What should I say when a priest, while in the confessional, wants to know my name? Or a priest that holds the belief that by knowing me personally he, by hearing my confession, will help me be more holy?
My first thought is to say, “Mind your own business, Father.” Then again, since I’m a priest, and getting a little older, I might say, “Mind your own business, sonny.”, since most older, experienced priests would not do this… unless they are really slow learners.
Fathers, if you are young and you do this… STOP IT.
Penitents need to have the opportunity for anonymity if they choose it. Anonymity is really important.
This is one reason why I abominate face-to-face confession rooms. The one’s without windows I call “Law Suit Rooms”. The tradition of the Church, and the law, from about the time of St. Charles Borromeo onward, was that all confessionals were to have a fixed grate, which would serve the functions a) of protecting the reputation of the priest and b) of at least partially obscuring the penitent from view and recognition.
I don’t hear confessions if there isn’t a fixed grate anymore. And, according to the law, no priest can be compelled to hear confessions when there is not a fixed barrier. It is up to the individual priest, and not the bishop or the pastor, etc.
Many confessionals in Europe have, in addition to the side confessional spots, which have obscuring grates, a divided door in the center, to the box where the priest sits. The lower part can be closed, leaving the upper part open for those who wish to talk to the priest face-to-face.
According to Canon Law, can. 964 §2. “The conference of bishops is to establish norms regarding the confessional; it is to take care, however, that there are always confessionals with a fixed grate between the penitent and the confessor in an open place so that the faithful who wish to can use them freely.”
Again, this is to protect the priest, but it is also to preserve the anonymity of the penitents.
What to say, then, about those parishes which have stingy confession schedules and list on the bulletin or website “By appointment”? It seems to me that that risks the violation of anonymity, particularly if you have to give your name or if Father comes late to church and sees you before getting into the confessional.
So… in the case of the the nosy Fr. Ryan Ficcanaso, who is oozing concern and trying to connect in a priestly fervent bid for an especially compassionate warm and fuzzy experience of mercy, you might either stay silent until he gets the point or you can say, “I believe it is my right to be anonymous.” You might also try, “…
… no, don’t say that.
In any event, if you don’t want to give your name, don’t. And the priest presses you, tell him that you will let the bishop know what he is doing.
GO TO CONFESSION!