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Is Confession Useful If I’m Not Sorry for All of My Sins?


A listener named Michael calls into the show and asks, “Is Confession useful if you want to repent from some of your sins, but not all?” Father Dave asks Michael if he thinks this is okay. Michael responds that he doesn’t think it’s okay, but he struggles with wanting to live his life by his own rules.

Father Dave encourages Michael and points out that it’s good that he has some sense of remorse and the idea that it’s not right. Michael shares that he doesn’t go to Confession and asks if he should still go even though he will not confess all of his sins.

“What we believe about that Sacraments is that there is grace in and of themselves in the Sacraments,” Father Dave says. “The Sacraments are experiences of God.” Father Dave tells Michael that it’s important that he goes to Confession and shares all of this with the priest. “I would definitely trust that the Sacrament itself is efficacious.”

Father Dave relates Michael’s situation to the woman in the Gospel of John who was going to be stoned for adultery: “There was a likelihood that she was having an affair and wasn’t necessarily remorseful. But at the moment she has that encounter with Jesus where he says, ‘Go and sin no more,’ that moves her to repentance. So Michael, I wouldn’t write off experiencing the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” Father Dave also encourages him to speak to a spiritual director or peer to help him discover the root of his resistance.

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Another listener named Catherine calls in to follow up on this topic. Catherine shares that a priest once told her that she should never return to Confession if she is not sorry for her sins and wants Father Dave’s perspective on this.

“I certainly believe that God works with us,” Father Dave says. “Many times, as the old saying goes, God writes straight with crooked lines. For some people, it’s a perfectly linear path all of their lives from when they’re formed in the faith early on, and they get better and better and more holy as they approach the grave, and then just enter into heaven. Most of us, no. Most of us, God works with, and the Church, as God’s Sacrament on earth, works with us at all of these various twists and turns: When we’re doubting, when we’re questioning, when we disagree with the Church … That’s why the Sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are there.”

Father Dave points out that there is a necessary piece of Confession, which is contrition and sorrow for one’s sin. “I think way too often we make these extremes of ‘I’m not sorry at all’ or ‘Here I am groveling on the floor beating my breast because I just can’t stand my sins,’ when 99% of us are somewhere in between … I certainly disagree that you should never approach the Sacrament, because like I said to Michael, the Sacrament itself can be the very thing that convicts us of our sin … that may be the thing that pushes us into God’s arms.” (Original Air 3-01-18)