What is wrong with face to face Confessions?

I consider myself to be an extremely orthodox Catholic with traditional leanings and a strong opponent of the modernist and liberal movement in the Church.

I just read something from the SSPX website that seems to condemn face to face Confessions.

Anyone care to explain why it matters if the priest is behind a translucent screen or not? I can’t think of any reason except for the fact that it may bring the actual confessional into disuse and the confessional is an icon of Catholic tradition.

Please do not write how no one goes to Confession any more and it is the fault of liberal priests. That isn’t what I am asking.

Anyone have any documentation of why Confession has to be in a confessional?

Mate I don’t think the SSPX has ever said that confession has to be in a confessional. I have often confessed to SSPX priests outside the confessional - in the sacristy, or on the road, “face to face” on a pilgrammage.

What they would be against is the whole “meet up for a chat about your little issues, we’ll have a cuppa tea, and if I remember to, then I’ll wave an absolution over you at the end” type confession which has become the norm in some areas.

I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say that there is anything intrinsically wrong with face to face confession, but this business of gutting confessionals, as happened in my parish, or completely removing them, which happened in others, seemed to be part of a wider rejection of the traditional practice of the Church.

The people who wanted to have confessions outside the confessionals could have done that without destroying what other people built!

The elimination of the privacy that the traditional confessionals provided does not seem to have done anything to encourage more confessions.

As I have said, being an Eastern Christian, I’m used to face-to-face confessions.

The one time I went to a Latin priest and the booth was used was NOT an emotionally satisfactory experience. I guess because I’m not used to it.

The screen/booth should not be taken away from people who are used to it or prefer it, though even before Vatican 2, confessions were heard by people on their sickbeds or deathbeds face to face.

I personally find confession much easier if it is not face to face.

If I had serious issues to deal with, then outside of the confessional and face to face would be helpful.


I prefer face to face Confessions. Although, the most moving Confession I ever experienced was behind the screen.

The church I currently attend (which is a Cathedral) has confessionals, but they are unused. Instead, there are two rooms in the lower Chapel with dividers that are used for Confessions. The recipient can walk around the divider, or stay behind it. This system probably results in an increase in privacy since the doors are extremely heavy, the confessions take place farther back in the room, and the waiting line is a while away. As opposed to the confessional in the upper church which is right next to the back pew.

All of the Sacraments serve both spiritual purposes, but also natural purposes. I have always thought of Confession to be the Sacrament that is the most important to a healthy and well functioning life with respect to the Natural Law. It’s a shame more people don’t take advantage of it.

There is nothing wrong with the option for face-to-face confessions-- and I’m sure that any SSPX priest will agree that they are appropriate to many different kinds of contexts. But the normative way for Latin Rite Catholics to go to Confession is with a screen. Further, it is my right as a Catholic to anonymous Confession, but that right is denied to me in many parishes that have gotten rid of proper confessionals.

Confession is not a counseling session. If you want counciling, make an appointment with the priest. That counciling session might even include confession. But confession is also a businesslike practice: give a sin and a quantity, get your absolution and go. You’re holding up the line.

Funny; I recently had one of my first face-to-face confessions in quite a while and the experience was scary- I was 100x as nervous! I guess it’s what you are used to.

I doubt that there would be, since I think it’s a reasonably well-known fact that they didn’t have Confessionals in the early Church.

Confession is confession. The Church has always allowed face-to-face, for example: deathbeds, battlefields.
As has been noted, the Sacrament of Confession is normal in the Eastern Rites.

I’m sure it was a 1,000 miles from your mind to imply this, but I’m very uncomfortable with any sacrament being described to the world on the internet as a “businesslike practice.”

Grace is not a commodity to be handed out on an assembly line, nor is absolution. Implying that we have some right to be impatient with our confessor or the other penitents if they take what we think it too long: well, IMHO, that gives the wrong impression. This way of putting it obscures the utter poverty with which we ought to approach the Sacrament of Penance.

Beggars can’t be choosers. It is appropriate to approach the Throne of Mercy as a fellow beggar. If healing someone else takes more time than what happens to be convenient for us, then so be it. Let them have all the time they need. It isn’t such a great penance to have to wait.

I’m sure you were just talking about considering our own use of the sacrament, that we should not make it into something it is not intended to be and should be considerate of others and their time. I agree totally. I hope you see what I mean, though: we must make certain that we don’t give the wrong impression when we talk about correct and incorrect uses of the sacrament, so as not to imply a sense of entitlement which we don’t espouse.

As I think you can have gathered by now, nothing states that the sacrament must take place in a confessional. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about face-to-face, but the anonymity provided by the screen has pastoral benefits for both penitent and priest.

The penitent, thanks to his anonymity, is more likely to a) show up to begin with and b) be fully honest about his sins, something necessary for the forgiveness of mortal sin - the class of sin about which we should be most embarrassed.

The priest, on the other hand, has a big challenge to face because not only can he not reveal the knowledge he acquires during celebration of the sacrament, he can’t even act on it. I can imagine the greater anonymity of a screen making this far easier to do. There may be other benefits that accrue to either party beyond these, but they are the first ones that came to mind.

Because the Church thinks these goods are important pastoral goods, she gives both parties to the sacrament a right to a screen and mandates that, within the Latin church, confession is not to take place outside a confessional “without a just cause.”

My response will be a combination of what I have been told and come to believe. I think that both are in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

** First**

My first entry into confession (after having been prepared in Catechism classes) was into a darkened confessional where you knelt down on a hard wooden kneeler. I then picked up the Crucifix as per instructions and kissed the feet of Jesus in a taught but hopefully to become a sincere act of gratitude for His sacrifice for my sins.  Now I awaited my turn for the barrier blocking my side of the confessional from the priest to be raised that I might confess to Jesus, through the priest, all my sins, numbered and listed as to whether mortal or venial, alone or with others and how often committed.  I had prepared for this confession by having been sent by my mother to a quiet part of our house the day before with instructions to ask the Holy Ghost to help me remember and identify my sins or both commission and omission.  I was instructed to use the provided printed examination of conscience to help me as well.  Filled with the confidence of a youngster I awaited my turn confident in God's forgiveness and wondering if the priest would sound any different in the confessional with Jesus speaking through him.

After having said Bless me Father for I have sinned, this is my first confession and these are the sins I have committed for which I am truly sorry. Then followed the recital of the memorized list of my sins. I forget whether the priest made any comment on any of my transgressions or not but then I was asked to recite the Act of Contrition following which I received my penance and absolution.
All in all it was a good experience and after confession and the initial embarrassment of having to tell someone what I had done that I was not proud of, I felt relieved to be back in God’s good graces again. That I presume was due to the fact that I had been given a thorough enough preparation for an adequate juvenile participation in the Sacrament of Confession
I have heard stories of others who were not quite so well prepared. One involved a priest who opened the divider to come face to face with a pair of sneakers as the young boy was trying valiantly to keep his balance as he stood on the little ledge provided for the confessors to place their hands and upon which the Crucifix rested. When the priest spoke so as to get the boy’s attention and to instruct him on how to properly use the confessional he was asked by the young penitent, "Is that you God?"
I doubt that I was ever given the understandings at that time that I have absorbed as ‘true’ and relevant to me today.
The first symbolism of the isolation one experiences is that it helps to reinforce the recognition that salvation is performed one person at a time and that Christians are not scooped up in bunches in a vast net like a trawler catches fish.
The isolation and darkness reminds one of how sin darkens our souls, stopping the light of our Baptism from shining forth as a light unto the Feet of God and as a beacon for others as it isolates us from the protection of the Body of the Church even as it limits the help we will accept from God.
The isolation from the priest from the penitent point of view reinforces the fact that there will be no human intercessor for those who have died in unconfessed, unrepented, mortal sin for we, through sin, have hardened our hearts and rejected the help that God would wish to provide.
The light, dim as it may be when the priest opens the divider, relieves the oppression that it is natural to feel in such cramped uncomfortable quarters and, in my experience, psychologically lifts the spirit as the promise of hope through forgiveness seems suddenly nearer.
The priest’s body language as he leans closer to the barrier, which symbolically reinforces the fact that sin has created a separation in our relationship with God, to allow the penitent sinner to confess in as low a voice as possible, encourages me. It encourages me to remember that it is Jesus to whom I am confessing and that He is encouraging me to acknowledge to Him my sins, which He already knows, that I might then ask sincerely for His forgiveness which He is anxious to give me.
The darkened, isolated process which involves my acknowledging that I am not worthy of receiving salvation for the deliberate unloving acts of thought and deed omission and commission because I have been unloving to Our God who has never been unloving in any way to me, brings true dread to my soul for the loss of the light and love of Heaven that sin would bring to me. But when this darkness is combined with the light and love mentioned above from the priest’s side reinforces my hope and trust in my personal Salvation.
I agree with the fact as stated in the Latin Rite that unless it is impossible to conduct confession in this manner that this be the method of choice.

Dangers of other forms of confession:
There is the real possibility of the lack of the recognition of the real separation that sin places between the sinner and his relationship with God.
There is the danger of confessor and penitent forming a conspiratorial bond that could lead to the minimizing of the seriousness of the confessed sins and a failure to realize that our sin does not in any way affect nor minimize God’s love but it does minimize and affect our ability to seek or receive God’s love.
There is the danger of personal interaction not allowing the Holy Spirit to act fully, without distraction, either in the priest or the sinner.
There is the danger of a person not developing a personal one on one relationship with God that the Sacraments, used properly as personal gifts from God to you, even as you fully recognize the importance of the priest in the provision of those Sacraments, will do

I am sorry that I did not see your reply until now, hopefully you’ll check back and see a continued conversation! :slight_smile:

Perhaps my opinion is a bit… colored. But the truth is that frequent and earnest confession is a bit of a businesslike practice. That presumes that a person has made a good examination of conscience and is well-disposed to receiving God’s graces already.

I guess that I just don’t get that “skippin’ and singin’” feeling that so many people talk about if they’re new to the sacrament or if they haven’t had a part in a while. But really, practicing Catholicism isn’t about your feelings. It’s great to have the skippin’ and singin’ feeling, but I live my life for Almighty God, not for the little buzzes I get out of dropping a couple bucks in the second-collection basket.

I think that people overplay that little buzz, they think that the way they practice the Faith is proven in the surges they feel in life. I don’t want to discredit those surges! But know that God also presents us the Dark Nights of the Senses-- little reminders to live for Him, not for the feelings.

So here’s the brutal truth: when you go to receive communion, do you get the buzz every time? Do you actively feel God’s grace EVERY time you receive Him in communion? Maybe so and good for you. But I do not always feel the grace. I still trust in Him and the power of His amazing grace-- but sometimes it’s just a businesslike practice to the well-disposed Catholic. I just get in line and receive the Blessed Sacrament accordingly.

Confession is like that. It doesn’t have to go 30 minutes and I don’t have to weep a little to be a heartfelt confession. In fact, I’d say those people could probably best benefit from making an appointment time with Father who can give a little counseling and a nice face-to-face confession. But if it’s 4:25 on a Saturday (IMHO, the worst time possible for Confession is Saturday afternoons) and Father’s got to corral the altar girls and set the table for 5:00 Mass before the band starts cranking up the pre-show renditions of “Gather Us In” in the six-part round… well, Confession turns into a very businesslike activity. You’re hogging the booth, please move along thankyouverymuch. :smiley:

I don’t want to confess my sins to a man I’ll have to look in the face later. More booths, please, and make them as anonymous as possible.

I believe that this quote answers at least your last question

Can. 964 §1 The proper place for hearing sacramental confessions is a church or oratory.

§2 As far as the confessional is concerned, norms are to be issued by the Episcopal Conference, with the proviso however that confessionals, which the faithful who so wish may freely use, are located in an open place, and fitted with a fixed grille between the penitent and the confessor.

§3 Except for a just reason, confessions are not to be heard elsewhere than in a confessional.

I usually go in to confession in an office. I have this thing against the box based on a really bad experience that scarred me for a long time against even going to confession. I would say that is a good reason not to go in one.


§3 Except for a just reason, confessions are not to be heard elsewhere than in a confessional. [/INDENT]

I prefer to confess by the traditional way in a confessional.
But would like to ask you how it could be possible for
a deaf person to confess there?
For myself , I always feel uncomfortable by face to
face confession, even when I put myself in the sacred
ambiance of the presence of Jesus , and I can’t explain
why.( Just a feeling).:confused:

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