Perfect Contrition: "As soon as possible?"

CCC 1452: “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramtental confession as soon as possible.”

Those highlighted words have often been a source of deep misery for me when I have found myself in a state of sin.

You see, I have a lot of anxiety about the sacrament of confession. There are certain priests who very much scare me in the sacrament of confession, especially if I’m confessing the same sins as I’ve confessed before. And I’ve had this fear validated before by the reaction of at least one priest and, given the nature of my emotions, this fed further into the fear. This means that often there might be a “chance” at confession, but with a priest who scares me, so I end up waiting for an opportunity for a gentler or less intimidating priest.

Needless to say, this obviously means I’m not going “as soon as possible.” Why, technically, the fact that I would even wait for a scheduled confession negates the possibility that I’m going “as soon as possible” because I could be calling around town to find out what priests are available within hours (if not minutes, depending on the time of day) of my sin.

And so I often feel a sense of despair. Even True Contrition, I fear, would not grant me any peace, because it doesn’t “include firm resolution to make recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.”

Does anyone else ever feel this way? What are your thoughts on how literal “as soon as possible” should be taken, however strictly or broadly? Are there mitigating factors? If so, what are some hypothetical examples? Would they only be “you literally can’t physically get there?” or “some psychological/emotional inhibitions may count,” etc.?

Don’t worry, I’m not treating you guys as spiritual directors, just looking for thoughts and feelings of others as I work through my own.

Blessings in Christ,
KindredSoul

Hi KindredSoul,

Thanks for your thought-provoking post.

Firstly, I empathise fully with your situation. Although I have never been chastised by a priest, I can imagine many, many people have at some point in their faith journey.

All of life can be seen as a journey in faith, and someday you will be able to look back on this experience as part of the journey, too.

Without asking as to the nature of the sin- are you sure it satisfies all three conditions to be mortal?

It is wonderful to want to go to confession. It should be something we desire, although it’s not always top of the list of enjoyable things to do. But there is little better than having a desire to meet Jesus in the confessional, and say sorry. The priest has the authority then, in the name of Jesus, to absolve us of that heavy burden of sin.

Your act of perfect contrition should mean you ask forgiveness all for love of God; not solely to save your soul. I find meditating on the passion and chaplet of divine mercy really centres my mind on the love God has for us, and how much I want to reciprocate and be truly sorry for my sins and offending God, who is all good and all loving.

So, in terms of timing. Well, ‘as soon as possible’ seems to suggest a practical sense of this, rather than a spiritual readiness. If you are able to go, you have a means of getting there and can make some time available soon, this would tick all the praciual boxes of ‘as soon as possible.’
Your worry is not going to go away. And I think the longer you leave it, the worse it will be. Without berating those priests in any way- this could well be the devil who is telling you it’s ‘not safe to approach’.
The priest could have just been having a bad day. I don’t know.
I have put off confession before- but let me tell you- it was pointless and just delayed the sanctifying grace which was waiting to be poured out to me in that confessional.

I would say- good point here is that you must ‘desire’ to go to confession- which it seems you do- you desire the knowledge that you are truly forgiven.

I would say- let nothing stop you! If you are chastised by the priest- which I think is unlikely- take it as part of the penance and accept it gladly as Jesus accepted the slaps and insults by the soldiers. (It isn’t going to be that bad!).

Be direct in your confession and make sure to have a firm purpose of amendment. If it’s a sin you have committed over and over- tell the priest the number of times but if it has improved- say that ’ I am still falling to X; but with God’s grace I am falling less’.

I wouldn’t expect too much spiritual direction from the confessional - many parish priests need to keep it as short as they can on a given day- but the grace which flows from the sacrament is inexhaustible. Jesus is waiting for you with open arms and just wants to pour out His mercy on you.

God bless you!

I don’t think “as soon as possible” necessarily means you have to move heaven and earth if it will mean getting to Confession even one minute sooner. I’m sure that I could start going through the phone book and calling every parish within a 200 mile radius and eventually I would catch a priest who would be willing to hear my Confession right then and I could hop in my car and drive, even if it were a few hours away.

But then what of my wife? My children? My job? My other obligations?

Truly, I think if we fully grasped the weight of our sins and the grace of the Sacrament, we would want to move heaven and earth to get to Confession as soon as possible. But, in general, the Church doesn’t obligate us to do things that are impossible or unreasonable.

You might talk to a priest about it to get his take on what “ASAP” means. I think paralyzing fear would be something worth considering. But then, we don’t want to use it as an excuse to avoid going indefinitely. That doesn’t sound like what you are proposing, though. It sounds to me more like you might want to put it off until Saturday when you could possibly go on Thursday to a priest who might lose patience with you. If it were a matter of days, I can see waiting. If we are talking weeks or months, then it would probably be best to bite the bullet and go.

The Church does not define “as soon as possible”.
In my opinion, if you commit a mortal sin on Monday and make an act of perfect contrition then you should make every effort to get to the earliest possible scheduled Confession. If the scheduled Confession in your parish happens to be on Fridays then I would say that would be the Confession you should make the effort to get to unless there was some major valid reason you cannot make that one.

I don’t think as soon as possible means you have to call your local priest for a Confession outside scheduled times although it is your right to do so and up to you.
The thing is, how can a person actually know they really have made an act of perfect contrition. The words alone are not sufficient. There has to be genuine sorrow for having offended God rather than fear of going to Hell.

Thanks everyone, for your replies!

Yeah, that’s true. Although as I understand it, fear of hell can still be there, but love for God and sorrow for having offended Him has to be the primary reason for the contrition. Either way, it’s true that a person should not presume. Sometimes, riding the line between presumption and outright anxiety is difficult, though… :blush:

Blessings in Christ,
KindredSoul

To be safe, I’d go to a confession as soon as you can get to a valid priest. God bless you.

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