Do Catholics Fear Confession?

Do Catholics Fear Confession?

Editor writes…

Why are Catholics apparently reluctant to attend Confession these days?  Can we blame the laxity of the clergy during lockdown, or is there something else at work here?

And, importantly, is there anything the narrator (or St John Vianney!) says in the above video to reignite your appreciation of the Sacrament of Penance?

Your thoughts…   

Comments (20)

  • Miles Immaculatae Reply

    I know some converts, including a member of my own family. These converts have told me they feared their first confession because it was new to them and they didn’t know what to expect. I was very lucky to have had a very kind and pastoral priest to hear my first confession.

    Most of my confessors have been good. Unfortunately, on four occasions during my life, I have had a bad confessor. I have been to confession approximately 100 times during my life with 96% satisfaction. 4% dissatisfaction is not too bad. If you needed life-saving surgery, and the risk of death were 4%, I would have the surgery.

    I prefer to go to an anonymous priest. I also choose priests whom I know to say Mass reverently. If a priest experiments with the text of the Mass, it is possible he might fiddle around with the words of absolution, which I experienced on one occasion.

    October 1, 2022 at 8:19 pm
    • editor Reply

      Miles Immaculatae,

      I’m wondering what has happened to your avatar. You need to log in with the same email address that you used when you signed up for your avatar, otherwise it won’t appear. And it was lovely, if my memory (for once) serves me correctly 😀

      October 1, 2022 at 11:36 pm
  • E Reply

    I didn’t watch the video but Americans are poorly catechized. I didn’t learn until I was 38 years old that you should not get communion until you’ve had a confession if you missed Sunday mass, among other sins. Nobody I know goes to confession.

    October 1, 2022 at 8:42 pm
    • editor Reply

      The video is five minutes long. I can’t imagine why anyone – any Catholic – wouldn’t watch it. Maybe, if you HAD watched it, you’d have been moved to send the link to some – if not all – of those people you know who never go to Confession.

      Because the other thing that Catholics today seem not to know, is the meaning of that other great Sacrament – the Sacrament of Confirmation, where we are strengthened to be Soldiers of Christ. Soldiers fight. Soldiers of Christ fight for souls. If you have a lot of Catholics in your life who never go to Confession – YOU have a duty to try to help them to see the gravity of this error. They are in serious spiritual danger. You can change that.

      October 1, 2022 at 9:48 pm
      • E

        Yikes! Didn’t mean I wasn’t going to watch the video eventually — I just felt compelled to answer the first half of your question. Unfortunately I’m surrounded by very nice non-Catholic Christians. They are more interested in evangelizing me to not be Catholic. But thanks for reminding me of my duties; I didn’t mean to strike a nerve!

        October 1, 2022 at 10:18 pm
      • E

        PS I’d be honored to be surrounded by Catholics as strong as you. No priest or layperson has ever spoke about Confirmation in that simple, yet awesome, manner.

        October 1, 2022 at 10:21 pm
      • editor


        You’re very good not to take offence – and I know what you mean about those nice non-Catholics who want to evangelise. They often put us to great shame.

        And then to go onto kindly praise my unworthy self re. Confirmation duty – your charity is touching. I’m going to have to be nice to you from now on 😀

        You are so right about the lack of teaching and preaching about Confirmation – it’s been a hobby horse of mine since I was around eleven years of age, after asking a priest in my parish if I could do something: I’d seen some young people of my own age serving at a piety stall, back of the church, and I was keen to join them but when I asked, he brushed me off. I remember thinking “God will not be pleased with him” and so my career to fix the clergy was launched 😀 He’s deceased now, so if he’s reading this, I bet he’s saying “Drat! If only…” 😀

        October 1, 2022 at 10:29 pm
  • Faith of Our Fathers Reply

    To me and probably all on Here the Sacrament of Confession is what really makes us Catholics. I had 2 Friends Non Catholics but good people who were wanting to start afresh. Both of them said to me that they wished they were Catholics as we had Confession. I said that I would talk to a good friend who was a Priest. He said that He would see them. What was said between them I know not what I do know is that Both were Practicing Protestant’s but wanted to speak with a Catholic Priest.
    Of course now we have the Jimmy Martins and Co who certainly don’t believe in Sin never mind Confession. How many Souls are Terrible Priests leading to Perdition.
    God Bless St John Vianney .
    As for fear of Confession Bergoglio did say that confession is not a Torture Chamber. Funny how in my 60 odd years before Bergoglio said that I never ever seen the Confessional as a Torture Chamber.

    October 1, 2022 at 8:57 pm
    • Josephine Reply

      Faith of our Fathers,

      I agree about that jibe – “torture chamber”? I’ve never heard such a thing. Just because a priest may have to be straight-talking, if people are insisting they are not committing sin when they are living in a counter-gospel way, doesn’t mean they’re being put through torture.

      October 2, 2022 at 5:45 pm
  • editor Reply

    Just a word before the midnight hour to remind everyone that we are now into October, the Month of the Holy Rosary, with great Feasts marked on the traditional calendar during this month. It’s St Therese of the Child Jesus on 3rd (and St Teresa of Avila on the 15th), as well as St Margaret Mary on the 17th and the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary on 7th. Then we have the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales on 25th – but that’ll do for now…

    St Therese of the Child Jesus (Feast, 3rd) said that she would spend her Heaven doing good on earth, and when we see her statue where she holds a bunch of roses, it should remind us that when she said this, she added that she would scatter her “roses” on earth – i.e. her good deeds, so to speak, her intercessions before God.

    Maybe we could ask her for a “rose” in the form of the graces necessary for those of our family and friends who have lapsed from the Faith, that they may experience a desire for Confession. A “rose” for this family member, a “rose” for that friend – who knows what graces may come their way. She’s not called the “Little Flower” for nothing 😀

    Worth a try, folks.

    October 1, 2022 at 10:20 pm
  • E Reply

    Well said.

    October 1, 2022 at 10:23 pm
  • Marinaio Reply

    The Sacrament of Confession (Penance) is a very common topic of conversation among the large population of “traditional” Catholics here in the area. Sometimes, in social settings, we make reverent jokes about ourselves in the confessional, while at other times an acquaintance or friend may let slip (usually unintentionally) the penance he received from a priest. In 2nd Grade, Sister Patrick Mary, OSF, told us not to talk about our confessional experience at all; however, it is natural, I think, for Catholics discussing common problems (such as adult children who have strayed from the Faith) to offer one another advice they heard in the confessional.
    Now, regarding our dear Editor’s actual question, I think that some Catholics can, at times, find going to Confession to be a somewhat frightening experience. We all know that it has been compared to going to a physician to heal a medical/physical problem; but still, it can be intimidating. At the age of 9 or 10, we school children were waiting in line one day when our pastor could be heard in the confessional scolding, in a very loud and angry voice, one of my female classmates for having attended a birthday party where, apparently, some questionable activity occurred. (No, for the record, I did NOT attend!) I have to say I still remember having to work up the courage after that incident.
    The most frightening confession was my general confession that I made in my 50s at an Ignatian retreat. I suppose that one’s temperament will have a significant bearing on how one faces a general confession; but I had intentionally put all those things out of my mind, and to dredge them up again was, for me, quite unsettling.
    One reason Catholics may fear Confession is, perhaps, their impression that the priest they often see out and about (and have to dinner) may somehow remember the things they said in the confessional. If a lay person has an easily recognizable, unmistakable voice, I think that is another cause for trepidation. It brings to mind the humorous scene from the 1987 movie, Moonstruck, when the main character, Loretta, goes to confession after committing a serious sin. She makes what I call a “confessional sandwich,” by starting off with a minor venial sin, then telling the very bad sin, then finishing with another relatively innocuous sin. But the priest knows her voice, and asks, “What was that second sin again, Loretta?” She wasn’t going to get away with glossing over it. And of course, in the closing scene, when Loretta’s mom, Rose, confronts her husband about his infidelity, Rose first gets his assurance that he will break it off, then says, “And go to Confession!”
    In the final analysis, we Catholics know we should not be afraid of Confession; but I think that there will always be, for some of us, a little reluctance that we have to overcome. Maybe it’s natural, as I said, for some temperaments. But doesn’t it feel so very, very good after you have gone and relieved your soul of those burdensome sins?

    October 2, 2022 at 3:22 am
  • Josephine Reply

    Confession is beyond words, a most wonderful grace from God.

    Although I love the traditional Latin Mass, I have to be honest and say that I love to hear the words of absolution in English. It is so liberating to hear those words.

    It’s understandable to be nervous, especially if someone has been away from the sacraments for a bit, but I’d say “fear” is too strong a word. “Nervous” or “apprehensive” but I’d never feel fear going into the confessional.

    The video is great, and I hope many priests watch it and realise the good that they do just by sitting in the confessional for an hour or two. Even if nobody comes, or few come, it’s an example in itself to know the priest is there, like Our Lord himself, waiting for the sinner to approach.

    October 2, 2022 at 5:42 pm
    • Michael 🙏 Reply


      I completely agree with you on this and the video is great.

      The Sacrament is a beautiful and uplifting encounter with Our Lord and his great love to those who lovingly and humbly acknowledge their sinfulness and trust in his mercy.

      As for feeling a sense of fear like you this is to strong a word. For me it’s a joy and a relief. I always feel that a great burden has been lifted from me and it uplifts my soul.

      The words of absolution always make me cry. It’s been my experience since my first confession and lm 57 now.

      Next to the Eucharist for me it’s the greatest sacrament. I only wish many of our fellow Catholics would deepen their understanding and appreciation of this wonderful gift from the Lord.

      Ave Maria!

      Every blessing

      Michael 🙏

      October 2, 2022 at 7:19 pm
    • editor Reply


      You make a crucially important point about priests being willing to simply sit in the confessional (they can read/pray, it’s not time-wasting) because that is traditionally what would happen. Confessions were announced for specific time-frames, e.g., Saturday evenings between 6pm and 8pm whereas now it’s a case of either phone to make an appointment (yeah right) or take your chances before or after Mass – a favourite, ironically, with the so-called “traditional” priests.

      That presence is, as you rightly say, an example in itself, of Our Lord waiting to receive the sinner.

      Increasingly, though, I don’t see how things will ever return to that normality. Bad habits die hard, as the saying goes, and priests have allowed themselves to fall into very bad habits, with a combination of the crisis in the Church and then their scandalous compliance with Covid lockdown and restrictions to blame – parishes even continue to place hand sanitiser in the church entrance! So, in this “new normal” I doubt if we will see a return to regular, publicised available confession times, any time soon, if ever.

      October 3, 2022 at 10:56 am
    • Elizabeth Reply

      After three years, yes three years! , regular Saturday morning Confessions have restarted in our parish. Thanks mainly to a change of priest and gentle insistence from a few of us parishioners. During the pandemic it was possible to request Confession in the presbytery but I think very few did so.
      My worry is mainly about my little grandsons. They made their First Confession in the last 18 months and are now devout altar servers. The elder one was taken for Confession and came out with a shining face saying he felt really warm inside and his mummy told him that was grace. His brother’s first confession looks like being his last at this rate though I do try to remind the parents before Saturday mornings that the Sacrament is available.I’m pretty sure that neither of the parents go to Confession 5hough they are faithful Mass goers and both help in the parish. What to do? I pray every day that they will turn back to this wonderful Sacrament.

      October 3, 2022 at 1:21 pm
      • editor


        You describe a very common problem in families today.

        Why not send the link to the above video to your children, the parents of your lovely grandsons? You need only say YOU found it helpful, maybe they will or something equally non-lecturing. I know from my own family and friends that that is the crime: seeming to be lecturing.

        I copied the link from YouTube so you needn’t send them the link to this whole thread where they may work out that Grandma has struck again!

        Just dawning on me that this link may open out here as the actual video again – if it does so, all you need do is click on the video and select “copy link”. Worth a try… Here goes…

        October 3, 2022 at 2:21 pm
  • Theresa Rose Reply

    Josephine, Michael,

    I agree that confession is a wonderful grace from God and the video is great. It is indeed a wonderful Sacrament. It is important for us to make a good examination of conscience prior to making that confession.

    Saint John Vianney was a priest and who was able to read the souls of those people who sought him to hear confessions. This article helps explain why people sought him out.

    October 2, 2022 at 8:35 pm
    • Lily Reply

      Theresa Rose,

      Those are great links you’ve given, thanks for that.

      I loved the examination of conscience which is very detailed and a great help. Also the quotes from St John Vianney. I noted this one, especially:

      I thought a time would come when people would rout me out of Ars with sticks, when the Bishop would suspend me, and I should end my days in prison. I see, however, that I am not worthy of such a grace.

      That is so beautiful. He was such a holy priest. It makes me realise how much the priests we have, are in need of our prayers.

      October 3, 2022 at 9:06 am
  • editor Reply

    I’ve just heard from a priest who is concerned at the failure of the faithful in his parish to attend confession. He is one of the few, it seems, who sits for hours in the confessional so please pray for him. That must be dispiriting for any priest.

    October 8, 2022 at 5:32 pm

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