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What if the vocations director says he doesn’t believe in confession?

Question:

I am 17 years old and about to enter the seminary. I just talked to my vocation director, and he told me that he does not believe in the sacrament of penance. I’m shocked! How could an orthodox Catholic priest, even a vocation director, say that? He said we could confess with our thoughts. Now, I don’t have a problem refuting his claims, but I just want to say I am so horrified at that. Should I switch dioceses? Can this priest still call himself a Catholic?

Answer:

First, I hope you will be sure you have not simply misunderstood this priest. The Church teaches, as I’m sure you know, that venial sins may be remitted through an act of contrition. We are encouraged to express repentance, too, for mortal sins as soon as we can, even if we can’t receive the sacrament of penance immediately. So before making any decision that will affect your life profoundly, you should raise your questions clearly and charitably with the priest. If he does hold a view contrary to Church teaching, you have a responsibility to advise your bishop of it. If this priest is robbing the diocese of potential vocations by giving scandal, the bishop will want to correct the situation.

About changing dioceses: I would do this only as a last resort. Your ordinary may be unaware that his vocation director is giving false teaching (if he is). He and the other priests of the diocese may be completely loyal to the magisterium.

If your understanding of the priest’s views are accurate, I can well believe your shock. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 2088 and 2089, deals with sins against the faith, violations of the First Commandment. A denial of the efficacy of the sacraments is to heresy, which is “the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith” (CIC 751).

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