Friday, December 23, 2011

QUAERITUR: Long confession lines, having only venial sins, and blocking someone else’s chance to confess

Great post from Fr. Z.
QUAERITUR: Long confession lines, having only venial sins, and blocking someone else’s chance to confess


  1. I'm not quite understanding the concept of confession. The Church teaches that if you commit a mortal sin, then die before going to confession, you go right straight down to hell. But yet, in most parishes, confession is only offered for 1/2 hour on Saturday evenings or by appointment. There is something not right here. As I look deeper into it, it seems that only Catholics have the greater chance of going to hell because of an un-confessed mortal sin to a priest. None of the Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, Assemblies of God, etc... don't practice or believe in confession and the Catholic Church believes they can and do go to Heaven. Another interesting point is, I haven't found a priest yet that is willing to say that both Christopher Hitchens and Kim Jong-il went down to hell after they died. But, in both cases, neither of them went to confession before they died and we know good and well they were in a state of mortal sin. Especially Kim Jong-il. And with Hitchens the way he was, there was absolutely no way he went to confession!
    Father--can you please try to help me to understand this! I don't get it. I really don't! Otherwise, I really see no point in even wasting my time and humiliating myself behind a screen by airing my dirty laundry....and sometimes to a total stranger(depending on where I can find a confessional during the week).

  2. When Our Lady of Fatima appeared to Sister Lucia on December 10, 1925, she very specifically encouraged the practice of monthly confession. When the Blessed Mother Mary makes a request, I believe it extremely wise to follow. So monthly confession is a practice my family and I have followed for a number of years. It was difficult and I sometimes had the same concerns Fr. Z's reader has when confessions in our parish were limited to one hour on Saturday afternoons prior to the Sunday Vigil Mass. We would often rotate among a number of churches in the area to avoid "hogging" our own parish priest. That's why we are so grateful and express our deepest Thanks to Father Joe and Father Hollowell for making confession in our parish much more available with the extended hours on First Saturdays. Very much appreciated Father!!!

    By the way, how many people think they can go a whole month without committing one mortal sin???

    Merry Christmas!!!

  3. @bob

    That is not necessarily true. The Church teaches that if you die with any UNREPENTANT mortal sin on your soul then you go to hell.

    For something to be a mortal sin, it must meet three criteria.
    1)It must be grave matter.
    2)You have to know it was grave matter.
    3)You have to do it by your own free will.

    If all three of those are not simultaneously present then it wasn't a mortal sin. Thus, we can not judge other people's souls.

  4. Mike - you are right and monthly confession is something that I hope spreads among more Catholics because I know how much it has helped me.

    I think Fr. Z.'s post is a good one because it points out that those who are availing themselves of the sacrament on a monthly or some other frequent basis would be doing an act of charity towards their fellow Catholics (who may prefer procrastination) by seeking out the sacrament at "non-peak hours"

  5. I'd have to pack a lunch, and bring a sleeping bag ;-) Have ya clear your schedule, and bring a couple Red Bulls to keep ya awake ;-P

    Merry Christmas! ;-)

  6. @ the anonymous person above; if what you are saying is true, then all I have to do is tell God I am sorry for my sins every single night and I would be saved from hell? Theoretically then I wouldn't have to go to confession at all if that is what you are saying. I guess if that is the case, then should I ever commit a mortal sin(I know what the conditions for a mortal sin are as I am Catholic) all I have to do is to tell God I am sorry, which means I have repented, and that should allow me to take communion then. But this is where I fail to understand this; the Church says you can't go to communion until you go to confession after committing a mortal sin. You are forever barred from receiving communion until you confess the sin to a priest, yet if I repent privately to God....I still can't take communion.???? Even though I told God I am sorry???? It's like the Church is saying God won't forgive me directly, but only via the priest. Something don't make sense.

  7. Bob, I'd like to recommend a book which I believe will really help you to understand the necessity for confession before a priest (i.e. before Jesus himself). Dr. Scott Hahn's "Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession" will probably answer every question you have...and instill in you the desire to confess as Holy Mother Church requires. Happy Reading and Merry Christmas Bob!!!

  8. Bob, if you repent after committing a mortal sin you should plan to go to confession as soon as possible.

  9. At least, in my opinion you should. I suggest you take a look at some official Church Documents to see what the Church officially says.

  10. @ the anonymous user above; if I repent why should I go ASAP to the confessional? Obviously it isn't that big of a deal, otherwise the vast majority of the parishes would have confession offered every day for an hour or better. C'mon folks, the protestants never go to confession(AT ALL)and the church teaches they can go to Heaven as well. I've told priests in the confessional in the past that was rather humiliating and really none of the priests' business. I'm tired of airing dirty laundry......

  11. As soon as we take the "The Church teaches they can possibly get into Heaven, so I'm not going to do what the Church teaches" attitude, we are in really dangerous water. First of all, it is illogical because you are breaking a Church teaching (go to confession once a year) because of another Church teaching.

    Secondly, the parable of the talents applies here. To some God gives 5 talents, another 2... we believe that this applies to knowledge of the things to come as well - some people are granted greater knowledge of the Truth, and some have a lot longer path to travel. We ought to believe that we as Catholics have been given the fulness of the Truth, and should never be envious of those who do not have as deep an understanding of what God is calling us to. This is NOT Catholic arrogance, this is to say that we ought to be thankful for the teachings of the Church.

    It should also be noted that unless we see God's laws given to us through the Church as freeing and as the road map to happiness, it is only a matter of time before a person will leave the Church any way. With one foot out the door, Bob, I really hope you do come back.

  12. Father Hollowell,

    I haven't left the Catholic Church and have no plans to do so. There is more to this story than what I am willing to share here on this blog. In this year of 2011 alone, I think I have gone to confession at least 20 times. Maybe 25 times, but that may be stretching it a little. Basically I am getting burned out from going so many times. Again, I won't get into the reasons why on this blog for everybody in the world to see. I'm starting to fail to understand the whole concept of confession for numerous reasons. Basically what started it was the deaths of Christopher Hitchens and Kim Jong-il. Seen a lot of Catholics praying for the repose of Hitchens's soul....and even Kim Jong-il's which made me begin to think about the whole confession thing.

  13. Bob, I'm not sure how people praying for those two would be a crisis of faith - we can always pray for people, and Jesus said we should pray for our enemies.

  14. bob, it seems, from what i can gather from a comment box, that you might be susceptible to what was once known as scruples. in basic terms it might be described an overactive sense of guilt. in no way do i tend to trivialize your sins, but i know that just as we should not presume God's mercy, neither should we despair or presume its absence. it was just this mentality that plagued luther into schism.
    As to protestants not going to confession, the lord said, to those who have been given much, much is expected. we have been given the channel of grace and god would have us make use of it. for the record, some anglican and lutheran parishes do make use of confession, as do all orthodox churches (though they are not protestant).
    finally, i too, lament the lack of regular confession in most parishes, and count it among my blessings to have regular access to a confessor at my parish. however, your argument that it must not be a big deal since it is so infrequently offered is a faulty one. in all too many parishes things are not done as the Church would have them be, but to say that it is not a big deal would be like saying that because there are relatively few doctors or hospitals in say, Haiti, must mean that Haitians are all very healthy and have no need of medical care.

  15. Fr. Hollowell,

    What I am saying is, that is how things got started. It started off small, and it got larger and larger and it mushroomed. For a long long time I believed that if you should commit a mortal sin, and die before you enter the confessional, you would go directly to matter how many times you tell God you are sorry in the meantime. Then Hitchens and Kim Jong-ill die and there were prayers(mostly for Hitchens) for the repose of their souls. That in and of itself confused me. I read somewhere from a priest that stated Hitchens could have said he was sorry and accepted God a nanosecond before he died, and that could have saved him from hell. One of the users above stated you would go to hell for an unrepentant mortal sin. So, it appears that we as Catholics must repent twice. Once before God personally and once in the confessional. Now here is a good question; if I commit sin "X" and I repent and tell God I am sorry, then go to confession and the priest, for whatever reason, refuses me absolution, am I a forgiven person or not? I'd really like to know the answer to that one. Keep in mind that Jesus said that if somebody asks for forgiveness, you are to forgive them 70 x 7 or something like that. I'm sure that's the way He works in Heaven as well.

    @Mr. Basso: A priest told me once that God's mercy is endless. So, in my opinion, it is OK to presume it, otherwise, God's mercy would have some stops here and there. Also, the half hour a week confession times in TONS of churches puts on the front that it is not a huge deal. In fact, I haven't heard a homily on the extreme need for confession ever that I can recall. Just sayin....

  16. @ Mr. Basso: One more thing; just an FYI, I have heard of Lutherans and Anglicans make use of confession as well as the Orthodox. However, in case you didn't know, the ordinations of Anglicans and Lutherans aren't valid ones so the Catholic Church doesn't believe they have the power to absolve sins in the confessional. Nor do they have the power to consecrate the bread and wine into the body of Jesus. Orthodox priests can do all of that as they have apostolic succession. How the Orthodox do, I have no clue. So, if I as a Catholic go to a Lutheran Pastor for confession, it wouldn't be a valid confession. If the Lutherans go to their pastor for confession, I have no idea if they are truly absolved of their sins; that's a whole different ball of wax that would require an answer from God himself.

  17. Bob, i am quite well versed in the sad divisions within Christendom over time, and the subsequent loss of apostolic succession and therefore invalidity of sacraments. I was not claiming any validity in anglican or lutheran orders, but merely positing that some protestants do in fact recognize the need for some degree of repentance, confession, penance, and absolution, since you had said, "C'mon folks, the protestants never go to confession (AT ALL)".
    Bob, your questions are great ones, and obviously not going to be resolved in a string of blog comments. If you would like to e-mail me personally I would be glad to point you to some resources (books and individuals) and I am sure that Father could do the same. I would only ask that you take some time to digest the answers that people have to offer on behalf of the Church and pray for guidance as you process those answers.
    as a quick post-script regarding the endlessness of God's Mercy - simply because something exists in an infinite supply does not mean that I have unlimited access to it. If you'll indulge an anaology: for all intents and purposes, oxygen is in infinite supply, but that does not mean that i can presume that I will always be able to breathe. there has to be some point of connection (like the alveoli in the lungs where gas exchange takes place). that is what the sacraments are for us.

  18. Mr. Basso - love the aveoli analogy!

    Bob, a mortal sin is my directly willing to turn away from God in a conscious way. What happens in those final moments before death is not mine to pronounce on. Some have postulated that perhaps Christ presents us with one final opportunity to embrace him or reject him before moving on. Regardless, the Church NEVER SAYS THIS PERSON OR THAT PERSON DEFINITIVELY GOES TO HELL. We say "mortal sin will land you in Hell, but God's mercy is also not something that we can say we know how God will go ABOVE AND BEYOND what he has laid down as law."

    Again, it comes back to happiness. Let's say Hitchens is visited by our Lord in the closing moments of his life
    Jesus: "Mr. Hitchens, do you reject me or accept me."
    Hitchens: "I accept you."
    Jesus: "Come and enter into the eternal kingdom prepared for me by my Father."

    Some will say that that is not fair (like the older brother complained in the Prodigal Son parable). Some will say, "well, I'll just do what I want and repent on my death bed." In our screwed up society, many people today view a death bed conversion as getting the "best of both worlds" in the sense that a death bed conversion allows a person to have "fun" while alive, and still get to heaven.

    But this isn't the case if I rightly view sin as misery, pain, suffering, and the unhappiness that it is. God's laws are a guide to my happiness right now, today, in this moment, even if they seem difficult or challenging. If we as a society don't start perceiving God's commands/call to us, then we will continue to spiral into madness.

  19. Fr. Hollowell & Mr. Basso:

    Thank You for helping me to understand all of this. I think I now have a much better understanding of mortal sin and confession. Although there are still a couple questions hanging, I won't ask them as I guess I just need to move on.

    Mr. Basso--I actually would like to be pointed to some sources and individuals as you say and would very much like to digest the information given. However, if I did that, it would inevitably cause me to "think outside the box" after reading the material. That in turn causes me to ask questions related to the material that are "outside the box" but nonetheless important ones for me to know the answer to. So...I should probably just avoid such material to prevent my mind from wandering to places it shouldn't go. It's a serious downfall and I am trying to work on improving that. All it takes is something small such as the deaths of Christoper Hitchens and Kim Jong-il and hearing of prayers for the repose of their souls and my mind literally explodes.

    Again, many thanks to the both of you! Also, sorry if I caused any inconvenience.... I seriously can't help it. :(