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Catholic Life | Tag Archive | Humans
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Confession: Reconciling Advice and Reality

Have you ever corrected a priest in the confessional? I haven’t.

There have been times when I should have, such as when the priest seriously misunderstood the substance of my sins. There have also been times when what the priest said simply was not factually true. I don’t think that I will ever believe it is right to correct a priest on basic religious facts during confession.

When I went to reconciliation during last Advent the priest heard my confession (you’ll never guess what part of it was based on the following ;-)) and then responded that God hates lukewarmness and has said “because you are neither hot nor cold I will spew you out.” I nodded attentively and said something like “I’m Laodicea” as the priest paused to catch his breath. But then he continued on “of course you don’t have to worry about Jesus ever spewing you out, that was the Old Testament God who said that.”

I am obviously recounting this story from my memory which I don’t trust to be exact, and so it occurs to me that perhaps the priest was not mistaken about the location of the passage to which he referred. But if that is the case then the potential for heresy in the statement is even higher.

When I told Josh about the priest’s statement Josh suggested that I should have corrected the priest. After all, priests tend to have a few things that they say over and over again to penitents, and it is not good for this particular piece of misinformed advice to be spread around.

But that was absolutely out of the question for me. For me, reconciliation is supposed to be a time of humility, and instructing the confessor does not at all fit in with that. I suppose that if I thought that the misinformation were truly pernicious, I would later schedule a non-confession appointment with the priest and bring the issue up then.

It does strike me as quite possibly wrong that I see confession as such a structured time of hierarchical humility. It is not about the pursuit of truth in life or even my spiritual life; it is about shutting myself down in the hope that God will swoop in and clean up in the formally prescribed way.

I know that in reality the best answer is probably “it depends upon the situation, the facts, and all involved” but I suspect that most people are probably as dogmatic as Josh and I in our preferences for the “correct” course of action.

How about you? Would you correct a priest during confession? Have you ever?

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