People Misusing Reconciliation


Our parish has reconciliation every Saturday from 4-5. I've attempted to go to confession for 3 weeks now and have found it impossible to go because there are several parishioners who take 45 min to an hour to confess. The past 3 Saturdays 2 people have been able to go to confession in the allotted hour. This past Saturday I showed up 10 min before 4 and still found it impossible to go because the person in front of me took the entire hour. :rolleyes:

Assuming these folks aren't just discussing the weather, they must have some serious emotional issues and need counseling. I am glad they are seeking help, but more than a little peeved they are not seeking out the proper venue. Am I out of line for wanting these people to be brief and a little more considerate? Should I ask the priest to handle them? Should I ask them to let me cut? I take no more than 2 minutes so it wouldn't kill them to let me go first.


I think your expectations are reasonable. When we really needed confession and couldn't make it through the line one Saturday, I called the priest and asked him for an appointment to do confession which he gladly accomodated. If you did that, you could also mention to your priest that you have been shut out 3 times in a row because people are taking a long time. Not sure how your church is set up, but maybe he doesn't realize others are waiting and that he needs to give people some guidance on the proper procedures. If you explain to the priest what is happening, hopefully he will figure out a way to correct this.


I am often confronted by a similar situation while going for confession, and I would be frustrated when I see a long queue in front of the confessional, sometimes even doubling back on itself. However, after much reflection, I have realised that this is actually a great thing to behold. It is so exciting to see so many of my fellow parishioners who, despite the overbearing influence of the secular world, continue to hold fast to their faith and stand in line for confession, even though they have to wait a long time and there may a chance that they might not even get the opportunity.

Sometimes, we also get a few parishioners who take a terribly long time in the confessional. I cannot help but feel that we should be happy for these folks. They are seeking the priest for spiritual guidance to help them through their troubled times, which are presumably associated with some very difficult sins. Many don’t even ask for spiritual guidance, and yet these people do. This is most laudable and certainly not a misuse. We should not be accusing them of such. That being said, it would definitely be more convenient for others if they sought an appointment with the priest on another day, but what’s done is done.

I often ask myself, perhaps their lives are so busy and demanding that they only have that specific time slot to confess their sins? Or maybe they are more comfortable with the anonymity of the confessional, which is why they do not ask for an appointment (which by its irregular nature could compromise the anonymity). Or they could well be reverts who have suddenly decided to seek a sacrament which they have missed for many years. In such cases, we should be praying for them as they grow their faith and seek to follow Christ.

As for a practical course of action, I strongly believe you should bring this up with the priest, and with this feedback, he could in turn encourage his parishioners to seek an appointment with him if they have many issues which they wish to discuss to greater depth, or even rope in other people to help out as spiritual directors, but we should not expect everything to go our way. In the meantime, we can also modify our own schedules to avoid the inconvenience. I’m sure there are other times or places when and where we can go for confession, and we could try those. :slight_smile:


Please do talk to your priest about this situation.

It is really up to him to handle this.



Sometimes it’s not the people. Last Saturday we had a guest confessor, an old priest from the nearby monastery (our pastors are drawn from that monastery). My confession was relatively short, but he rambles on . . . and on . . . and on . . . and on . . .


I think you should complain that you haven't been able to get in to the scheduled confession times the past three weeks and maybe they will increase the amount of time alloted for confessions. I think it would be hard to say, "Make an appointment for a long confession" because alot of people may not know if their confession will be long or not. They may not realize how much explaination will be required for the priest to give absolution.


[quote="DaveBj, post:5, topic:312774"]
Sometimes it's not the people. Last Saturday we had a guest confessor, an old priest from the nearby monastery (our pastors are drawn from that monastery). My confession was relatively short, but he rambles on . . . and on . . . and on . . . and on . . .


Yes, I have been in confessions with priests who ramble, but I have never arrived 10 minutes early and still been denied confession (in 30 years!).

I agree with the OP's concerns and frustrations.

*]A penitent should be mindful of others who are following. If I had taken about 10 minutes I would always be trying to wind it up quickly;

*]If I thought I needed counselling, rather than simple confession, I would make an appointment;

*]If you arrive 10 minutes early you can reasonably expect to have your confession heard.


First, some background:
I go to confession only to parishes with long lines, because at those parishes confession is valued, both by the priests and by the parishioners. I know it’s valued because it’s available often and it’s used often. For me, waiting in line is part of the sacrament. I think it’s beautiful. It’s an enormous opportunity to experience being part of a community of sinners – all of us waiting together for forgiveness. This is very powerful. There’s almost a Final Judgment feel about it: awaiting our Messiah, all together.

In practical terms it is also a wonderful part of the penance: Having to wait, and having more time to reflect on our sins (and perhaps think of some more serious areas we haven’t worked on!).

I don’t want anyone to be timed or rushed – not my fellow penitents, not me. This is why I think it’s an extremely bad idea to schedule confessions only before Saturday Vigil Mass. (3:30 - 4:30, or worse in some cases I have seen, 4-4:30)

Second, the OP’s concern:
It sounds as if the OP is not in a parish with frequent confession and thus many options.
I agree with others that the priest should be made aware of what’s going on. Canon law provides for anonymous confessions, so no penitent should be made to feel he or she must make a private appointment, off-schedule. It it were I, I would send the priest a note about this frequent occurrence, noting what you have here, about your own promptness & patience.

Here is the solution, everybody – a solution which has been demonstrated to work.

For the singular priest in a parish, do what one of our locals does: ***Schedule Confessions Saturday morning, after the Sat. a.m. Mass. *** Saturdays and Sundays are normally a priest’s heaviest work days. Is he out running errands and having a day off on Saturday? Hardly. He’s ministering to his flock in most cases, most of the weekend. If he says Mass Saturday morning, he has to be there physically in church. Unless he has an even more urgent requirement every Saturday morning, involving administering the sacraments, Saturday morning confession time is merely one part of a Sacrament-heavy weekend. Broadly there should a “window,” but it means that if the “end” of the time is 9:30 or 10, no one will be turned away if someone else has taken very long.

In parishes of more than one priest, this is a no-brainer, and also works, every time: The priest saying Mass is not the priest hearing Confessions. No time limit, therefore. Confessions begin before Mass (weekdays and weekends, by the way, including Saturday afternoons), and continue until the last penitent is heard. The priest just waits in the confessional until no one shows up for quite a long period of time. This means that he’s usually there way before Mass plus deep into Mass.

There are 3 parishes in my region which do this, and it’s beautiful and powerful. Nothing dramatizes the redemption dynamic as much as having Penance and Eucharist simultaneously occurring, with long lines. I’m grateful for the enlightened priests who run these parishes, and I refuse to go anywhere else locally for confession.


I’ve seen this before and yes, it’s nice.


Even better the way I do so and always arrange with the priest a totally seperate time. Okay I am Anglican and we don't have confession set up in the same way in our specifica church but most Anglicans I think, would view Confession better before a Mass rather than any anonymous time that fits between priest and person. Priests don't seem to worry though. As over the last 25 years I have had only two confessions before the service and one was cutting it fine as we had to move to vestry because someone turned up earlier because they also wanted to speak to the priest but not in confession and so knocked on the vestry door not realising. Never again if I have a choice before a service. I am saying sorry to God in confession because I am sorry to God and like the guidence of a priest amongst other stuff) . I am not saying sorry so I can receive Communion. That has no bearing on my own confessions. Though it possibly does to those Anglicans who follow through with confession.Just simply that I am sorry to God. :blush:


Arrive early, 15 minutes before the scheduled time.


Our lines are always long for confessions at my parish, two thirty sections on Saturday afternoon and an early morning hour on Friday. So I leave work during my lunch-hour and wait an hour and hope, hope, hope I'll reach the confession box this time!

The last time I went we were visiting another parish and they had confessions before every Mass every day! One Father hears them while the other celebrates Mass. They are so fortunate, I must admit to some envy…

amsjj :o

Jesus, God and man,
imprisoned by love in Thy most holy Sacrament,
have mercy upon us.
+ Blessed John Henry Newman, December 22, 1851

Tú y yo sabemos por la fe que oculto en las especies sacramentales está Cristo,
ese Cristo con su Cuerpo, con su Sangre, con su Alma, y con su Divinidad,
prisonero de amor.
+ San Josemaría Escrivá, 1 junio 1974

… Our Lord Himself frequently said; and it is recorded as an Apostolic tradition from Him by St. Justin the Martyr. He says ‘Jesus often said, “They who are near Me are near a fire”’.
+ Abp. W. B. Ullathorne, August 1st 1886


You should let the priest know that even though you've shown up early for confession, you haven't been able to go in. Also, that you've been trying for 3 weeks. Ask if it is possible to extend the time for confession or schedule another "window".

In my diocese - and many others - there is a diocesean program encouraging confession during Lent. **Every **parish in the diocese (Arlington and Washington DC around here, not sure about Richmond and Baltimore) have Wednesday night confession times. I hope the same is true in the OPs area.

Like Elizabeth, my parish is very generous with confession times. We have confession during the week and during the Saturday afternoon time there are usually 3 priests (sometimes 4) hearing confessions. There are lines, but I have never been turned away at this parish.


The reason I say it is a misuse is because the priest is in the confessional to hear confession; he is not there as a therapist that you are supposed to pour your soul out to. I know nobody is acting out of malice, but it is still frustrating that it is so difficult to make it to confession.


One can also always just as a Priest to hear your confession or make an appointment. So you can go to confession if such circumstances arise.

(and one never knows what is going on in anothers life -- and of course in this area we should not ;) ...I understand the frustration --and yes -- it would be better if they made an appointment --but perhaps whatever is going on they want to remain without the Priest knowing them and so they have to come at that time...I just note that one never knows what is such cases let us say a prayer for em and thank God they are seeking him..and remember our virtues can increase too by means of such events--it is difficult (I would be frustrated likely) (especially if they are in there the whole hour!) but as St. Catherine notes virtue is built etc by its opposite....).


[quote="KostyaJMJ, post:14, topic:312774"]
The reason I say it is a misuse is because the priest is in the confessional to hear confession


The priest is in the confessional to minister to repentant souls, by hearing their sins, giving them absolution, and solidifying them in the sureness that they are forgiveable and forgiven. In the course of that, pertinent issues come up which relate to the penitent's faith in that forgiveness, in the penitent's awareness of what sin is and is not, and in the resolve to continue on a path of sanctity. Issues also come up related to how the penitent is using the graces & aids available through Holy Mother Church to avoid sin --especially persistent sins-- and make progress in the spiritual life. All of that is part of the confessor's role. He's not just an audio tool performing a perfunctory role. He may be that to you, but he is not to many others.

he is not there as a therapist that you are supposed to pour your soul out to.

How would you have any idea that he is behaving as a therapist? And actually he is there for penitents to "pour their souls out to." And sometimes it's initiated by the priest, not the penitent. My former confessor was thorough and persistent with me. He was doing exactly what his role was: extending my examination of conscience because he had the opportunity to do that and he cared profoundly about how comprehensive my orientation was and how thorough my awareness of sin was. It was initiated by him, and he's the best confessor I've ever had.

That said, I did give you my suggestions earlier :)

In one of the churches I mentioned in my earlier post, people have been known to arrive a half hour early and stand in line for the entire time, to be sure they're heard. If I were in your position, I would want to join that line, because I sure as heck prefer a priest who is thorough and probing over one who treats the sacrament as if it's routine or something to be hurried through as quickly as possible.


Yes, some people seem to take a REALLY long time. . . .

I’m pretty fast as I simply list my sins. Confession isn’t spiritual direction.


[quote="KostyaJMJ, post:14, topic:312774"]
The reason I say it is a misuse is because the priest is in the confessional to hear confession; he is not there as a therapist that you are supposed to pour your soul out to. I know nobody is acting out of malice, but it is still frustrating that it is so difficult to make it to confession.


Since none of us are in the confessional, we don't know what is going on. It could be, as you suggest, that some parishioners are using the confession times as an opportunity for spiritual direction. It could be that the priest of his own initiative decided that some more lengthy spiritual guidance would be appropriate for the penitent. It could be that the penitent hasn't been to confession in decades and has a significant number of mortal sins to confess.

Whatever the situation, I think it would be appropriate to call the church office and tell the pastor that you have tried to go to confession for the past 3 weeks, but haven't been able to due to the length of the lines. If there were others waiting in line behind you, mention how many of them there were. Then ask, graciously, whether it would be possible for Father to extend the times available for confessions.

I gather from your post that you're at a parish that has one hour of confession each week. That's tough. The "big" parish around here has 45 minutes available for confession each week, and it seems to be shortened or cancelled frequently -- and there's not usually anything special for Advent or Lent. A much smaller parish that is farther out in the country, on the other hand, has a consistent 1.5 hours of confession every week, numerous confession opportunities during Advent and Lent, and Father lets it be known that he's always available after regular Sunday Masses to hear confessions. It's striking to see the differences between the parishes in the access to this sacrament.


At my parish confessions are heard 30 minutes before each weekday afternoon Mass and one hour on Saturdays. Usually there are lines. On weekdays the priest sometimes arrives 10 to 15 minutes early if possible, or a second priest comes out to assist.

Confessions take an average of probably 2 or 3 minutes each. If they took much longer, there would be people left in line when the priest had to begin Mass. That has happened on occasion.

I can’t imagine a confession taking 20 or 30 or 40 minutes or an hour, except in the context of a general confession of all the sins of one’s past life, and even that I think could be done reasonably short period of time.

I guess it comes down to a question of whether confession is intended for the few or the many. If one penitent can take up the entire hour allotted to confessions, as related by the OP, then there are of necessity going to be few confessions. Even if penitents make individual appointments and take an hour each, a priest’s other duties will necessarily suffer.


[quote="ringil, post:17, topic:312774"]
Yes, some people seem to take a REALLY long time. . . .

I'm pretty fast as I simply list my sins.


And some people want to get more out of confession than reciting a list. And many priests want to give more in confession than hearing the list. By the way, God knows the list far better than you know yours or I know mine.

[quote="ringil, post:17, topic:312774"]
Confession isn't spiritual direction.


Indirectly, it can be. It's not for you or for me to demand that the priest not give direction related to sin if the priest judges that to be necessary/important. You're not in the position to know what is and is not required in any particular confessional.

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