Dear Father Joseph, The last time I went to confession, the priest ended up using my fears and sins (the ones I had confessed) while preaching his next Sunday homily. I want to go back, but I was so humiliated by this. Help!!!
It is not hard to see how uncomfortable this must have been. Our sins and failures cause us tremendous suffering and it can be a terrible mortification to even suspect that others may know what they are. This is the reason why the sacrament of confession has a protective seal on it. All things spoken there are put into God’s hands, forgiven and forgotten. No one can use the information from confession in a way that would reveal the sin and the sinner, or be onerous to the one who has confessed.
That does not mean, however, that a priest can’t take the pulse of his parish based on what he hears in confession and spiritual direction. Far from citing the sins of others (which, if he mentioned the sin and the sinner would be a direct violation of the seal of confession), he could speak generally about the difficulties he sees as a way to encourage, explain, motivate and help. Tact is always important here, especially to avoid the experience you have had.
In a situation like the one you mention, you may think that the priest has you alone in mind. It is much more likely that he does not even remember what you personally told him, but rather, that he has heard similar things quite often from many others… and not only in confession. When it comes to our sins we are very sensitive and it is hard to come to any other conclusion then that the priest is signaling us out, personally.
I would recommend continuing going to the sacrament, which is a great gift from God, and which not all take advantage of (you are blessed). If you are on more familiar terms with this priest or feel sufficient confidence, you could even mention to him what you experienced in the homily. He would surely be grateful and could also offer a better explanation for why he said what he did.
If in the end things don’t change, you can always find another confessor. The Church wants you to feel free and comfortable and would like to make it as easy as possible for you to go to this life giving sacrament.
Yours in Christ, Father Joseph Burtka, LC