ASK FATHER: Getting “paid” to go to confession and “selfies” with confessor

confessionFrom a reader…


My youth minister has been offering “S.P.Y.S Points” (basically, points that add up to a discount for events like NCYC and Steubenville Conferences) if we go to Confession and take a “selfie” with our confessor. First of all, would getting paid to go to Confession risk invalidating it? I guess she’s using it as motivation to get the teens to receive the wonderful sacrament. Would being motivated by money only risk creating insufficient contrition? Also, does taking a selfie with your confessor at least indirectly violate the Seal? The priest would be tacitly admitting that he went to Confession with you, and I know there are forbidden to even acknowledge that they heard your Confession. Apparently our pastor has approved of this. What should I do?


Getting paid to go to confession wouldn’t invalidate the sacrament in and of itself, but it’s certainly odd and distasteful, sort of a reverse-simony.

The taking a “selfie” with one’s confessor might seem cute, but it is a serious breach of the confidentiality (let alone the sacredness) that should denote the sacrament. It would not necessarily be a violation of the Seal, but it’s close enough that a sensible priest would refuse to have any part of it.

This should be passed on a bit higher up the ecclesiastical food chain. A gently worded letter to the bishop or vicar general with a “Is this really okay?” tone to it is warranted.

Meanwhile, everyone… don’t let people doing dopey things discourage you.


And, as is often the case these days, the moderation queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    As a Youth Minister, I find these types of promotions bizarre. Promoting the sacrament and offering it frequently (and going yourself!) is a far greater advertisement and witness than offering money off for other events. And further, by requiring or asking for “selfies”, Youth Ministry stereotypes and ghettoizes itself in a way that it simply doesn’t need to. Make youth a part of the regular life of the Church instead of a junior branch and you will have far greater success.

  2. kimberley jean says:

    If your confessor allows you to do this its a sign to go somewhere else for confession.

  3. ReginaMarie says:

    As a parent, it is this kind of well-intentioned tom-foolery that has turned our teens off of youth ministry.

  4. Maybe reminding the youth that dying in a state of mortal sin means an eternity in Hell or even reminding them that no confession (if in a state of mortal sin) equals no Communion would be better than offering them discounts off events?

  5. FL_Catholic says:

    Ahhh, this kind of stuff reminds me of one of the Fan The Fire Youth events I went to as a teen. They had us applaud every time someone came out of the Confessional and give them high-five’s and hugs for having been made anew.

  6. TheDude05 says:

    I really hope this isn’t my parish since that anacronym is used for our youth group. Need to keep my eye out at confession for a selfie stick. If I find one maybe I can use it to chase this ridiculousness out of the parish.

  7. eulogos says:

    When I was a parent of kids of the age for first confession, which was fourth grade in that parish at that time (yes, two years after first communion), and they didn’t want to go, they were trying to get me to jump off a high bank into the swimming hole in the creek and I was afraid, so I said I would do it if they promised they would go to confession. I did and they did. But when I told the priest about he was quite stern with me about it, saying he didn’t approve of it at all. I remember I sort of squeeked, “Do you think, they wouldn’t be….sincere?” and then he relented and said I probably understood my children and as a one time thing it probably was OK. I thought of it as being willing to do something that terrified me for their good. But he was reacting to the idea of getting people to go to confession for any exterior motivation. In the light of that, anything which smacks of a monetary payment seems quite tawdry. And the picture thing is just creepy! He is assuming of course that everyone is going face to face and they can just go over and stand next to the priest and snap a selfie. But -the lack of dignity! The intrusion on the privacy of the space, the privacy of the moment, the solemnity of the moment….. there is something wrong with the sensibility of the person who came up with this idea. I think someone should present her with a picture of the confessional grille…. if there is one to be found.

    Susan Peterson

  8. Random Friar says:

    In some parishes where I help, I’ve noticed the practice of having the parent(s) introduce the child to the priest, and often take a picture before Confession begins.

    It is… odd.

  9. On the lighter side….Years ago, my friend’s daughter was attending a Catholic school. I think she was in Kindergarten. One day she came home from school, and with her cute speech impediment she said to her mom, “Can I have a twarter, I want to go to confession.” My friend told her that she didn’t need a quarter to go to Confession. The little one argued until she was blue in the face about needing that twarter to go to confession. After the tantrum my friend asked her why she needed a quarter. The answer was,,”I want to buy a candy bar.”

    Poor baby meant concession.

  10. Ben Kenobi says:

    Just go to confession or help folks schedule a session where they all get an opportunity to go to confession.

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