Teenagers' worried about Confession


Last week I spent the majority of my 8th grade Catechism/Confirmation Prep class reading and discussing and play-acting Luke’s “Parable of the Prodigal Son.”

This facilitated really good discussion afterwards, as Jesus surely intended. :wink: Mercy, forgiveness, parental love, etc and all the way to the confessional (as I hoped it would).

However, I had one girl bring up “but Fr. Simon knows me, I don’t want to tell him. What will he think of me?” That resonated with several in the class because Father serves as chaplain to the athletic/cheer teams and the youth ministry.

Of course I offered an old man’s view (paraphrasing): “don’t worry, he won’t violate the seal of the confessional” and “he’s heard it all” and “God already knows your sin, he just wants you back” etc.

I also said “Fr. Conyers has known me since college (over 37 years). He hasn’t once let on to my shortcomings outside of the confessional. And I don’t disguise my voice when I confess to him. He can offer good advice and guidance because he knows me.”

What other can I offer that are “at their level/in their words” but aren’t watered down or stodgy and yet remain true to the sacrament?



To help your students, have some teen agers who are regular confessors to that priest come in and simply say they confess to Father X. Bring them in over several weeks and not all at once to make a lasting impression.

The other teachers can discreetly poll their students and find out who is making regular regular confessions to this priest. Father is forbidden from telling you since he is bound by the seal of Confession. Pope John Paul the great suppressed an Italian priest’s Confession ability because he publicly discussed a mafia leader who came to Confession and reformed his life.


Take the idea away that they are talking to father. Instead he is the person of Christ. Just as Christ is a friend who loves them, they can talk to the preist in the same way. As good as it feel to tell a friend a secret you have been holding in, the same will be when you give up the the sins you have been holding in.
In this way they can look beyond Fr. Conyers to see the the healing of the sacrament comes from the holy Spirit through him .
Since we understand the world through our senses, it is important that we actually hear the words of forgiveness.
Deacon Frank


i was listening to a jason everts cd where he talked about something a priest he told him. The preist told jason that he thought more of people after confession because he knew thow hard it was.


It seems to me that this is one more reason for anonymous confession. A lot of teenagers and others worry about this. One can try to minimize their fears, but it also helps to have private and anonymous confessions. It also helps if they can go to a priest whom they do not know personally.

A non-Catholic friend once told me about a conversation he had with a different Catholic friend, who was talking about his teenage years, and the topic of confession came up. Seems the guy he was talking to went to confession regularly because it was expected.

“Well, what did you tell him,” asked the non-Catholic buddy.

“Oh, not my real sins–that’s for sure!. I knew him too well!”

Now, thinking about that, it just seemed a tragedy to me that he knew this priest too well to tell him the truth in confession. Apparently he had no chance to confess anonymously.


The easiest way to avoid confessing to a priest you know is to go to another church and confess there. You are absolutely under no obligation to confess to a priest who is the chaplain of your organization or the priest at your church. It can’t be too hard to find another church where you can go instead. It is also always your option to confess anonymously; that is church law.


The penitent must understand that the sacrament is not about him/her but about God and our relationship with Him. Those with a problem are masking their sin of pride.

Reb Levi


We need to emphasize those points over and over and over.

I cannot stress that enough.

Priests are familiar with even the most grotesque sins.

My concern about the clergy is that I wonder sometimes just how up to speed they are with contemporary media and persons with disabilities and scrupulosity.

This may be an issue because I would think adequate spiritual direction requires some knowledge of what goes on.

Not that a priest should habitually watch anti-Catholic or impure programs or be a licensed mental health professional, but I’m not convinced that the Faithful know how the media pushes the boundaries of acceptable content with their little experimental nuances.

I also think the lack of knowledge about mental health issues and scrupulosity is a setback.


If Fr. Simon is ‘cool’ with the kids then maybe he would defer to another priest about hearing their confessions? He could even make an announcement (like recusing himself) to reassure them especially if this is their first time going to confession.

You want to foster good vibes with children not cause them to distrust the Church and Her teachings, especially now-a-days. Sadly, it’s much easier to skip Church and confession and say I don’t need the hassle.



When I worked in our parish’s religious education office we had a way to deal with this problem. We asked priests from neighboring parishes to help out when we had confessions for our students. I assume that our priest helped out at the other parishes too. This way priests who do not know the kids are available as well as our own priest. Another benefit is that the students don’t have to wait so long in line. It goes without saying that there is no better endorsement of confession than for the students to see their parents and teachers in line with them. Thank you for taking on the difficult assignment of teaching youth. Great will be your reward in heaven!


“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players…”

Shakespeare was perceptive beyond most. Quote that line to the class. Don’t ask for discussion as there *is *none. Simply ask them to what audience they are playing. Whose applause do they seek?

Reb Levi


This is a great technique. We have more than one priest in our parish, so people can go to the priest who doesn’t know them as well, but many of our youth wait in line to see the priest who they know the best - he is the youth group chaplain, trains the altar boys, etc.

Our pastor also offers parish missions twice a year and other priests are available then. It can be hard for children who don’t drive (8th graders) to get to a different parish for regular confession. Having the parish bring in different priests a few times a year is a way to help everyone who is uncomfortable confessing to the parish priest.


Thank you for all of the insight and suggestions. Our next class is Sunday, I’ll report back! :slight_smile:


Sorry, I forgot to update, just got a friendly reminder to do so.

Many of the kids had not been to confession in years. Their earlier experiences were all face-to-face confession in a room with a priest, not in a confessional. I was surprised by that, since that’s not typical of our parish. But apparently that’s how the prior DRE arranged it.

On December 14, we’ll have a priest/friend from Loyola University visit so that the class can attend confession in the church. They get to experience the confessional/anonymity with a Priest whose ministry involves college and high school students.


Remember to think of safeguarding, depending on the set-up of your confessional.

Our old parish confessional posed no safeguarding issues: the priest and the penitant were in separate little rooms, joined by the screened window, and everyone had a choice between using that or asking for a face-to-face confession in another room.

Our new confessional, since we refurbished the building, has a screen that you can walk around to sit opposite the priest, who is sat at the back of the room. Perfectly traditional, but unacceptable from a safeguarding point-of-view, so the children cannot confess in there. Instead, they have to find a quiet spot (in line of sight of someone else) and confess face-to-face every time, with music playing to disguise whatever they say.

I’ve been surprised by how many people in the parish do not see the safeguarding issue, but our priest is very on-the-ball so it’s never been a problem. I’m just saying there may be a reason the teenagers have never been able to make an anonymous confession.


You seemed to have much better ideas than many of the posters who followed up… I think that re-assuring them of the seal of the confessional (and explaining what that really means) is the first great step. Many kids don’t understand that it isn’t a struggle for the priest to forget sins attached to those who confess, it is far easier and a grace of the Holy Spirit that priests do not remember sins of individuals. The second great step is to lead by and speak from example, your own as well as someone whom they are familiar with and who is, ideally, closer in age to them. I always used high schoolers to witness and speak to my 7th and 8th graders because they were easy role models. If you can confidently say “I work with/a am friends with/ frequently see Fr. X and he never once has looked down his nose to me or said ‘hey remember that sin,’” that goes a long way in assuring kids that they will be respected in confession.

One warning, I suppose, is not to be dismissive of their fears or the guilt they feel over their sins. I once had a military priest assist with confessions because it was easy to say to the kids “he’s literally heard everything, he was with people who killed for a living.” The problem was, he was too dismissive, often telling them they weren’t sinful. He wasn’t reassuring of their predicament and their openness to confession, he was critical of their self-reflection. Help guide them to priests who know kids and teens, they will be far better confessors usually.

God bless you in your continued ministry of teaching young people. God knows we need well-catechized youth-- they are the future and the present of our Church.


Our confessionals are traditional. The face to face method is performed in a separate room and only when arranged. So somebody made such arrangements specifically in the past when they could have just used the confessional. :confused:


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