How do we confess certain sins without risking the sensibilities of the poor priest?

There are certain sins in order to receive the right council and illuminate the priest, so that he may know whether it IS a sin or not, needs to go into more detail other than a quick confession. I’m not talking about excrutiating details here… but more detail than what would normally be required, let’s say than someone confessing the sin of self gratification, (not my problem)

How does one deal with these sins without hurting our priest? Marital relations are sometimes complicated due to having another person involved in the act, and in order to get a good council, I’d need to go into a little more detail to know whether if something is actually sinful or not.

My biggest worry is not embarrassment, it is that I don’t want to lead our priest into the occassion of sin due to me. I worry about the sensibilities of the priest. I understand that most priests forget about what was confessed afterwards, it’s a great grace that they have, but I also know that the danger is still there for them since the confession would be more detailed.

I asked the same question of a priest once.
His answer was the confessional is not the place for me to worry about him,
and that if hearing about other peoples sexual sins was a problem for him,
he was probably not in the right profession.

Whatever it is, tell it plainly as possible, if he thinks he needs more information, the priest will ask.

You had the courage to ask him? Wonderful! Thank you for sharing his answer… much easier to go forth.

Two thoughts occur to me:

(1) You don’t need to go into the kind of detail that would potentially present such a problem. All kinds of sexual activity - even the most specific - can easily be identified precisely with neutral, almost clinical terminology.

(2) It’s my confident guess that priests probably hear a lot of the same sins over and over and over and over and over again. If it was once titillating for them, it probably stopped being so after hundreds upon hundreds of times. So I really wouldn’t worry about it.

Just to clarify- it was not in the confessional itself,
the priest and I are friends, so it does make it a little easier when you are talking about things, in gereral, and over coffee! :stuck_out_tongue:

But much of the advice & knowledge I gained from his wisdom has helped me greatly on my spiritual journey, and I know for a fact that my current confessor is thrilled that this priest helped me with my "confession rubrics".

Most priests have heard it all, several times. Don’t worry about it. Its part of their education and training to handle these things.

Its a little disingenuous to be worried about the priest when you are confessing what could be mortal sins. The priest has heard it all before, and has been trained to handle this situation.

If you are married and these acts are with your wife/husband, you are for the most part OK as long as the marital embrace ends in ordinary vaginal intercourse. There is quite a bit written about this in Theology of the Body and other guidance. Take a look through some of this material with your spouse and adapt your behavior accordingly.

In general, it is not necessary to go it much extenuating detail at all in the confessional. If the priest needs more information, he will ask. If what you are doing is not sinful within the marital embrace, he will tell you. Please do not let fears like this hold you back from regular confession.

I know from my own experience here on CAF that constant exposure to sexual topics takes all the thrill out of them. I see another thread on lust and think, “How boring.” Priests hear it all the time in confession, and Fone Bone 2001 put it very well about how long ago it stopped being interesting to the priest.


Truthfully, I had similar concerns, and being a young woman didn’t make it any easier. It kept me from confession for awhile until I found a priest I didn’t have to worry about such things. A very conservative traditional priest (FSSP) in Calgary as well. He gave great counsel and I didn’t have to elaborate or go into detail on anything.

There is truth in many of the replies - e.g. the priest has heard it all before, he was trained how to handle it in formation - but the most important reason that we need not worry about this is: the Grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Just as married people always have access to the Sacramental Grace of the Sacrament of Marriage, priests always have access to the Sacramental Grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. This, more than anything else is what sustains a priest in all circumstances.

One should not name or even indicate individuals in confession.

One should confess his own sins, not someone other’s sins.

To take pleasure in confessing sins (remembering how pleasurable the act was) makes the confession invalid for lack of repentance

If someone is tempted to confess certain sins to a particular priest, one has the obligation to choose another priest to confess

“To take pleasure in confessing sins (remembering how pleasurable the act was) makes the confession invalid for lack of repentance”


I don’t understand your last statement. What do you mean by tempted to confess certain sins to a particular priest?

Huh? I hope you’re not directing your little list at me. Who in their right mind would be going to confession or even be wanting to go to confession while still deriving pleasure from certain sins? When going to confession, it should be with a contrite heart. And if there still is a weird pleasure derived from that sin, then the priest should know about it so he can councel properly.

As for confessing the sins of others… nobody can do that, as well… a sin (if it was a sin) that was done in the marital bed would have to involve talking about the spouse. I would certainly hope the priest would know that I’m with my husband rather than being adulterous!! lol

Finally, in the statement of being tempted to confess one’s sins to a particular priest… then go for it. A priest is a priest is a priest!

I quoted from the Moral-theology book, what I learned many years ago.

The book advised the future confessors to stop the confessant, is (s)he is spending time on detailing sexual sins, for the possibility that this is temptation in itself (thinking impure things). It seems to me that the priest he wrote it, had some real experience with confessions.

Even there was a case question: Is it allowed to think about sexual pleasure with someone’s spouse during the day? The somewhat surprising answer was, that if there is hope for making love on that night that it could be proper preparation, but if the spouse is far away for at least several days, or for the case of widowers/widows it is considered impure thinking, due to the temptation to go farther.

the priest does not have sensibilities in this area, he has the training to handle it. Just say the noun and the verb in the commonly accepted accurate meaning of the words of the sin, without the back story, unless he asks for more detail. Just say it, don’t dwell on it. Do you really think Jesus Christ, the one to whom you are confessing, who suffered on the cross for the sins you are confessing, does not already know what they are?

Along these same lines…

Is it a breach of protocol to seek out a priest that does not know you because you believe the sins you carry would forever change how your current priest looks at you?

Ah, now I’m understanding the post a little better, yet, in my case, I would have to go into a little bit of detail (nothing disgusting) in order to get the right spiritual direction in a few matters. So what are we to do? I would need to go into my past and into my husband’s past to bring a few things to light (so here I MUST involve my husband), I would have to detail my thought processes how certain things affect me.
So I suppose I’m almost back to the original question in light of your previous post… how do so without hurting others in the process?

No, you have a right to seek confession from any Catholic priest of any Rite. Although it is beneficial to have a priest who works with you all the time and knows you well to help break you free from the bondage of sin, there is nothing that compels us canonically to go to the same priest or to the priest of the parish we go to.

it is not, but it won’t.

do you seriously think a priest who listens to dozens if not hundreds of confessions each week remembers each sin and each sinner to recognize on the street?

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