Confession Vs “The Theology of Fiction”

Confession Vs “The Theology of Fiction”

From the YouTube Platform…

Many people, even non-Catholics, are familiar with this Sacrament, but we’ll take a magnifying glass to it today, so that we can understand more about what is going on. To do that, we’ll start by looking at the concept of sin itself. This may seem almost obvious, but sin does exist. It’s the whole reason for the Sacrament. Then we’ll look at the two players involved – the penitent, and the priest. Father Sherry [walks] us through the traditional form of the Sacrament of Penance…

Editor writes…

One thing surprisingly  not mentioned by Fr Sherry is the anonymity provided by the confessional box, with its dividing screen and curtain – although it may be covered in his next talk about the way the Sacrament has changed in the new rite.  It’s sometimes seen as a sign of pride to cherish the tradition of anonymity – IS it a sign of pride?  Should we want to be identified by the priest when we go to Confession? Does that desire show true humility?

Comments (19)

  • editor

    I hope everyone finds the above video useful and informative.

    However, I need to explain that I was disappointed to hear Father Sherry (whom I admire greatly – we miss him in Scotland!) using the term “vaccines” at one point to explain the nature of the workings of the Sacrament of Penance.

    At the present time, the Covid vaccine is foremost in people’s minds and is highly controversial, as we know. We have discussed, more than once on this blog, our shock and disappointment with the SSPX Superiors who have permitted the use of these abortion-tainted vaccines for Catholics. So, although Father decided to use this particular substance to teach about Confession, the rest of the video is so good that I decided to post it anyway, ignoring, this time, my own rule about avoiding even one drop of poison.

    The abortion-tainted issue aside, there can be bad side-effects from vaccines which, we hope, is certainly not the case with the Sacrament of Confession 😀

    Looking forward to reading your comments, later.

    February 6, 2022 at 4:12 pm
    • Josephine


      I noticed that mention of vaccines and thought it quite shocking, actually. The rest is very good as you say but that definitely spoilt it for me.

      February 6, 2022 at 5:57 pm
  • Maria Day

    I will only go to Confession if it is anonymous. I reject the idea that it is out of pride. It is out of embarrassment. I don’t know, but I think the Church probably introduced anonymous confession to encourage people to go. An SSPX priest a few years ago did say from the pulpit that we have no actual right to anonymous Confession, which is obviously true, but surely, given how difficult it can be to make one’s Confession, anything that makes it easier is a good thing? A relative used to go regularly to Confession, until the priest announced it would only be by appointment. That person wouldn’t go because of the lack of anonymity, and gradually stopped going to Mass.

    February 6, 2022 at 4:13 pm
    • editor


      I find it difficult to believe that any priest would say from any pulpit that “we have no actual right to anonymous confession.” I suspect – if anything remotely like that has been said – it may have been in the context of tracing the history of the Sacrament and the use of confessional boxes, which did not come about until the 16th century.

      The whole introduction of “by appointment” confessions is a disgrace and takes no account, as you intimate, of human nature.

      February 6, 2022 at 5:54 pm
    • Josephine

      Maria Day,

      The relative who stopped going to confession due to the lack of anonymity, obviously needs to see the Fr Sherry video! It’s not surprising that they eventually stopped going to Mass. That relative was obviously week in the faith to start with, poor soul. Prayers.

      February 6, 2022 at 6:00 pm
    • Margaret Mary

      Maria Day,

      I’m the same, I only go where it’s possible to use a confessional box. There’s lots of reasons for that but one of my problems is concentrating and bad memory, so I need to cut down on distractions. If I went to one of those face to face confessions, I’d end up chatting to the priest and forget about my sins, LOL!

      February 6, 2022 at 8:50 pm
      • Scots Padre

        This may be of help. If so, copy, print and put it in prayer book/jacket pocket.

        Preparation for a good confession –

        Examination of conscience. – 10 Commandments.

        1. I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

        You shall have no gods except me. You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to or serve them.

        2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

        3. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. – Go to Mass. Avoid all un-necessary work. You shall not shop, do a weekly shop in Tesco, Asda, etc. You may “untie your Donkey and water it” – buy a Sunday paper and milk, but do not do your weekly shop, visit shopping centres etc.

        The Lord God kept it as a day of rest and wants mankind to do likewise.

        4. Honour your father and mother.

        5. You shall not kill.

        6. You shall not commit adultery.

        7. You shall not steal.

        8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

        9. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.

        10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods.

        The seven capital sins or vices:

        1. Pride. 2. Covetousness. 3. Lust. 4. Anger. 5. Gluttony. 6. Envy. 7. Sloth.

        Why are they called capital sins?

        They are called capital sins because they are the sources from which all other sins take their rise.

        Six sins against the Holy Spirit are:

        1. Presumption. 2. Despair. 3. Resisting the known truth. 4. Envy of another’s spiritual good. 5. Obstinacy in sin. (to persist in sin) 6. Final impenitence. (not feeling regret about one’s sin or sins)

        Which are the 4 sins crying to heaven for Vengeance?

        1. Wilful Murder (Genesis 4) 2. The Sin of Sodom (homosexuality)(Genesis 18) 3. Oppression of the poor(Exodus 2) 4. Defrauding labourers of their wages (James 5)

        February 10, 2022 at 11:22 pm
      • Margaret Mary

        Scots Padre,

        Thanks for that list – it is a very good focus for preparing for Confession.

        February 11, 2022 at 9:47 am
  • Maria Day


    I can assure you it was said from the pulpit, and although I do not remember the specific context it was not to do with history. At the time I was already aware that confessional boxes were a later development, so in that context I wouldn’t have been surprised. Still, it’s good to have sermons about Confession, and these days access to Confession is a real blessing. And priests, just like the rest of us, can say things that get taken the wrong way!

    February 6, 2022 at 6:10 pm
    • editor


      I admire your humble acknowledgement that we can all get things wrong, misinterpret something. Maybe the specific context will come to you at some point, and what the priest meant will become clearer; you are certainly correct to say that anything (almost!) which makes it easier to get people to Confession can only be a good thing. That is absolutely true.

      February 6, 2022 at 7:12 pm
  • Frankier

    I remember the the Prime Minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny, talking of bringing in a law forcing a priest to break the seal of confession. In the wake of the capitulation(s) during the pandemic, I`m sure it will crop up again and likely come to pass. I wouldn`t anticipate any fight from the clergy now.

    At least, if confessions remain anonymous, the priest wouldn`t need to go to an identity parade.

    If confessions were to be face-to-face, I would wait on a power cut before phoning for an appointment and hope it wouldn`t switch on again half-way in.

    February 6, 2022 at 7:22 pm
    • editor



      I’ve said all along that priests cannot be called on by the police to identify people suspected of crimes precisely because of the anonymity of “the box” and if you throw in my own trick of disguising my voice (I do a passable posh English accent) then they’re never going to be able to help the police with their enquiries.

      I’m not sure that many lawbreakers will rush to the confessional anyway, and, sadly, the apostasy means that not a lot of the alleged practising are bothering confessors much either, so I doubt if the powers-that-be will pursue that avenue.

      PS only kidding about the English accent. Well, I CAN do one but I don’t add to my sins by being so two-faced or, should that be so two-voiced, in Confession 😀

      February 6, 2022 at 7:38 pm
  • Margaret Mary

    I agree about the video – the priest gives a very clear explanation of the sacrament, he is obviously a very good teacher. I think it’s especially good that he pointed out that the contrition is in the heart so even if we can’t get to a priest, or are in an unexpected accident of some kind and die, then God will be satisfied that we truly were sorry for our sins. Some Catholics go on as if the rite itself is the be all and end all, so I was very pleased that he taught that truth.

    February 6, 2022 at 8:47 pm
  • Fidelis

    I agree with everyone, it’s a very good video (although pity about the mention of vaccines, even as an analogy).

    I’m with the “confessional box” and IMHO the dramatic drop in people going to Confession is because the parishes use the lazy “appointment” system. Don’t they know that one of the great priest saints (I think it was St John Vianney) used to sit for 14 hours a day in the confessional, just waiting for people to come and the parish soon became vibrant.

    Priests who argue for face to face confessions obviously do not understand human nature and how difficult it is to honestly admit sins, especially mortal sins. It makes me wonder, TBH, if they make honest confessions themselves.

    February 6, 2022 at 8:58 pm
  • Lily

    I’ve managed to watch the whole video right through – it’s a bit long!

    I do agree that it is a wonderful presentation – Father is a natural teacher, he explains things really well. I’ve recommended it to a relative who has a young family to I’m sure it will spread far and wide.

    It really is a pity about the vax comment but nothing’s perfect in this world, LOL!

    February 7, 2022 at 12:01 pm
  • Marinaio

    Thank goodness that the SSPX has moved on from the controversial “Crisis in the Church” podcast series. This is indeed very good — and I agree that the reference to vaccinations is somewhat bizarre. Thank you, Editor, for making us aware of it.
    Regarding Confession in general, in a setting like Post Falls, which has probably more than 3,000 Catholics who attend the venerable old Mass at diverse venues each Sunday, the topic of the Sacrament of Penance comes up in casual conversation and in serious discussion. Sometimes, in a reverent way, we joke about our foibles in the confessional with others who are thoroughly familiar with our confessors. And it is not surprising that no small number of us have voices distinctive enough to be recognized by our priests. It is somewhat like the scene in the 1987 movie Moonstruck, about Italian-Americans in Brooklyn, when Cher’s character Loretta goes to confession to her parish priest to confess a serious sin. Loretta makes a Catholic “confession sandwich,” by placing the more serious sin between two lesser ones. Father obviously knows what she is doing, and says something about one of the lesser sins, then stops her in her tracks: “but, Loretta, about that second sin you confessed.” He wants to chastise her a bit about the very serious sin, while letting her know that he knows who she is.
    This is not as unusual as it seems. It happened to me when I was a sacristan in a small chapel without an actual confessional. The cry room was used before Mass as the confessional and the problem was that the priest could see who was approaching the confessional, unless the penitent made a point of staying far to the side. One Sunday, I tried that trick — staying out of the vision of the priest as entered — but it didn’t work. After assigning me my penance, as I congratulated myself in relief on my supposed anonymity, Father (who was forgetful about the liturgical calendar) said: “Before you go, Tony, why is the tabernacle draped in red?”
    Regrettably, as was pointed out by another blogger above, there has been an immense drop in Catholics availing themselves of the Sacrament of Confession, so much so that at (Jesuit) Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, the beautiful and plentiful confessionals in the elegant St. Aloysius Church on campus are used as storage closets. When I was last there, I opened the confessional doors to find the confessionals so full of folding chairs and other detritus that no one could possibly have used the confessionals for the purpose for which they were intended. What a shame!
    I have often meditated on the idea that the Sacrament of Confession must surely be one of the most loving gifts that Our Lord Jesus Christ left us. We can start over each time we walk out of that box. We don’t have to wait for the New Year and our half-hearted resolutions of each January 1. For me, when I walk out of the confessional after baring my soul to the priest in persona Christi, it feels for me as if the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders and chest. Deo Gratias!

    February 7, 2022 at 10:13 pm
    • editor


      For the “priest” in the film to let Loretta know who she is, is one thing – he’s only an actor! For a real priest to do that is nothing short of a disgrace, in my view.

      I heard a story similar to the one you recount some years ago, when a priest said to an exiting penitent “Oh [Name] before you leave the church, would you take the hymn books up to the choir loft?” That the penitent was uncomfortable, to say the least, is evidenced in the fact that he told me (and possibly others). If that had been me, I’d have replied “Sure thing – and you’ll never see me in this church again and certainly not in the confessional here.” I can be a hard wummin…

      That priest was a diocesan, modernist priest but the same sort of insensitivity is, sorry to say, also evident in some “traditional” clergy, manifested in so many different ways. It’s disappointing, to say the least. I’m afraid I see it as an indulging of curiosity. They shouldn’t want to know the identity of penitents. I see that curiosity as a major (and potentially dangerous) fault.

      Do not misunderstand: I know there can be a need for seeking confession/absolution “outside the box” 😀 I have to do that myself, since I can’t hear a blessed word the priests say where I attend and saying “Father, sorry, I can’t hear you, I’m hard of hearing” makes no difference, they keep their voices low. So, having struggled to hear my penance and having to guess when I’ve to “go in peace…” I decided to forego the anonymity – and lack of distraction – of a confessional box and confess to a diocesan priest I’ve known for years, who will no doubt now be hunted down and imprisoned for refusing to break the seal after my next visit 😀 However, that’s exceptional and maybe necessary for those of us with hearing difficulties who may be incriminating ourselves in “the box” due to answering a question which we think the priest is asking when he’s asking something else 😀 In the ordinary, normal scheme of things the best form of participating in the Sacrament is through using the confessionals.

      Gosh, isn’t being a Catholic hard work at times? 😀

      February 7, 2022 at 11:30 pm
  • Margaret Mary

    That was a very helpful video about confession. I think just about everything was covered.

    Apart from the use of the vernacular in the prayer of absolution instead of Latin, I can’t think of anything else that was changed in the new rite so I am looking forward to that video, as well.

    February 8, 2022 at 4:54 pm
  • Scots Padre

    I think priests should definitely offer anonymous chance of Confession.
    The flock need to feel at ease and confident to frequent the Sacrament of Confession, which cleansess the soul from all sin (assuming a full & good Confession is made) and makes us worthy to approach the altar to receive our Saviour, the Son of God, worthily.
    Our Lady of Fatima said to three innocent little children (7, 8, 10) to frequent Confession once a month. If the Queen of Heaven tells little children to do that, we adults should be at least as keen, if not keener, to frequent the once a month or even more often!
    And so priests should regularily/frequently make it available for their flock, and encourage the sheep to use this very important Sacrament. Sadly we priests have failed in this respect in recent decades.

    February 10, 2022 at 11:04 pm

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