Back a few weeks, talking with a group of guys about Confession. Now, they were talking about confessions they had given and ones I hadn’t received; but will still talk in as much generalities as I can, because this is an area that needs to be addressed to priests and that the laity could hear, too.
As they were talking, they mentioned bad advice they had been given in the confessional (and I’ve both given and received bad advice in such a place, so not casting aspersions, here), when they mentioned something that caught my ear. As many men do, there is a struggle with the ‘solitary sin.’ The advice given was along the lines of ‘find a girlfriend, get married, this problem will go away.’
This is terrible advice! And if you have ever gotten such advice, I am sorry.
Priests: If you have ever given this advice, please stop!
Why? The following reasons:
- This problem can have deep roots that need to be addressed, it doesn’t just ‘go away’ upon marriage. Explore with the penitent the ‘why’ of the thing, as that is what is going to help it go away. And it takes work for this problem to go away, and a whole helping of God’s Grace; by giving rather shallow advice, you are depriving the penitent of both of these aspects.
- This advice is demeaning to women and to married life. Intimacy in married life is not about an outlet for sexual urges, it is a sign of the deep spiritual, emotional and physical connection that exists between a husband and wife. And she is worth more than just being a sexual play toy for her husband. Please read the Theology of the Body!
- Not all men (nor all women) are called to marriage. By giving such advice, they are all being lumped into something to which they may not be called, discretion is a better part of valor, here.
Anywho, this hit a nerve with me and really seems to miss the mark as to what Confession ought to be about. I’m constantly learning how to be a better confessor, hope this helps some of the brothers to do the same.