Problems with Confession


I have a terrible time with going to confession due to an incident that happened a long time ago. It has totally stopped my partaking communion because I won’t go to confession. I would go to general confession, but not private. I can not trust the man that is standing there.

One can try and cover up the human factor that is present, but I can’t ignore it. I have suffered years of anguish over this and it has robbed me of being a true orthodox christian, and participating in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

I have discussed this with priests over the years, and have been told “go to confession and lie if you have to.” I know that defeats the purpose of confession in the first place. If there is no way around this, then is my only alternative to seek religion in another denomination that doesn’t require confession? I have been cheated and I want to know what is the right thing to do. I know that psychologist would say that I have the power to forget this situation and do what I feel is right. But where is the Church in this?

I would like a final answer to this problem so I can finally put this to rest. I have struggled with this for many years. Why should I continue to practice Orthodoxy and attend the liturgy, but not pertake of the gifts given? I hope you can answer this or give me guidance, or tell me who can.


Dear friend, since I do not have a lot of information as to what the incident involved, it is difficult for me to address your question. What I can say—of course, this depends on what transpired during the Confession which has bothered you all these years—is that one bad experience with one priest should lead you to seek another priest for your spiritual father. Of course, this assumes that the problem originated with the confessor—that perhaps he gave you absolutely wrong advice that caused you more problems, that he revealed your confession and your name to others, or something of that sort.

On the other hand, there are situations where people go to confession and the priest sincerely and rightly tells them what the need to hear, rather than what they want to hear, and then they get “turned off” to confession and priests and the Church as a result.

Here’s an example: Let’s imagine that someone goes to confession and confesses that he or she gets drunk more than he or she things is appropriate—a few times a week. The priest, out of genuine pastoral concern, points out the danger of such behavior, recommends counseling, and offers to point the person in the proper direction. The person, however, doesn’t want to hear this and leaves the confession “unhealed,” as one of the confession prayers notes. The person begins to feel that the priest “judged” him or her.

” Can you imagine?? He might as well have accused me of being an alcoholic!”

In fact, all that the priest was doing was extending extending pastoral concern for a person who admitted that he or she gets drunk a few times each week.

Weeks and months pass. The person continues to brood over the incident, refusing to let go of it, so that in his or her mind after a few months the priest was “accusing” him or her of a “problem” that he or she “does not have.” “Hey—I’m just a social drinker—I can control my drinking,” the person rationalizes, consciously ignoring the fact that it was he or she who brought the drinking up to the priest, not the other way around.

More time passes, and the person drifts further and further into such reasoning, eventually leaving the Church as a result—but only after announcing that “when I went to confession, all I did was get accused and judged by the priest—as if he was sinless! Who does he think he is?” In such an example, it is the person who is at fault, not the priest.

Here’s another way to look at this: Imagine that you decide to eat in a restaurant that you have never patronized before. The food is delicious, the service prompt, and the ambiance is 5-star. But within three hours after you completed your meal you break out into a cold sweat, begin vomiting, and double over with pain. Eventually the condition becomes so bad that you are rushed to the emergency room, where they discover that you had food poisoning.

” This can’t be possible,” you reason. “Everything tasted terrific.”

” True enough,” says the physician. “But you’re the third personthis week who we’ve treated—and who ate in that restaurant!”

Now, what would you do? Decide that you will never enter another restaurant again? Refuse to eat anything, lest the same thing happen? Starve? Of course not. You would simply avoid that restaurant, but not all restaurants. I’m sure you can make the connection.

No matter—I too would agree that if you have been harboring such feelings for many years, regardless of their origin, without seeking help or the guidance of another priest—assuming, of course, that the problem originated with the confessor—there well may be other things going on, things which I honestly cannot address with little information, in cyber-space, and without knowing you personally.

In short:

  1. If the priest genuinely transgressed and did something legitimately inappropriate, then I would suggest that you find a father confessor with whom you can build a solid relationship and, above all, trust.
  2. If your situation is akin to the example given above, I would suggest that you also find a priest in whom you can confide to help determine why, for many years, you still harbor such feelings. Regardless, I would suggest that you reflect on the forgiveness that Christ offers to those who are truly repentant, repent, and then move on—or seek guidance on a personal, one-on-one basis with a trusted individual who can help you do this.

One final suggestion: Avoid the priests who told you to “lie if you have to” in confession. Such “pastoral advice” is ridiculous at best and blasphemous at worst and surely is not in anyone’s best spiritual interest. Many people lie in confession—but they forget that it is Christ Who knows our hears, Who receives our confession, and Who knows better than the priest whether or not we are lying.