ASK FATHER: Stole-less confession. Okay?

Molteni Giuseppe La confessioneFrom a reader…


Does a priest have to wear a stole during confession? I surprised a priest and asked for confession and he did without a stole.

No, a priest does not have to wear a stole.

The stole is a powerful symbol of the authority and power granted by Christ the High Priest through His Church’s legitimate shepherds, successors of the Apostles, to forgive sins.  The stole is a sign of that the priest is – in your tribunal – sitting in the place of the one who is both Justice and Mercy.  But wearing the stole is not, in itself, necessary for validity or even for liceity of absolution.   You do you part as best you can and confession every mortal sin you can remember (after a good examination of conscience) in both kind and number and then Father, having faculties to do so, will do his part, and give you absolution.

Many priests carry a stole all the time.  I, for example, have one in the spare mag pouch of my 5.11’s along with my oil stock.  The form of absolution and of anointing and of the Apostolic Pardon are in my head.  The stole’s leather envelope/case was made by one of you readers.  HERE

Walk up to Father while he is wearing a polo shirt, washing his car… no problem.  Run into Father on the running path around the lake… no sweat (well… lots of sweat).  Encounter a priest at the airport while you are heading somewhere and he is his black suit… good to go, stole or not.

WHAMO!  All your sins will be forgiven, taken away, gone, eradicated, washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb.

Though your sins be red as scarlet, they will become as white as snow.

There is no sin so horrible that we little mortals can commit that God will not forgive provide you ask for forgiveness.


Examine your consciences, GO TO CONFESSION… and ask.

Sacramental confession is the way Christ Himself gave us to approach Him for forgiveness of sins.

Don’t leave anything to chance.  GO TO CONFESSION.  That way you’ll know what just happened.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, GO TO CONFESSION, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Rouxfus says:

    How appropriate that these weapons of spiritual warfare would find a handy but discrete place in the spare ammo magazine pouch of these tactical trousers. Thanks for the rec on the brand!

  2. Scott W. says:

    To the best of my knowledge, a sincere pentitent and Ego te absolvo by the priest=valid Sacrament. Everything else is seemly and just, but not absolutely necessary.

  3. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Thank-you for keeping the confessional theme ongoing Padre. Seeing it at the fore often like this, helps. We need reminders on this one. Though I try to keep it regular with the sacrament of Reconciliation, a few weeks ago I found myself in one of those rare situations where I was having trouble deciding whether I needed to go or not – which meant an extra long trip because our priests had been on loan to different parishes at that time. So, there it was – working on my mind , and a little later that day I check into Fr. Z’s blog, and almost immediately I see :


    That was all I needed . . . an hour and a half later it’s a done deal.
    And I’m so glad I went.

  4. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    My director/confessor regularly donned his stole during my confession, and folded it up and put it away during direction. I see now how he was keeping the two parts of the discussion separate.

  5. PhilipNeri says:

    I recently heard confessions during a Lenten mission. The stole in The Box was about 16in long. Being an. . .ummm. . .Ample Friar, I opted to forgo the stole seeing as it — the stole — would have appeared to be a stray hair ribbon.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  6. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Father is, of course, correct. No particular garb is needed for Confession to be valid. Readers might find it of interest that Dominicans never wore the stole when hearing confessions. Rather we wear the black cape known as the “cappa.” The forms of absolution in our Rite are also different and very interesting theologically. I have written on them here:

  7. jeffc says:

    My pastor will wear a stole for confession. My problem is that when he vests for Mass, he will put on his alb and chasuble WITHOUT the stole. UGH!

  8. Aquinas Gal says:

    Interesting about the Dominican rite. I didn’t know they had a different one. I sometimes go to a Jesuit and I like it that after absolution he always adds the prayer, “May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ….” I love that prayer.

  9. Aquinas Gal,

    You know, I expect, that the Prayer “May the Passion …” is also part of the new rite of Absolution. It is, however, optional. I add it whenever the number waiting is not very long.

    Tt is also part of the Dominican Rite (including a reference to Sancti Patris Dominici–Holy Father Dominic). I don’t mention this in my blog post, but you can see it on the downloadable form of absolution mentioned there. I skip the absolution from censures (unless one has been incurred) and the Misereatur (unless a friar says the Confiteor as his “act of contrition), but I always add the Passio prayer when I absolve in the Dominican Rite.

  10. Stu says:

    I was enjoying a beer in a NYC bar one night with a group of fellow Naval Officers. Our ship was in town as part of the Columbus Day celebration so we were dressed in our Service Dress Blues. In company was our Catholic Chaplain, also in uniform.

    A gentleman sat next to us at the bar, bought us a round of drinks and proceeded to ask each of us what we did in the Navy. (Small point, those of us at the table that were aviators had already told him what we did without him having to ask.;)).

    When he got to our Chaplain, he was surprised to find out that it was a priest he was talking to and then began to relay how he had left the seminary back in the 70’s and never went back to Church. Father told him, well it’s “your day”, pulled out his stole and took the man to the back of the bar in a secluded place to hear his confession. I still get teary-eyed thinking about that.

  11. Rachel says:

    That’s an awesome story, Stu.

    Whenever I go to confession I always feel so *grateful* to the priest.

  12. clarinetist04 says:

    That’s a great story. I used to do a lot of traveling (and now living abroad) and often times I was only able to go to confession when the opportunity presented itself. I’ve asked many times, in airports, before a daily mass, before a weekend mass, wandering the streets of Rome, or wherever and never, never, never have I ever been turned down the opportunity to confess.

    So bless and pray for our priests.

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