Is it wrong to use confession as counseling?


I confess my sins and also a lot of my worries, thoughts, conflicting beliefs, etc.


The purpose of the sacrament of Penance is to absolve the penitent’s sins after a confession of them to the confessor and to receive appropriate spiritual guidance.

It is not a counseling session.

Where the line is drawn differs from confessor to confessor, but a priest makes a mistake allowing a confession to cross into counseling. Many of us suffer from scruples, anxieties, and personal situations which cause us distress, but they are not sins and are not the proper topic of a confession unless they are the proximate occasion of sin. For example, if anxieties cause one to masturbate, or a personal situation leads one to stealing, they are appropriate topics within the confession.



No it is not wrong, as long as the counselling is related to your confession in some way. What is wrong will be if if spend “ages” in the confessional, which blocks other people from confessing their sins. Go inside do what you have to quickly, and get out.

Where I currently live, people spend 30-40 minutes with the priest. Many times people cannot get to do their confessions, becuase the priest is only available 2 hours a week, with a line of 20 people outside.

Please do not be like those people. If you must receive counselling in such a way, try to do it quickly.


We have people here who do that a lot. We’ll have a huge line, and the first person will use it as a counseling session, and the rest of us get told to come back another day.

If one makes an appt., one could get some spiritual guidance, being respectful of the priest’s time.

However, I think due to the priest shortage, it would be preferable to get a counselor should one need it. If one wants a Catholic counselor, Catholic Social Services has them.

I used to be one who took a long time, myself, until I realized it was inconveniencing other people. One priest admitted he was working 14 hour days. Then, I learned to confess with a list, taking about 5 min.

I go down the list…first commandment…second commandment…X number of times, approximately…rounding off. I’ve had priests THANK me for having a simple confession!


Oh yeah, and I like to use an examination of conscience and go down that.

Here’s an example…

I write down the ones I’m guilty of. One priest saw the list, asked me to hand it to him. He read it and absolved me like that! My experience is that priests’ time is at a premium these days.

I do whatever I can to make it easy on them, and simple.


In my experience, it has been the priests that turned confession into a counseling session. Once I had an elderly priest from the monastery in town who went on . . . and on . . . and on . . . and on . . .


I’ve posted this before so perhaps the uniqueness has worn off, but we had a pastor years ago, who, when he saw long lines, would go to the mic and announce to us “look at all these people here for confession…Be brief, Be brutal and Be gone!” :thumbsup:


Same here. Our pastor (a couple of pastors ago) made an announcement at a Penance service that this was NOT the day for counseling. if you need counseling, any of the priests there that evening would be happy to schedule a visit. One priest even said to me once, “let’s stay on topic” .
A neighboring pastor once held his penance service with no chairs. Everyone stood in line, and stood for confession. Afterward, a parishioner bragged: “We were all out of there in an hour. Several hundred people with 12 confessors!” :eek:
So, you can see how these long “counseling sessions” can get out of hand.
So, if a person is willing to talk to the priest for counseling, just make an appt. for counseling. :shrug: Be mindful of those who have been waiting all week for Confession.
I will say though, if the priest knows you well, sometimes it’s him who drives the conversation…LOL.


If I’m one of the sinners in the line behind you, I may have to struggle to keep from adding yet another sin to confess concerning you.

At the very least, using up the priest’s time is inconsiderate towards your fellow sinners, who may have actual, real mortal sins to confess. Confess your sins, be absolved and be done with it. Confession is for sins, and sins alone. Not worries, thoughts, conflicting beliefs, etc, unless they somehow increase or mitigate the gravity of your sins. For counseling, schedule an appointment.


If this happens often, you might want to print out Canon 986 and keep it in your wallet or purse:

Can. 986 ß1 All to whom by virtue of office the care of souls is committed, are bound to provide for the hearing of the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them, who reasonably request confession, and they are to provide these faithful with an opportunity to make individual confession on days and at times arranged to suit them.

ß2 In an urgent necessity, every confessor is bound to hear the confessions of Christ’s faithful, and in danger of death every priest is so obliged.

I would raise my hand, respectfully read the Canon, and remind the priest that he seriously obliged to hear the confessions of those in line since some or all of them may be in urgent necessity or in danger of death.

The obligation to hear confessions overrides golf dates, dinner plans, the meeting with the Parish Council, or any other non-religious function or duty. I have seen priests delay the start of Sunday Mass to finish hearing confessions.

If it happens often, and this doesn’t work, communicate with your bishop.



Please be considerate of those in line behind you.


Making one stand while confessing would be a not so subtle and very clever hint. Good for this priest!


If one’s lining up for confession at a regular schedule, it’s highly unlikely he’s in danger of death. I wouldn’t throw this “danger of death” line at the priest. And if he was indeed tied up by a talkative penitent and couldn’t hear everyone’s confessions, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them to come back or hear their confessions after Mass if possible. Even those in mortal sin can wait for the next available opportunity or approach the priest after. Being able to receive Communion at Mass here and now is not an urgent necessity. An urgent necessity includes such things as impending sacraments (Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination) that must be worthily received in the state of grace. Danger of death is just that: danger of death, like, he could be reasonably expected to die at any moment (accident, illness).

Throwing canons at a priest from a Confession line won’t do any good, and will probably only paint you in a bad light.




Regardless of when a priest takes an opportunity to shepherd his flock, it is NEVER “a mistake”.

Sometimes the confessional is the only venue and opportunity for someone to get a moment alone for some pastoral counseling.

If the priest feels the discussion should be taken up at another time, that is his call, but it is not appropriate for the laity to tell the priest how to minister to his flock!



I understand the concerns of those who say that giving spiritual counsel in the confessional takes too long. Of course, if you know that you are bringing a concern to confession that will take an exceptionally long time, it would be helpful and courteous to schedule an appointment. Sometimes, though, the need doesn’t become apparent until the confession is happening and a good priest will seize the moment to help a soul in need.

For those who make a blanket statement that confession is not the time for spiritual direction and counsel, I would simply point out that the church disagrees. These quotes are from a 2011 Vatican document published for priests as an aid to Confessors and Spiritual Directors. Although the two subjects are treated separately in the document, it is clear throughout that the overlap between the two is strong. I’ve given but two of the most compelling quotes.

[quote=]…through the Sacrament of Penance, the ministers reconcile the sinners with God and the Church; this penitential celebration can also provide and opportunity for spiritual direction and counsel.

[quote=]Spiritual direction is usually connected with the Sacrament of Penance, at least in the sense of a possible consequence, when the faithful request guidance on the path of holiness, including the specific journey of their personal vocation. "Along with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest must also exercise the ministry of spiritual direction. The rediscovery and extension of this practice, also in moments outside of the administration of Penance, is greatly beneficial for the church in these times…

Personally, I would avoid a priest who only gives absolution and never gives advice and counsel, if I had another option. To me, spiritual counsel is an important part of the sacrament. The priest is judge and physician. A good physician gives his patients advice on how to avoid injury and illness in the future and in order to do that, needs to spend a bit of time understanding the patient and his or her lifestyle and particular situation. The same is true for a priest physician in confession.

Did people flock to famous confessors like Padre Pio, St. John Vianney and St. Alphonsus Ligouri because of their ability to move through the confession lines with great speed and their encouragement of the penitents to “be brief, be brutal and be gone”? No, they flocked to such confessors because they received good, solid counsel that helped them to grow in holiness.


On the other hand, neither one did confessions for just 45 minutes on Saturday afternoons.

The obligation to hear everyone’s confessions outweighs the need to provide spiritual counsel beyond the de minimus required for a valid confession in most parishes.

The proper normal procedure - there are always exceptions - is to hear the confession, provide some counsel, and make seeking spiritual counsel outside the confession line part of the penance.



Of course it is when the priest steps out of his role as a spiritual father and undertakes what is proper to the role of psychologist. Confession is NOT a mental health function.

The priest MUST meet the requirements of the sacrament for validity. The priest MUST make confession readily available to the entire flock. Beyond that there is vast area of judgment, and different levels of training and competence among clergy, and priests can and do make mistakes, sometimes with disastrous results.



Everyone is in danger of death every minute of every day until their last moment.

It is in the Canon and I would have no problem at all reciting the Canon verbatim. In fact I might even hand him a copy. The level of clerical ignorance about this requirement to hear confessions in the USA is really appalling, second only to ignorance of indulgences.

And if he was indeed tied up by a talkative penitent and couldn’t hear everyone’s confessions, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them to come back or hear their confessions after Mass if possible.


Even those in mortal sin can wait for the next available opportunity or approach the priest after.

You DO understand the risk the penitent takes doing so? I cannot believe that the priest who puts a penitent in that position, and the penitent dies before confessing, is not going to have a thorough tongue lashing at the very least in the next life.

What do you believe outweighs his obligation to hear confessions? Do you think Christ said to penitents “Come back later, I’m too busy right now?”

Being able to receive Communion at Mass here and now is not an urgent necessity.

Being in a state of mortal sin is ALWAYS an urgent necessity.

Throwing canons at a priest from a Confession line won’t do any good, and will probably only paint you in a bad light.

I wouldn’t concern myself with being on any particular priest’s “most popular” list. He has his job to do, and he ought to do it period.



No, those definitions are way too narrow. None of those are the Church’s mind when it comes to “urgent necessity” and “danger of death.” I’m always in danger of dying at any time, but I’m not in “danger of death” such that I need to be absolved NOW. A priest can reasonably ask me to wait for Mass to finish. Even being in mortal sin is not an “urgent necessity” where canon law is concerned. Your definitions and understandings may be pious, but that’s not what the Church means. If that were the case, then an SSPX priest can absolve me any time, but we also know that’s not true; I cannot approach an SSPX priest for absolution because I’m not in danger of death.

Unless you are a priest yourself, you also do not have the right to determine how a priest should do his job, on what timetable, or what his level of clerical ignorance is. Priests do know how to do their job where confessions are concerned; they do not need you or me to manage them or their time.

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