Women and modesty in Confession


#1

First let me say that I attend confession regularly and I will continue to do so. I understand confession to a priest is like confessing to Christ. I also always use the screen to confess and at times I have went to other parishes other than my own to confess because it is uncomfortable to confess to a male let alone a priest I know who may recognize me. I am no way suggesting that there should be female priests. And I am aware that priests don’t judge us and understand that we are all sinners.

However, I would just like to know how do other women maintain modesty while trying to make honest confessions. I can find plenty of guides on how to make an honest confession but none specific to women, there are some for males though. It has almost deterred me from making some confessions but I’ve pushed through anyway. I’m looking for serious discussion not a debate since I have heard and read conflicting advice on making confessions. God bless!


#2

I’m not sure what you mean. “Maintain modesty while trying to make honest confessions”? Just tell the priest your sins.


#3

I am glad someone asked this question. I feel the same way, I have also gone to different churches to confess. Also, I don’t tend to be detailed whenever I confess. For example, I would say I had “immodest thoughts” or “impure thoughts” and they didn’t ask for details. So I assume it is OK to say that.

They never really reviewed those types of confessions in my RCIA. But I understand where you are coming from, it’s difficult to confess anything sexual when you are a female to a male. Thanks for your question, good luck with those who might be critical.


#4

If it was that easy, I don’t the poster would ask this question.


#5

Would you say the same thing in the context of a scrupulous post? Hopefully not.

OP, There should be no difference in the way males and females confess. We just need to confess our sins. I’m not even sure what you mean about being “modest”. I assume you mean leaving out the details. But why would our gender matter when it comes to that? Please don’t think that you are tempting a priest by confessing your sins. Confess as many details as are necessary to get the point across and leave it at that if you wish. I really don’t think it’s one of those issues that change based on gender. I’m sure the priest will be equally unhappy to hear the details of a male’s confession as he would yours.


#6

If it’s any consolation, as a woman, I can relate. I’ve done face-to-face confessions and behind the screen. The “impure” thoughts as they say is difficult to confess. I’ve too been told be detailed but then other times it seems best to not be so detailed. It’s good that you pushed through anyway, nice job on going to confession regularly.


#7

Okay thank you for your input. Noted and agreed.


#8

Sorry if I came off as critical. Didn’t mean to.


#9

I can understand making it a non-issue for women, since the Catholic Church has so many “issues” that cause people to lose faith in it or turn away. It would be nice to see this addressed, it can be uncomfortable for some women. I’m asking to relate to others is all.


#10

It’s not exactly comfortable for men either.


#11

I’m not suggesting it’s not.


#12

I’ve never really thought there was a difference. It’s been my experience that priests don’t want to hear specific details about sexual sins, as they get the idea when one says “fornication” , “masturbation”, or “impure thoughts.”


#13

I’ve said it in several threads, but if people just say “I did X this number of times, and Y this number of times, and Z this number of times,” that absolutely suffices. No risk of being immodest in detail, since detail isn’t necessary. And if people are a little evasive about sexual sin, i.e. “I committed an act of impurity with myself” or “the solitary sin” or “self-abuse” or whatever, I know what they mean. If they’re so vague that it could be anything, that’s when I ask questions. But honestly there’s no issue of modesty–it’s almost a clinical reality. It’s like going to the doctor and saying you have a problem in a sensitive area. The doctor’s not going to be scandalized by it. It’s just reality.

-Fr ACEGC


#14

Spoiler: not a woman, but I think this is equally applicable to both genders.

That said, I’m not sure why you would have to be “immodest” in confession. If you’re confessing a sexual sin, you don’t have to go into explicit detail. You just say “sex outside of marriage” or whatever the sin is. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) give the priest an exact play by play of who did what to whom. If the priest feels there is some detail he needs to properly absolve you or to give better advice, he’ll ask. Otherwise just be straightforward but leave out all the dirty details.

All that said, I do get that for a woman to discuss her sexual sins with a man probably introduces an extra level of awkwardness.


#15

I can’t read the priest’s intentions, but I imagine he’s wondering the gravity and checking for scrulosity. Someone might say “impure thoughts” for looking twice at someone, while someone else may confess impure thoughts for fantasizing about immoral/impure acts with a man or woman that should only occur in marriage.

(I phrased that in a way I think preserves modesty while not going into too much more detail.) If the priest asked for more detail than that… Well, maybe we should get a priest’s perspective on what he thinks is appropriate and why. I may not have thought of something.

That said, I think the preserving modesty is mostly for the penitent’s comfort. I expect priests are trained to expect to hear explicit details and have probably heard so many it doesn’t phase them anymore.


#16

When you have to go to your first confession you will understand that it is not always so easy to confess some sins. It is difficult to tell your own priest you have had sins against modesty or chastity.

We all know we are confessing to Christ through the priest, we all know most priests have heard everything under the sun, we all know they can never tell what they hear, we all know this on a very basic level. It still doesn’t make it easy to confess that you entertained thoughts about what it would be like to have a romantic encounter with a very sexy man you saw the other day.

Please don’t dismiss the anxiety of someone’s time in confession when you have yet to experience and really don’t know what it is like.


#17

And I’m sure this difficulty is not gender-biased. Men have difficulty confessing sexual sins just like women do. I already know that it will be difficult to confess some sins. I might not understand the degree of discomfort until I get there, but I know there will be discomfort.

I don’t mean to dismiss anyone’s anxiety, just to offer my own insight that I do not think is all that affected by my lack of experience. Although I’ve never confessed any sexual sins to a priest, I have confessed them to a few individuals in my life, and that was difficult. I don’t think it’s reasonable to conclude that this is a gender-biased issue, nor do I think it reasonable to think that women must somehow be more modest in their confessions than men. (I’m sure priests would rather not hear details beyond what is necessary from both men and women.)

You’re free to disagree with me, but we will have to agree to disagree. If, when I make my first confession, my experience is totally upside-down from what I expected and you were right about me not knowing enough because I’ve never been (which I recognize is possible), I will return to let you tell me that you told me so.


#18

I generally choose to confess behind a screen. It helps me avoid the temptation to withhold information or justify my sins. On one occasion I went to confession and had to go face-to-face, and I had a very embarrassing sin to confess that I definitely did not want to say to a man. I screwed up my courage and said it. I have no idea how it may have affected the priest (he was very professional and absolved me, as has always been my experience in confession), but I will say that experience has helped me a lot in avoiding repeating that sin!


#19

From a talk by Father Larry Richards, I got great advice concerning this:

“Father, I have had impure thoughts/been impure with myself. This is all you need to say and Father will know what you mean”.

Confession is not a counseling session where specificity may be needed in order to recognize a pattern or to come to grips with a trauma. Confession is about absolution for your sins. Christ was there when you sinned and He knows the circumstances and the intentions. He knows the extent of the culpability of mortal sin, even if you are unsure.

That said, it can be horribly difficult to confess this…it’s very much a taboo subject in polite company within our society and it has kept me from confession in the past. Father Larry’s advice really helped me, though, to move forward. Hope it helps you.


#20

Female here too and in my last confession, I mentioned exposing nyself to bad media, along with other sins. The priest asked so did I have impure thoughts. I said yes, he then asked so masturbation? I said no, and he was like, oh okay. Never engaged in self abuse and never had the desire to do so, but all the same I am relieved that it is not something I have to confess.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.