From a reader:
I’ve never cried over Church related matters until last night after I was refused Confession.
I’m in grave mortal sin, and I tried to go to confession twice yesterday, but I had no luck. The first parish I tried the priest wasn’t there during the scheduled time. I checked the other parishes’ confession times, but those that offered regular confessions were already taking place and there wasn’t enough time to drive to any of them.
I really needed to go to confession sooner than later, so I went to my home parish a half hour before the Saturday evening Mass (I didn’t want to interrupt him while he was getting ready for Mass) started to see if he could hear my confession after Mass. (I avoid confessions there because it’s not anonymous and they don’t list regular scheduled times, but I felt I really needed confession and it shouldn’t wait)
He wasn’t there yet, but the deacon offered to call him to come to the church earlier to hear my confession before Mass (the rectory is next door). When the priest got there I asked if he would have time hear my confession (I had a feeling he wouldn’t have time before, but I though it wouldn’t hurt to ask).
I explained the situation and that I already tried at another parish, but the priest shrugged his shoulders and arrogantly told me he “[doesn’t] do confessions before Mass” and before I could ask if after Mass would work, he started walking away and told me if I wanted him to hear my confession I had to come when he schedules confession.
I felt so hurt that I when I got out to my car ( I opted out of his Mass after that incident) I cried so much because I couldn’t get to confession. I still can’t believe any priest who actually believes in the Sacrament of Penance would turn someone away like that. So now I’m stuck in grave mortal sin until I can find a parish that actually offers confession during the parish’s posted times.
Can a priest actually flat out refuse to hear a parishioner’s confession outside of their scheduled time, especially if the parish’s confession times are unlisted?
If someone makes a good honest attempt to get to confession, but for reasons beyond their control is unable, and ends up dying, are they still considered to be in a state of Mortal sin and damned to Hell?
What can I do to get priests around here to take the Sacrament of Penance and going to Hell seriously so I, as well as many others, don’t end up going there?
I am very sorry to read this. It is a terrible thing to look for a confessor like that and to be disappointed.
Remember that God reads the heart. Had you been hit by a bus while searching for a way to go to confession, I believe that God would have been merciful.
It would be great were there far more priests than there are. It would be great if there were fewer priests who have a cavalier or negligent attitude about the Sacrament of Penance.
Pray pray pray and give concrete support for more vocations to the priesthood.
That said, there are a lot of elements here which I simply cannot figure out from this description. For example, I can’t tell how long it was before Mass was to begin when the priest said he wouldn’t hear the confession. Also, the writer suspected that he wouldn’t. I am guessing that it wasn’t long before Mass. What the priest really “arrogant”, or were the writer’s emotions so raw at that point that she heard something the priest didn’t say?
Priests should not refuse reasonable requests to hear confessions. What would be a good example of an unreasonable request? If someone were to approach a priest as he is putting on vestments for Mass – not a rare thing, by the way – he could decline to hear the confession at that moment. If a priest did not, for example, know the native language, perhaps he could decline. It the time before Mass was short, and the priest knew from long experience that the penitent was quite troublesome, or time-consuming, or otherwise less than brief, I think he could decline. A priest on his way to a death-bed to give Last Rites could decline.
Another point that could be a factor – not necessary in this case, but in cases far and wide where priests are reluctant to hear confessions:
It may be that there is now ingrained in some priests and also penitents that this Sacrament of Penance – of Reconciliation – has to involve a long, drawn-out conversation, a rambling chat-session without much focus on confession of actual sins. People think they are going to a therapist, rather than the priest in the confessional. The confessional is also the tribunal in which the penitent is both the accused as well as the prosecutor. The priest is not the prosecutor. The penitent is. It may be that over the last few decades of negligence of this sacrament and sub-optimal training in seminaries, the erosion of the sense of sin, and even the priest’s personal negligence of the sacrament, have contributed to poisoning the minds of priests when it comes to hearing confessions and confused penitents about what confession is for.
We need a revival of the sacrament of penance. People should clamor for confessors. They should mention constantly that they need more times for confessions. Perhaps they should even write notes for their weekly envelopes saying: “When Father schedules more confessions, I will give more money.” I am picturing picket lines, people carrying signs saying “ISAIAH 1:18!” and “JOHN 20:23!”. Hugh crowds jam the narthex of parish churches, surround empty confessionals and chant “HEAR OUR SINS!” and hold up banners with the priest depicted as Jesus healing a leper and also depicting the priest as the mercenary running away from the flock with the wolf comes. They would start hunger strikes….
“But Father! But Father!”, some are about to type. “Isn’t this…”
Okay. I know. I’m ranting. I have been watching cable news this last week and the images have swayed me a bit.
The young priests I know are on fire to say Mass reverently and hear confessions. When the biological solution picks up speed and these younger fellows take over, there will be a slow shift back to normalcy.
In the meantime, to anyone out there who has felt a sense of panic because of the strong burden of the sense of being in mortal sin, I applaud your desire to find a confessor right now. I also must remind you that things being as they are, you may have to be endure a longer wait than you would prefer.
At the point, people will be tempted to start adding their own stories about priests who refused to hear a confession. PLEASE RESIST THAT TEMPTATION. We know it happens. We all have our horror stories.