Does Confession have to be done in the same room as the priest? Can any baptized Catholic go to Reconciliation? Msgr. Start Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM on Relevant Radio®, answered these and more listeners’ questions about the sacrament.
Phyllis: “I have a spiritual director but he lives three hours away … can I go to Confession on FaceTime or something like that?”
Msgr. Stuart Swetland: “Very early on, when the social means of communication began to be developed—telephone and radio being the first two—this question was put to the Holy Office and the answer was that no, Confession and the Sacrament of Reconciliation requires moral presence. It means you have to be morally present to one another, so a priest can’t absolve from a distance and a penitent can’t be absolved from a distance.”
Christina: If I confessed a sin many years ago but didn’t tell the priest the circumstances that made it more serious a sin, do I need to confess it again?
Msgr. Swetland: “We’re supposed to speak to our sin in number of kind … so more than likely you said enough for the sacrament to have been valid. However, because it’s on your conscience and because it’s bothering you, my suggestion is that you bring it to your next Confession and tell the confessor that you confessed this before but you’re not sure that you did it in the way that you now fully see it and understand it.
I always like to point out … that John chapter 16 teaches us … that when the Holy Spirit comes, the Holy Spirit will convince us about sin. So, as we grow in holiness, it’s not unusual for people to experience a growing awareness of the malice of sin especially in their own lives. Things they may not have even thought about before they become aware of or they start to see sins that they took a little bit for granted at some stage, they recognize that they were more serious than they may have thought about at the time. That’s a sign of growing in holiness.”
Dominic: My significant other, who is Catholic as well, she’s only been baptized and she did express interest in going to having her first Reconciliation. But I was curious on what she needs to do or if there’s anything she needs to do, or if she can just go to Confession because she already is baptized?
Msgr. Swetland: “Because she’s already baptized, she can just go to Reconciliation. And she would tell the priest of course, her state of life and her situation so that he can help her make a good Confession. But that’s all that’s necessary. Has she been confirmed?”
Dominic: “No, she has not been confirmed or has her first Holy Communion, but we’re working towards that.”
Msgr. Swetland: “That’s great. Because that’d be the first thing I’d recommend, especially if you’re working to come into the Church that even if you could do it together that would be a beautiful thing. And that’s exactly what she would need then—to complete her sacraments of confirmation and first Holy Eucharist. And obviously, since she’s an adult, having first Confession before that would be necessary.”
Listen to the full podcast here: