“Ask a Priest: What if my mom wouldn’t want me to go to confession?”

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Q: I am disabled, have high-functioning autism, and I am unable to drive. I have been wanting to go to confession for some mortal sins I have committed. My mother, whom I live with, is an ex-Catholic and reacts negatively whenever I talk about Catholicism with her. I remember the commandment to honor my mother and father. I want to go to confession in secret without her knowing if possible. I feel very stuck, and it is so agonizing to me. If my dad, a non-practicing Catholic takes me, my mom would probably find out. Please help me! I know the sacrament is invalid if I do it online, or over the phone. -K.W.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good that you desire to take advantage of the sacrament of confession. Your desire to honor your father and mother is admirable too – an act that pleases God.

I would encourage you to get to confession, no matter what, even if it means depending on your dad. In this way you aren’t “talking about Catholicism” with your mom; rather, you are simply living your faith. If your mom finds out and confronts you, then you could respectfully remind her that you are simply living out the faith that she and your dad passed on to you at baptism. (I’m assuming that they brought you into the Church in the first place.) Honoring your parents as an adult doesn’t mean you have to obey them in everything.

In fact, no one – not even your parents – can deny you your right to practice your faith. Religious liberty is a freedom that the Church very much defends. (The Second Vatican Council even issued a declaration on this topic; see here.)

Beyond that, it sounds as if your parents have had their own difficulties, having once perhaps been more active in the Church. They might have drifted away from the faith for any number of reasons. No matter. One of the best ways you can honor your parents is by praying for them and sacrificing for them.

Try to live your own faith as fully as possible. That includes showing them a lot of respect and love. As their offspring, you are a unique sign of their spousal affinity. You could be the bond that somehow keeps them together and helps bring them closer to Jesus.

If it seems like a tall order, it is. But you won’t be alone. The Holy Spirit will be there to help. Cultivate your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary too. She can intercede for all your family.

By the way, if ever you are delayed in getting to confession for absolution from a mortal sin, at least try to make a perfect act of contrition in the meantime.

The Catechism in No. 1451 defines contrition as “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” No. 1452 adds, “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

And count on my prayers for you and your parents at Mass. God bless.

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