reconciliation. If we said, “I’m going to Confession,” we meant, “I’m going to the sacrament of Confession.” We did not think of it in the sense of, “I am going to make a confession of my sins.”

When the name of the sacrament changed the people who formerly would have said, “I am going to Confession,” would have had to say, “I am going to Reconciliation,” to mean the same thing. (Most of us continued to say, “I am going to confession.”)

I wonder if that is their issue.

I didn’t know that there was a name change, but that probably comes with being a convert. About the ages, they are probably in thier fifties and I’m eighteen.

I think for some people its that they focus more on the redemptive love side of the faith and maybe “confession” feels too focussed on human sinfulness?

Personally I tend to use both words almost interchangeably. I guess its because I go to “confess” so that I can be “reconciled” to God. In my mind we don’t go to reconciliation, but rather we are reconciled through absolution of the sins we confess. In that case I go to confession hoping to receive grace, but not expecting it as a given. Not sure if that makes sense.

Long and short, I tend to agree with you on saying “I’m going to confession.”

Historically it is called the Sacrament of Penance. The word “penance” comes from the Latin “poenitentia” which means “repentance” (not prayers/works that a priest imposes).

True penance/repentance is made up of contrition, confession and absolution (for mortal sins), and doing works worthy of repentance. Penance is not just a good work, it is a turning away from sin in your heart and in your actions. :slight_smile:

I generally hear people say, “I am going to Confession.”

I am a new convert and I say confession. When I was a child, I had a speech impediment. I would say “r” like “w” and “w” like “r.” I’m fine now…unless I am tired, but because of that I don’t like “r” words. lol. I’m weird.

I always say “Confession”. Why? Well, without confession of sins and absolution there is no reconciliation.

The sacrament has five names according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Reconciliation is a part of it, too, as is penance. Each of these names identifies one aspect of the sacrament.

From the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

Different Meanings of the Word "Penance"
To enter at once on the subject, and to avoid all error to which the ambiguity of the word may give rise, its different meanings are first to be explained. By penance some understand satisfaction; while others, who wander far from the doctrine of the Catholic faith, supposing penance to have no reference to the past, define it to be nothing more than newness of life. It must, therefore, be shown that the word has a variety of meanings.

In the first place, it is said of those to whom that which was before pleasing is now displeasing, whether the object itself was good or bad. In this sense all those repent whose sorrow is according to the world, not according to God; and therefore, worketh not salvation, but death.

In the second place, it is used to express that sorrow which the sinner conceives, not, however, for the sake of God, but for his own sake, concerning some sin of his in which he once took pleasure.

A third kind of penance is that by which we experience interior sorrow of heart, or give exterior indication of such sorrow for the sake of God alone. To all these kinds of sorrow the word repentance properly applies.

I really dispute (and, to some extent, resent) this need that people have to falsely play the two concepts against each other. The two are not mutually exclusive, and, actually, go hand in hand.

Confession is part of a process called Penance and Reconciliation. The proceeding (to borrow a legal term) involves: (0) (yes, I add a “part zero”) performing an examination of conscience; (1) confessing our sins to a priest; (2) expressing sorrow for them (aka the Act of Contrition); (3) the priest absolving the penitent; (4) the priest assigning a penance; and (5) the penitent performing the assigned penance.

It’s a process. Most people grow up learning the process by its popular name, Confession. It’s a popular name for the entire process. It has entered the vernacular. The other is the official name (Penance and Reconciliation).

The two should not be played off each other.

“These three parts [of the Sacrament of Penance], then, are so intimately connected with one another, that contrition includes the intention and resolution of confessing and making satisfaction; contrition and the resolution of making satisfaction imply confession; while the other two precede satisfaction.” - The Catechism of the Council of Trent


Penance is made up of contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Satisfaction is just one part of penance. :slight_smile:

The same Catechism defines the meaning of the word, penance, as such:
"Interior penance consists in turning to God sincerely and from heart, and in hating and detesting our past transgressions, with a firm resolution of amendment of life, hoping to obtain pardon through the mercy. Accompanying this penance, like inseparable companion of detestation for sin, is a sorrow and sadness, which is a certain agitation and disturbance of the soul, and is called by many a passion. Hence many of the Fathers define penance as an anguish of soul.

“Penance, however, in those who repent, must be preceded by faith, for without faith no man can turn to God. Faith, therefore, cannot on any account be called a part of penance.”

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