Q. My wife’s mother when a Catholic went to confession and confessed sins to him that the Holy Spirit was convicting her of. His response was that he did not feel they were sin he said nothing of mortal or venial as far as I know. So what then? Should she still confess or did the priest have the authority to usurp the role of the Holy Spirit?
A. I cannot say since I do not know what “sins” she was confessing or all the circumstances. But there are a few possibilities.
1) What she was confessing may have been faults or weaknesses but not truly sinful. We may confess these things but the priest cannot pronounce absolution unless there is confession of at least one true sin. I too have had this exact experience. He then asked me to confess a true sin in addition to the faults I had confessed.
2) She may have confessed true sin that he knew had previously been absolved in confession with himself and therefore she did not need to confess it again. He may have discerned in her a lack of trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness and was trying to guide her away from an overactive conscience and scrupulosity into peace and trust in God.
3) He could have been a priest who was in error. Since Vatican II some priests have come to believe that people should ONLY go to confession IF they have committed a MORTAL sin. And they think anyone who goes to confession for venial sin only are being scrupulous and they try to convince the person not to come to confession unless they have mortal sin to confess.
But this is NOT what the Church teaches. The pope goes to confession every week. It is doubtful that he is confessing MORTAL sin. Even though we are not required to go to confession for venial sin, if we do so anyway, we receive sacramental graces to overcome even venial sin and progress more surely towards holiness. If this were the case she should not go to this priest again in the future. I also had this experience. After a thorough examination of conscience the priest “made light of my sins”. I knew he was in error and never went to him again.
Filed under: Confession