Question about Reconciliation


This morning on my way to work, I was listening to EWTN radio *Sonrise Morning Show *like I often do now. Matt Swaim was talking with a gentleman regarding the Catholic Emangelization effort.

During this discussion he quoted a statistic that floored me. He said something to the effect that only 2 out of 50 Catholic men go to confession/reconciliation at least once a month or something similar to that.

Why is that number so low?

As a protestant, I’ve never experienced the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation before but I would like to do so some day.

Is it a really difficult or painful process? Are penances hard to do?

Some of my CAF friends have said nothing but good things about it and how God cleanses the soul of the penitent person when done with a contrite spirit and honesty.

I would think that more Catholics would want to avail themselves of it so I am confused by that statistic.


Aren’t we all. :shrug:
Men, (and women too) are sometimes full of pride, and are loathe to believe they ought to confess. It’s embarrassing to them. They don’t want to have to “face” the priest on Sunday after Reconciliation on Saturday. I’ve taught in Catholic schools, and one of the hardest things is having students who “get it” and when they discuss it at home, dad says “I’m not going to tell any priest my sins, and that’s it. Subject closed!” These kids come away sad because they desire a good experience for their parents like they just had.
In the past…when I was young, Confession was often repetitive, dull, or if you got a cranky priest, scary. It didn’t ever have to be, but the deterrent element of Confession was huge for some confessors.
While the Sacrament itself has not changed, I believe that confessors have to a degree. My pastor told me that in seminary they train them to be a Lion in the pulpit and a Lamb in the confessional. It doesn’t do any good to scold once people have already decided that they need healing. You don’t go to an oncologist and have him yell at you for smoking. You just get treatment.
For the record, I never have had a priest yell or scold me. But people talk about it, and I imagine it prevents others from going to confession. Fear is the only reason we don’t do something that’s good for us. Maybe a bit of indifference or laziness adds to that. :shrug:
Also, men today view the little time they have at home as precious. They need to mow the lawn, they want to play a round of golf, they have to coach their kids’ Lacrosse team. Mom has a Honey-Do list waiting. they don’t take time to tend to their souls. Their primary worry is others. Everyone needs to worry about he state of their soul. We have an avenue for healing. We should ALL avail ourselves of it. Men AND women. We needn’t be afraid.
just my 2 cents…I’m sure others have more learned responses.
Good to see you, Tommy, God bless.


It’s difficult to answer that definitively. IMO catholics are generally self satisfied and don’t think they sin that much, although I at least hear many pleas from our priests that more should attend confession. In fact, the last time I went before I left the priest asked me to pray more parishioners go to confession.


I would also want to know where that “2 out of 50” number came from. Does it include all the Catholic men who also rarely go to Mass and are essentially non-practicing? I guess I’m part of a rare breed - I go to confession every week.


I’m guessing that the low number of men at confession can be summed-up in St. Augustine’s words “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet…”


I shoot for confession monthly, but with life happening it ends up being closer to every 6 weeks-2 months, sometimes more. And I’m making a concerted effort to go regularly! I have had a couple priests who have been stern with me, and I am sensitive so those experiences were hard, but in hindsight they were exactly what I needed. Usually the priest is very kind, gives good advice, and very reasonable penances (sometimes TOO reasonable. ;))

Is monthly considered the “ideal?” I think people can definitely benefit from frequent confession, and if in mortal sin absolutely we should head to confession as soon as possible. But “not going every month” does not at all mean a person is a bad Catholic or is somehow not in good standing with the Church (after all, a person is only required to confess and receive communion once a year - more is great, of course, but I think we need to be wary of setting the bar higher than what the Church does and judging others by our own standards.)

I am more concerned about the large numbers of Catholics who NEVER go to confession, than those who make an effort to do at least what the Church asks or more, but may not get the frequency that others do.


Reconciliation is not (or at least should not be) a difficult or painful process. You have the choice to confess behind a screen or face-to-face. (Some newer confessionals are set up so that there is a screen or banner beside the priest with a kneeler next to it, and a chair across from the priest so that you have both choices available. Most of the older ones still have a screen.) A caring, sensitive priest will recognize that a big lecture is not likely to be helpful. The primary requirements for a good confession are that the penitent carefully examine his/her conscience and be truly sorry for his/her sins, with a sincere desire not to sin again. Some people also use this time to seek spiritual direction, especially if they always confess to the same priest. Penances usually consist of prayers, Scripture readings, or good works to do - simple things such as doing something nice for your family or someone you have wronged. It is intended to help you demonstrate to the community that you are truly sorry for your sins.

I could imagine that a lot of people do not go to frequent confession for two reasons:

  1. It’s not their favourite thing to do (admittedly it’s not mine, either), and

  2. Lack of availability. However, this latter can be circumvented by booking a private appointment with your pastor for confession.


Thanks for all the replies so far. It helps put things in better perspective.

Since the discussion on EWTN focused on Catholic men, they didn’t mention the percentage of Catholic women who went to confession, but it was implied that it was more frequent than men.

I have a possible additional theory of why the number is so low, but I may be wrong.

Perhaps someone has a recurring sin that they can’t seem to shake. They have confessed the sin over and over again but can’t seem to stop – an addictive behavior of some kind that they want to stop but can’t seem to do so.

Maybe they feel helpless or are depressed and embarrassed to return to confess the same sin time and time again to the same priest who heard their previous confessions. I assume that could be a deterrent for some to go back to confession. Just a thought.

Or course, a more dangerous reason for not going to Reconciliation could be that the person isn’t truly repentant of their sins. I hope and pray that isn’t the case very often.

Just thinking out loud here. Perhaps those are non-factors but I could see how they could be factors for some men.

However, the biggest potential benefit in going for me, besides receiving absolution for sins, would be the accountability aspect that could potentially instill more discipline in the spiritual life of the penitent, along with godly counseling from a man of God.

Thanks again, everyone. :tiphat:


Some people can’t go to monthly confession. For me personally and for others weekly or even monthly confession may exacerbate their scrupulosity.



I’m thinkin you have a better understanding of Confession than many Catholics do. Now if you could just love the thought of Holy Communion, (receiving the true Body and Blood of Our Lord, 6th Chapter of John and the Last Supper account), You might seriously consider becoming a Catholic! If I were you, I would talk to a priest about it. We usually have fairly nice confession lines here and the ratio is about even. God Bless, Memaw


One of the things I noticed in my life has been the change in the habit of going to a Saturday confession. It used to be a regular act for many Catholics. The confusions of Vatican II helped break the old habit.

The reasons that we cite are all interesting and contain some truth, but the fact is we do not make it a habit anymore…and it’s my opinion that we need to make it a habit again. Many priests feel like the Maytag repairman: where is everybody? Is anybody sinning anymore? Is anyone contrite for their sins? Does anyone know how to make a confession? Does anyone teach about this Sacrament anymore? Does anyone know the value and graces of this Sacrament?


I don’t think Vatican II has anything to do with it. It’s our secular thought seeping into everything we do.
Catholics have come to think that anything remotely spiritual makes them a religious nut, politically incorrect, and subject to ridicule. They media is forever feeding us that certain things that are clearly sinful, are no big deal.
Also, since the 60’s men have had to work more, longer hours, and commute longer distances. All of this contributes to the tendency to not budget time for church in any form…Mass OR Reconciliation. Notice the dwindling numbers on Holy Days of Obligation.
Notice the vast amount of people who only come to church on Christmas and Easter. More of a social/family obligation than faith.
People are missing out. I for one, publish good articles in the bulletin addressing this.
But who reads the bulletin anymore either?


My own personal opinion is that people do not want to take an honest look at themselves, which is something you MUST do before confessing your sins. I know in my case I had an image of myself that was totally false. We can get into a comfort zone, where we know our life is not what it should be, but to examine ourselves and go to Confession, would mean that afterwards, if we were being truly penitent, would involve a radical change in our life.

In my case this involved realizing that reception of Holy Communion, while in a state of mortal sin, was detrimental to my soul. As an example, I used to think it was no big deal to occasionally miss Mass when it didn’t fit my schedule (it’s amazing how occasionally became frequently).

It is unbelievable how one good Confession can change your life. Have I slipped up? Yes. But hunger to be in a state of Grace, so that I may receive the Eucharist, is a truly powerful magnet.

I tried doing things my way for almost 30 years after high school, and ended up spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. The Church in her wisdom is right. Frequent reception of the sacraments cannot help but change your life for the better.


Beautifully stated, thanks!:thumbsup:


:thumbsup: this^

My mother attended Mass every morning for nigh on 30 years, and I used to think she was a religious nut. Now I am starting to go more frequently and people think I am nuts. They like the changes I have made to my life, they just don’t want to attribute it to my taking my faith more seriously. For them to recognize this would cause them to take a deeper look at themselves, and that is something they are not ready to do.


Read my words again, please. Vatican II is not at fault, but all of the “confusions” of that era helped break it down: the priests that said that a communal penance would wipe out the need for the confessional, the families that bought that line of ___and stopped the family habit of going, the churches that started using confessionals as storage closets and did/do not post regular times for confession…this did not happen in the 1930s, 40s, or 50s; it happened in the 60s as the Vatican II changes began. I do not blame Vatican II. I blame the opportunists and the ignorant who allowed this confusion to break down an important Sacrament.

It is a good thing to educate people in the bulletin (as you do) or in religious education (as I do), but we might do well to simply ask: how can we help create a habit of going to Confession amongst fellow Catholics?


I’m not sure. Maybe more homilies addressing this?
More adult Ed/ As a DRE, we can’t get many people in the 'burbs to come out for classes. It’s always the same retirees who populate continuing ed. People who don’t have to be somewhere in the morning with a long commute to go with it.

Funny though. None of the abuses you mention have ever occurred in my various parishes. I think that if someone has a wacky parish, then they have wacky parish.
It contributes to lack of solid catechesis, but I think the way our lives have been re-structured in last 15 years is more telling. People just don’t believe that they sin that often. I had a woman say to me (during the process of instructing her child for First Reconciliation):

I think it’s wonderful that you people teach the children about this. Me myself, I don’t go to confession. I don’t feel it’s necessary for me, as an adult. What would I say?" Besides, I don’t think God gets upset if we miss Mass, or yell at our husbands once in a while. I don’t think it’s a sin at all. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect "
There’s a lot to address in that statement. She was having her child receive Reconciliation and First Communion because that’s what you do in 2nd grade. And grandma would be upset if she didn’t. :shrug:

Amazing. Sad. True. :o


Yes, I know it well. I usually remind them that they don’t call Reconciliation a sacrament casually. Going to confession has graces and protections we may not even be aware of. And it’s good for the soul.

I also mention setting good examples and building healthy consciences in our kids. I find that the Catholics who keep such a distance are often the ones who are wrapped up in guilt, false guilt or real guilt. How can their children get it together on their own without a good formation of conscience?


First of all, I have no idea how accurate this statistic is, because I have no idea what the source for it is. Perhaps the statistic comes from Matthew James Christoff, but if it does, he’s elsewhere claimed that it’s ONE in fifty Catholic men who go to Confession at least monthly.

In an interview with Cardinal Burke, Mr. Christoff punted this very question to His Emminence, who replied:

Until men understand that there is Sin, and what Sin is, and that Sin offends God gravely, they will not go to Confession. Men need to have an encounter with God, with our Lord in the Sacrament of Penance to confess their Sins, express their sorrow, and receive His forgiveness.

Men are not going to Confession today because there has been a denial of Sin. There was a period after Vatican II where many were promoting the idea that there weren’t any serious sins.

Of course, this is lethal for men, especially young men. Young men may begin to engage in the sexual sin of masturbation. Men have told me that when they were teenagers, they confessed the sin of masturbation in the confessional and priests would say, “Oh, that’s nothing you should be confessing. Everybody does that.” That’s wrong.

These are sinful acts. They need to be confessed along with other types of sins, whether the sins are foul language, lying, stealing, or whatever it might be. The denial of sin was a breakdown in the sense of what is demanded of men as men of Christ.

Confronting sin is central to being able to love one another. How does a man love? He loves by obeying the Ten Commandments. After Vatican II, that great call to love by confronting sin was lost, leading to the most horrible abuses of individuals, abusing themselves or others, the break down of family life, a precipitous drop in Mass attendance and the abandonment of the Sacrament of Penance. We must restore the sense of sin to men, for men to recognize their sins and express deep sorrow for their sins.

When this happens, Confession becomes a mysteriously beautiful experience for a man. For a man can know with certainty that he has personally expressed his sorrow for his sins to God, he can hear the freeing words of God through His minister and that his sins are forgiven and absolved.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit