What exactly is an Elder?

Catholicism is a big tent. You might not find a single answer on this. I know when I was living in the Dominican Republic, face to face confession was the only way it was done… my priest told me he was unaware of any parishes that accommodated private confession booths in the country…
I usually confessed to him either in a pew in the back of the cathedral, or in his private courtyard on the cathedral grounds. He would put on his stole and certainly gave very extensive personal advice.


The celebration of confession, done well, takes time. Given the fixed number of hours in a day, a priest must prioritize his duties. Depending on the circumstances, the “duties” ought to be shared when they can be shared. Some priests are very concerned for the spiritual growth of their parishioners - others may be more concerned with friendliness and welcoming new visitors and potential new members, etc. etc, maintenance of the property and grounds, new furnishings, staff meetings, etc.

I think serious priest time ought to be devoted to the interior life of the parishioners - the life of grace they are living.

@Tis_Bearself @twf and @fide thank you for your responses. Something to consider. :wink:

I respectfully disagree with the esteemed Tis_Bearself on this one…I don’t think the reality on the ground, in so many larger parishes, is the ideal. Every Catholic soul is entrusted to the care of his local pastor. To truly do his job well, he needs to truly know his flock. But its not necessarily realistic when a single priest is looking after thousands of souls (not the case in all places obviously, but it is in some). So we have to do what we can to get by.

I was spoiled (blessed). When I first joined the Church, at the age of 18, I was living in a small town. The priest met with me one on one every week for about a year before I was formally received into the Church / confirmed. I think that’s the ideal…but its not always realistic.


And there are times, as with the Orthodox, where a Catholic person’s spiritual director or advisor may not be a priest and so may not be able to offer sacramental confession and absolution in any case.

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Just for the record, in Orthodoxy it’s possible to get a blessing to confess to a non-priest, and then the priest says only absolution later. A woman I know confesses to an elder nun, and the priest gives absolution after. Saint Paisios (a non-priest monk) also heard confessions with a priest on standby to give absolution.

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In his conversion testimony, Fr Corapi described a moment when he regretted his life of sin, away from the sacraments. So he described going to Confession but not to the regular parish Confession time. He went to a shrine, where his Confession covered everything, taking a full hour. But in later months he likely did go to the regular parish Confession time.

We have different needs at different times.

We also are different people. Some Catholics would never go Confession face to face. Some don’t want (not yet, anyway) an in depth spiritual direction. Should the Church turn them away?

There are also reports from Eastern Europe of (irregular though it may be) priest’s wife confessing either to the “other” priest (orthodox/catholic) or by telephone to another priest of their own chruch, and then being absolved by their own husbands . . .

I always hear this, but I haven’t experienced it. A couple of weeks ago, I needed to go to confession and I wasn’t able to get together with my regular Confessor (an Eastern Catholic priest). I started out at a local Parish that has confessions on Thursday evening. I arrived about 30 minutes into the time frame, but there were over 40 people still in the line, which, with social distancing stretched out the door. Somebody was stationed at the end of the line letting people know that Father had an appointment right after the confession times we’re supposed to end and wouldn’t be able to extend the time, as he usually does. I tried again on Friday morning at a local parish it has confessions for 30 minutes before the 8 a.m. Mass. There were only 9 people in line when I arrived, but the priest was not able to get to everybody in the short time that he had. I tried again at that same parish on Saturday afternoon, but once again arrived too late, with too long a line. Now I know that I need to arrive sometime before the allotted time actually begins in order to get and at either of these parishes. I ended up making an appointment with my regular Confessor, who gave almost an hour of his time. It wasn’t planned that way, it just kind of worked out. Today I was at the FSSP parish, which has confessions daily. The line was out the door. The volume was greater today because it is a first Friday, but there are almost always 10 to 15 people in line.

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I certainly prefer to be Eastern approach to confession, but I don’t think that it could be said that exclusively anonymous confessions are spiritually unhelpful. First and foremost, the grace of God is present and that is certainly of spiritual benefit. The penitent still examines his or her conscience and articulates his or her sins to a priest. How can this fail to be of spiritual benefit? I have learned over many threads here on this forum that many people find it easier to remain focused on on God when they cannot see the priest, even if they are known to the priest. I find a screen in confession be a distraction, but not everybody experiences it the same way. If it helps them focus on God and helps them to make a better confession, is that not of great spiritual benefit?


Thank you for the input. Honestly, I remain skeptical - St. Hesychios the Priest said that “The science of sciences and the art of arts is the mastery of evil thoughts”, which is difficult to do when a random priest doesn’t know anything about me except that I “lost my temper” (or whatever I happen to say to him when I confess anonymously). He could give me some blanket advice that covers all situations of wrath but wouldn’t be able to delve into my personal situation. This is the same reason why we not only confess face to face, but also confess to the same priest who knows us, and not the pastor two towns over. (But I’m no theologian)

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