Given Questionable Advice by Confessor


#1

I recently went to confession and was given some advice by the confessor that was questionable and I am unsure if my response to his advice was correct or not.

Here’s the brief summary: among the sins I confessed were sins against the purity. The confessor suggested that I not “keep myself from the Sacraments” after falling into such sins (even if I were to view pornography or engage in impure acts). He said that I should present myself to receive Holy Communion even if I have committed such sins and not gone to confession so long as I have made a sincere act of contrition. He emphasized that through habit and other circumstances the severity of these sins is lessened.

While I know that the Catechism states that this may be the case with certain sins of impurity, my understanding is that willingly viewing pornography is always considered a mortal sin. Also, I have always felt that when it comes to sin one should err on the side of caution if it is not completely clear whether a sin was mortal or venial.

Anyway, after Father gave me this advice he asked me if I would take his advice regarding receiving Holy Communion even if I had not been to confession. I knew I could not do this, but rather than say so I told him that I “would try” to take this advice. Was my response acceptable?

I know Father meant well, but I can’t knowingly receive Our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist if I am not in a state of grace. This is the Church’s teaching and I can’t go against it simply because one priest says it would be ok. At the same time I did not want to seem to be disregarding my confessor’s advice either.

I appreciate your feedback.


#2

It would be my suggestion that if you are not comfortable with that priest as a confessor, that you pick another one.

People on the internet rarely have training in Pastoral Theology, Moral Theology or Sacramental theology, and your answer is going to lie somewhere in one of those categories, if not several of them.

Asking for specific advice on the internet, that a confessor needs to give, is like asking your next door neighbor for medical advice. You are far more likely to be given confusing, if not wrong answers in both circumstances.


#3

I appreciate your feedback. However, I do always take the advice I receive on the forums with a grain of salt. And I was not really asking for a commentary on the priest’s advice, but rather on my response to his advice. (i.e. whether it was appropriate or not?)

I am a student of theology, so if someone were to give me advice out of left field on the forums I would not blindly follow it. However, I have found that often among the various responses I’ve gotten on these forums in the past that there are a few insights here and there that are quite helpful.

Again, thanks for the charitable warning.


#4

Am I right in understanding that you know* that you are not going to follow your confessor's advice?

Also, for your "grain of salt" pile, there is a difference between viewing pornography out of force of habit / personal weakness, and viewing pornography with the intent of defying God.

*as much as a person can know their future actions


#5

Some thoughts:
Could it be that your confessor, knowing you better than strangers on the internet do, is aware that in your case the sins are indeed venial rather than mortal and he wants to be sure you are strengthened by the graces of receiving the Eucharist?

It seems Father knows you have difficulty trusting which category these specific sins fall into in this case and therefore asked if you would take his advice; your reply that you would indeed try seems acceptable. Father knows that you still have doubts; you on the other hand have said that you would try to take his advice, and that is what you should try to do if this situation arises. If you sincerely tried, and found yourself unable to follow this advice, you can state that when you confess, and thereby give your confessor the opportunity to understand your difficulties better and to advise you on your best course of action.

Having said you would try to take the advice means that is what you must try to do, not think, “Oh Father said I should make a sincere act of contrition and then receive Holy Communion, but I’m just not going to” - your undertaking means you should make that sincere act of contrition and then prayerfully discern if you should receive before confessing.


#6

In the case that you commit a mortal sin, you must either not receive the Eucharist until you go to Confession or if unable to do so, you may make a perfect Act of Contrition shortly before receiving, which implies that you plan on going to Confession as soon as possible afterwards.


#7

[quote="jtodisco, post:1, topic:327525"]
I recently went to confession and was given some advice by the confessor that was questionable and I am unsure if my response to his advice was correct or not.

Here's the brief summary: among the sins I confessed were sins against the purity. The confessor suggested that I not "keep myself from the Sacraments" after falling into such sins (even if I were to view pornography or engage in impure acts). He said that I should present myself to receive Holy Communion even if I have committed such sins and not gone to confession so long as I have made a sincere act of contrition. He emphasized that through habit and other circumstances the severity of these sins is lessened.

While I know that the Catechism states that this may be the case with certain sins of impurity, my understanding is that willingly viewing pornography is always considered a mortal sin. Also, I have always felt that when it comes to sin one should err on the side of caution if it is not completely clear whether a sin was mortal or venial.

Anyway, after Father gave me this advice he asked me if I would take his advice regarding receiving Holy Communion even if I had not been to confession. I knew I could not do this, but rather than say so I told him that I "would try" to take this advice. Was my response acceptable?

I know Father meant well, but I can't knowingly receive Our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist if I am not in a state of grace. This is the Church's teaching and I can't go against it simply because one priest says it would be ok. At the same time I did not want to seem to be disregarding my confessor's advice either.

I appreciate your feedback.

[/quote]

You should make an appointment to talk with Father about this. He specifically heard your confession, knew what you said and he specifically asked you to still receive Holy Communion even after you committed that sin and had yet to make it to the Sacrament of Confession.

The priest knew very well what he was saying. He even asked you if you could do it. You did tell Father you would "try to take his advice" as you knew you "could not do this." Unless you were actually planning to "try", you should not have said you would "try".

I think you should make an appointment to tell Father that you can not take his advise.

You can actually do as you told Father and honestly "try to take his advice". That means truly trying to do it. Planning that if you happen to commit this sin, you actually take the steps Father asked of you.

Only this priest can explain to you why he requested this of you.

May God give you the grace to solve this questions of yours with the priest.

(Remember this suggestion from Father applies only to jtodisco in regards to this one specific sin at this time and is not a blanket suggestion to anyone else or to other sins at other times.)


#8

There is no action which is always a mortal sin.

The three requirements for a mortal sin, as I am sure you already know, are

1: Grave matter
2: Full knowledge
3:Full consent

When one is addicted to something it is often true that full consent is not actually present. It doesn't matter whether it is pornography, food, alcohol whatever. Addiction is one of the things which can lessen ones consent so that the sin is not mortal, but only venial. Now, whether or not this is applicable in your case I cannot be sure, and your confessor would certainly have a better idea than me, although you will, of course, have an even better idea than your confessor.


#9

Forgive me for being skeptable, but perhaps you are hearing what you want to hear from the priest, rather that what he actually said?
How old are you? I find it rather odd that someone who studies theology also is a porn and self abuse addict....the two things being completly incompatible for a psychologically well adjusted mature adult.
I do think, however, that by encouraging you to frequent Communion, it will deter you from a sinful habit.


#10

[quote="George_Stegmeir, post:9, topic:327525"]
Forgive me for being skeptable, but perhaps you are hearing what you want to hear from the priest, rather that what he actually said?
How old are you? I find it rather odd that someone who studies theology also is a porn and self abuse addict....the two things being completly incompatible for a psychologically well adjusted mature adult.
I do think, however, that by encouraging you to frequent Communion, it will deter you from a sinful habit.

[/quote]

Very good and holy people can suffer from any form of addiction - sexual addiction included.

Praise God that the OP loves the Lord and seeks forgiveness when his addictions lead him to sin.


#11

[quote="VivienneJ, post:5, topic:327525"]
Some thoughts:
Could it be that your confessor, knowing you better than strangers on the internet do, is aware that in your case the sins are indeed venial rather than mortal and he wants to be sure you are strengthened by the graces of receiving the Eucharist?

It seems Father knows you have difficulty trusting which category these specific sins fall into in this case and therefore asked if you would take his advice; your reply that you would indeed try seems acceptable. Father knows that you still have doubts; you on the other hand have said that you would try to take his advice, and that is what you should try to do if this situation arises. If you sincerely tried, and found yourself unable to follow this advice, you can state that when you confess, and thereby give your confessor the opportunity to understand your difficulties better and to advise you on your best course of action.

Having said you would try to take the advice means that is what you must try to do, not think, "Oh Father said I should make a sincere act of contrition and then receive Holy Communion, but I'm just not going to" - your undertaking means you should make that sincere act of contrition and then prayerfully discern if you should receive before confessing.

[/quote]

I would consider this opinion. It seems more salvation oriented. In your analysis of the problem it seems that you are being called dto a greater holiness and obedience - perhaps your priest perceives that and is focusing you on receiving the graces that can be your rescue.


#12

[quote="jtodisco, post:3, topic:327525"]
I appreciate your feedback. However, I do always take the advice I receive on the forums with a grain of salt.

[/quote]

Theny why post such a question here? :confused:


#13

[quote="jtodisco, post:1, topic:327525"]
I recently went to confession and was given some advice by the confessor that was questionable and I am unsure if my response to his advice was correct or not.

Here's the brief summary: among the sins I confessed were sins against the purity. The confessor suggested that I not "keep myself from the Sacraments" after falling into such sins (even if I were to view pornography or engage in impure acts). He said that I should present myself to receive Holy Communion even if I have committed such sins and not gone to confession so long as I have made a sincere act of contrition. He emphasized that through habit and other circumstances the severity of these sins is lessened.

While I know that the Catechism states that this may be the case with certain sins of impurity, my understanding is that willingly viewing pornography is always considered a mortal sin. Also, I have always felt that when it comes to sin one should err on the side of caution if it is not completely clear whether a sin was mortal or venial.

Anyway, after Father gave me this advice he asked me if I would take his advice regarding receiving Holy Communion even if I had not been to confession. I knew I could not do this, but rather than say so I told him that I "would try" to take this advice. Was my response acceptable?

I know Father meant well, but I can't knowingly receive Our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist if I am not in a state of grace. This is the Church's teaching and I can't go against it simply because one priest says it would be ok. At the same time I did not want to seem to be disregarding my confessor's advice either.

I appreciate your feedback.

[/quote]

I'm going to go against the grain on this one, since I know the forums attitude on this subject, and advise you to follow the advice of your priest.

We are talking about masterbation and viewing pornography, which is not always a mortal sin. to be a mortal sin it has to be:

Of grave matter. which this always is.
y*ou must have full knowledge of this. which you do.
**And you must give you
r** full consent* **. which your priest is saying you have not.

Any lessening of full consent reduces it to venial sin. I am getting this from the Catholic encyclopedia (though I do not have the quote)

A person who has developed a habit of this and wishes to stop but gives into the moment, though the have given consent, it is not considered full consent.

I say go to confession as much as possible it will help you overcome but so will communion.


#14

an internet forum isn't the place for a layperson to decide if a priest is giving bad advice in the confessional ,there are too many nuances and details left out for anyone to have an accurate take. this thread is an example


#15

To answer some of the questions and comments that my OP generated:

1) This is not my regular confessor. I have recently moved as a result of graduating from college and will be moving again in the fall to go on to graduate school.

2) I do in fact study theology and will be earning an MA in Theology shortly. I never said I was addicted to anything in this thread, though I do struggle with the sins I mentioned above. Without going into details I fell into these habits while estranged from the Church and have been working on overcoming them since returning to the Church approximately 5 or 6 years ago.

3) Since this confessor is not my regular confessor (and since I can't see my former regular confessor anymore since I have moved) he does not "know me well". He has heard several confessions of mine at various points of time, but that is all. I look forward to having a regular confessor again soon.

4) The Catechism states that: "2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials." (underlining added by me)

5) This contrasts with what the Catechism states regarding other offenses against chastity such as masturbation. In that case there is the statement of "...one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability". I have always understood that these mitigating factors are not listed after the section on pornography because viewing pornography is a much more willful action. But I am open to the possibility that I am incorrect in this interpretation.

6) I take the advice on these forums with a grain of salt, like I do most advice I receive. That does not mean there is no value in the advice given on these forums or that I should never ask for advice on the forums. It just means that I won't weigh that advice as much as I would weigh advice given to me by someone in a position of authority.

7) The Code of Canon Law states: "A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to . . . receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible. (CIC 916)" I know the conditions required for a sin to be mortal or venial and I know that the sins I committed prior to my most recent confession were in fact mortal. Sadly, I fully knew what I was doing and fully consented.

8) As for telling my confessor that I "would try", I did not mean to deceive him (and really do not think I did since he chuckled after I said this). But I simply did not know how to respond since I do not often receive advice in the confessional that I do not believe I can follow in good conscience. I am accustomed to taking my confessor's advice without any reservation. So in a moment of confusion and uneasiness I blurted out something I probably shouldn't have in retrospect.

I hope that addresses the questions and comments made thus far. Thanks for all of your input. :)


#16

We're required to attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation, but we aren't obliged to receive Holy Communion more than once per year. You do not write like you have a scruplous conscience; I like the idea of "erring on the side of caution" by not receiving the Eucharist when in genuine doubt about whether or not one is in mortal sin.

The Confessor of a friend of mine told her that birth control was OK because, after all, the hierarchy of the Church were old single men who didn't know what it was like to raise a family...:rolleyes:


#17

I mis-spoke in referring to these as addictions of sexual sins. I need to be careful of my wording. When referring to sins involving pornography and masturbation, I normally refer to this as an addiction as I had thought that was the proper term. I am sorry if I offended you with my poor choice of words.

Although you may already be aware of these web pages, I would like to share them with you in case they may be of help.

May God give you strength in your struggles with these sins.

Steve Wood - Family Life Center
familylifecenter.net/strugglewithporn.asp

Treating Sexual and Pornographic Addictions
dads.org/article.asp?artId=233

What is Pornography Doing to Fathers and Their Families?
familylifecenter.net/article.asp?artId=234
by Steve Wood
The venom of Internet Pornography is slowly killing the spiritual life of millions of Christian fathers. At every Catholic men’s conference I have spoken at over the past four years, I have encountered men addicted to Internet pornography. Men from every region of North America, who attend Mass every Sunday, are silently addicted to pornography.

Screwtape’s Strategies and Pornography
familylifecenter.net/article.asp?artId=235
Alias Screwtape
My Dear Wormwood:
For your careful review, I have outlined below our strategies for destroying faith and family life. Destroy this secret message immediately after reading it. This classified material comes from the lowest regions. … Now as we begin this new millennium, we must use technology to bring our master plan to completion by utilizing Internet pornography. Already we have spiritually neutralized millions of the Enemy’s men with pornography…

Steve Wood’s book Breaking Free 12 Steps to Sexual Purity for Men
familylifecenterstore.net/breaking-free/

Organizations and Resources dealing with Pornography
familylifecenter.net/article.asp?artId=241

Pure Mind Scripture Computer Program
familylifecenter.net/article.asp?artId=319


#18

I cannot give you too much advice but I do know that I have heard in the catholic church in the US a lot, and I mean A LOT, including from deacons, that you HAVE to go to communion EVEN if you are in mortal sin and that people don't really need to confess (in fact I heard the last one once from a priest). I grew up in latinoamerica so when I heard people in the church saying that I was in total shock so sincerely this doesn't surprise me. I think there is a major problem in the US with regard to knowledge of the catholic faith.


#19

I know your OP was in regards to the advice from your confessor, but I would also like to share some more thoughts in dealing with your struggles. I hope I do not offend you by my message.

For help with your pornography struggles, I once heard a priest talk about the importance of a man praying for the beautiful women who they were tempted to sin when "seeing". He said to see the woman as God sees her, that God made her beautiful and how much God loves her.

Maybe that would help you. You see these beautiful women who are precious children of God on the computer. You also see them with the images that are seared in your memory.

Ask God to release your memory of these women.

Ask God's blessings over these women.

If you think about these women as victims, it may help as well. They truly are victims. Many of them may be in great pain as they are at the photo shoot. Some may be suppressing the pain - it is not a healthy normal function of the body or mind to submit to pornographic photography.

Why is she there? Is she addicted to drugs and needs the money? Is she being exploited by her "boyfriend" or pimp? Is she a victim of sex trafficking?

How much emotional pain is she experiencing while participating in the pornography business? How does she feel about the men who will view her body? Does she feel hatred towards each of them?

How much shame does she carry every day hoping no one recognizes her? Is she fearful she'll be "found out" by neighbors, by people at church or her kids' school? Is she fearful one day her children will know or her family?

Is she doing this to "survive"? Is she forced? Does she suffer low self-esteem?

Does she even know her pictures are on the pornographic sites?

Pray for these poor women. Pray they can escape the pornography business.

See these women as God sees them. Offer prayers and rosaries for the suffering they endure. Ask your guardian angel to join you in prayer with the guardian angels of these women.

You may even want to offer your Holy Communion for these women.


#20

Thank you SecretaryMonday, RoseMary131, and marymary1975 for your input and advice.

RoseMary131, don't worry. You didn't offend me. Communicating via internet forums is tricky business and it is so easy to come off the wrong way. I come off badly by mistake often enough in real life, let alone online. I appreciate your advice and the links. I will look into the links. As for your advice about picturing the women in question, I have heard of this method and have tried it. Personally praying the rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet seems to be more effective for me. But thank you for the advice regardless.

Marymary1975, I know what you mean. I've had priests and other lay people tell me some very unorthodox things in the past. It is sad how many people in the Church refuse to obey the Pope or to accept the teachings of the Church. I've had many relatives of mine insist that confession is completely unnecessary. It's so sad. :(

SecretaryMonday, thanks for the support. I know that the Church allows for individuals to receive Holy Communion if they have committed grave sins if "there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible." But since confession is offered every Friday and Saturday where I currently live I see no reason why anyone would find themselves in a situation where they could not go to confession prior to Sunday Mass and debate receiving Holy Communion if they were not in a state of grace.

This last point is one of the biggest issues I had with my confessor's advice. If confession is offered every Friday and Saturday at 3 different times (not counting the other churches in the area with different confession times on Saturdays) who would ever find themselves needing to bend the rules in order to receive Holy Communion on Sunday? Granted, I like to go to daily Mass and try to do so often, but if I am not in a state of grace I simply refrain from receiving Holy Communion until I can next go to confession. It seems simple and straightforward to me. Where I live I have never not been able to get to confession on either of these two days if I was truly intent on doing so.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.