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The Busted Halo Question Box
Ask our spiritual experts virtually anything!
This is the place where you can ask all of those burning questions that you wouldn't dare ask in person. We will post questions here (using your byline only with permission); we guarantee an answer to everyone.

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Caitlin Kennell Kim
Mary
Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
General Questions
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP
Ecumenical, Interfaith
Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
Bible
Mike Hayes
Swingman/Editor
 
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Our readers asked:

My priest yelled at me in confession because I had pre-marital sex – is this objectionable behavior and should I report him if it is?

Neela Kale Answers:

The sacrament of reconciliation celebrates God’s boundless mercy and love — no matter what we have done, God always gives us a fresh start if we express sorrow for our sins and a desire to amend our lives. There is absolutely no place for recriminations during confession. The priest may ask questions to help you thoroughly examine your conscience, and he will encourage you to true conversion of heart. But he is not there to scold you because of what you have done. Instead, his words and his tone should convey that he wishes to welcome you back into God’s loving embrace.

If you begin a confession and feel you are not being treated well, it is best to leave and to seek another priest at another time. You are always free to seek out a priest who can help you feel comfortable during reconciliation. If you have serious concerns about the priest’s behavior, call the representative of the priest personnel board (find contact information on your diocesan website). The seal of confession is extremely sacred, which makes reporting about something that happened during reconciliation very delicate. The representative can help you determine if any further action is necessary.

 
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The Author : Neela Kale
Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • http://www.facebook.com/mikehayesjr Mike Hayes

    I’m not a priest but am a spiritual director. I don’t hear confessons but I do often hear many intimate details of someone’s life. I do get frustrated sometimes when I hear the same story from someone for 5 months in a row. But that says more about me than it does about them. I wonder if I’m doing their soul any good at all?

    But the truth is that admonitions need not be unkind. I often will “mirror back” to the directee what they said to me to make sure I heard them correctly, but also to allow them to hear the facts for themselves of their life’s details. When they do they often ask for help in overcoming their sins a bit more directly.

    The bottom line is that confession is also not spiritual direction. It’s a sacrament. And in that sacrament we celebrate that God forgives us even before we sin. A recommendation to see a good spiritual director to try to get at the underlying causes of the sin is always a good place to start. Taking someone’s sins seriously in the confessional takes patience and humility. A priest needs to remember that he too, is a sinner and needs God’s mercy. Perhaps Pope Francis’ advice to his priests that they “most of all need to be merciful” is well needed today.

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