“Giving up confession because of uncertainty about the confessor’s moral condition would be like giving up medical treatment because of uncertainty about the doctor’s health condition,” he said.
3. I don't go to confession because I always say the same things.
The priest said it is tempting to respond to this objection by joking that it is a “good thing they are always the same; it means there are no new sins!”
“But joking aside, repeated frailty in the same sins is no reason to abandon confession; in fact, it is exactly the opposite,” he urged. “Only the humble surrender of oneself to God, imploring his mercy, makes it possible to fight and win against the vices that can bind and sometimes grip our souls.”
Nykiel recalled a line he attributed to St. Augustine: “If we defeated one vice a year, we would soon be saints.”
He also said St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, would affirm that “‘God always forgives us, even if he knows that we will sin again.’ So ‘always committing the same sins’ is not a reason to not go to confession, but on the contrary, [it is a reason] to resort to the sacrament more frequently and faithfully.”
4. I don’t go to confession because I’m basically a good person who hasn’t stolen anything or killed anyone.
Nykiel warned people to be vigilant, because having not committed some very serious sins is a gift of grace that can risk becoming “a reason for pride in believing oneself righteous before others or, much worse, God. No one can be righteous before God.”
“The sense of one’s sin and unworthiness before God is always directly proportional to one’s proximity to him,” he explained. “The great saints have always claimed to feel like great sinners. If we do not feel like sinners, we are probably not yet saints.”
He used another analogy, comparing God to the light and heat of the sun: “The closer we get to the ‘sun of God,’ the more intensely we feel the burning fire of our sin and deeply desire to be freed from it. If we do not feel this burning desire, we are probably still far from the sun of Christ.”
The canon lawyer further noted that the Church requires Catholics to go to confession at least once per year and to receive Holy Communion at least during the Easter season. So, he pointed out, if someone has voluntarily gone longer than one year without going to confession, he or she is at fault for this reason.
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Is the excuse of not having committed certain grave sins, he added, “not an attempt at self-justification, at self-reproach that ends up dispensing with the salvation offered by Christ? Does not a fear of the reality of self hide behind those masks of respectability?”
“And finally, are we sure that the only way to ‘kill’ is to deprive [someone of] physical life? Or do we kill with words, indifference, and in so many other ways? Let us think about it!”
5. I don’t go to confession because the last time I went it didn’t go well.
The priest also addressed what to think about when a person’s most recent confession left a bad taste in their mouth — whether because the priest was not particularly attentive or available, or because he was either too tough or too lax.
“First, we should ask ourselves: what do we expect from the sacrament of reconciliation?” he said. “If our expectation is disproportionate, or misplaced, or misdirected, we risk being disappointed.”
“Confession,” he said, “does not resolve our guilt, which is psychological and natural, nor does it solve all our personal and spiritual problems. Sacramental absolution destroys the sense of sin, which is theological and supernatural.”