Is there such thing as actual anonymous confession?


Hello everyone!
This may seem like a silly question to some, but I am a convert, so there are still certain things that I am learning. Basically, I live in a small town, and all the towns around me are small as well. Whenever I go to confession, I feel like I would be more comfortable if it were anonymous. The problem is, since the parishes are so small, there can’t be a time for confession where people line up and file in (I’m assuming this is how it works in bigger parishes?), so there is no chance for it to be anonymous. Basically it is like every confession is a scheduled confession, or you just have to ask the priest about it after mass. I was wondering if bigger cities/parishes have, like I said before, people that file in and be behind the screen so it can be anonymous? To me it seems kind of pointless to have a screen if you just asked the priest for a confession right beforehand and are the only one confessing haha.
Thanks everyone! And God bless!


Yes, if you go to a parish where you don’t know the priest at all you can go anonymously. Even if you’re in line the priest of your parish usually passes you and knows you’re there.


In larger parishes you’ll usually find that confessions are scheduled at certain times. If you show up, for example, on a Saturday between 4 and 5pm there will be a priest in the confessional waiting for anyone who wants to confess. You can check to find confession times (as well as Mass times) if you know you’ll be in a certain city. Saturday afternoon is very common. Some parishes, especially in downtown areas, may have confessions at noontime.

If your concern is that the priest knows who you are you might go to a nearby parish for confession. That way even if you and the priest see each other, you don’t run into each other regularly.

For what it’s worth, you don’t have to be concerned that your priest knows your sins. He’s absolutely forbidden to bring them up outside of confession. You won’t be walking out of church some Sunday morning and hear him say, “Hey, how’s that little theft problem coming along? Are you managing not to steal anything these days?”


As a new Catholic, I have enjoyed having face-to-face confession with our priest. I feel he knows me pretty well after RCIA, and I have no qualms about telling him about things I’m not proud of. We just sit in a little room and I talk to him. I think I’d rather have guidance from someone I know personally (and respect greatly) than a complete stranger.


Excellent perspective! I’m old enough to remember when all confessions were done behind a screen but I prefer the face to face confession and choose that over the behind the screen option our parish still offers. Because the priest represents Christ on earth, why wouldn’t I make a confession face to face; it’s more meaningful to me. Like you, I like confessing to the same priest because I feel we are closer in our relationship in the parish. Still, I’d confess to any priest face to face rather than being separated by a vision screen. Have a Blessed Day.


The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not focused on our comfort; it’s about rejecting our sins and returning to God. Sins are of our own doing and we should feel a bit uneasy not only in the commission but in the repenting. God grants us Absolution through the priest and I always look forward to Confession not because I sinned so often but because this Sacrament reaffirms to me that God loves me so much that He’ll forgive my sins. Like everyone, I face the constant battle against sin but I am comforted that I do not battle alone: God walks with everyone one of us. God Bless you.


I have belonged to some really small parishes and none was so small that it didn’t have regularly scheduled times for Communion. I don’t believe the situation the OP is describing is due to size but of the inability or unwillingness of the pastor to set aside regular times for Confession.

Marshall Jackson,

You can probably find a more traditional Confession environment (scheduled times, regular confessional, people line up) in a bigger city or town. Even if you have to drive a bit, it might be worth it once in a while.

You might also want to call the chancery of your diocese and inquire about the closest parish that has regular Confession times. This is often information that diocese keeps track of.


The purpose of the fixed grille is not merely to provide anonymity. It is also to protect both confessor and penitent from physical contact or allegations thereof. It is worth noting that the fixed grille is a requirement of Canon Law and all the faithful of the Latin Church have the right to its presence.



The OP’s problem is not whether there’s a fixed grille, but that he has to ask the priest to hear his confession so the priest obviously knows who he is. Even if he’s behind a screen, the priest knows who just asked him to hear a confession.


I realize that. The reason I brought it up is because the OP and many others seem to believe that the only reason for a grille is anonymity - “to me it seems kind of pointless to have a screen”. It is not pointless since the grille has more than one purpose.


Yes. Also, I don’t view confession as equivalent to spiritual direction.


As others have said, you could go to another town if you want to confess to a priest you would be unlikely to meet again. If your concern is more with your fellow communicants, schedule a time for reconciliation with a local priest. The important thing is, to go to confession somewhere, and “now” is better than “sometime soon.”

In my usual parish, there is a scheduled time for reconciliation every week, and there are always two priests ready to listen. They stay in their reconciliation rooms, and they have an access corridor to those rooms that does not go through the nave where (usually) the penitants sit. So they don’t know in advance who will come in for confession and absolution. (I suppose you could leave by their alternate door if that was ok with them.)

Reconciliation apppointments are always welcome as well.

Priests are, by nature and training, private people. They will not disclose what you tell them in the privacy of confession. And no matter how grave a sin you think you’ve committed, they will not be shocked by it, nor will they think less of you as a person or a Catholic because you came to confess it.

So please find a place and a way you find comforting, and begin the process. You will feel better after you make a complete confession. Rely on the healing power of Jesus Christ’s atonement, manifested by the priest’s absolution, to make you pure again.



I’ve thought about the idea of scheduling an appt. with a priest for confession. It seems very extroverted, which I am not. If there are any large towns near you, you can go to their confession times and not schedule it. Alternately, you could go to various towns near you and schedule them (if there aren’t confession times at those parishes also) in a rotating fashion so you’re not seeing the same priest for a while. I’ve looked at some confession times for some small towns on mass, that I was going to and they’ve mostly had regular confession times where you line up to go into the confessional (to the screen if you want).


Personally, I would first talk to the Pastor and inquire why there are no times scheduled general confessionals such as in the larger parishes. He may feel rushed if he has to cover several parishes. Perhaps he doesn’t see any issues with scheduled appointments for confession. A good priest will listen to your concerns.

I know in our Dioceses the Bishop has stressed that scheduled times be made available at times convenient to the majority of the parish.

I’ve been to some very small parishes… in fact, I was visiting a friend, the church maybe held 80 people (using a shoe-horn and plunger) and had only one Mass… about 20 minutes before Mass, Fr. Comes out from the sacristy in his vestments, … announces that he’s going to the back to hear confessions for anyone in need… he walked down, stepped in and close the door… the line formed… about 3/4 of the church was in line - YEA!. To add a tad more humor, over the speakers he announces, “Last Call - 5 Minutes - Alter servers please be ready.” He steps out, Mass starts, 10 minutes late, but who cares.

If your pastor says there’s not enough time, then tell him about this method.


I can definitely relate to how you feel about anonymity - especially when you know the priest - and anything that helps people to feel easier about receiving the sacrament should be encouraged (within reason of course). that said, I’ve found that, despite the difficulties, there is a lot to be gained from that struggle. As others have said, going to a larger town is one option if you’re looking for scheduled confession times and anonymity (Cathedrals are great for this). I appreciate however that going to another town or city isn’t always an easy option and sometimes it’s just not possible. Something else you could do instead would be to phone and make an appointment and explain to the priest that you’d prefer to confess behind the screen rather than face to face and could you arrange for him to be in the confessional at a particular time.


Most decidedly you can find a place these days where a long line forms after the priest enters the confessional and there is a screen in place. It truly feels anonymous. However, you may need to drive and pick the right situation. Large cities are helpful and have old style confessionals in several locations.

If all you have are small towns, perhaps pick a town where you don’t know the priest. Other good options are pilgrimage destination sites or a campus town with priests or a monastery or a cathedral.


I understand. Can you call and request a confession behind the screen, without giving your name/caller ID? Or an email?


There are such things as anonymous confessions.
Because of priest shortage where I am, there are a few parishes who share priests that have no scheduled time for confession/apt only. Although I don’t like it, it is up to the parishioners to ask the priests if they would offer confessions during a scheduled time. I go to a parish that has scheduled confessions every Saturday.
At one parish here, they do not have a proper room for confessions. It is an older Church and understandable to a degree.
If I were you, I would either make a suggestion to have a scheduled time for confessions or go to another parish that provides one. If that were impossible, I would then start by asking the priest, if denied, working my way up to the Bishop. We should be able to go to confession anonymously. Having to call and make an apt doesn’t allow one to do that.


For me it is some what different. I realize that this is not a good trait, but as a musician (performer) I instinctively play for an audience. If there is not a grill to separate me from the priest I find myself watching him for cues as to what I should say. I am more honest when I can not see nor anticipate a priest’s response no matter how subtle that response may be.


That was going to be my suggestion. Contact the secretary and say you’d like to go to confession but you’re having trouble because it’s not really anonymous, and you’d like to just be able to go in and have the screen there and not have to give a name.

Also, we were supposed to do face-to-face for RCIA. I walked into the room, looked at Father, and said I just can’t. I know it wasn’t “really” anonymous (nor were my further confessions at that parish) but I just cannot do it face-to-face.

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