RP 44: Confession

mary-the-penitent.jpgForm I continues with “CONFESSION OF SINS AND ACCEPTANCE OF SATISFACTION”

44. Where it is the custom, the penitent says a general formula for confession (for example, I confess to almighty God … ) before (she or) he confesses (her or) his sins.

Any readers in places where this is not the custom? Most churchgoing Catholics have the Confiteor at their fingertips: this is the example given in the rite.

If necessary, the priest helps the penitent to make an integral confession and gives … suitable counsel. He urges (her or) him to be sorry for … faults, reminding … that through the sacrament of penance the Christian dies and rises with Christ and is thus renewed in the paschal mystery. The priest proposes an act of penance which the penitent accepts to make satisfaction for sin and to amend his life.

The use of the verb “propose” is interesting. How many penitents take it upon themselves to negotiate this proposal?

The priest should make sure that he adapts his counsel to the penitent’s circumstances.

This last piece implies there’s a bit more than anonymity. Any comments?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to RP 44: Confession

  1. FrMichael says:

    If I give a penance that is anything more than simple, I ask the penitent whether (1) s/he understands me and (2) whether s/he is able to do the penance. On occasion they can’t and thus get another penance.

  2. Liam says:

    Well, so far as I know, it has yet to become custom for penitents in the US to begin with the Confiteor….

  3. Liam says:

    “This last piece implies there’s a bit more than anonymity”

    You infer; it does not imply. You might be amazed how much can be customized for someone without knowing their identity. (I’ve lived a profession where counsel is provided on behalf of people without any identifying information (not merely names) are a matter of course).

  4. Liam says:

    Now a question for my liturgical puzzlers:

    When did the interrogatory confession become passe (at least in the US, if it ever was the practice)?

    I am aware from reading and second-hand experience (of good friends who’ve received this sacrament at S Pietro in Vaticano in the past decade or so) of how common it is in some places for priests to ask for responses to questions put to penitents (often following various forms of examination of conscience).

    I know the practice in this regard varied, but I am curious about it. How would you react if a confessor did it? And why? What would invited you to reconsider your reaction?

  5. FrMichael says:


    “When did the interrogatory confession become passe?”

    Did it? I missed that bulletin. Is it so rare in the US?


    Hispanic penitents often start with a Confiteor. Up to this post I thought it was some sort of regional novelty.

    I really have to get ahold of a copy of the Rite of Penance.

  6. Liam says:

    Fr Martin

    I’ve never encountered it personally nor am I aware of anyone I know encountering it in the US, except for an adult penitent making a general confession (especially in preparation for being received into the Church) after many years away from the sacraments.

    How common is it in your estimation? Any particular situations it is more common?

  7. FrMichael says:

    Liam, I’m going to assume you were addressing me with the question about interrogatory confessions.

    I generally use it with general confessions (which are pretty rare but do happen) or with de facto general confessions, given when someone has been away from the sacrament for many years and makes a brief confession. This is much more common, a few times a week– I’m at a parish with multiple confession times weekly. After I ask them if those are the only sins they have committed since their last confession (and hearing a resounding “No!”) then I proceed with the 10 Commandments and 7 capital sins. Those seem to help penitents make a good confession. I’ve never encountered negative feedback by doing so.

    I rarely use questions (nor were we trained) for more routine confessions. The main reason to be asking questions is for the purpose of helping the penitent make an integral confession when mortal sins have been confessed in general (i.e. “I have sinned against the Sixth Commandment.”)

    One weakness of having First Confessions made as children is that the concept of confessing mortal sins by type and number isn’t remembered as these young Catholics grow up, thus making priest-confessors seem like voyeurs when asking these follow-up questions to adults.

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