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Ecumenical, Interfaith
Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
Mike Hayes
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.

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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    Your not suppose to confess your sins to a man that is just as wicked as you. Nevermind that priest, confess to God only!

    • Connor

      Actually there is Biblical evidence for confessing to a Priest.

      Leviticus 19: 20-22: A man who committed adultery had to bring a guilt offering for himself to the door of the tent of meeting (holy place where the ark of the covenant, which contained God’s true presence was kept). But then it adds “And the priest shall make atonement for him …before the Lord for his sin…and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven.” (see also Leviticus 5: 5-6) The priest could not make atonement if he were not aware of the man’s sin. He is acting as a mediator for the repentant sinner.

      The complaint might be, well that is the Old Testament, but now we have Jesus, who suffered for our sins. What does the New Testament have to say?

      Matthew 3: 16 (and Mk 1: 5): “. . . they were baptized by him [John the Baptist] in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” So he who prepared the way for Christ, listened to confessions of sin.

      John the Baptist, whom Jesus called him the greatest “among them that are born of woman,” preached a baptism of repentance. Mark tells us that “. . . there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. We learn in Luke’s account of the Baptist that he answered many questions for the people concerning the behavior they should follow, but freely confessed that he was not the Christ (Luke 3: 16-17). He doubtless heard countless confessions of sin, but he knew where forgiveness of sin came from for when Jesus approached he declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1: 29). Jesus than sent his disciples to baptize throughout Judea (John 3: 22) and they too, doubtless heard the confessions of many sinners as they traveled from village to village. So Jesus used his disciples and John the precursor to hear confessions of sins, but this is not the sacrament of confession, anymore than the baptism of John was the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which came after John the Baptist’s time. Let’s see if the New Testament shows men receiving the authority to forgive sins in God’s name.

      Matthew 9: 6-8: Jesus tells us that He was given authority on earth to forgive sins (a power reserved to God alone) and proves it with miraculous healings and then Scripture notes this same authority was given to “men” (plural). Is this merely a figure of speech? No, John’s Gospel makes it clear Jesus intended to give this sacrament to men:

      John 20: 21-23: In his very first Resurrection appearance our Lord gives this awesome power to his Apostles with the words:

      “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” How could they forgive sins if they were not confessed? They could not. This authority comes through the gift of the Holy Spirit which precedes it.

      Does this remind of you what He told Peter (Mt. 16: 19) and then the other apostles (Mt. 18:18)? “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This includes sins. Jesus allowed for us to receive spiritual consolation and counsel in this beautiful sacrament of the Church. We see this awesome power in other sacraments as well. What today we call the sacrament of the sick. Again, we look to Scripture:

      James 5: 14-17: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another …”

      Notice the command does not say confess your sins straight to God. Notice also who they are to go to the “elders” (bishops or priests—see the Acts 14: 23; 15: 2 for example).

      John 1: 9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The word confess has an oral/verbal or proclamation meaning. St. Paul describes his ministry as one of reconciliation of sinners:

      2 Corinthians 5: 18: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . .”

  • richfire

    I have the same experience too… I confess to a priest and the priest didn’t forgive me. So i leave the confession room with teary eyes, and ask myself… how come in this planet it happened thz way.. where can i find refuge and rest my spirit for the only person in the world who would understand human nature refuse to forgive me, it is very hard to confess especially to human… but for the courage of GOD i tried., coz i commit serious terrible mistake (SIN)… what i did is i transferred to other parish and ask the priest incharge of the mass if he would allow me to confess… “for this kind of mistake” then he said… yes..go ahead… the courage that i focus on is came from the story of prodigal son that i remember when i read my bible and even in the mass.. God seriously forgive if im willing to go back to him, this i said to myself and put it in my mind over and over again… then i did… I pray for that priest that he may not do that act again…to other confessioners because it hurts and painful.

  • Mike

    “priest yells at connfessor for pre-matital sex”

    is it a bad thing that a priest did what your parents sould have done too, yelled at you for not rasing you right, or for you not having strong will power, or for you putting yourself in a situation that you should have left before it happened?

    You did something that is taught not to do. Do you think God would have yelled at you for sinning too, or just said its ok keep on sinning, or it’s ok I’ll just forgive you every saturady provied you tell me about it? that is what I am all about now days. I’m not about others obeying my commandments any more just forgivness. FREEWILL is a Bit*h, sometimess it can get you into trouble but God too has freewill, therefore so do you. God too has a set of rules to live by, along with his freewill. He does not devate from his set standards of life, even tough he too has freewill. should you not do the same? Food for thought.

    • Quinn Wendland

      Are you saying that you never sin? Food for thought.

    • ravenwood

      As a strong satisfied Protestent I can only hope that you are either a priest now or soon will be.

    • Stephanie Hazeem

      I’m so glad I’m agnostic.

  • 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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