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Q & A with Father Anthony



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What are the the qualities of a good confessor?

Allison asks:

Dear Fr Anthony,

What are the specific qualities of a good confessor? What should one look for when looking for a good confessor?

Thanks and God bless your work,

Dear Allison,

Regarding the qualities of a confessor, this is going to sound too obvious to be helpful but it does tell us something essential. He has to be an ordained priest with permission to hear confessions. The pardon of our sins depends not on the qualities of the individual priest, but on the power of the sacrament of holy orders, which is exercised through delegation by the bishop. (The technical term is faculties to hear confessions). That is what makes confession “work”.

However, there is another element to a confessor’s work and that has more to do with his individual qualities, and it consists in the gift of counsel, and the gift of tact; being able to help a needy soul to open up. You see, if a person in spiritual direction wants to hide a part of his life or has sins he does not want to overcome, the spiritual direction is not going to be effective but the person does not commit sacrilege because of his dispositions, since spiritual direction is not a sacrament. On the other hand, in confession, if the confessor realizes that the penitent is holding back something important, or says, "I committed such-and-such a mortal sin but I'm not sorry and I would do it again in the same circumstances", the confessor cannot absolve him at that moment, but has to help him to acquire the proper openness and dispositions, giving him hope and without humiliating him, so as to lead him to make a complete and good confession. So: prudence, patience, tact, real love for souls, honesty, and good doctrine are all qualities a confessor should have, generally speaking.

God bless.

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