Hello Father Angelo.
How are you? I hope you are fine . First of all, I would like to thank you for your precious apostolate, for the clarity and orthodoxy with which you always answer questions. It is not at all obvious today to find priests who are so well prepared in matters of faith and doctrine, capable of reconciling justice and mercy, always respecting the dignity of the human person. Thanks! A thousand times thanks!
I am also writing to ask you a question about confession. Often, in fact, I cannot always go to the same confessor and by necessity I am forced to change. Several times I have received from the confessor, within the confession, some quite curious advice and exhortations (sometimes in the form of real commitments to be met even with regard to the granting of absolution). For example, a priest gave me the number of a visionary he knows and invited me to call her on the phone for advice and explanations since this lady claims to speak with Our Lady. I did not do it and returning to the same confessor other times he repeatedly asked me “Did you call *****?” . This priest went so far up to the point of speaking directly to her about me to get some advice on my life.
Another time I was even advised to suspend my studies.
There would be other episodes to tell but I’ll stop here.
In conscience I felt, albeit with regret, not to obey these and other advice which, although not wrong in itself, I considered not “suitable” for me. Now, given that a priest explicitly told me that if I had not committed myself to following his advice, I would have had to disclose it to him in the following confession, many doubts have arisen. Furthermore I was told that it is not enough to repent of sins or have the resolution not to commit them anymore, but it is also necessary to follow the advice of the confessor, otherwise it would be a “false repentance” and a mockery to the Lord.
In fact, how can I be repentant of this “sin” and therefore have the resolution not to commit it again? I can be sorry for my disobedience to the confessor, yes, but I don’t think that for my confession to be valid, I must have the firm intention of calling a visionary or other similar things.
Am I really obliged to obey the advice of the confessor?
For further clarity, I specify that when I speak of “advice” or “exhortations” I am not referring either to penance or satisfaction, or to not doing evil or avoiding opportunities (it is obvious that obeying these things is more than necessary). But I am referring to the accomplishment of good or useful works in my life.
Would I commit a sin if in my freedom I chose to do otherwise? Should I consider it disobedience?
How should I behave?
I do not deny that in studying Theology, I often find myself strongly disagreeing with some ways adopted by certain priests, especially in such an important sacrament. From answering the phone during confession to the now widespread habit of confessing in the office or in the middle of the benches despite the presence of confessionals and without just cause.
Please do not take my “criticisms” as an irreverence towards the ministers of God. I pray for them and above all I try to speak well of them. But there are things that I simply cannot tolerate, I’m sorry. I don’t even try to point them out anymore because they get annoyed. Sometimes it is better to remain silent and take it as an exercise of humility and filial love for the Mother Church.
I apologize for being long-winded, I thank you for the time you have dedicated to me and I ask you for a Hail Mary for me and my loved ones.
A fraternal hug and best wishes for a Holy Christmas (2019)!
Answer from the priest
1. the sphere of action of the priest in a confession is that of the internal forum, that is, of conscience.
More precisely, it concerns the matter of confession, that is, sins and the correct conduction of the Sacrament.
2. The obedience that the faithful must give to the priest at that moment is all that concerns the integrity and the most fruitful celebration of the sacrament.
For this reason, as the ancient Roman Ritual recalls “if the penitent had not expressed the number, the species and the circumstances that change the species, the priest with prudence (if he deems it appropriate) will question him”.
3. Secondly, the priest – taking into account the capacities and the situation of the penitent – has the task of instructing him and reminding him of what he must do to avoid upcoming occasions of sin, all in order to provide the due restitution or reparation for the sins committed against Justice.
In doing so the priest carries out his task as teacher.
3. Thirdly, he has the task of predisposing the penitent to perform a true contrition for his sins, to heal him spiritually and to change his life.
Therefore he can give some advice, but it has to be all about the confession of sins that has been made to him
Here the priest is a doctor of souls.
If the advice goes beyond confession, it is not binding in conscience.
4. Finally, he has the task of giving, denying or deferring absolution according to the penitent’s dispositions.
Here he exercises his role as judge.
5. Therefore obedience to the confessor focuses on the matter of the sacrament: on expressing true repentance, on the intention to change one’s life, on the accusation,and on the penance to be done.
6. If the priest, because of spiritual direction, gives another advice he must always say that it is not relevant to the confession.
Of course, if he is asked whether it is appropriate to continue one’studies or suspend them, he can give his opinion.
But on his own initiative he cannot propose to suspend them, unless they are the cause of grave sin.
His task is to enlighten consciences so that they can make their decisions.
But he must not take decisions in their place .
7. Likewise, the councils must follow the common prudential paths of human action.
Advising to go to a seer is advice that does not follow the common prudential paths of human action.
Much less the confessor can command to go to a seer under pain of sin.
At most he can advise – even warmly – to go and get advice from an authentic man of God. But he cannot oblige.
8. At least he can recommend to go to another confessor or another spiritual director as he does not feel the responsibility before God to guide that particular person.
Nevertheless, if the penitent always and only wants him as a confessor, he will allow himself to give advice only in reference to the matter accused in confession and nothing else.
I wish you well, I remind you in my prayers to the Lord and I bless you.