Pretty unpleasant confession experience


So many people say “find a new confessor.” I thought confession was the Priest acting in God’s stead to absolve you of your sins? Why are we bringing human traits into confession? Why search for the “nice” priest or the one who fits your personality?

I don’t like going to confession and avoid it simply because of the human element that pervades the whole sacrament. But I do confess my sins to God directly. Yes, that is not the way to do it as a Catholic, but shopping around for the confessor you can relate to also does not seem to be the correct way to confess as well. Just my humble opinion.


All priests get the job done, whether their style be to our taste or not. I don’t think it’s a big deal to look for a confessor who absolves in a comfortable or beneficial way. Some people might spiritually benefit more from a gentle rather than harsh style, or maybe even a more harsh rather than gentle style. I do believe it’s better to “shop around” for a priest rather than not go to confession at all.


I am always surprised when I hear of this experience, and the person doesn’t correct the priest right then and there. I wouldn’t tolerate that for a minute. It is abusive behavior. If a child goes to its parent to apologize for a wrongdoing, and the parent behaves that way…well, I doubt most people would say it was anything less than emotional abuse (or at least rude and mean-spirited). Nothing in the world wrong with saying “Father, I don’t accept or appreciate your negativity and mean-spiritness. If you agree, I would like for us to start over. If you don’t agree, I will leave now and take my confession elsewhere.” Then leave, if he doesn’t correct himself immediately. Forgiveness and prayer for the priest are great. Do those things, too. But don’t allow anyone to beat you up in the confessional. There is way too much wrong with that.


Pray for this guy and all priests. After the latest news, priests are under a lot of stress. I know of several who have said that even going to the grocery store is difficult due to the hostility of other coustomers and staff. So pray for the guy.


With all due respect, this is a very WRONG response to a “law and order” type priest. From what the OP wrote, the priest did not say anything untoward or bad or wrong and he did not give a harsh or unusual penance.

The priest may simply think it’s important to remind people that their sins hurt Jesus very much and they need to stop, in no uncertain terms.

St. Padre Pio, one of the most famous confessors ever, whom people would wait for days to confess to, was often very harsh in the confessional. I hope you would not just assume it was because he was fretting over his own terrible sins (he probably didn’t commit any).


You’re not Catholic. You don’t understand confession. We don’t go in there to talk back to the priest. It is not a counseling session.


Hi Tis Bear self, hopefully I will not try your patience too much here! I am not a Catholic either and I am trying to understand the need to go to a " mere man" (as many say priests actually are) to receive forgiveness from God. As I understand it, it is actually God giving the forgiveness, not the priest. With great interest I too have read above about searching out a priest that makes one feel comfortable. If it is not a counseling session, and one can truly receive forgiveness for his sins by asking God directly, why would one involve a “middle man” that may inflict his human characteristic upon the experience? For the sake of us who do not understand it would be helpful to have explained just what exactly is the purpose of the Confessional ? Thanks.


My second to last confession was a very, very bad experience. Something I would not wish on a dog. I will spare you the details. The one after that was a little better but left so many questions and doubts I have never been back. That was four years ago. I haven’t taken communion, either. Here I come back to the church and I feel stuck in the revolving door; can’t leave, cant go in…no one really there to help you. There is only God. He hears.


I don’t recall having a priest treat me particularly harshly. I confess behind the screen normally where I go now but I remember confessing face to face and a priest I knew gave me a stern look like “what were you thinking?” about a particular sin at the time but if you knew the situation and what I was confessing at the time, it was understandable. Otherwise he wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t stay with him.

Usually my unpleasant experiences would involve a priest cutting me off and trying to rush me through confession because they were in a hurry.

He might have had a bad day. That said I can understand if you wouldn’t want to approach him again, and in such a case if it was really upsetting I’d probably go to a different confessor as well.


You should ask this question in a separate thread if you want to know. That way responders can focus on your question.




At the risk of antagonizing you, have you ever considered the possibility that this experience may have been what you needed?

By your own admission you’ve been confessing the same sins over and over again. So there hasn’t been any improvement, right? You keep committing the same sins, and confessing them.

But confession isn’t supposed to be that kind of repetitive cycle. When it turns into that, that’s a sign you need something else, some sort of spiritual “boost”, to get out of the repetitive behavior. A priest who reminds you that your sins are in fact pretty bad, may be helpful in this kind of situation. And you wrote yourself that you hate the sins you keep confessing, so strictly speaking the priest only agreed with your own assessment of your sins.

And don’t forget that in the end, the priest did give you absolution, so your sins were forgiven. This priest simply did not meet your expectation of the mellow, gentle approach that other priests have taken with you. As said, this may be a healthy change for you.


Hi Wannano, Thank you for your interest in the Catholic faith and also for your patience with my impatience, which is a fault of mine.

First, when the priest is sitting in the confessional, he’s not just some man we’re talking to. He is standing in for Jesus during that time of confession. So we are actually confessing to God as you say.

Second, the priest in this role harks back to Matthew 18:18 when Jesus is giving his disciples the power of binding and loosing sin:

Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.

So, the priest has this power, conferred by Jesus.
We tell the priest our sins.

The priest has the option of asking a couple more questions so he fully understands the situation, to make sure we are truly repentant and are resolved to avoid the sin going forward, although often he doesn’t need to ask questions.

Having made sure we’re repentant, the priest then has the option of giving us a little bit of advice to help us avoid sin going forward or to gain a little bit of spiritual wisdom. Again this is an option, not required.

I would note that “backintheday” a few decades ago you were much more likely to have a priest admonishing you in confession much like the OP noted. it was not uncommon at all. Nowadays in USA priests are generally a lot milder, so one of them being harsh stands out (unless the priest is a member of certain ethnic or nationality groups known to have tougher priests).

Then the priest absolves us using the power given him by Jesus, and we’re done.

Jesus would not have given this power to “mere men” (his disciples) to hear and absolve sins, if He didn’t think we could benefit from having it pass through that channel. You see all the issues people have on this forum about talking to God directly - people are not sure if He’s listening or answering or what He said or sometimes people think God is sending rather odd messages. But when you are talking to a human priest, then there’s much less room for “not hearing anything” or having a misunderstanding. And you have certainty that you were “heard” and responded to.

Now we all have a confession once in a while that goes haywire and the priest really didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength with us, but that is rare. I go to confession about twice a month, usually to a different priest each time as I go to many different churches across several states. I’d say 95 percent of them are good and the priest is helpful and sometimes I get really good guidance that I remember for a long time.

Just my two cents on it, I hope this is helpful to your understanding.


What matters is that your sins have been forgiven.


Actually, it is a counselling session—a spiritual one. God heals through forgiveness, not through harshness.

Every time I go to confession, I marvel at the magnitude of the value of absolution and come out profoundly in awe of how much God loves me. A priest like the one described is undermining that message by introducing a personal layer of judgment on what is otherwise a beautiful reconciliation.


Thanks, I still have questions but don’t want to derail this thread.


Not really, because that’s not the point of the session. Most confessions last about 5 minutes and many priests will tell you that it is not a place to ask for in-depth advice. You make a separate appointment for that.

The point of confession is to focus on your sins and getting you absolved. Not provide a lot of spiritual counseling. If the priest were to do that with everybody, or even with a few people, he would not be able to get all the confessions heard in the allotted time.


Feel free to start another thread. I’m sure others besides me would be happy to chime in.



It’s good that you ask this.
In addition to what Tis_Bearself has said, I would like to add that in John 20: 22-23 Jesus breathed on the apostles and said to them, “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained”.

In terms of why we do this, it is not a case of men simply rationalising things and thinking, “We don’t need to do this, we can just cut out the ‘middle man’ and go straight to Him above”. The resurrected Christ gave this authority to his apostles (the first bishops/priests) and instituted the sacrament. As men we are not in a position to say, “We don’t need what Christ has instituted, we will do what we figure is best”.


As far as I know venial sins are dealt with in Mass, that leaves confession to deal with more serious mortal sins or sins which you feel cannot be easily forgiven, venial sins in effect which you can’t easily forgive yourself for. So confession for me is an unpleasant experience because I judge myself harshly and I’d rather not divulge them to anyone at all! Sometimes after confession I still do not feel as though I’ve forgiven myself but the process has fulfilled the sacrament which is a very important part of being a Catholic.
I don’t think confession should be a walk in the park, I think being reminded that our sins hurt God is a good thing and I believe we should be passive with our priests unless they attempt to cause us to sin. Obedience is apparently looked upon favourably by Our Lord and it’s not difficult to see why.

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