Friday, 22 July 2011

Confession; time to retrace our steps

I have recently become convinced that the Catholic Church should move away from face to face confessions - except in cases of necessity (pilgrimages etc). The attacks on the seal of the Confessional now coming from Australia as well as Ireland are very worrying. Priests may have to go to prison for upholding the seal. One way to avoid this - and I hope the Vatican is thinking about it - is to insist that all confessions remain anonymous and that the option of face to face confession is removed as far as normal practice is concerned.

In recent years and months I have become increasingly uneasy about people coming round the grill to sit with the priest, and I have become slightly uneasy with children's confessions in schools because of the need to have an adult within a reasonable distance (because of safeguarding). To my mind these distractions militate against children and adults making a good open confession and use of the grill would also - in my opinion - allow the priest greater freedom to speak to the penitent about certain matters. If I thought that the seal was under threat in England I would have no hesitation in insisting that all my penitents made their confession behind a grill and a curtain. This sacrament is too precious for us to take unnecessary risks.


  1. I would feel very uneasy with face to face confession. I can speak from the heart and unburden myself anonymously. That is just my preference.

  2. Very interesting observation Father. A church that I go to occasionally is having the face to face confessionals ripped out and a grille system installed. When I asked the PP why he replied: "no one comes to face to face confession".

  3. As a former Anglican I am used to Confession "out of the Box"--though it is somthing not often practised as a normal routine in the Anglican Church. After a few Confessions with my own priest since conversion, he knew who I was soon enough anyway, from my voice and from what I talked about. I would think if you don't want to be recognised from your voice, then it is best to go to a different priest. I am much more comfortable with an face to face contact and looking a person in the eye, but it may be that not having a Confessional with a grille is yet another sign of the "modern church" being "up to date". When I was working, before I retired, we were constantly being updated and modernised, almost on a daily basis by young, not very experienced managers, until it became almost impossible to know what was what, so we older nurses simply carried on in our own way( unless of course it was something that really mattered.)It is important to know the wheat from the chaff( or the good seed from the darnel as last week's Gospel explained.)


  4. I disagree. The grill is something that the Irish invented in the 6th century because of our shyness. The face to face confession is something that existed before this. In the Eastern Catholic parish we do confessions face to face before the iconatosis.

    There is nothing wrong with face to face at all. Christians were persecuted previous to the grill coming in the 6th century and regardless of face to face or grill the seal of confession will continue to be persecuted.

    People do go to confession face to face. My parish has thousands each year going to confession this way with about 20 yards apart from the people for privacy.

    God bless

  5. Thank you Stephen, I appreciate these points. I understand what you say. It is useful to be reminded of the Eastern practice and I think you have a point about the seal always being persecuted, but all are agreed that these recent attempts from within two democratic governments are unprecedented. Added to this the insecurity now felt by many priests in the western rite because of all the accusations - many of them against innocent priests. My own experience, which is what I was alluding to, suggests that in the western rite at least, it would solve some immediate problems by using the grill. However, I may be wrong.