QUAERITUR: Can a priest simply refuse to hear a confession?

The woman and the unjust judgeFrom 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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    FWIW, in the Eastern tradition, priests are forbidden to hear the confessions of their parents, wives, and discouraged from hearing those of their siblings or children.

    A certain Orthodox writer described how once a month her family (including her priest-husband) would make a trip to the local monastery for confession.

  2. Joseph-Mary says:

    Oh, yes, it happens. There are priests who avoid the sacrament. When a priest refused my 20 year old son, I was very unhappy. To get young people that age to come to the sacrament is difficult to begin with. It was a regular time but he was going to a regular meeting (Serra Club) down the hall. 5 minutes. He refused 5 minnutes.

    My present parish has no such problem. Our holy priests hear confessions after each of our two daily Masses as well as on Monday nights and Saturday mornings. Thsi confirms them in their priestly life and work too! It makes for holy people and holy priests.

  3. This was a difficult post to read, and my heart truly goes out to the person. I’ve been in situations where I just felt desperate for the Sacrament, so I have some idea how s/he feels. Thank you for your response, Father, and especially for pointing out that God knows our hearts and that, while we certainly can’t know God’s mind, the desire for true repentance surely would be cause for God’s mercy had something tragic happened before sacramental confession could take place.

    I also just want to say that St. Rita is the patron saint of desperate situations, and it has often been the case that when I have been desperate for confession I have sought her intercession, and she almost always comes through for me.

  4. FrCharles says:

    I feel for the penitent in this post. I’ve been in similar situations with great frustration and sadness. When I first entered religious life, I presumed that I would be provided with a confessor. When I asked about it, I was told that if confession was “part of my spirituality” then I should just continue what I was doing. So there went my days off. Some seem to think that regular confession is a sign of mental illness. It speaks to the funny reversal in some corners of religious life: Catholic teaching is always questionable, but psychology is always normative.

    So, if confession isn’t an ordinary value for priests and religious, they will hardly be able to understand the pastoral need to hear confessions.

    On the other side, it can be very frustrating as a parish priest. Fr. Z also identifies a real problem: 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. Many people are starving for a safe place to vent their hurts and frustrations, or even their gossip, and some of them try to use the sacrament for this purpose. I have heard many confessions that consisted of catalogues of the sins of family members and neighbors. When there are a lot of tears, etc., it can be very hard to make ‘teaching moments’ out of these encounters, and so it can get very frustrating.

    As a priest, though, I try very hard to hear every confession that is asked of me, even to my own inconvenience, though not to the inconvenience of others. For example, I will gladly sacrifice my own preparation for Mass for someone else being able to receive Holy Communion. But I won’t delay the start of Mass for everyone else.

  5. Actually, I’d like to tell a non-horror story. I went down to go to confession during the regularly scheduled confession times only to find that the priests had left early (I do not know the reason why). Then, on the way out, I bumped into a visiting priest who had come to celebrate the Saturday evening Mass. When I told him I had come for confession but had apparently missed my chance, he offered, without hesitation, to hear it right then and there. He had no way of knowing whether I was troublesome or a rambler, but because he was willing to take the chance when he was short on time, I got taken care of.

  6. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that panic. I will pray for the letter writer and the priest at Mass today.

  7. Let me also share good experiences with holy priests who are always happy to hear a confession.

    When I converted to Catholicism, I knew that first confession would be a LONG one! My work schedule was such that I would not be able to meet with the priest until after 8 PM on a weeknight, on the priest’s day off. Not only did he schedule me anyway, but spent over two hours with me.

    My parish has three times for confession scheduled, in addition to availability to schedule a confession outside of those times. It is posted on the sign out front as well as in the bulletin and website. There is always something of a line. Never have I been able to walk right in, which gives me more time to pray and reflect. And when, one time, right before Christmas, the penitent before me went a bit long, and it was time for Mass, not only did Father delay Mass to hear my confession, but didn’t hurry it at all.

    There are always two sides to every story. I would have had no trouble if the priest had said to me, “I must begin Mass now, but I will hear your confession right after Mass.” So I wouldn’t be able to receive that day. Fine! I ought not to have committed the mortal sin that would have kept me from receiving in the first place!

    Let us all try to be understanding of our priests, and understand their words and actions in the kindest possible way – until we have proof that they have spoken or acted otherwise. And then, let’s spend the time we would have spent complaining about them, praying for them. Imagine how much good would be accomplished if I spent the time saying a Hail Mary for my priest that I would have otherwise spent grumbling about the poor Father who has hundreds, if not thousands of souls to take care of besides mine!

  8. Supertradmum says:

    Both another member of my family and I went to the priest, who had in his bulletin that Confessions were by appointment only, as there was no schedule time in his parish. When we approached him for appointments, the priest stated, “I don’t do Confessions.” We were so stunned, we just left and went to another city, where there was an urban parish with scheduled Confession. I did not follow up with the bishop, but was told by other parishioners that the priest, indeed, never heard Confessions. At that time, I thought perhaps he was not allowed to for some reason. At any rate, as he was the only priest in this rural parish, many people went without Confession for long periods of time, and frankly, I do not know where they went if they didn’t have money for a train trip out of the town, or a car.

  9. Dan says:

    Anyone who has trouble finding good confession times at their local parish church may want to look at their dioscean Cathedral website…here in Cleveland, the Cathedral of St. John offers Confession THREE TIMES A DAY (6:30-7am; 11:30-12:30pm; 4:30-5pm) on weekdays…a real blessing! They also have three scheduled times on Saturdays as well. God Bless the Bishop and rector who have seen fit to make every accomodation for those seeking the sacraments!

  10. JulieC says:

    A timely subject, and my heart goes out to the penitent. Recently in our diocese Saturday night confessions have become a thing of the past and in most parishes 45 minutes of confession early Saturday afternoon is the norm—if you’re fortunate and a priest shows up, that is. Often there are long lines of penitents and only one priest, but waiting in line is a good way to earn some extra brownie points. : )

    This sad situation, despite our bishop’s beautiful pastoral letter on penance and reconciliation which he issued for Ash Wednesday shortly after he arrived here. It can be found at the diocesan website: on the right sidebar under the heading ‘Pastoral Letters.’

    Bishop Murphy recommended every parish have at least two hours of confession/week, with one of those hours accompanied by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He appealed to his priests to please make themselves available for confession for an additional hour than the usual hour, even if at first noone comes:

    “It may take some adjustment in a priest’s busy schedule but we all should be willing to “re-prioritize” our time even if it means we cannot be present at some other parish activity. It may take time to find the right time but there should be a regular time known to the parishioners when they can expect to have a priest available. At first there may not be many who come. But be patient. Even if no one comes, it is not a “waste of the priest’s time” to be in the confessional. With the Breviary, the rosary or spiritual reading, the priest can take advantage of the time when there are no penitents to pray for the people and be an example of devotion to the sacrament that will in time bring more and more persons to the sacrament.”

    I wish I could quote the whole letter; it’s so touching and well-written. Oh, what the heck, I just can’t resist adding my favorite passage:

    “So, my friends, let your conscience free. Let your heart roam toward the One who is calling you to be in love with Him as He is already in love with you. Let His love be the light that illumines the dark corners of your life not to punish you but to bring you to want to be rid of the darkness and, in sorrow for your sins, let His light banish the darkness of sin and death to bathe you in his own perfect light. All it takes is a sincere heart. All it takes is an upright conscience. All it takes is to say, like the prodigal son, “I know what I will do, “I will arise and go to my father and say to him, ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and before you…” And you know what your father is already waiting to say to you! “You were dead but now you are alive. You were lost but now you are found”.

  11. paxetbonum says:

    Fr Z- This post raises a couple of substantive questions which you did not directly address:

    Q1- Isn’t a priest, by virtue of his ordination, under an obligation to administer the sacraments to the faithful, presumably when the faithful are in need and not just when Father feels like doing it? I seem to remember a phrase or idea from a catechism class many years ago (pre-VII, mind you) that every priest has an obligation, perhaps a serious/solemn obligation, to hear the confession of any Catholic “soul in distress” who approaches them requesting sacramental confession- which your original inquirer certainly was. [The priest, at ordination, is quizzed about his desire to hear sacramental confessions. Subsequent ordination depends on saying “yes”. As I said above pretty clearly, priests should hear a confession when it is a reasonable request. A priest is NOT obliged to hear a confession whenever requested. I have had the experience in Italy – I am not making this up – of someone walking up to me at the altar during Mass and asking me to hear her confession. She was not exactly asking at the best time. Fellow congregants helped her back to her place. She wasn’t entirely there, if you get my drift. But the principle applies.]

    Q2- Aren’t Catholic parishes, and specifically the pastor as “locum tenens”, under an obligation to offer ALL the sacraments to the faithful, at regularly scheduled published times, and by appointment or immediately and without hesitation in cases of dire necessity, and according to current legislation and rubrics? [You are a very black and white reader, I think. That said, yes, in general a priest should be where he says he is going to be when he says it. At the same time, I remember once being kept from being in a confessional at exactly the point of the time. Later, an irate woman suggested to me that I was a bad priest: she was there, I wasn’t, therefore I had denied her Communion at Mass, etc. I had actually been at the hospital on an emergency call and was delayed in my return. I was, maybe 10 minutes late. But, I am a bad priest. I am happy to accept that label, but not for that episode. However, I have also been screamed at, in front of lay people, for hearing confessions for a few minutes beyond the scheduled time. May this priest, … well… enough said.] A priest in good standing and who has the proper faculties refusing to administer any of the sacraments as a personal choice or decision, unless there are clear impediments, seems like a “delicta”, if not “graviora”, and certainly contrary to the central role of the priesthoos and the responsibilities he assumed upon ordination. [You seem to be leaping far beyond your understanding of the law, to write of “graviora delicta”.]

    @ FrCharles- I affirm everthing in your comment, I especially appreciate your remark about the modern (erroneous) concept of Reconciliation having necessarily to involve ” …a long, drawn-out conversation, a rambling chat-session without much focus on confession of actual sins.” [That’s actually MY comment. Did you read the entry at the top?] This fits into the current misconception of confession as therapy, or psycho-drama. Also, the apparently common meme of “confessing” everyone’s sins but your own. Priests really need to provide refresher catechesis on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with emphasis on practical “do’s” and “don’ts” of confession.

  12. paxetbonum says:

    Hrrmph… that’s “priesthood” of course… is there a spellcheck function for this combox that I’m not seeing?

  13. Singing Mum says:

    It seems to me that social grace could have been of much assistance in this situation. If the penitent is known as a rambler, she can offer calmly, “Father, I will only need to state my sin and receive your absolution. I can see how busy you are and will take up any discussion of this sin with (you, another priest, my spriritual director, etc.) outside of this sacrament. OR, the priest could have taken 30 seconds to explain that he has time to hear the sin and give absolution only, and regrettably cannot give time to counsel because he needs to prepare for Holy Mass. The devout person should accept this without question.
    Rambling is a true problem and must be hard on priests. I say this as a rambler myself… While there are priests who begrudge penitents, laity’s best chance at remedying the situation is to do their part in focusing their confessions and seeking spiritual direction outside of the confession line. This is charitable towards other in line, too.

  14. FrCharles says:

    @Paxetbonum Thanks for the encouragement…I find it a grave honor to hear confessions and I do not take it lightly. From your name I suspect at least Franciscan sympathies, so blessings from one Franciscan to another.

  15. Supertradmum says:

    I am not a rambler, but want to go in with my list and get out a.s.a.p. Spiritual directors are for sorting out most things, not Confessors. Our lines are too long at the TLM for rambling. The priests, who all come in from other parishes and for some it is in the last minute, only have 10 minutes for Confessions before the 2:00 Mass. We do not have a parish or a parish priest, but only four priests on loan who take care of us by taking turns.

    The NO parishes either have only Confession by appointment or for 30 minutes on Saturday, before the Vigil Mass. This is awkward, as either the lines are too long and one must come back, or the churches are filling up with Mass attenders and the place is crowded.

  16. Joseph says:

    If parrish priests would make it a regular occurence to hear confessions before mass, we would not have this discussuion. I also strongly believe there is a connection between orthodoxy of faith and generosity in availability for confessions of a priest. [Pray for vocations, friend.]

  17. ckdexterhaven says:

    I wish this person’s priest would have said he didn’t have time before the Mass, but he’d be happy to hear the confession after Mass.

    If this occurred during the week, maybe the penitent could have called the Bishop’s office to ask for a priest’s name who would be willing to hear a confession immediately?

    Do seminaries teach how to guide a rambling penitent? When I go to confession on Saturday, there is a lady who is there every Saturday, first in line, and she takes 30-40 minutes. I wonder if the priest doesn’t have the heart to tell her to make it snappy. ? [Some great spiritual writers have given mixed advice about this. Some of it rather stern. Be careful what you wish for.]

  18. Faith says:

    This question is related. One time a confessor refused to give me absolution because he didn’t see any sin.
    But if I do, don’t I need forgiveness? [No, not related.]

  19. dcs says:

    Here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, there are a couple of places at which one might have his confession heard on weekdays. I am partial to the Shrine of St. John Neumann. One Good Friday — I think it was 2008 — I went there to see if they had any scheduled confession times for that day. I could not find any in the bulletin but I ran into a priest who was stationed there and I asked him if confessions were being heard that day. He asked me to wait a minute while he finished some business, and then went right to the confessional and heard my confession!

  20. Cecilianus says:

    “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.”

    I think this problem would largely be solved if priests started preaching again the necessity of having a spiritual director. People ramble in confession because they’re looking for spiritual direction – something which they NEED, but clearly inappropriate if Mass is in 10 minutes and 15 more people are in line. In such a situation, unless a priest needs to leave immediately to say Mass he should offer to hear someone tell their sins but ask that they schedule a time for spiritual direction.

    And if a priest has to leave to say Mass or start the proskimedia before Liturgy (I’m an Eastern-rite Catholic), instead of refusing to hear the confession he has should defer it until after Mass/Liturgy is over. I find it horrific that a priest would simply refuse; I’ve never seen this tragedy and hope never to.

  21. MikeM says:

    I’ve never seen a priest refuse to hear Confession. My current priest is willing to hear Confession even right before Mass… even if it makes for a bit of a scramble to get Mass started on time. I’ve certainly seen other priests who have had to say “Sorry, I can’t right now” if Mass is coming up or something… but then it’s always been followed with an offer to hear Confession as soon as they were going to be available.

    While I don’t want to read too much into the story here without having been here, I can imagine that the Priest may have had a good enough reason not to hold Confession on the spot… but I can’t understand why he couldn’t offer to hear it after Mass, the next morning, or even given some other priest to contact. To just walk off seems wrong.

    Perhaps he was mentally preoccupied and made a mistake as a result… but Priests should try not to alienate people from the Parish and the Sacraments with things like this.

  22. biberin says:

    I am deeply blessed that both pastors I’ve had during my time as a Catholic have been faithful to scheduled confessions, and also always get me in within 24 hours (usually less) if I can’t wait for that pre-arranged time. I will admit that once on a Friday evening at dinner at a friend’s house, when I knew I couldn’t get to the scheduled time Saturday, I asked my pastor, who was also at there. He was surprised, but the hosts graciously left the room and we took care of it then and there. I did apologize and thank him in writing, and he said it was no problem and he was glad I valued the sacrament enough to ask. God bless our wonderful pastors!

  23. merrydelval says:

    I would be interested in hearing what WDTPRS readers think about confessions before Mass. One of the things I love about big cities where I have lived, esp. Rome and Paris, is having frequent access to confession. In cathedrals and parishes, there are enough priests to hear confessions before, during and after Masses and at other times. I thought, “When I become a priest, I am going to do that too.”

    Then I became a priest in a missionary diocese down South where there are few priests. In my first parish as curate, we had the usual 45 minutes on Saturday afternoon thing. I started to hear confessions during a Wednesday Holy Hour where attendance was pretty sparse. And I preached on confession – A LOT! And I was known to be available for confessions. And boy, did they come. In fact, it was a bit overwhelming at times, but great. But, we never had confessions before Mass. I could spend time in preparation for Mass in the church, and the people noticed that yes, I actually prayed before Mass and was recollected during Mass. There, greater availability and increased confession times went hand in hand with time before Mass for the priest. It was great. Same pattern for my second parish.

    In my third parish, we had confessions 30 minutes before every Mass, with two Masses a day. What I found was that, invariably, large numbers of people came five minutes before Mass after I had spent 25 minutes reading my Office, and then I felt invariably rushed. When I thought out loud once that it might be good to have frequent confession times at times other than right before Mass, so I could pray before Mass, I was yelled at by parishioners, “Well, you need to pray some other time!” The people had the attitude that I was “on demand” all the time, to such an extent that it got ridiculous. I was late for appointments, I had to cancel teaching classes, and I began to feel rushed in hearing confessions and at Mass.

    Obviously, build it and they will come. We have to make regularly scheduled times available, at times when normal people can actually come. We have to be flexible too at other times. But when a priest is all alone in a very large parish by himself, he does have a million more things to do. It’s not saying confession is not a priority, but it is recognizing the reality.

    I am all up for ideas on this one….

  24. JayneK says:

    Fr. Z., I think you are right about the attitude of younger priests. I am at a parish with a relatively new priest and he has been fostering the Sacrament of Confession. He often mentions its importance in homilies or in the Church bulletin. When he came to the parish it had a half hour scheduled on Saturday afternoons. Confession is now available before all Masses as well. The pastor schedules in extra times during Lent and Advent. And one may always make an appointment if one wishes.

    I have noticed a difference in the number of people going to Confession. When he first came to the parish, I was often one of the only ones there. Now there are almost always line-ups, in spite of there being additional times. He is the only priest at the parish and says three or four Masses every weekend. I can see that he is giving of himself in a sacrificial way to make the Sacrament of Confession available. I know I am greatly blessed to have such a pastor and pray for him every day.

  25. The Egyptian says:

    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.
    Amen, again Amen, please just confession, preferably with a screen, seems it was much easier to be open when you didn’t have to look Fr Smiley in the face and see him frown, I am not interested in his emotions, just some quick advice and absolution, hell I know I’ve sinned or I wouldn’t be here I don’t want my hand held I’m a big boy.

  26. polski says:

    I pray for the writer as I know the panic you must feel. I will say that I’m so fortunate and Thank God for living in Chicago (which is the only reason I would be thankful for living here ;). First, I work downtown, and St. Peters in the loop, although seems like a pretty liberal parish, has confession every weekday from 10 am to 6 pm everyday, and then on Sundays I go to St. John Cantius which has about 5 Priests hearing confession during the 4 masses every Sunday and of course confession during daily Mass. We must pray very much for Priests because the evidence I see is that if you offer confession more often people will line up for it, as they do at St. John Cantius and other places having regular confession. I thank God for these Priests. God bless all the Priests who have a great love of the Sacraments and for the love of every soul they help! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  27. HCSKnight says:

    Nothing new here, move along. No issue people, just one of those wacky traditionalist who feels that confession is more important than singing and swaying to our new mass led by a preacher, I mean priest, who really knows how to make you feel good.

    The sad truth regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation is plain to see. The Smoke of Satan has filled the Sanctuary with the smoke of Post Vatican II feminist priests who measure the depth of their “calling” by the emotional empathy they share with “their” parishioners as they look across and “celebrate” the meal of the mass on the table.

    Maybe the “reader” asked poorly, or at a bad time, or came across with far less humility than they believed.

    However, all of Fr “Z’s” comments and edits withstanding, every Catholic has the RIGHT to, and the priest has an OBLIGATION to, within the limits of Charity, a properly administered sacrament when requested. Now that does not mean the priest has to drop everything. However that does mean the priest may one day be outside the wedding hall wailing and gnashing their teeth with the self-absorbed brides maids.

    Charity is most often more easily seen in how a priest conducts their every day affairs and responds to requests for the non-homily sacraments; and one is most certainly a fool to look for his Charity when he meets a beggar on a public street or as he moves through a hospital.

    No, the best place to see the True Charity of a priest is in how they say The Mass and how many hours they sit beside Our Lord in the Confessional; in the former their eyes will be transfixed on the Lord Crucified, and in the latter they wait as Our Lord does for those most in need.

    Today the Catholic Church is filled with effeminate men who like women derive their feelings “worth” by the attention they receive, the happiness of their emotions, and the chatty conversations in which they partake.

    There is a reason why Christ did not choose any women to be Apostles. It was not a mistake by Our Lord. He called men to be priests because it was His Father’s will, and it was His Father’s will that wrote into the nature of a man those unique characteristics to fulfill His Will.

    It is the nature of men to be angered by the failure of another man to fulfill his obligations. It is the proper nature of a Righteous Catholic Man to be greatly angered by a priest who does not place first above all his obligation to open wide his arms like the love of Our Lord Crucified and administer the sacraments with Charity to His children. I doubt the anger of Our Lord God is much less toward a priest who does other wise than His anger with the pedophile priest, or the bishop that protects them.


  28. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    Now that I am no longer a sub-deacon I offer confession before every Sunday Divine Liturgy. Most of the laity never come though except before a Holy Day which saddens me. As a Christian it took me ten years to find a Father Confessor whom I could trust. I do not know about the Latin Rite, but in the Eastern Rite telephone confession goes on all the time, and I call my confessor. Now, the telephone penitent might be absolved over the phone, [This blog is mainly about matters which concern the Latin Church. In the Latin Church absolution by phone is INVALID.] or, sent to a local priest who only absolves because the confession has been heard. I like this because having a Father Confessor you can trust with ALL OF YOUR SINS is something to be cherished and held dear. Having a Father Confessor who is always there for you is so important. I do not know what I would do without mine.

  29. Tantum Ergo says:

    I once asked a priest to hear my confession, even though it was somewhat inconvenient for him. I’ll never forget his reply: “That’s why God gave me ears!” [Not to mention ordination to the priesthood and faculties from the Church.]

  30. Random Friar says:

    I am very sorry the writer had to experience that.

    I will gladly hear confessions at most any hour, if I am not with someone else. I go to each and every communal Penance Service that I’m invited to. I check in early and stay late in the confessional. My email and office phone are always available to make appointments. That said, the biggest fib, next to “the check is in the mail” is “This will just take a minute, Father.” The person may well intend one minute, but experience teaches that this almost never happens, so I almost always have to decline (unless it’s a parent before his kid’s Confirmation Mass, etc). Of course, it makes me look bad, because Father could not spare even “just a minute.” That is life.

    I will be happy to hear confessions after Mass, unless I have another Mass to go to right away. I only ask that the penitent allow me to talk with some of the departing parishioners for a few minutes first (that’s how I usually learn about who has recently had a deceased love one, a serious illness, and so forth).

    I do not excuse the behavior of the priest who refused to hear confession outside hours. But I have run into some brother priests who are, quite simply, burned out, overwhelmed, and in serious need of a vacation or sabbatical. He may have been one. Pray for more vocations, and pray for that priest, if you can.

  31. Random Friar says:

    @JayneK: I swear that there is a blog or bulletin board that priests are not invited to, that’s only for layfolks. Somehow, everyone learns real quick where to go for Confession, Baptism, Marriage, Quinceañeras, you name it.

    The down side to that is when I help out at another parish, sometimes I’m sitting in the Confessional by myself for the entire time. I’ve learned to carry my breviary and rosary into the box.

  32. Random Friar: I am reminded of this old chestnut:

    The Perfect Priest

    The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect priest preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens.

    The perfect priest smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on parish families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed.

    If your priest does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other churches that are tired of their priest, too. Then bundle up your priest and send him to the church on the top of the list. In one week, you will receive 1,643 priests and one of them will be perfect. Have faith in this procedure.

    One parish broke the chain and got its old priest back in less than three weeks.

  33. Singing Mum says:

    Merrydelval, one idea occurs to me. Move the pre-Mass confession time to 45′ prior to Mass, ending 15′ prior to Mass. Explain the shift in the bulleting and in the announcements, if possible. Put a sign on the confessional, “Confessions will start 45 minutes prior to Mass and need to end 15 minutes prior to Mass so the priest can adequately prepare for Holy Mass.”
    People of good will should respect the need of the priest to prepare himself for Mass.
    I am sorry you were treated with such ingratitude. Speaking for the faithful, I can only say that such behavior indicates how hungry people are for the sacraments, and to be counseled.
    Thank you for your priesthood, and the many, many tasks you have to do for the faithful. Frankly, we are not often aware of all these and we need to be more grateful, and careful not to overwhelm our young or ardent priests who try to balance being available with plain old sanity. :)

  34. Mike says:

    I am very blessed as the chaplains at my school are priests of Opus Dei, and St. Josemaria Escriva used to say, obviously not literally, “kill my priests with confession!”, ie, go a lot to Confession. Sure enough, like many wonderful priests everywhere, our chaplains have always been there, purple stole at the ready.

  35. AnnAsher says:

    Unfortunately this is not the first time I’ve heard of such a thing. A dear friend whose husband was deploying within days had experienced an awakening to the Holy Spirit in his life. He phoned and drove to several parishes… No answers or returned calls. At the last hour his wife’s Priest was gracious enough to recognize the young man’s need and graciously accommodated him. He is an orthodox devout prieast. The liberal fellas had no time for my friends husbands soul.
    My son once wanted to go to Confession before a Mass in Monterey – we always arrive early but that week were 30 min early he was told they “don’t usually do that” coldly- but then another Priest present did hear his Confession.
    I think it is absolute nonsense that Priest’s today don’t commonly offer Confession prior to Mass. We had several that offered Confession afterwards … Makes no sense to me.
    Good News! There is a new N.O. Priest where my husband attends who has refused – refused – to hold special Advent/Lent “reconciliation services”. He said he will be there an hour before every Mass and if the line gets too long… Then he will move it to two hours before every Mass. People need to confess sins in June too. Awesome.

  36. Tony from Oz says:

    Sundeacon Joseph: I find it hard to even know how to begin!

    Confessions over the phone? Priests who only do the absolution bit AFTER another priest has absolved the penitent? [how would either priest know, apart from hearsay anyhow!]. Talk about the disintegralisation of the sacrament of Penance! Surely none of this is licit (or even valid) – even if tolerated – in the Eastern Rites?!
    I can empathise with the great gift it would be to have a regular, and sympathetic, confessor – but surely he is required to administer the sacrament integrally in the same place as the penitent: i.e. to both hear and absolve and provide a penance.

  37. digdigby says:

    Remember a little while ago the blog concerning the priest who had to do six masses in one day and by the sixth one was so exhausted he couldn’t do it properly? A home schooling traditionalist mom whom he’d always thought of as a friend and ‘ally’ gave him a horrible tongue lashing about his ‘liturgical innovations’. Couldn’t a priest be at the point of near collapse and simply be incapable of hearing a ‘big confession’? I should think so.

  38. Tom A. says:

    I am reminded of Christ on the Cross. He had the time to hear the Good Thiefs confession. That should be the model for all priests. But the lesson for the laity should be to not wait for an extreme situation. Make it a habit to get to a regularly scheduled time.

  39. randomcatholic says:

    I agree with Fr. Z., in that I believe if someone is truly penitent and is honestly trying to get to confession, God will likely be merciful.

    Being in mortal sin isn’t as easy as it sounds. Unless I am mistaken, it requires full consent of the will, along with grave matter. God isn’t out to see us in hell if we accidentally yell something inappropriate after slamming our finger in the door. We should definitely confess the sin in the confessional, but I would not lose hope if I saw I was about to be hit by a bus in the moment after such a transgression.

    If we stay in the habit of doing a regular examination of conscience, pray EVERY DAY, go to Mass to receive the Eucharist, and go to confession REGULARLY we have every reason to hope for our salvation. (Not heaven right away mind you…. purgatory of course…. but still EVERY reason to hope).

    Remember what led Martin Luther into a great heresy…. He got so worked up about stuff like this that the poor man had no inner peace, and therefore had to invent a new doctrine for himself (and sadly ended up leading countless others astray in the process). We shouldn’t let that happen to us.

  40. priests wife says:

    Tony from Oz about Subdeacon Joseph’s comment- I can only speak for the Byzantine rite- absolution over the phone is NEVER done because it would be invalid. We are encouraged to have a ‘spiritual father’ and try to confess to the same priest if possible. I am afraid that this point, much like multiple remarriage, is a sticking point for unity.

  41. kat says:

    I’m kind of surprised no one has mentioned that the penitent hopefully made, or if they don’t know about it, can make, a perfect act of contrition to the best of his/her ability, with the intention of going to confession as soon as possible. If he/she is sorry for the sin because he loves God and is sorry to have offended Him, (and not merely out of the fear of hell), sanctifying grace is restored, although one cannot receive the Sacraments of the Living until after the valid confession. But at least there can be a little more peace of soul until absolution is received.

    To the priest who asked about confessions before Mass, our priests hear confessions on Sunday between the 1st and second Mass. All parishioners know they begin at 8:30, and end around 9:20 or so, for Father to vest for Mass. (He turns off his light, and everyone knows the last person is in the confessional and no more will be heard.) Most begin getting in line right after the 1st Mass ends, so it’s rather a long line by the time the priest gets there. But we do have confessions on Thursdays during Benediction, and on Saturdays after the morning Mass, until they are all heard; so there are other opportunities as well. And appointments are quite frequent.

  42. Paulo says:

    “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil”. (Mt 6, 34).

    I have not experienced much anxiety over reconciliation: in my parish, the priests are always there at the scheduled times. I have had my fair share of “falling off the wagon” days; when that happens, I brace myself and keep Psalm’s 51 words right up in my head: “For in sacrifice you take no delight, burnt offering from me you would refuse; my sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.” And go to confession, at the time scheduled by the parish’s pastor ,while, in the meantime, carefully avoiding the nearest bus routes, just in case…

  43. Scarlett says:

    A related question – is there a “right way” to request more regularly scheduled Confession times at a parish? I know priests are busy, but we can’t expect expanded Confession times if we’re not asking for them – I just wouldn’t know how to go about it!

  44. Random Friar says:

    The right way is nicely, always! My opinion is that a random suggestion here or there by an individual doesn’t necessarily move anyone. Encourage friends and like-minded folks to do the same, or approach the pastor in a friendly manner at some point as a group, and again, ask nicely, stressing the spiritual need. Just my 2 cents.

  45. Animadversor says:

    I am reminded of Christ on the Cross. He had the time to hear the Good Thiefs confession.

    As you point out, Tom A., He had the time; it’s not as though He could have pleaded that He had to be elsewhere. So many of us have expectations that must date from the day when the typical parish had, in addition to the pastor, several assistant pastors. No more, except in some lucky places. Now priests are typically overburdened with tasks, and they can only do so much. They must also have some time to tend to their own physical and spiritual needs. It pleased God to give us men, not angels, as priests, and we have to respect our priests’ own flesh-and-blood-ness.

  46. APX says:

    Animadversor says:

    Now priests are typically overburdened with tasks, and they can only do so much. They must also have some time to tend to their own physical and spiritual needs

    I agree with that, but at the same time I have to say hearing confessions should be a high priority, even if it’s outside of the priest’s scheduled confession hearing time. The priest doesn’t always know who he’s turning away. For all he knows the person could have been away from confession or church for quite some time and finally returned. If that’s the case, telling that person to come back at the scheduled time might not be the best thing because they might not come back. If there isn’t time, there isn’t time, but some sort of attempt at a compromise should be made.

  47. A.D. says:

    I remember reading something years ago that reminds me not to be long-winded with confession:
    “Be blunt! Be brief! Be gone!” Adequate examine, a firm plan to amend, and making a good act of contrition before entering the confessional helps, too.

  48. paxetbonum says:

    @ Fr Z- “Bless me Father, for I have sinned… or maybeI just misspoke?… ” ;>)

    Thanks for your clarifying comments. Re your example of the not-quite compos mentis Italian woman interrupting you during Mass to ask for confession, that was an unfortunate incident, but I don’t think there is ever a defensible reason for a person who IS compos mentis to interrupt a sacred minister during the administration of a sacrament or a religious service in progress, except for the most immediate of emergencies, e.g., life threatening medical emergency of a congregant or minister, fire in the church, terrorist attack, etc. I don’t think of myself as a “black and white” type reader, more like a “black and red” type- ;>). I know most things are in shades of grey, but the main thing I appreciate about your blog is your relentless search for truth and clarity in all matters religious and ecclesial, and that’s what I was looking for in my questions and comments. The “irate woman” who berated you for being late for a scheduled confession period was WAY out of line, and I’m sorry you were exposed to such thoughtless abuse over a minor matter.

    I am indeed a Catholic layman with just a secular education, not a trained theologian or canon lawyer, so if I misused technical terms I do not fully understand, mea culpa; but, I think you got the gist of what I was asking about the nature of a priest’s obligations re administration of the sacraments. And yes, I got so fascinated w/ FrCharles’s trenchant comments I failed to realize he was quoting you.

    This was an excellent post w/ great comments, yours is a great blog, and I appreciate all the dedicated work you do for the Church and for us ordinary pewsitters out here in the trenches.

  49. PghCath says:

    I believe the quickest way to tell the quality of a parish is by its confession schedule. If you see the words “Confession by appointment only” or “Ask Father in the sacristry before the Saturday evening Mass,” look out. While some people enjoy a conversation before their confession, most Catholics I know want the sacrament to be quick and private. This means Father needs to be in the confessional at an appointed time each week.

    I echo Fr. Z’s comments about young priests: those I’ve met love the Sacrament of Penance and will bend over backwards to provide it. Plus, they are frank about sin, much like the confessors I’ve had who were formed pre V-2.

    I offer my prayers for confessors everywhere through the intercession of St. Leopold Mandic.

  50. CantareAmantisEst says:

    Before I got to know more about St Josemaria Escriva and Opus Dei, one of the first things that struck me about their priests was how they were always willing, even eager, and ready to hear Confessions — and I when say readiness I mean even with purple stole, crucifix and Confession card for those unfamiliar at hand — and their thoroughness and patience in listening to penitents, inquiring more about their stage in life and giving good counsel. So I count myself lucky that there’s an Opus Dei centre fairly near the military base where I work!

    I do pray for more priests for whom fervour for souls must necessarily involve the Sacrament of Penance. It is a shame when priests downplay its importance or will only hear deathbed Confessions.

  51. CatholicForLife says:

    I feel for the person who was refused. I know that pain! Being in mortal sin, and KNOWING you need to confess will sometimes cause you so much remorse, you don’t know what else to do! I was once also refused confession and cried the entire way home. I thought at the time God was mad at me. It then made me look for a Catholic Church where my confession COULD be heard, leading me by the hand of the Holy Spirit, to a place I found so much reflection and peace in :) I FORGIVE the priest in my case as it caused me to repent deeper and remember more that needed to be confessed! When my confession WAS heard, about two weeks later, for the first time since confessing my sins, I heard with my heart, I absolve you of these and ALL of your sins. All I can say to the person who was refused is do not lose HOPE! Work with the Holy Spirit and use that rejection as a launching pad into His arms. Do not use it to engage in self pity. God DOES love you even if you don’t think at the time He does.

  52. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I refused to hear a person’s confession just once: a very intoxicated man, at a church festival, was in our chapel causing a disturbance. I came down to talk to him, took him aside, and tried to talk to him. He wasn’t coherent. I didn’t see how he could properly make a confession in such a state, so I said he should come back when he’s sober. I didn’t like turning him away, but I seriously wondered about whether he could carry on a coherent conversation.

    Another time, I had to end confessions because (daily) Mass was about to begin; I didn’t expect so many, which is a nice problem to have, but what could I do? I announced that I would hear confessions after Mass. A number of folks left and did not come back. Again, I felt bad about it, but…?

  53. I was refused Confession once by the Franciscans at Quincy University because it was Labor Day and they said “they didn’t work on holidays”. They said they were taking time to relax.

    So…., souls don’t need saving on holidays? I guess I should plan my sins around National Holidays.

    God have mercy on them

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