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The Purpose of Confession: Priest Breaks Down Essential Roles of Confessor & Penitent

Let’s assume the photo below is authentic and not a meme.  What are your thoughts?

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Here are my thoughts:

1) The truth is that many folks have not been sufficiently catechized.

The sole purpose of confession is to accuse oneself of specific sins for the purpose of obtaining the Lord’s forgiveness.  

Penance is the Tribunal of God’s Mercy: the penitent is their own accuser and witness, and the priest is the judge.

What are the judgments made by the priest?

a) Is what the person confesses actually a sin?
b) If a sin, is it mortal or venial?
c) Is the penitent properly disposed (contrite/purposed to amend)? If the penitent is disposed properly, the “sentence” is always one of forgiveness.

2) Confession is not a social encounter between priest and penitent.

Rather, it is between Our Lord (who the priest represents) and the penitent. If the Sacrament is allowed to digress into a social encounter, blame the priest, not the penitent.

3) One should confess sins according to kind and number.

No need for storytelling. If the priest needs to clarify what you have confessed, he will ask. Otherwise, assume you were perfectly clear.  The burden is on the priest for any needed clarification.

4) One of the functions of the priest in confession is that of a physician.

There is a degree of spiritual direction when the sacrament is celebrated. However, that direction is confined to what has been confessed and is not meant to be time-intensive and holistic.

One should arrange to meet privately with a priest for ongoing intensive spiritual direction.

5) If someone is in confession for a prolonged period, please resist the temptation of impatience or judgment.

There are many circumstances that can contribute to a prolonged confession. The priest is certainly mindful that other penitents are anxiously waiting!

I understand the request for more confession times (and agree!), but hear me out on this.

I was alone for six months in a parish of 4000+ families. Daily Masses were at 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and there was usually a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. By the time I returned from the cemetery, it was 1 p.m.

It was then a quick lunch, headed over to the school to teach a class, followed by afternoon appointments, communion calls, etc.

Evenings were jam-packed with meetings (marriage prep, counseling, etc.).  Confessions were Saturday afternoon from 3:30-5 p.m., followed by the Vigil Mass at 5:15 p.m., with more Confessions from 7-8 p.m.  

It was an exhausting pastoral load, and I was exhausted after six months. Thankfully another priest was assigned to assist.

But think of the priest who must live this reality by himself for years with no priest on the horizon to assist.

Priests love to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, but the reality of the demands of parish life and the declining numbers of priests limit the ability to schedule more than what most parishes provide.

This article originally appeared on Twitter.

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