Should parishes consider eliminating face-to-face confessions?


At a shrine church where I have visited, the only option for confession is behind the screen, and the confessionals are designed in the old-fashioned way with separate doors for priest and penitent and a complete divider between the two sides.

I have often wondered why more churches don’t consider returning to this type of confessional design and eliminating, or mostly eliminating, face-to-face confessions. In the wake of the most recent scandals especially, I think it would be wise. Not because we don’t trust our priests (I do and I think most Catholics still do) but to 1) protect priests from a potential source of false accusations, especially when it comes to the confessions of minors, and 2) to prevent laws like the one in Australia that attempts to erode the seal of confession.



I think this is a step that will have to be strongly considered, especially in light of the attempts in countries like Australia to pass laws mandating that priests break the seal of confession in certain circumstances. Even if it means heavily renovating certain churches it may be better than the alternative which is leaving priests open to legal jeopardy.


Many churches haveput windows in the priest’s confessional door.


Which is a terrible idea. I would not go to Confession if someone can gawk at me.


No no. I have only been in churches where just the priest is visible not the penitent.


I could never understand anyway why some parishes got rid of their confessionals and replaced them with “Reconciliation Rooms.” Who thought that was a good idea? 1) Traditional confessionals are both completely private and out in the open so that you can see who is going in and coming out; 2) they have the advantages mentioned above of preserving anonymity and physically dividing priest and penitent; and 3) they are easy to find and are a visible reminder of the forgiveness offered in Christ. “Reconcilation Rooms” more often than not are tucked away and difficult to find if you are not familiar with the church.


There is value in confessing face to face.

I don’t think it makes false accusations any less likely.

Don’t see it helping with this. The priest have to be willing to go to jail instead of breaking the seal. Giving scraps to the dogs that are attacking the sacrament of confession will not satisfy the dogs but only make them more determined.

The church has to be up front and honest about all future cases of abuse and publish the past offenses, then maybe we can regain trust.


I understand that some people prefer it and I respect that. But is it really worth it, given the many issues and potential issues with the practice, and considering that confession is still valid either way?

At least it would completely eliminate one source of potential accusations. No one could say that anyone touched them improperly in the confessional if it is not physically possible.

Yes, and I believe that priests would absolutely go to jail rather than break the seal. But if confessions were always behind a screen, then there would be no point in the civil authorities making these types of laws because priests would not know (at least with certainty) who is confessing to them.

Agree. But what does that have to do with the confession question?


Get a confessional like this:…0…1c.1.64.img…5.16.1488.0…0j35i39k1j0i67k1j0i10i24k1j0i30k1j0i8i30k1j0i24k1.0.cU7K6_iiHVM#imgrc=Egp_Urza4TQxtM:

You could even put plexiglass cover with holes so they can hear each other. It’s a win win, because everyone who is confessing, whether face to face or via the screen, can be seen, and the priest can be seen.


No. That is my answer but I need extra characters.


My local parish has the option for face-to-face or behind the screen… I’ve taken advantage of both and like both… Heck I’ve even gone through confession just sitting in a pew with our Priest with lots of people waiting in line but not within hearing distance. I didn’t mind that either.


I don’t really want to be seen while confessing. I don’t think most people do, especially if you have a tendency to sometimes get emotional while confessing.

(Actually, I am going back to edit my answer after I saw the pictures that these wouldn’t be the worst thing. But you would really need something to soundproof them if they are in a smaller church or an echoey one.)


Well people want to confess face to face.


I don’t know. There is something about a pastor looking you in the eyes and saying, “As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I forgive you of ALL your sins.”


My parish put in new confessionals about ten years ago in connection with a remodeling. They are just as you described—like the old fashioned ones, except larger and well lighted. Priest and penitent are physically separated with a grille and curtain between them. No windows. It seems to work well, and confessions go faster. My experience with face to face, for example at the altar rail or in the pews, is that it is never actually face to face, as the priest is always looking down.


Maybe you are in a different rite? I have never heard this. (Latin rite prayer of absolution: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.” Which I think is so beautiful.)

I am fine with hearing it; I have never felt that I am missing anything by not being able to see the priest or have him see me. But everyone is different.


The Orthodox (and maybe Eastern Catholics too) confess in front of the church (out of earshot of anyone else) looking at an icon of Christ, with the priest beside him. Maybe something like that would be a good option for those who wish to continue a more face-to-face style of confession? At least that way it is out in the open and not in a room behind a closed door. (Although I don’t know how practical that would be for Latin rite Catholics when there is only one priest hearing confessions, because the option of anonymity in confession is supposed to be always offered.)


Face to face? Yes!

I have read the report. I believed that may have happened once. What was more frequent is the priest ask the kid to see him afterward. We need to educate our children. A lot of this when on because people trusted too much in the goodness of the priest.
[/quote=“EnglishTeacher, post:8, topic:505361”]
because priests would not know (at least with certainty) who is confessing to them.
Maybe, but lawyers would find a way. Did you hear Fr. so in so’s confession? I can’t answer that. You will be held in contempt of court!

If we want to stem off attacks from civil authorities, we, the church, have to handle future cases properly and come clean on the past history of secrecy to gain the people’s trust. Then, they will not support such laws.


Refusing to answer could be contempt of court. Honestly answering that you don’t know is not. :slight_smile:


I know a parish where the entire confessional is a clear plexiglass box. Just sitting there with two chairs inside. If I lived there I would drive 100 miles to avoid such a display!

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