Confused at Confession


Hello Dodge and Babochka.

Go back and read what the Op has revealed about his particular situation. He was busy confessing and the Priest knocked on the wall and sent him away without absolving him. The Priest’s intent was to get him to leave, not give Penance or Absolution. That is clear. The penitent is also revealing that his intention was to confess all his recalled sins. He got cut off and sent away without absolution. This is a no brainer. He wasn’t given a Penance, asked to make an Act of Contrition, nor given Absolution. If he confessed mortal sins, he’d have to repeat them over in another confession. That cannot change because someone wishes to seem charitable and err on the side of leniency. If his sins were only venial, he is in the clear. However, he did state that he refrained from the Eucharist and that is the correct thing to do and said it all. Since it isn’t necessary to say anything further because I cannot ask him to reveal anything he may have confessed to or if his sins were mortal. That is out of line and truly uncharitable. No one has that ability. It is very rude.

The quotations cited regarding intent only apply in grave necessity such as the amphibious boats about to land on D-Day and the Priest delivering General Absolution over all the sailors and soldiers as they prepare for mortal combat or in a crowd of hundreds who have no other means of confessing for a length of time in the future. And in those situations the intent applies to the penitents, not the Priest. They must intend to go to Confession under the usual means as soon as it becomes available or the General Absolution won’t stick. Nice try though. It doesn’t apply to the OP’s problem. There was no mumbled barely audible Absolution delivered by the Priest. He knocked on the wall loudly and that signaled his actual intent Babochka, the intent was to stop the penitent from confessing further and to end their encounter.

Then there is the simply matter of peace. Jesus was want to wish peace to folks when He was with us. It is a great blessing to be at peace and the peace of Christ that He died to give comes to us through the Sacrament of Confession. Jesus died to give us that peace with Him. He shed His Precious Blood for our Redemption. Those who monkey around in the confessional are seriously wrong to do so for God sent His only begotten Son to accomplish the Redemption of mankind and He died to give that Absolution to the OP. It is a direct affront to God’s work of Redemption to treat this particular Sacrament in anything less than an honorable manner and does grave harm no only in the immediate sense to the penitent, but in the larger sense to us all. Priests who monkey around with this most august of Sacraments are risking their own Redemption. God died to give the penitent His peace. That should say everything to the Ordained man.




I was giving the priest the benefit of the doubt. The original post said that he didn’t hear the absolution and wasn’t sure it had happened. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. You essentially said that if he didn’t hear it, it didn’t happen. That’s just not true. There are a number of scenarios in which this confusion could occur and I was presenting one or two in order to show the it could happen, not necessarily addressing the scenario appropriate to the original post.

Likewise regarding intent: you said that sins could never be forgiven by intent and I presented an instance in which they could. I did acknowledge in my post that my scenario did not apply to the original poster’s situation.

Sorry if there was confusion. Thanks for giving me a chance to clear it up.

Regardless, I would trust in God’s mercy. The OP confessed with the right intention. The priest did not clearly indicate that he was denying absolution for some reason, but his actions were ambiguous and confusing. I think if he were denying absolution, he would have made that clear. The confession happened at a regular time and regular place, so there should have been no doubt in the priest’s mind that absolution was sought. I have confessed to priests who have an abrupt and confusing style and it can be disconcerting. Penance and an Act of Contrition are expected, but not necessary for the validity of the sacrament. Regardless, God knows our hearts and yes, our intentions do count. Second-guessing the validity of the sacraments can be a sign of scrupulosity, or at least developing scrupulosity.



Hello Babochka.

Thanks for sharing your opinions. This is about the fourth time you’ve shown concern about my possibly being afflicted with scrupulosity. Thank you for your concern on my behalf. As I go weekly to the Sacrament and have for the 18 years I’ve been a Catholic, I’m pretty much aware of the actual mental disorder that some suffer from called scruples. I don’t have but thanks for you concern. It is a very distressing illness and I’m sure you are very aware that it takes a doctor familiar with mental illness to actually make a diagnosis and that too could be relative based upon the doctor’s own religion. An atheistic Freudian shrink will think any attempt to confess is scrupulous whereas a man who may have been trained by Jesuits to treat mental illness and makes use of the Sacrament himself will see the etiology of the disorder a little differently. A person with actual scruples could be offended and hurt reading about their particular illness being misused to label persons here at CAF in an insulting manner. It is harmful and most uncharitable to throw that word around in that way. Kinda like calling a person who you think isn’t smart a retard to show others you think they are stupid. It offends. But if that is the intent, oh well. But thanks for sharing.





It could of course be that it was given very quietly in the brief form.

If one confessed a mortal sin there- one can go to confession to another Priest and confess it. I have had one occasion where an rather old Priest gave a blessing instead of absolution (senior moment) - I noted this and he gave absolution.

As to forgotten sins - Jimmy Akin the Senior Apologist explains:



I wanted to address this part of your post separately. You’re absolutely right - it is so important that we have peace and confidence in this sacrament and priests should take it very seriously and not give any cause for confusion.

I want to share a personal story. I returned to confession after a very long time about 20 years ago. I had such a difficult time in that confession. I just couldn’t get the words out and I cried and cried. At one point, the priest said that it was ok. I’d said enough. He absolved me and I had the most incredible peace from that confession.

Years later, I discovered Catholic Answers Forums and other online sources full of people who knew more than me and had a very legalistic perspective of this sacrament. All of a sudden, I started to worry that my confession hadn’t been valid because I had not articulated my sins in kind and number. After a few years of worry, I decided to confess those sins again. It felt strange - they were so far in my past that it seemed like a different person. The strong emotion was gone, but the contrition was still there. My confessor at the time was a good, solid priest of Opus Dei. (Opus Dei priests aren’t exactly known for playing fast and loose with this sacrament - they take it very seriously.) He heard my confession- those sins and others - and gave me absolution, but he also assured me that my first absolution had been absolutely valid. God had forgiven me for those sins, in spite of the unusual circumstances. He reminded me of the story of the Prodigal Son - he had a narrative in his mind. “Father, I have sinned against you and against God…” His loving Father did not give him a chance to finish his speech, his confession, but instead embraced him as a loving father. That, said this priest, is what happened with me.

This story is why I responded the way I did to the original post. I don’t want somebody to get so caught up in fear and second-guessing that it destroys his peace and confidence in this sacrament. God is loving and merciful and his mercy extends far beyond our imagination. I don’t want to minimize the sacrament of Confession. I confess frequently and it is a lifeline for me in my relationship with God. I am grateful for the clear and concrete way that he shows his mercy for us in this sacrament and I am grateful for the many, many priests who spend countless hours being the conduit for his mercy. I pray for the minority of priests who seem to have no faith in this sacrament and I pray that they will not offer confusion to the faithful instead of peace. I still believe that fears of lack of valid absolution and way overblown and most priests offer the sacraments validly, even if they choose to impose their own personal style, in defiance of the instructions of the Church. God help them for the confusion that they create in the faithful!



I’m sorry, I think you misunderstand. I’m concerned about the OP developing a tendency toward scrupulosity because of advice given here. Hopefully, I explained that better in what I just posted. I had no intention of implying that you suffer from scrupulosity have never seen any signs of that. I think you have a more rigid point of view toward this sacrament than I do, but that’s just a difference in style between us. I’m content with my point of view and I’m sure you’re content with yours. I’m concerned that a focus on the rules without a balancing focus on God’s mercy could confuse someone else with tendency toward scrupulosity, so I try to provide the balance.

I’ll try to be more careful in the way in which I word things in the future. I really didn’t intend to imply that at all. I’m sorry you were offended.



I’ve known that as well where priests have said the words of absolution sotto voce as I was making the act of contrition, though most priests usually say the “I absolve you” at the end more audibly. One Polish priest I went to for Confession once at a parish not far from where I live spoke most of the formula of absolution in his native Polish, but switched to English to say “and I absolve you of your sins”.


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