When Confession isn't so great


I too had a priest years ago who said pretty much the same thing every confession. He was a good priest and a generally nice guy. But I find it more helpful to get different perspectives, especially when I tend to commit the same venial sins repeatedly.


Yeah I tend to go to the same chapel that is not my normal Sunday mass church and the same two priest usually hear my confession ones a older guy and the other is a younger guy. It helps when its not your normal Sunday mass parish for me at least so I dont have to worry about talking to the priest outside of the confessional.


Archbishop Fulton Sheen said something about how hearing nuns confess their sins is like being stoned to death with popcorn. I would like to know what he would say to them.


I have had that experience, too. The council just seems to miss the mark, and for the most part, like you, my confessor usually has something useful, at least in part, to say.

The rare occasion that it doesn’t seem to “fit”, I just take to prayer, ask God to reveal to mean that which is meaningful in case I have missed it, or, if it really is just “off”, give me the grace not to worry about it.

Priests, after all, are human, even in the confessional


Every other once in a while I get an advice that is scary-spot-on.
Most of the time I get a rather generic advice.
On those occasions where the advice seems to be from left field and totally doesn’t resonate I shrug it off as “that’s how the cookie crumbles”.
I take my graces and run :slightly_smiling_face:


Just like how every once in awhile the homily seems to have been written specifically for you and your current situation/struggles


Every instance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when it results in absolution, is a great experience.

I think it’s a matter of mind-set and approach. Confession isn’t meant to be a therapy or spiritual counseling session. It’s meant to be an opportunity to have your sins forgiven and to receive God’s grace. This happens every time you go and hear ‘I absolve you…’

It’s a good thing when it’s also a chance to receive spiritual counseling. But, in those instances when it’s not…? I think my advice would be to shrug and think, “God just forgave my sins. EPIC WIN!” and trust that, in other future encounters, you might also receive good advice. But, don’t look down on a five-star meal, just because the after-dinner coffee was lukewarm. :wink: :heart:


One thing I’ve always liked about St. Teresa of Avila is her many complaints in her autobiography and other writings about her confessors–that they were uneducated, gave innocuous or poor advice, and/or otherwise just didn’t “get” her and the direction she knew she was being called. When I was first studying Teresa’s writings I was kind of amazed about these complaints as they didn’t correspond with the sweet, docile saintliness I was expecting from a great saint! However they’ve helped me a LOT in the many times I have perfunctory, bored, or otherwise “poor” confessors. I think we often go in too often with a lot of expectations–after all, we are meeting Christ Himself!–and thus come away disappointed or as empty feeling as when we went in.
I guess if I were you I would keep in mind that Catholicism does NOT rely on feelings at all, and that no matter how let down or misunderstood we are if we’ve confessed, are sincerely repentant, and have received absolution we are completely forgiven by the good God and need to thank Him with great joy. If we’ve been humiliated or misunderstood, it is a suffering we can offer to God and then forget about it and move on. When God wishes to send consolation rather than desolation He will do so at the right moment. Meanwhile, desolation can be a great opportunity to grow in faith, hope, and charity.


St Theresa says that she’d rather have an educated spiritual director than a holy one. That gives me hope. Educated I can do and already have. Holy… Well… Check back later…


Have had some very bad experiences with confession… but most of them have been very healing. It really helps me to go to the same priest who knows me, and, if I know I’m going to be a few minutes, to go early.

One thing not to do is to give up.

One time I had a bad experience, and before I started going to confession at another parish, I went to adoration and told God all about the experience. I was crying at that point but after a few minutes felt much better.

Lately I’ve been having troubles with apathy and anxiety, so I don’t know how much help this is.

Sorry I’m not much help.


LOl I’m still searching for my own personal “ah-ha!” moment.
You know, the one that Changes Everything Forever.


Crenfro, you are helpful, don’t sell yourself short.

It’s good for me to just know other people have had similar experiences. I have a tendency to blame myself and think I must have done my confession wrong somehow, or I’m too stupid to understand the priest’s advice. My rational mind is saying “calm down, it’s no one’s fault, you and the priest are human” but my emotional mind is saying “this happens because you are bad at confession and stupid.” But when other people say they had something similar, then I know better that it’s just kind of normal.

I will pray for you and your apathy and anxiety to get better.


Teresa of Avila is one of my favorites also. She is so contemporary, even though she lived hundreds of years ago.
I often wonder if the priests feel anxiety about having to live up to being “Christ” in the confessional. Some of them seem very skilled and comfortable in there and others not as much.


I have no idea if the advice I give in the confessional is any good - obviously I hope it is but realistically, I’m probably never going to know. Of course I hope what I say to someone is worthwhile and it does trouble me that it might be completely useless but what I take comfort in though is the simple fact that the grace received in the sacrament isn’t dependent on me any more than it’s me transforming bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The sacrament of penance is a healing sacrament as well as a transformative one and it’s the grace which we receive in the sacrament which enables this conversion. So next time you think the advice is a bit off, chalk it up the the humanity of the priest but also know that God’s grace is nonetheless at work in you through that priest and through the sacrament.


I am FAR FAR FAR from being too knowledgable about this sacrament, but I don’t think a person should be at all surprised if the advice is not very helpful. Sure, one hopes that it will be, but the main point, by far, of going to confession is the absolving of sins.

If I myself decide I want to maximize my chance of getting good advice generally for my soul, I’d find a confessor I feel can understand me who I have some kind of connection with.


Like others I’ve had helpful advice and not so helpful advice. I’ve had a priest be what I thought was mean to me when I was doing good, and be easy on me when I know I wasn’t doing so good. I look at the tough experiences as opportunities to grow in humility.

But regardless I try to avoid evaluating it based on emotion. If my emotions were in accord with reason it would be one thing. But mine definitely aren’t. The good aspect about confession or doing anything good lacking a positive emotional outcome is that by continuing to do this good without the helpful emotions you are growing in virtue. It is easy to do something when you are motivated, as emotions can do for you. But it is more challenging when you don’t have that help.


I always worry that my confessions are invalid because I feel nothing afterwards, I got accustomed to them. And I always confess the same sins. Anger is my main sin, not to others, inward anger, to the point of punching people repeatedly in the face but in my imagination. I was about to ask if that is mortal. Is it? I never know if I am in a state of grace or not. Never.


I once had a priest tell me the devil had his hooks in me.
He wasn’t wrong. Sometimes we don’t need comfort.
Honestly though, my normal confessor knows me quite well and always gives great advice in the confessional, however this post brings up the question as to whether it’s a good idea to conduct spiritual direction in the confessional. Another priest I go to frequently only gives you your penance and absolution, nothing more, nothing less.


I will once commented to a priest friend of mine about a similiar experience to the OP (not write the same, but similiar). He told me my problem was I was looking for spiritual direction and the confessional was not the place for this.


I have to wonder a bit why the priest says anything at all then beyond just absolution, and perhaps a statement of empathy (like if you go in there and say you’re having a difficult family situation, it might be nice for the priest to say, “I understand how hard that can be.” )

But I’m not going to lose sleep if they do say something, when much of the time, even their short speech is helpful. Also, even when what they say is off the mark, the response shows they actually listened and heard what I said, so I know they are paying attention, which is a good thing.

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