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Question regarding confession


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#1 fruitbat72

Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:09 AM

Hello, non Catholic here with a genuine question

Is it usual that the priest receiving confession is aware of the identity of the person seeking absolution?   Or do they pretend they don't know them?



#2 Hayleymumof3

Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:14 AM

QUOTE
Is it usual that the priest receiving confession is aware of the identity of the person seeking absolution? Or do they pretend they don't know them?


In congregations where the priest has been there a long time I am guessing they know who is confessing and just pretend not to know.

#3 RedBob

Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:17 AM

They know, because more often than not, it's a member of their congregation. I imagine that for the first few weeks a new priest wouldn't know, but they'd soon realise.

#4 Feral-as-Meggs

Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:33 AM

They don't always confess with the screen anyway.

At my friend's church they just sit in a little room with the priest.

#5 Fyn Angelot

Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:38 AM

It also depends where you are.  A CBD church or a Cathedral, or somewhere that's a focus of pilgrimage, will often have random unknown people walking in asking for confession.  Even if you just sit in a room together, there might be no exchange of names and you might never see them again.  That's much less common, for example, in a little country town.  

It's my observation that people who use confession regularly tend to develop a preference for a priest they find particularly helpful; it's more the one-off visitors or the people deliberately going where they're not known (which can be a way to deal with emotions of shame and guilt, if you know you never have to see this particular priest again), who tend to be unknown.

Edited by Ange Vert, 16 November 2012 - 02:40 PM.


#6 Coffeegirl

Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:42 AM

It's been a long time since I went to confession.  But we always had the option of the screen open or closed.  Even when open, we sat side by side with the partition between, so even then, you didn't have to look the priest square in the face.

As a teen it was easy to omit things as I didn't have that face-to-face thing IYKWIM.    ph34r.gif  

At my old church, the priest entered his part of the confessional, and the those waiting were scattered through the church.  There was no 'queue' so the priest really wouldn't know who went in first or last or in the middle.   With the partition closed, if you were not a regular member of that church or had regular conversations with the priest, I would think it would be hard for them to recognise you.






#7 Feral_Pooks

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:11 AM

Another non Catholic here.

I don't get it.

I don't get why the priest is involved at all, or what he adds to it.

Can anyone explain that?

(Sorry to hijack thread OP but your question has me wondering!)

#8 Feral Grey Mare

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:17 AM

QUOTE (Pooks_ @ 16/11/2012, 12:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Another non Catholic here.

I don't get it.

I don't get why the priest is involved at all, or what he adds to it.

Can anyone explain that?

(Sorry to hijack thread OP but your question has me wondering!)


I have wondered this as well. Why isn't it enough to confess your sins to God? From my observation and talking to Catholic friends it seems that God takes a back seat in the Catholic church somewhere behind Mary, the Pope and the priest. Does he really need all these "middle men"?

#9 RedBob

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:21 AM

The cynical response is so the church can continue to control the population via the mechanism of knowing everyone's business.

I'm not sure of what the theological background to it is.


#10 RichardParker

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:26 AM

In the traditional-style confessionals, where it's essentially two stalls with two separate doors to enter and just a little speaking hole with a curtain in between, the priest would only know if they recognise your voice, or see you waiting outside before hand and know who you are.  

If you go to confession at a big city church (who are often the only ones that have regular confession times these days), you rarely know the priest, and he certainly doesn't know you.  There are different priests on duty every week and there's such a huge turnover of people that you'd be lucky to come across the same one twice.

A country town, where the priest knows everyone in the congregation, the priest would probably recognise your voice, but in my experience they sort of respect your privacy by not indicating that they might recognise you.

#11 Fyn Angelot

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:27 AM

As a non-Catholic whose tradition includes private confession, and who is preparing to hear confessions...

I think there can be - for some people, in some situations - great benefit in actually talking their guilt through with someone else.  A number of examples...

- Say I do something bad routinely, and I struggle with it and confess it over and over and am discouraged and ashamed that I can't be "good."  A good pastor can help me explore that pattern of behaviour, what underlies it, and help me to work towards more than a surface change.

- Suppose you feel guilt inappropriately; you take on a sense of responsibility for something which is not your fault.  A good pastor can help you recognise that and free you from a burden you shouldn't be carrying.

- Not everyone feels forgiven just because they've prayed or the Bible says they are.  Having a real flesh-and-blood person reassure them, care for them, validate their true desire to be better, and emphasise again the mercy and forgiveness of God...all of these things can have a deep and lasting impact in a way that might not happen if someone just prays on his or her own.

- I suspect also that for those who do use confession as a regular spiritual discipline, the aspect of accountability makes a difference.  If I know that I have to show up, red-faced, and admit that I've done x....maybe I'll think twice about doing it!

And so on - I think I've made my point.

Of course, in my tradition confession isn't compulsory the way it notionally is for Catholics, and I do think that makes a difference.



#12 loulou_b

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:29 AM

QUOTE
Another non Catholic here.

I don't get it.

I don't get why the priest is involved at all, or what he adds to it.

Can anyone explain that?


Speaking as an average catholic here, not a theologian or expert.....

It's not "proper" confession and reconciliation unless a priest hears your sin and "absolves" you of them.  You tell your sin, he has a quick chat if you like, and then absolves you with a blessing and gives you a "penance", usually to say a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers.

With the above you are working on the assumption that a priest is God's representative on Earth and somehow has the power to absolve that others don't.  

The older I get the more I question the whole thing.  I don't go to confession any more.

I can see the point that perhaps a priest might be like a counsellor for some, as often things that trouble you aren't so troubling when you discuss them, but the "absolving" thing I just don't get.

#13 RedBob

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:30 AM

Far enough Ange, my views are somewhat coloured by my DH and his brothers who would regularly have to go to confession at boarding school, where the priest, as often as not, was the one who used to get a little frisson from the confessions of a school of hormonal teenage boys  sick.gif



#14 Ianthe

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:34 AM

See to me the whole point of Jesus is so we don't have a barrier to God and no one needs to intercede for us. It's such a fundamental belief that I can't get my head around the need for confession.

Ange I can see in that context it being helpful. Similar to counselling but concerning spiritual welfare.

#15 Feral-as-Meggs

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:35 AM

It's a bit like spiritual Weightwatchers.

You can justify all kinds of things to yourself, but when you have to account to someone else it makes things clearer as being right or wrong.

And remember this all started before there were psychologists or anonymous internet forums to talk to.

#16 Ianthe

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:38 AM

QUOTE (meggs1 @ 16/11/2012, 12:35 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You can justify all kinds of things to yourself, but when you have to account to someone else it makes things clearer as being right or wrong.


I can see the value in that. It's more the necessary part that I can't understand.

#17 Feral_Pooks

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:41 AM

Thank you for those responses.

I guess my worry is how can a priest ascertain if a person is genuinely remorseful? Surely only the Spirit can do that? "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to Heaven go"- what is a confession without true feelings of remorse?

Also- How can a person act on behalf of God like that? Maybe there is some stuff around what a priest is that I'm missing.

Ange, I can understand what benefit that might bring of assuring someone of forgiveness. Makes sense.

I guess on reflection, I was thinking more about confessions that MUST be preformed by a priest, or where the priest is the one "doing" the forgiving. Where a person thinks they can't have forgiveness without confessing to a priest... Is that the case with Catholicism? I could keep a priest busy for a week with all of my sins, surely you can't bring everything to the priest?

The OP was asking about the privacy or otherwise of confession, I just can't imagine HAVING to share my "deepest and darkest" with anyone.

Makes it very confusing in terms of the debate around whether admissions of child abuse in confession should be reported to police. If a person has literally no other way in their belief system to confess, it makes me kind of understand why priests don't want to report. It might mean people don't confess at all and therefore go to hell or something. Am I right?

#18 Acidulous Osprey

Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:43 AM

It's part of the structure of the two thousand year old Catholic church.  In the confessional and during Mass the priest is representing the Holy Trinity.

#19 Fyn Angelot

Posted 16 November 2012 - 12:07 PM

QUOTE (Pooks_ @ 16/11/2012, 12:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I guess my worry is how can a priest ascertain if a person is genuinely remorseful? Surely only the Spirit can do that?


You can lie in confession.  I'm sure people do all the time.  In the end, though, you're only cheating yourself.

QUOTE (Pooks_ @ 16/11/2012, 12:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Also- How can a person act on behalf of God like that? Maybe there is some stuff around what a priest is that I'm missing.


People have been arguing for millennia about what a priest is, and to what extent a priest does something, and to what extent the priest only proclaims what God does.  My own view is that in giving absolution (assurance of forgiveness) a priest only proclaims the forgiveness God gives (they say the words God is not physically present in person to say, but would if He were, iykwim).  The idea is that if we come faithfully to confession, we can trust God's attitude towards us as articulated by the priest.  However....should you be dishonest in confession...well, you know that God's attitude towards you is still one of mercy, but you still need to repent to receive it!  

QUOTE (Pooks_ @ 16/11/2012, 12:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I guess on reflection, I was thinking more about confessions that MUST be preformed by a priest, or where the priest is the one "doing" the forgiving. Where a person thinks they can't have forgiveness without confessing to a priest... Is that the case with Catholicism? I could keep a priest busy for a week with all of my sins, surely you can't bring everything to the priest?


My understanding is that the Catholic idea is that God can forgive without you going to confession, but if you do go, you can be assured of His forgiveness.  I don't think we can understand this attitude without getting our heads around the idea of sacraments more generally, though.

QUOTE (Pooks_ @ 16/11/2012, 12:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Makes it very confusing in terms of the debate around whether admissions of child abuse in confession should be reported to police. If a person has literally no other way in their belief system to confess, it makes me kind of understand why priests don't want to report. It might mean people don't confess at all and therefore go to hell or something. Am I right?


Loosely, yes.

#20 RichardParker

Posted 16 November 2012 - 12:21 PM

QUOTE (Old Grey Mare @ 16/11/2012, 12:17 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I have wondered this as well. Why isn't it enough to confess your sins to God? From my observation and talking to Catholic friends it seems that God takes a back seat in the Catholic church somewhere behind Mary, the Pope and the priest. Does he really need all these "middle men"?



The short answer is that, obviously, Jesus has the power to forgive sins, and Catholics believe that  the Church is a divine institution founded by Christ to continue His work of redemption in the world, including by having the power to forgive sins. The idea is that whatever Christ the Head possesses, His Mystical Body, the Church, likewise possesses.

It comes from  Acts of the Apostles the Church forgiving sins through the administration of Baptism to converts: “Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

“Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).

In addition, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room and breathed on them saying: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you ... Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (St. John 20:21-23).

Catholics believe that the priests of today have this same authority which was give to the Apostles by Jesus, because they have received it through what we refer to as the 'Apostolic succession'.  IT's an understanding that the Church has had from the beginning, that the redemptive work started by Christ and the Apostles can be continued throughout history.  The idea is that the power that Christ conferred on the Apostles (“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (St. Matt. 18:18) continues to this day to the successors of the Apostles, who are the current Bishops and priests on earth today.



#21 Feral_Pooks

Posted 16 November 2012 - 12:23 PM

Thank you, Ange. Very interesting. Notions of a priest being anything more than just another dude who works for the church is something I think maybe people outside the church struggle to understand?

I can understand how hard it is for Catholics dealing with a wider community who don't understand this stuff, it does seem quite baffling to an outsider, and I do have a Christian background but still find it confusing. I hope my questions didn't come across as rude, but I couldn't really understand the whole does-priest-know-who-you-are, is-it-private-and-confidential thing without some other pieces of the puzzle. And I was in a relationship with a Catholic for about 5 years, and he couldn't really explain much to me, except that it "just was how they did it and always have".

He wasn't a deep thinker.

Edited due to autocorrect being funny.

Edited by Pooks_, 16 November 2012 - 12:23 PM.


#22 RichardParker

Posted 16 November 2012 - 12:31 PM

QUOTE (Pooks_ @ 16/11/2012, 12:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Also- How can a person act on behalf of God like that? Maybe there is some stuff around what a priest is that I'm missing.

It's not so much acting on behalf of God, but 'acting in the person of Christ' - or Christ acting through the person.  

We are physical, human creatures.  We experience things through our senses and bodies.  The act of a timeless, infinite God forgiving sin is a real act, but the way we humans hear it and experience it happening in real time and in a finite body is through the function of the Church 'Christ's mysical body'.  And that functioning of Christ's mystical body is through the body of the priest when he sits 'in persona christi' - in the person of christ.

Catholics believe that this function of priests only occurs when they're performing sacraments though - saying mass, hearing confessions, perfoming marriages etc.  When they're just walking around eating a sandwich, they're not acting in the person of christ and have no special powers or functions.

#23 RichardParker

Posted 16 November 2012 - 12:31 PM

DP

Edited by *Greenbag*, 16 November 2012 - 12:32 PM.


#24 Seven of Nine

Posted 16 November 2012 - 12:44 PM

Great explanations Greenbag, that's exactly what I believe as a Catholic.

I just wanted to say that I don't feel that the priest comes between me and God, and that I have that personal relationship with God that so many non-Catholic Christians seem to think the priest replaces in Catholicism.

Ianthe, the Bible says we have one mediator - Jesus Christ, but it mentions intercession a lot as a positive thing. Link.

#25 Feral_Pooks

Posted 16 November 2012 - 01:04 PM

Ok Greenbag, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for your patience. I am struggling with a lot of faith stuff personally so hearing about how different people 'do it' is really interesting for me at the moment.

Plus I just realized there was a massive hole in my knowledge so thanks for helping me out on rectifying that wink.gif




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