Priests can indeed decline to hear confessions face-to-face

confession-731x1024e must revive the Sacrament of Penance.  Fathers!  Preach about it!  Also, make sure that you have usable confessionals. Via California Catholic:

Confessionals required in every parish
Sacramento diocese reminds parishes they must “provide a fixed grille between the penitent and the confessor”

The following is from the Diocese of Sacramento, posted last week on the diocesan website:

Liturgy Reminders:
Commentary on the General Instruction of the Roman Missal

Re: Sacrament of Reconciliation: the Confessional

Confessionals should be built so as to give penitents the option making their confession from behind a screen or ‘face-to-face’. Penitents cannot be required to offer their confession in one way or the other.  [Well… I think they can be.  See below.]

From the USCCB, October 20, 2000 –
“Provision must be made in each church or oratory for a sufficient number of places for sacramental confessions which are clearly visible, truly accessible, and which provide a fixed grille between the penitent and the confessor. Provision should also be made for penitents who wish to confess face-to-face, [Ummm … NB] with due regard for the Authentic Interpretation of canon 964, §2 by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, July 7, 1998” (AAS 90 [1998] 711).

Thank you for all that you do.
James Cavanagh Director of Worship

Let’s drill for a moment.

Back in 1994 the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, with the Holy Father’s approval, published a response to an inquiry posed by several conferences of bishops regarding confessionals. That response said:

“If, according to Canon 964, paragraph 2, of the Code of Canon Law, the minister of the sacrament, for a just cause and excluding cases of necessity, can legitimately decide, even in the eventuality that the penitent ask for the contrary, that sacramental confession be received in a confessional with a fixed grille.”

EXPLANATION: A priest can refuse to hear a confession if there is no confessional with a fixed grate. Even if the person insists that it be face-to-face, the priest can decline.  That means that there doesn’t have to be a provision for face-to-face.

Say some priest or other, just for the heck of it call him Fr. Z, wants to use a confessional that only has the grate and does not have a way to make a confession face-to-face.  That’s fine.  He is within his rights.  At the same time, penitents are also not obliged to go to Fr. Z for confession.  But if they insist on face-to-face and he insists on a fixed grate, they will be at loggerheads.

The response from the Holy See underscores that a) confessionals are important and that b) there should be a grill or grate. The Church considers the grate or grill to be important.  So does the letter from the Diocese of Sacramento, which is a good thing.

That said…

GO TO CONFESSION!

Please share!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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42 Responses to Priests can indeed decline to hear confessions face-to-face

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    It’s a bit of a no-brainer really.

    Priests can hear Confessions either face-to-face or with a grille — if either of these possibilities is not workable in particular situations, the other can be insisted on, whether the penitent accepts it or not — therefore a priest can in practice insist on either the one or the other in such situations ; therefore to do so cannot be illicit, and a priest can in practice always insist on either the one or the other.

  2. Kate says:

    When our oldest child was making her first Confession, the DRE only taught the students how to confess face to face. I asked if she would also teach them how to use the Confessional booth with the grill. She said, “no.” But why not? “Because the Church is moving away from that type.” I was annoyed. “But what if we are at a church and my daughter wants to make her confession and there is no face to face confession room there?” The DRE paused for just a moment. “Then I’d say don’t go to Confession there. Wait until you can bring her to a face to face confession room.” …so I just taught my daughter myself.

  3. arrowsmith says:

    As a resident of the Diocese of Sacramento I would like to say first that I agree with Fr. Z wholeheartedly that a priest can refuse face-to-face confessions and anonymous confession is certainly superior. That being said I would venture that the reason for the wording as such would be that there are likely fewer than ten cities with more than one parish, most parishes are geographically very far apart, and most parishes have only one priest. Meaning that a penitent who was sincerely desirous of face-to-face confession would be hard pressed to find it if his parish priest refused it. This is certainly more a reminder to the old guard clergy here that they need to clean out the confessionals being used as broom closets and start using them rather than the horrid “reconciliation rooms” that have been in use the past few decades as someone desirous of face-to-face confession can have theirs heard in the parish office or any other location but the fixed grate requirement means they must put time in the confessionals back into their schedules.

    When I first noticed what this post was about I was hoping for a Fr. Z kudos to Bishop Soto, alas no such luck. Perhaps that could be reconsidered? Bishop Soto is certainly a breath of fresh air in a deeply wounded diocese and needs all the support and prayers the readership here can offer.

  4. Polycarpio says:

    Hear, hear, arrowsmith. Bishop Soto is a good bishop and a good man. I knew him in his Orange County, CA days.

  5. Vincent says:

    Surely one way of reducing “child abuse” scandals would be for the Vatican to issue a statement on the inappropriate nature of “reconciliation rooms”. It’s not just the flock which needs protecting but also the shepherds… Scandal affects the good and the bad alike.

    It seems to me that often face to face is used by those who would like a natter. Having watched the behaviour of a number of people who dearly needed confession and had to wait for priest/confessor ‘face time’ to end, I think it wouldn’t be a bad thing for priests simply to refuse such confessions in the confessional queue. There are other times for a heart to heart…

  6. Kerry says:

    My time currently in the Sacre Coeur Woodshop is not making chairs, but replacing the interior of our church’s confessional. The church, built in 1894, had had the three doors, priest and two penitent interior cut away, the three doorways filled with birch plywood, a hollow core door fitted in where a wall was, a movable divider dropped into place, and wall to wall carpeting, that is, to the top of the walls, carpeting stapled in. (Ripping that out, ah, what a nice sound. Zaaaakkk!)
    There will be a fixed dividing wall across the center of the room. We found and will restore and use the original Priest’s door in the dirt floor cellar. Cherry plywood and cherry moldings, (very nice, cabinet grade cherry plywood) will be installed on the walls, and Jerusalem crosses, from cocobolo, (a rosewood) and Honduran mahogany will be appliqued to the ply. Yes, there will be a fixed grill, but fixed into a small window sized opening, hinged if someone wants face to face confessions. The ‘window’ frame will be covered with Rosebud makore veneer.
    It’s going to be really nice! Reviving the confessional in SD Father!

  7. catholictrad says:

    Our beloved diocesan TLM priest will gladly hear your confession face-to-face if you are willing to stand in broad daylight. He explained his absolute refusal to be found in a closed room with a single individual as a simple self-defense against accusations. In our little church, the broom closet was cleaned out to make room for the priest so he can lock himself behind a door. His method is unassailable.

    My only problem in confession is with folks who see the line of 20-30 behind them with 20-minutes till Mass, and yet still can’t seem to boil it down to “number and kind”. I make an effort to be quick, accurate and leave out the excuses and to tell father what remains of the line behind me as I leave.

  8. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Catholictrad may be on to something:

    In the diocese of Sacramento, there is an annual procession led by the Fraternity parish. Last time I was able to attend this procession, priests heard confessions during the procession (it was quite long), and people were advised beforehand how the procedure was to work. Face-to-face existed, but that was because of the generosity of the priests in wishing to make the sacrament available, not because some “chat room” was open.

  9. Swanson says:

    Priests can indeed decline to hear confessions face-to-face, but I wonder how many would take that option? Very few, I guess.

  10. APX says:

    I have come to learn that there is “face-to-face” confession, and then there’s confession outside of the confessional.

    When not using the confessional (which is not the norm), FSSP priests will still not do “face-to-face”. Rather they will hold their hand or their breviary in such a manner to act as some sort of a screen.

    [That works.]

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    So, why was there a push for face-to-face confession after Vatican II? Was it:

    1) the urge for a psychologist-like, “counseling,” session [Partly.]

    2) the urge to return to really ancient practices (which weren’t face-to-face with a priest, anyways, but a public accusation of oneself in front of the congregated Church, a la a monastic chapter of faults)

    3) ?? (yet, another reason)?

    I am seeking to understand who thought face-to-face was a good idea.

    The American churches with only open reconciliation rooms may be in violation of the U. S., Americans with Disability Act, because people with social anxiety disorder may request reasonable accommodation for their inability to deal directly with people – thus, necessitating a closed grille system. If this is the situation in your church, tell your pastor that he runs the risk being sued for $110,000, at minimum, if he doesn’t accomodate the socially shy.

    So, Kate, that’s what I would tell the DRE. Then, of course, I would yell at her for not knowing what she is talking about and confusing the Faithful. I’ll bet she has no idea why, “the Church is moving away,” from closed confessions. I, certainly, don’t. The laity does have rights, you know.

    The Chicken

    [There were probably a web of reasons for this at first. However, as time went by those reasons faded. Then, I think, under the constant wussification and effeminization of the Church in some places, the face to face chat thing became expected. Women tend to face each other when they talk. Men tend to sit by by side. Exceptions to this? Sure. But observe for a while and you’ll notice this, too.]

  12. un-ionized says:

    I’ve been in face to face confessions where we were both looking at the floor, sort of like the joke about what’s the difference between an introverted accountant and an extroverted accountant.

  13. frjim4321 says:

    There are so many abuses of this with respect to Communal Penance Services with Individual Confession. So many cases of pairs of chairs set out around a sanctuary or other space. For our CPSIC’s during Lent we have many confessors but we provide “behind the screen” for the vast majority of them. It is not hard to construct a temporary screen. I daresay this is the reason we have such an excellent turnout each year.

  14. Peregrinator says:

    a priest can in practice always insist on either the one or the other.

    Actually, a priest cannot insist on face-to-face.

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Women tend to face each other when they talk. Men tend to sit by by side. Exceptions to this? Sure. But observe for a while and you’ll notice this, too.”

    Yes, there have been experiments to confirm this trend, if I recall, correctly. I wonder if there is a correlation between face-to-face confession and the introduction of pastoral psychology courses (of dubious scientific validity, by the way) into seminaries at about the same time. Maybe, the thinking was that you can’t have the one without the other – at least one famous study shows that for garden variety psychological problems, just talking to a professor can be as therapeutic as talking to a psychologist. Of course, for very serious problems, even the psychologists are just winging it. Religious have been sold a fantasy by psychologists. Perhaps, the best treatment of the subject is:

    The Psychological Society: A Critical Analysis of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Psychological Revolution, by Martin Gross:

    https://www.amazon.com/Psychological-Society-Psychiatry-Psychotherapy-Psychoanalysis/dp/0671249959

    It is an older books, but its finding seem to be holding up.

    The Chicken

  16. gracie says:

    Several years ago, the students in 4th grade CCD went to Confession as a class. The pastor gave a little talk beforehand telling them he preferred them to go face-to-face. As a result, half of my class refused to go until I told them that one of the confessionals had a grille and, if they went to that one, the priest wouldn’t know who they were. I also, btw, told them they had a right to go in secret no matter what anyone else said to them. All but one changed their minds and went. Since most of my students opted for the grill there ended up being a longer line for that (visiting) priest. Over came the Director trying to get them to go to the other face-to-face confessional. The kids didn’t budge as I told her that they didn’t want to go face-to-face. She looked surprised but accepted it, fortunately. The thing is, adults don’t realize that children still have a sense of shame if they do something wrong. The last thing they want is to have an adult know what they’ve done wrong. Being able to be anonymous removes that problem in their minds. If the priest doesn’t know, he won’t be staring at them next time they run into him (that’s how they think). The adult world too often forgets how children think about things.

  17. Elizabeth M says:

    Your soul is in peril. If Father insists on a grate, even if you have to go to the hardware store and build one, or take out of your car the sun shade so Father doesn’t see your face – you do it. And if Father wants to see you face to face, pray for strength from your Guardian Angel. Personally I hate face to face but I’m not going to stay away because it makes me uncomfortable. My first confession (at 6 years old) was behind a set of open back stairs. Father tried to make it seem like there was a divider between us (I sat on the stairs and he behind) but it was more face to face. I was terrified but did it any way.

    Why would either argue? A priest doing his job shouldn’t turn away a penitent over grate / no grate. How silly it sounds to say “I’m not going to confession because Father insists I kneel down in a confessional.”

    If the reason for face to face is because women like to chat that way, then both the priest and the penitent are missing the point. I don’t go to confession to chat. Get helpful advice and have my soul cleansed yes, but not chat.

    Confessionals are safer for practical reasons in this day and age.

  18. JabbaPapa says:

    Actually, a priest cannot insist on face-to-face

    In situations where no material alternative exists ?

    But you missed my “in practice” — in theory you’re quite right …

  19. Precentrix says:

    Honestly, the grille was introduced in the first place so as to prevent scandal (or grave sins of a most disturbing kind). Sy Charles Borromeo was not an idiot.

    My priest probably knows it’s me, and certainly would know from the content (except for the “not knowing” factor). However, I’m a still relatively young woman. Thus, tis the grille or somewhere public (in a field during pilgrimage, for example). Because I have learnt this is safer all round.

  20. cl00bie says:

    Priests should be able to decline face to face if for no other reason than their legal self-protection. A priest who never sees who a penitent is cannot be forced to testify regarding it.

  21. Ann Malley says:

    @Gracie,

    Good for you!

    Children do indeed have a natural sense of shame. This is a good thing. Same thing goes for modesty. Some are naturally more modest. The idea of just ‘getting over it’ needs to be the order of the day is to disregard human nature.

    Grace builds on nature.

    And while Father may prefer face-to-face, it is far easier, in my view, as a long time catechist, to teach the children that Father is just the bridge by which Christ tends them by encouraging them to view Confession as a face-to-face with Christ. A much easier thing to do when the children aren’t distracted by looking at Father’s face etc.

    Helps underscore the truth that confession is a private and sacred thing. Not just a conversation.

    @Precentrix,

    Exactly! Formalities are there for good reason. Just like stop lights on a potentially busy corner. Best to avoid the occasion of misunderstanding and obvious fallout.

  22. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says,

    There are so many abuses of this with respect to Communal Penance Services with Individual Confession. So many cases of pairs of chairs set out around a sanctuary or other space. For our CPSIC’s during Lent we have many confessors but we provide “behind the screen” for the vast majority of them. It is not hard to construct a temporary screen. I daresay this is the reason we have such an excellent turnout each year.

    In the rectory in Pilsen, KS, I was shown the portable Confessional of Fr Kapaun. Really clever and very light.

  23. robtbrown says:

    Interesting that many seem to identify face to face Confession with both the Confessor and Penitent sitting on chairs or walking. I have gone without a screen many times: The priest sits and I kneel at his feet.

  24. Bosco says:

    Late into the fray is me. I would think that given the times we live in and the possibility of allegations which might arise from encounters of a face-to-face nature conducted in a private room where intimate matters might be discussed, the traditional confessional box with grille seperating priest and penitent is wise.

  25. Nan says:

    I’ve gone to confession in a traditional box with no means of face to face confession, the box with options, the place with curtains and whispering with a penitent on each side, face to face in an office with an unfamiliar priest whose eyes were open, face to face with spiritual director whose eyes were closed, ftf w spiritual director and no idea because I was less nervous the next time. I have also confused face to stole in my Byzantine Church.

    Traditional box is safest for priest.

  26. edm says:

    In our parish we have had confessions heard publicly, the priest sitting on a chair which is set inside the Communion rail and facing the high altar. The penitent kneels at the rail, also facing the altar, but at the priest’s back. Unless the priest turns completely around, he cannot see who the penitent is. The distance from the nave is such that no one can hear the confession if it is done in a moderate voice. There is no possibility of scandal since it is in full view of the others in the church.

  27. capchoirgirl says:

    OK, I’ve probably mentioned this before, but, I sort of wish my parish had face-to-face confessions as an option. We have beautiful old school confessionals. BUT, being a very hard of hearing individual, if a priest I don’t know well is in the confessional, I can’t go to him, because I don’t know his voice. My last confession was very awkward, because I didn’t know the new priest was in the confessional, and I had no idea what he was saying to me after I confessed my sins. You can only ask for repetition so many times before you just give up, or the priest doesn’t change the way he’s talking. Confessional rooms make it a lot easier for me. And this was something I didn’t really think about until I lost my hearing. I always prefer the screen. But now it’s just not doable a lot of the time.
    Yes, you can make an appointment. But that means finding a time that works for both you and the priest, and sometimes that’s just not doable. I’m looking forward to confession on a retreat this weekend because I can make confession face to face.

  28. AnnTherese says:

    Thankfully, for now, people can still choose, as well. If one or the other way of celebrating the sacrament is important to you, and your priest does not offer that–then find a priest who does. As long as there are choices, then we are free to exercise choosing. If there comes a time when face-to-face confession is no longer allowed, or when the anonymous confessional is not allowed–then that will be that. Let’s go with the flow, people! What is important is having the opportunity to go to confession. How blessed are we in this country to have plentiful opportunities!

  29. Patikins says:

    My parish uses the traditional built-into-the-wall confessional with a fixed grille for regularly scheduled confessions. I don’t like “face-to-face” confessions but whenever I’ve approached one of our priests for confession outside of the scheduled times, it usually has not been in the “box.” I don’t have a problem with that because they won’t make eye contact with me as I confess my sins.

    When our parish center was built about 15 years ago a confessional room was built in part to accommodate people in wheelchairs, etc. It has since been turned into a closet.

    I avoid going to confession at Catholic conferences where you have no choice but to go face to face and you have no idea how that priest will handle it. I was once hugged by a priest after I was given absolution at one conference. I’m not the hug everyone type of person. And it had been at most a month since my last confession so it wasn’t the case of a long lost sinner returning to the fold.

  30. IloveJesus says:

    A talk by Fr Ripperger pointed out that in Italy the custom was for the women to go on the sides of the old wooden confessional box. The men would be expected (or maybe even called) out to kneel face to face before the priest, who could be seen in the center of the box through the window when the curtain is pulled aside.
    (this link show a modern pix with a woman there: http://l7.alamy.com/zooms/898d0db31b4d48c9b9b76b1c8f7dc6fb/woman-and-priest-at-confessional-chiesa-del-gesu-circa-1591-palermo-a8ge2g.jpg)

    He said this was better for men to “MAN UP” and confront their pride:
    “…you weren’t so embarrassed the other night when you were doing this were you?” lol :P

    Photos of the Fatima apparitions show a priest in the field for confessions. He is on one side of a lightweight door with a screen propped leaning against a chair and the penitent kneels on the other.

  31. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    A plea to priests: There is no necessary connection between the grille and KNEELING. Yet, I cannot recall ever seeing a confessional, other than in my own parishes, where the penitent was provided with a chair while using the grille.

    Many of the elderly, and others who cannot kneel, are forced to stand while using the grille, or they give in and confess face-t0-face, or they stop coming.

    It seems to be universally held that the grille is “traditional,” and kneeling is “traditional,” and therefore what God has joined together…

    Get the kneelers out of the confessionals!

  32. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    For the “penance services” with priests distributed around the church on chairs–why not just issue blindfolds to all the priests? They could be purple.

  33. ChesterFrank says:

    I will cast my vote for the traditional confessional, built for one purpose and with a grate, and the light that goes on when someone is using it, and an indicator that the priest is hearing confessions at that confessional. IMO, that sacrament is the most abused of the post V2 era.

  34. Fr. Reader says:

    @ChesterFrank: “IMO, that sacrament is the most abused of the post V2 era.”
    Those abuses were about to appear, with or without V2.
    I am not sure if this the “most abused” one. Even if statistics can be made about that, things are different in various places and circumstances.
    _______
    I wonder, why on earth a priest would prefer or ask face to face confession? what does he want? This is not a rhetorical question, I really don’t know.
    _______
    “Women tend to face each other when they talk. Men tend to sit by by side. ”
    Very interesting. Most probably women and men ask f2f confession for different reasons.

  35. This is good news for my Diocese.
    I have seen brooms in the confessionals and it is a sad sight.

    I too do not understand why a Latin rite priest would prefer, let alone request a face to face confession. I would think it is because he may get stuck in the confessional for some time and they have some pressing matter or important appointment so they ask, not insist, if the office is alright. Otherwise I think priest and penitent usually prefer the traditional confessional.

    I once arrived at a Byzantine parish and asked a priest for confession just before another person made the same request. Not yet knowing father’s ability to joke with a straight face, he told us, “okay, but today you will have to confess your sins publically in the front of the church. ” I thought it was a “Byzantine” thing. So, I quickly weighed the possibility of the pain and humiliation of confessing publically to not having my sins forgiven and chose the “Byzantine” way of confessing. After that Father quickly told us he was joking. Poor Father, maybe he thought I would start confessing right there on the spot. Pentitents do still confess in the front of the church before an icon of Christ the Pantocrator. They confess face to stole as someone described in an earlier comment. It is a beautiful tradition as is when the priest places the stole on the penitent’s head while giving absolution. Our beloved Eastern fathers have always been humble and discreet all while hearing the whispered confessions of pentitents standing in the front of the church confessing before and icon of Christ. Sometimes almost shoulder to shoulder! I have never felt uncomfortable by that only deeply humbled. Oh yes and although face to stole, it has never been treated as a chat session.

    As for women and men asking for f2f confessions. Perhaps the pentitent desires to buck up so to speak. Perhaps the furthest thing from their mind, men and women alike, is chatting or some psych session and they just want to plain confess their sins.
    I do not understand why some seem to almost brag about how they are good at sticking to number and kind or complain that a priest, gasp, gave them advice as to some particular sins instead of just letting them rattle off their sins and receeuve absolution. Usually these are words to live by, not complain about. Perhaps we in Sacramento are just blessed with good priests. Not perhaps, we actually are, thank God.

    The observation about the different communication style of men and women is interesting indeed. One might be tempted to think f2f confession is more humble and perhaps in some cases it may be but when remembering the terrible and awe inpiring knowledge of what is actually taking place and Who we are confessing to, I dare say no one will be confessing “face to face” more like, face to floor!

  36. TC says:

    Can a penitent demand a screen? I’m thinking of all the parishes that offer confession “by appointment only”.

  37. JabbaPapa says:

    I once arrived at a Byzantine parish and asked a priest for confession just before another person made the same request. Not yet knowing father’s ability to joke with a straight face, he told us, “okay, but today you will have to confess your sins publically in the front of the church. ” I thought it was a “Byzantine” thing. So, I quickly weighed the possibility of the pain and humiliation of confessing publically to not having my sins forgiven and chose the “Byzantine” way of confessing. After that Father quickly told us he was joking.

    Nice to hear of a good priest with a sense of humour, though the possibility of such public confession does (at least theoretically) exist.

    The disciplinary principle is that certain grave public sins require a public confession — but to be fully honest here, this nearly always takes the form of a letter of Confessio Fidei, not some manner of ritualistic social suicide before one’s friends, family, clergy, and neighbours.

    I could not provide any further details concerning this penitential practice, as I am not a priest and so have no authority whatsoever to form consciences.

  38. Bosco says:

    @TC,

    I have had my confession heard by appointment only when I desired a General Confession and I realized it would take considerable time were I to attempt it during the time ordinarily scheduled for weekly confessions. For some reason, I preferred to have my General Confession (and only my General Confession) face-to-face. The give and take was easier somehow.

  39. Andrea says:

    Like Capchoirgirl, I am hearing impaired. If I can’t see you, I can’t hear you. I’ve tried confession with the grille when I was visiting a church with no other option. It was a disaster. I couldn’t tell when I was supposed to say my Act of Contrition and didn’t hear the words of absolution. The worst part is I asked three times for the priest to repeat my penance but he was pretty frustrated so I just left hoping I was getting it right and that God would understand if I didn’t. I don’t really like going face to face, it is very awkward but I don’t know of any other workable way for me.

  40. albizzi says:

    I began to confess in the pre-VATII times like this actually was the norm, in the confessions box.
    I was much puzzled when face to face confession became the new conciliar norm and I ceased to practice my catholic Faith for a long time.
    I am know that my confessions were deeper and more contrite before.

  41. Patikins says:

    Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick: I see your point about the elderly et al using traditional confessionals but I don’t think doing away with the kneelers is a good idea. I like kneeling because it is a position of submission and I’m submitting myself to the mercy of Christ. Perhaps we need redesigned confessionals with fold down kneelers that can be flipped up when not is use and room for a chair or bench that can easily be moved aside for those who prefer to kneel. And to make it even more accessible, add a fixed clear window with a curtain that can open if needed for the hearing impaired.

  42. ACM says:

    Bad-mouth those “horrid” reconciliation rooms all you want. For some of us, they are a lifesaver. I also am hearing-impaired. I have a severe hearing loss and depend heavily on lip-reading. I simply cannot figure out what you are saying if I cannot see your lips in the light.

    I hope no hearing people, especially priests, ever have to experience the anxiety and utter frustration that we hearing-impaired individuals suffer trying to go to confession in the dark behind a screen. It is agonizing, which is not what confession is meant to be. Pope Francis wasn’t so far off the mark when he called confessionals a torture chamber, which is what they become for us in this sort of situation. Yes, Pope Francis was speaking about crabby and unmerciful confessors, but the description of torture chamber applies in other ways as well.

    The closest I ever came to losing my temper with a priest was when he refused to hear my confession on the side of the confessional that had no screen and was, therefore, face-to-face. The door to that side was locked, and, because I naively thought that someone had unintentionally locked it, I knocked on Father’s door for his assistance. (Keep calm and rest assured that I was not taking more than my allotted minute of time because there was nobody else in his line.) I explained my dilemma to Father, and he said no, absolutely not, I could not go to confession face-to-face, that was why he locked the door, to keep people like me out, and it did not matter that I could not hear him in the dark behind the screen. I thought I had misunderstood him so I repeated back to him everything that I thought he had just said to me — and he said, yes, I understood him just fine. I was dumbfounded!

    Yes, it is true that we can make an appointment for confession, but that is not always feasible. And yes, I do now have a confessor, a wonderful FSSP priest who so kindly accommodates me. However, that incident occurred at a time in my life when I had moved and was in a new parish and had not yet found a confessor. The point is, why should deaf people have to jump through hoops to receive a sacrament that holy Mother Church holds in such high esteem and readily offers to the vast majority of the congregation, particularly when the solution is such an easy and obvious one?