When Confession isn't so great


I always think of the confessional (at least, assuming it’s taking place as part of a regularly scheduled time and there’s a line of people) as a battlefield aid station. They’re just trying to stop the bleeding and get you stable and then on to the next casualty. If you had some chronic, long standing condition that you needed a longer evaluation for, they’d direct you to make an appointment at the hospital.

Dumb analogy, but I guess my point is if someone thinks they’re going to need like a half hour of conversation and guidance along with absolution it might be better to make an appointment.


I think that is perhaps a valid point. And I grew up with a priest who did just that. OTOH, I believe some level of advice to help one resist further temptation is appropriate, but it is bound to be rather generic and as such sometimes miss the mark. A regular confessor could help in this regard.

I wouldn’t, I had assumed you were not, lose any sleep over it either.


Yes, but just to confirm I’m not one of those people, I did note in an earlier post that I need to get in and get out because there is a line.

The priest has basically a 2 minute “elevator speech” time window to talk to me. I try diligently to not take up the priest’s time because where I go to confession, there is always a line, and often someone has already taken up 15 minutes of the allotted half hour or hour.

I think some of the posters on here are under the impression I’m seeking spiritual counseling in the confessional. That’s not what’s going on. The priest chooses to say like 2 or 3 sentences to me. It’s his choice. I almost never ask him a question or anything. Once I asked him if the bad things happening to me were my fault, occasionally I will ask if something is a sin. Believe me, I don’t want to be in that confessional any longer than necessary either. If there was a way I could do it by text message or Internet post, I’d be all over that.


Oh no, I figured, just speaking generally.


Thank you so much for sharing @Tis_Bearself I have this experience often, really often. Part of what helped me, was when I is partially let go of my role in Confession and surrendered to the supernatural experience.

I know that people who have disabilities that are non-verbal can go to Confession. People can go to Confession to a priest who doesn’t speak their language. I told myself; If I believe God works in both of these things, than why am I doubting the Holy Spirit’s ability to act in me when my Confession seems repetitive or stale? Because that’s what I was doing.

Now, after Confession I sit in the pew. The Triune God of the Universe has cleansed my soul. He is infusing me with graces beyond my imagination and I am as a little baby at my Baptism just receiving, receiving, receiving, receiving! I tried to turn off my mind focusing on my experience, and simply surrender to the interior miracle that was happening to my soul and just sit there.

It’s almost like after receiving the Eucharist. I like to just sit for a time and be aware of how awesome God is.

My Confessions are still challenging, however my relationship with God has deepened. I will pray for you. God bless you.


I have a regular confessor who knows me well and I usually confess by appointment or when there is a situation in which we are not pressed for time. He occasionally comes up with a clunker and sometimes it bothers me. I worry that I didn’t do a good job confessing because he seems to have completely misunderstood what I said. It is tempting to correct him and try to explain myself better. Sometimes I give in
to that temptation, but most of the time I just try to accept the advice with humility. I mull over it for a week or so, trying to see if it really does make sense. Usually, it doesn’t. He just had an off day.

If I happen to be confessing to somebody other than my regular Confessor and I have an experience like that, I remind myself that this is part of the reason I have chosen a regular Confessor. Usually, my less-than satisfying experiences occur when a Confessor gives no advise whatsoever, just absolution. That always throws me a bit. In that case, I try to remember that I have received Absolution and that is the most important part of the experience. While I Iam firmly in the camp that some brief spiritual direction is entirely appropriate in the confessional, it is not absolutely necessary.


That’s not a grave matter. Your passions are too much intertwined with that thought. And you’r not giving them full consent, you have an aversion to thinking these things. That is important to point out. But there’s a possibility, I’m mistaken. I’m just a layman and not a priest or theolgian.

Be certain, next time you go, to share this worry with the priest and ask him directly if he judges a thought or use of your imagination in that way to constitute a mortal sin. It’s important for you to know, as it greatly disrupts your sense of peace, which is not what God wants.

Also, you can share your concerns with the priests here on CAF.

Pax Christi.


Yes. This last time… the priest was in a hurry and told me to pick the worst sin and then when I couldn’t really figure that out from my little list and kept trying to go back to my list. He told me we dont need a shopping list and just to pick the worst one. I mumbled the first on my list still insisting on the list :smiley: and he told me something about it (turns out it wasnt a sin) and I argued back about not knowing etc. Anyway I carried on and he said now we are getting somewhere… and then said he was going to absolve me for my sins… I mildly protested there were more on my list but decided to be obedient. I shoved down my annoyance and chose obedience and he absolved me and I went out feeling forgiven and guess what? really happy. You know why cos the sins were ones of pride/lack of humility and I had been arguing with a lack of humility, then I had been given the grace right there in confession to chose obedience and humility and accept this weird confession and insult of my ‘shopping list’ .

My point is that while I was in there I was annoyed and indignant that I who has an illness (why I use the list/ I have memory issues etc.) and I felt the priest pushed me with his insistence so that I acted with a lack of humility and then confessed those kind of sins (pride false humility etc)… then with God’s grace I was able to chose to be obedient to the priest accept his authority that the confession was over and I was forgiven even though things had not gone my way and ended up acting with humility. What a lesson. I walked out laughing and praising God for his great lesson and realising what a fool I was to behave so. So maybe these confessions that don’t feel the greatest are lessons for you to test you. Perhaps you can learn from them. Perhaps ask God for the grace to see the lesson. God bless you.


I was listening to this online on Sunday there’s a whole series of them. I know everybody knows him and there is mixed opinions about him, but he has some good advice on how to get to the bottom of root sin. I forget what he calls. But anyway it’s a good idea to know your root sin, then with God’s grace seek the source of it. Then you can look into to finding out how to get to cause and end of those repeated venial sins. Of course with God’s grace. Here’s the one of predominant faults if you want to listen, though it is worth listening to them all (just change the part vi to part I if you want to go to the start) You’d then need to do a fair amount of meditative prayer. God bless. I listened to Fr Mike once and he said sometimes God provides spiritual advisers for you in the form of books, media, people etc. I think God will provide what we need, if it needs to be a person then he’ll provide that. Perhaps ask if you really want that?


I was in a foreign country some years ago and I wanted to confess for Mercy Sunday. I had to seek the sole English speaking church, make an appointment with a priest (there seemed to be no regularly scheduled confessions), and confess face to face (no confessionals (?). He was clearly irritated with me and not a little paternalistic–like what a fool I was that I believed in the sacrament of confession! No joke. I was really humiliated. But for some reason the Lord gave me great joy and peace about that event later on.


What country?


I don’t break down but just once I’d like to get through the Act of Contrition, a prayer I say everyday mind you, without blanking and needing prompting. I understand my getting nervous and forgetting one or two of the sins (that were well rehearsed so I wouldn’t forget them, btw) but the Act of Contrition?


Our pastor said that the act of contrition can be as simple as “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
After he said that, I did tell him that the “other one” was one I never learned by heart as a child, and has been a stumbling block in the past.


I also love this kind offering!

I told an administrative pastor about my marriage troubles in confession, and he said “Well I’m not volunteering to counsel you.”

I’ve had a variety of advice given through confessional. Most is good. And occasionally bad.

The most touching and healing, are those priests who listen until you are finished (and I dont mean someone taking an inappropriate time) and then admonish the sin for what it is, yet commend the confession for what it is!


All I have to say, I think, is that I believe it’s a pure thing that you cry.


Hi Father,

Along these lines, is it appropriate to ask for a little spiritual advice, after the priest gives absolution, specifically concerning a particular sin? Or does this really just depend on the priest? And barring this, isn’t it a bad idea to sort of pause in the middle of confessing our sins, to put forth a concern and or question or two here to the priest?

Thanks so much for your presence here!


In my usual style, I’ll start with general principles and work my way out.

IN GENERAL confession is for confession. It is not for spiritual direction, it is not for venting, it is not for gossip, it is not for family therapy, it is not for marriage counseling. It is for confessing your sins and receiving absolution. Full stop.

HOWEVER since we cannot be too rigidly married to general principles (I have likened pastoral praxis to something along the lines of the English language: we have a few rules which must be followed to the letter, and then a few thousand exceptions to those rules), if someone asks me a question about matters spiritual, provided it isn’t something super complicated that requires a great deal of explanation, I will happily take a few minutes answering the question. Sometimes I do this unprompted–if someone mentions struggles with prayer amidst their sins, I will attempt to offer some direction on prayer. But, as in all things, mileage may vary, and it really depends on the priest. Some won’t do that, some will, some will turn it into spiritual direction, and some aren’t in the confessional since they don’t believe in confession anyway (I actually don’t know too many like that, to be honest, in spite of the many horror stories I hear online…). I would say that pausing amidst your sins and inserting a question or a concern can sometimes be a bit distracting for me personally, but I shake that off and just go ahead and answer the question. I would rather someone say their sins and then ask questions, or say their sins, wait for me to give some counsel and then ask, but I will do it however works.

I say mileage may vary as a bit of a warning here. I don’t mind giving some direction in the confessional, perhaps more than is warranted, but I really like to talk and I really like to explain things. The best thing to do, though, would be to ask me for my card so you can make an appointment and I can make you Arab coffee while we talk of spiritual things.



Does anyone wait until you give them absolution and THEN ask a question or two? Is that OK?

(I guess I’m a rather self-conscious person and want to do thing in the smoothest way possible.)

(Or maybe I’ll just take your card. lol)


Sometimes people do that. I actually don’t mind that at all. It doesn’t break up the rhythm of confess/counsel/contrition/absolution quite as much. Plus, since I’ve already dismissed the penitent, what is said isn’t covered by the seal, which would make it easier to follow up later (not that I would initiate that contact, especially if the penitent was behind the screen, of course).


Do you have a preference Fr? Face to face or behind a screen?

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