Reasons why some Catholics hesitate/are reluctant to use the Sacrament of Reconciliation
1) Can’t I just confess my sins to God directly?
Without the word: “just”, the answer is “yes.” Why, then, did Jesus give the apostles the power to forgive sins? (John 20:23). Proper preparation for confession helps us make the sacramental experience more
meaningful. Confessing our sins to a priest helps us encounter the living Christ.
Receiving absolution reassures and comforts us, and validates our forgiveness.
2) What if, as a Catholic, I haven’t gone to Confession for a long time, or ever?
Jesus teaches the parable about the merciful Father of the prodigal son. He teaches himself as the Good Shepherd. The priest is called to represent Christ. Priests today are known for their compassion. Just be honest: “Father it has been a rather long time since my last confession __ years ago. The priest will probably respond: “I am so glad you are here.”
3) What if I am unaware of the form I should use?
We are distributing materials about how to celebrate the sacrament. If a person is unsure, simply ask the priest to assist. (“What father among you would hand his son a snake if he asked for a fish, or a scorpion if he asked for an egg? Luke 11:11-12). The priest will help guide you.
4) Confessing our sins can be burdensome and embarrassing. What will the priests think of me? What will others who see us going to confession think of me?
Popes have been known to go to confession once a week. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta went to confession every eight days. We should think well of anyone who goes to Confession. Frankly, the priest humanly and spiritually admires anyone who approaches the sacrament, even more when a person confesses an exceptional “fall from grace” or a habitual/addictive sin. The priest is not there to “judge the person” (“Judge not and you shall not be judged” – Luke 6:37, but to understand, empathize, support, advise and forgive the sinner). Confession is apologizing truthfully for what we have done wrong, not justifying or bragging about our sins.
5) Why go to confession when we may need to confess many or all the same sins again?
If that argument were valid, we could also ask: Why take out the garbage, why bathe, why eat, why sleep, for that matter, why breathe? Many things in life are repetitive. The grace of the sacrament can help us avoid sin.
6) What if I had a bad experience from a previous confession (such as the priest scolding me for not having gone often enough, or not being compassionate about a sin which was either especially grievous or repetitive)?
You are not obliged to go back to that priest for confession. Ask God to direct you. Many people ask their friends about recommendations of a confessor (just as we do about a movie, a restaurant, a cell phone and so on). Also, don’t hesitate to volunteer to another an especially helpful experience you had in confession. (I went to Fr. Jones for confession and he was very understanding and helpful to me. I find Fr. Smith such a good confessor to me. He made me feel at ease and was very supportive of my efforts to overcome sin.)
“Whose sins you forgive, are forgiven; whose sins you retain are retained” - John 20:23
(The risen Christ to the apostles)
“If we say we have never sinned, we make God a liar and there is no truth in us” - 1 John 2:4
“I have come to call not the self-righteous, but sinners” - Mark 2:17 (Jesus to the Pharisees)
“The Son of Man (Jesus) has come to search out and save what was lost” - Luke 19:10 (Jesus to the Pharisees)
“There will likewise be more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety nine righteous people who have no need to repent” - Luke 15:7 (Jesus, the Good Shepherd).
“Let us eat and drink for this son of mine was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and is found” - Luke 15:24, 32 (The Merciful Father – God to the Prodigal Son)
“Woman, is there no one here to accuse you? Neither will I accuse you. Go and from now on, avoid this sin” - John 8:11 (Jesus to the woman who committed adultery)
“Father, forgive them. For they do not know what they are doing” - Luke 23:34
“The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not, O Lord” - Psalm 25:7
“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; In the greatness of your compassion, wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt; and of my sins, cleanse me. For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always.” - Psalm 51:3-5
“For I do not the good I should do, but the evil I should avoid. What a wretched man I am” - Romans 7:19
“Whoever brings a sinner back from the error of his way will save his own soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." - James 5:20
“If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God, who will give him life. There is such a thing as deadly sin” - 1 John 5:17
“If your brother sins against you seven times a day and seven times a day turns back to you saying ‘I am sorry’, forgive him” - Luke 7:4 (Jesus to Peter)