QUAERITUR: I did something stupid when the confessor thought I was a man.

From a readerette:

I went to Confession tonight and did something stupid that might have either invalidated it, or possibly was considered a sacrilege, but I’m not sure.

I have a slightly embarrassing/awkward/frustrating problem that
surfaces from time to time. I’m a woman with a deepish voice, so
sometimes I get mistaken for a man over the phone.

It’s a real sore spot for me, but lately it’s been happening less and
less, until tonight at Confession when my confessor mistook me for a man.

At first I was just confused why he was talking about me choosing
between marriage and the priesthood (admittedly, I assumed the priest could see that I was a woman, as our “Screen” is still see-through enough to make out the person’s silhouette), and then right before he asked me for my act of Contrition, he called me “son”.

I admit I didn’t correct him, as it’s an awkward and embarrassing
thing for me, and I try to let these little things pass. However, it
did end up sparking my inner annoyance and resentment for people who make this mistake, and I did something really stupid…

When I was saying my Act of Contrition, I had a strong inner
resentment towards the priest and I said it in my best falsetto
feminine sounding voice in a passive-aggressive way thinking he’d pick up that I’m not a man.

On the drive home I realized the seriousness of what I had done, and
felt really bad [...]

Please help me. I feel terrible about this!

Sorry, I had to chuckle a bit over this one.

Not to worry, ma’am. Don’t worry.  Sometimes things like this happen.  It can be pretty hard for confessors at times to figure out the sex or age of some penitents just from their voices or their sins.  Also, priests, like everyone else, can be hard of hearing, can have bad eyesight, and can be a little thick.

Allow me to give you and everyone else reading this a piece of advise about how to make a good confession and to avoid anything like this in the future!

Are you all paying attention?

After your little introductory part of making your confession, which includes always the length of time it has been since your last confession, just before you start confessing your sins in both kind and number, it is good to tell the confessor your state in life. You can say something like, “I am a married woman with three children who also works a job…. I am a 25 year old student… I am a diocesan priest in good standing… I am a seminarian… I am …. etc.” If you have a deep voice and have been mistaken in the past, you can use this way of letting the priest know ahead of time what your state of life is and also that you are not, in fact, male.

And, finally, don’t play games with the sacrament or with the confessor.  It might be best to confess the next time you go that, in a moment of intense frustration with the confessor, you showed your impatience.  But, I don’t think you have to worry about this too much.

Use the technique I explained – about stating your state in life – when you go to confession in the future.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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