The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Mental Illness

The sacrament of reconciliation can be a healing experience for a person troubled with mental illness. First and foremost, the confessor extends a compassionate and understanding welcome to the penitent. It is important that the penitent feel comfortable and secure in this setting. Once this is established, the priest can size up the situation depending on how well he knows the penitent. The penitent may be down on him/herself already, and it is important that this be a positive experience.  Once the penitent shows genuine trust in the priest, great strides can be made. That may take some time, depending on the history of the person and any trauma from the past.  

It will be helpful for the priest to give the person the opportunity to express what is most pressing on his/her heart. If this is matter for the sacrament, then, the priest can address this point with care to assure the person of his/her value and the forgiveness that God offers. If the person suffers with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (often manifested in scrupulosity), good pastoral practice should be used with emphasis on clarity and firmness along with compassion.

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