Does the seal of the confessional work in the opposite direction?

In other words, is a priest allowed to bring up things he has knowledge of (or believes he does) during your Confession? I had an incident recently where my priest, after I finished going through my sins, asked, “Is that all?” I’d been asked this in a general way before, but this seemed more pointed. I said that it was, to the best of my recollection. He got a little agitated and asked again if that was all. I told him it was. He took a deep breath, became visibly upset (red-faced, angry expression), then raised his voice and asked again. I said, “Unless you know something I don’t, I’m pretty sure that’s all.” It had only been a couple weeks since my previous Confession so I was fairly certain I’d covered everything. However, my priest didn’t agree. He stamped his foot, put his hands on his knees, raised his voice even louder and asked, “Are you sure you’re not forgetting something?!?” I told him I was really sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. He gave me a stare, shook his head then went on with my absolution.

Afterward, just as I was about to get up and leave the confessional, he asked me about the incident he thought I should confess. There had been a high-profile Mass a couple weeks earlier (the bishop was there) and, according to him, my daughters were supposed to serve. The other two servers had canceled at the last minute (both with good reasons), but since his secretary had spoken to me directly and I had personally told her that I’d bring the girls and stay for the Mass, he blamed me for them being stuck without any servers. He felt that my lying and irresponsibility were not only things I should confess, but were potential reasons to not let my daughters be altar servers anymore. Normally I would have agreed with him. The only problem was that it was the first I’d heard of it.

Since arguing in the confessional wasn’t doing any good, I left, let him cool off for a couple days, then called his secretary to find out what happened. She normally has nothing to do with the Mass or server schedules, but the person who normally handles it and their backup were both out. She had looked at the schedule, saw that two slots were filled, then saw a note listing the other servers. My daughters’ names were circled and had the date of the Mass written next to them, along with a scribble that the secretary hadn’t recognized as a question mark at the time. She thought it meant my girls had been asked and had agreed to serve. She ran into me at the store a couple days later and asked if she’d be seeing me and the girls at Mass that weekend. She goes to the same Mass we do so we see her every weekend. I replied, “You bet.” She took that to mean I was going to be at the special Mass with my girls and passed that on to our priest. I took it to mean she’d given me a friendly greeting and I gave her a typical response. I didn’t even remember the encounter until calling her.

The bottom line is that it was sloppy handling of a situation by the secretary and a big misunderstanding. However, even if the secretary had been right about everything, is the priest allowed to bring up outside knowledge during my Confession?

Am I missing something? You personally told her you would be at the mass with your daughters, so why weren’t they serving? I can understand your priest was angry but he should have been more direct. Were you there or not?

I believe that the priest is absolutely allowed to bring things up. (St.) Padre Pio was renowned for telling people their sins. I think that, of course, this ability would be tempered with pastoral sensitivity. A priest should not bring things up on a regular basis if he is not positive beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is a mortal sin - not just grave matter, but all three conditions were met.

I think what happened was very inappropriate on the part of the priest. It is also why I refuse to go face to face.

If you want to clear things up, I would ask to see him and just bring up the funny thing that happened regarding your daughters, as if you had never spoken with him before and explain the confusion.

I think you handled it well. I have not been called out like that and not sure how I would have handled it. I know St. Pio could read souls but that was not something that had occurred in the parish and directed at him.

Wow. I’m totally amazed.
He appears to be truly under the impression that you “let him down”, embarrassed him in front of the Bishop, etc. I’m surprised that he got so angry in the confessional. :frowning:
At this point, let him cool down for a time. Ask the secretary to explain the mix-up.
It should come form her first, since now she knows what happened.
And anyway, if you were present at the Mass, what was to prevent the MC from coming forward to ask the girls to serve? Were there not others who could have served present as well?
If he still can’t get past it, write him a note explaining the snafu, and that your girls will be there at the appointed time when they are actually scheduled. If the family is present when others cancel, they’d be happy to sub. If asked by a person of authority. Children can’t be expected to know the details of office schedules. And even the best secretaries are forgetful.
Sorry you had this experience.

I think she said she didn’t actually talk with the secretary - it was a mix-up, based on a question mark on a sticky note, and an unrelated conversation at the grocery store.

I can see how the priest made a mistake, if even we who have the full story are having a difficult time following :wink:

Right. it’s the secretary’s mistake. She should remedy it.

I think the Priest had a right to speak to you about it, but it would’ve been better handled with a phone call his first day back to work after the Mass. Then after clarification he could have the conversation with his staff.

That said, it sounds like the situation was deeply embarrassing, as could be expected, and you don’t know his relationship, good or bad, with the Bishop and the Diocese. This mass may have had other implications affecting him that you would have little knowledge of, so maybe a little grace when speaking with him would be appropriate.

The behavior of this priest is horrific. It’s despicable of him to bring up things others should confess. I would find a new confessor in another parish if necessary. Next thing you know he’ll want the secretary at confession for making an error based on a misunderstanding.


Yeah, I was thinking about Padre Pio also…He could possibly have the same graces as the Saint, but somehow, after hearing the whole story by the OP, it seems more likely to me that this was (understandable) human emotion, and not a act of mysticism.


In this case, it seems that the priest was mistaken about the facts of the situation. But… what if he wasn’t? What if he was personally aware of a sinful act that the penitent before him had committed? After all, if the penitent was aware of the sin and deliberately didn’t confess it, then his absolution wouldn’t be valid! So, it would seem that this might not be described as ‘horrific’ behavior, but as behavior geared toward insuring a valid confession! And you would label a priest that cares about the validity of confession as ‘despicable’? Hmm… :hmmm:

That being said, there’s probably also a problem with the distinction between ‘mortal’ and ‘venial’ sins and the need to confess the latter in the context of the sacrament. Nevertheless, if we’re willing to be charitable and realize that yes, even priests make mistakes (!), then perhaps it’s not too outrageous to suggest that we shouldn’t calumniate our priests and accuse them of outrageous behavior when it isn’t warranted… :wink:

We weren’t at the Mass and had no intention of going since it wasn’t the one we normally go to and didn’t fit into our schedule. We also had never been contacted about having our daughters serve. If they had called us I probably would have felt differently about the situation. I was able to get the whole thing straightened out although I quit holding my breath waiting on an actual apology. I’m guessing that since our priest still went through with the absolution he either had enough of a grain of doubt about the situation that he didn’t want to deprive me of it, or he didn’t think it was actually a mortal sin. I’d heard the stories of Padre Pio, I’d never had a priest bring up outside knowledge in that manner before.

Of course it was not a mortal sin! There is no grave matter there. Even if arrangements had been properly made to have your daughters serve that Mass, if something happened at the last minute to make it impossible for them to come and you were unable to advise the priest, it would still not have been a mortal sin.

From what you say, it was no sin at all - just some mix up in the parish office.

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