Ask a Priest


Aug 19, 2017

Hi, Fr. Brendan, I’ve got one more question about confession (huge thanks for helping me with the other question I had): in regard to impure thoughts related to chastity, how specific should one be? I mean, are we supposed to say what it was each thought we have had, or simply saying “I’ve entertained impure thoughts” is enough? I’m always afraid to leave things unconfessed or confessed not properly. Is there any situation or kind of thought in which do we have to specify our thoughts? Like with who we thought, etc? Specially because I’ve read the story told by saint Alphonsus Liguori about the woman who was considered a saint due to her good behaviour, but let a sin of impure thought unconfessed due to shame and was condemned when she died. It looks like she had to detail what she thought to receive absolution, not only say she had impure thoughts, or did I understand it wrong? This kind of story scares a lot because I’ve never said my thoughts one by one, just stated the kind of them, and one priest told me I shouldn’t give details when confessing, but I’ve seen many different opinions on this subject and I’m confused. Thanks for all the help, again!

Asked at 09:14 pm on August 19th 2017

Hi Maria, I hear lots of confessions in Sydney, and certainly for me, the only detail I ever want to know regarding sins in this area is the one you mention – ‘I’ve entertained impure thoughts.’ The danger of going into detail is that we could bring the thoughts back again as a temptation, the last thing we want to happen.

My only problem with that story you’ve attributed to St Alphonsus Ligouri is, how on earth did he know what happened to that woman when she died? Especially since not even the angels are able to penetrate our consciences unless we allow them.

When a penitent is unsure whether they’ve consented to the thoughts that pass through our minds and over which we don’t have complete control, I suggest them to ask themselves, ‘Did I ask that thought to come in, make itself at home and have a coffee(!)’ That’s just to make sure that we’re not weighed down by images that won’t go away even when we want them to. And of course these images that pester us when we don’t want them aren’t sinful. But they can help to keep us humble and praying to Jesus and Mary, ‘get me out of here, please!’ St Alphonsus did say, ‘those who pray will be saved, those who don’t pray will be condemned.’

So keep up your close contact with God-Love and with Mary and the saints, they’ll always be cheering you on and help you over the finishing line during every temptation.

Very best, Fr Brendan

Replied at 10:01 pm on August 28th 2017