Ex-Priest Charles Chiniquy did not exaggerate in relating the inherent evil of the Confessional in his book, The Priest, the Woman and the Confessional.

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts….


In this treatise, Protestant Reformation Publications examines the Inquisition files of 16th-19th century Spain. Thus, the information contained in this article came from ‘friendly’ sources and cannot be charged with prejudicial misinformation favorable to Protestants. Scholar Stephen Haliczer’s recently published book documents 233 cases of sexual solicitation and overt sexual acts committed by Roman Catholic priests with their flock.[1] Such behavior was deemed illegal by the Church and priests found guilty were punished by the tribunals set up throughout the Church-State. These cases “represent only a fraction of the solicitation cases tried by the Spanish Inquisition.”[2] There is no doubt that the Protestant Reformation was responsible for bringing to public light the evil of solicitation in the confessional. As a result, the counter-Reformation Council of Trent imposed stricter morality codes on its priests, delegating the trials and prosecution of offenders to the Holy Office. It is the hope and prayer of this ministry that many enslaved in the Roman Catholic religion would come to knowledge of the evil within, leaving that which has been damned by God for that which is the truth, freedom and holiness found only in the biblical Christ.

The Confessor as Role Model, Teacher and Doctor

    In a standard work on the practice of confession, the author tells us the ideal confessor sat “in the place of God, exercising His authority in the confessional. He was to act as both a teacher, instructing the penitent in how    to live a better life, and a doctor, administering suitable spiritual medicine that would inoculate against future sinfulness….At the same time, the confessor was made responsible for testing the religious knowledge of his penitents and instructing them in the areas where they were deficient.”[3]

The Confessor’s Political Influence

    “Historians of early modern Spain have long been aware of the enormous influence exercised by the clergy over royal administration….Spain routinely used [clerics] to preside over the Audiencias and act as presidents or members of royal councils. But nowhere was the clerical influence exerted more strongly than in the post of royal confessor. As described in a memorial written in 1718, the royal confessor advised the king on every matter of state with any kind of moral or religious overtones and virtually controlled ecclesiastical appointments made by the crown…..Of the twenty-nine confessors who served from the beginning of Ferdinand and Isabella to the end of the reign of Charles V, five were named Inquisitor-General, while others served on the Council of State or as Crusade commissioners. Royal confessors during this period included such distinguished figures as Tomás de Torquemada, the first Inquisitor-General, whose influence over Isabella was decisive in such matters as the expulsion of the Jews.”[4]

The Confessor’s Influence Extended Over Personal Issues

    “Young women would also sometimes consult their confessors about their marital prospects….Some confessors were even willing to act as matchmakers…..Individuals also came to their confessors for advice and assistance on other family matters.”[5]

The Confessor had Opportunity to Increase His Personal Income

    “Naturally, the enormous power and prestige enjoyed by confessors during the Counter-Reformation contained a tremendous potential for abuse. Some confessors used their position in an effort to encourage other clerical business….In 1778, [one Franciscan confessor] seized every opportunity to hear confessions, largely, it was said, in order to make contacts that would increase his earnings from fee-paying sermons and funerary masses.”[6]

The Sacrament of Penance Rises in Importance and is Abused by the Priesthood

    “From the end of the Council of Trent to the beginning of the eighteenth century, the role of the sacrament of penance in Catholicism had been profoundly transformed. No longer a yearly obligation that people fulfilled reluctantly if at all, it became an essential part of the new Counter-Reformation spirituality and one of the keys to Catholic revival. At the same time, the role of the confessor became greatly enhanced…….Perhaps the most serious threat was posed by the problem of sexual solicitation during confession. If this abuse were allowed to go unchecked, the popular masses might become alienated from the sacrament and the Protestant attack on it would gain credibility. It was because of the critical need to deal swiftly and effectively with solicitation in a time of crisis that the Church turned to the Spanish Inquisition as its most effective instrument of repression.”[7]

The Author Compiles List of Religious Orders Accused of Sexual Solicitation in 233 Cases

    “Out of the 223 accused, only 59 (26%) belonged to the secular clergy….the largest group comprising parish priests…Among the regulars, the Franciscans alone accounted for 72 cases (32%) of the total. All in all, the mendicants, including Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Trinitarians, Augustinians and Mercedarians, accounted for 96.9% of the cases of solicitation out of the religious orders, while only three cases involved members of the Society of Jesus.”[8]

Nuns Confessing to Males Often the Cause for Opening the Door to Sexual Solicitation

    “The preponderance of the regulars in overall confessional activity was assured by their complete domination of convent life and their role as spiritual directors and confessors of the growing number of beatas [women who took religious vows]…..Contemporary observers were well aware of the potential danger of having a male confessor in such intimate and frequent contact with women who were being more and more strictly enclosed behind the walls of their convents….The relationship between the nun and confessor, moreover, was no ordinary one, as the nun revealed all her thoughts, feelings, and temptations to this man who, for his part, was presented as an exalted figure of learning and authority……The number of attractive young nuns in certain convents made it extremely difficult for some confessors to resist temptation.”[9]

The Case, in 1611, of Confessor Pedro de Villanueva and Three Nuns

    Enemies within Pedro’s religious order spread rumors among the nuns of La Concepciόn convent that their new confessor was frigid and impotent. Thus, “after he arrived at the convent to take up his new post, some of the younger nuns began to tease and provoke him unmercifully….Infuriated by these attacks on his manhood and determined to save his reputation, Villanueva eventually solicited three nuns who were among his worst tormentors, but who also confessed with him most frequently, as though to show the very people who were attacking him how wrong they really were. According to Villanueva’s testimony, the three cooperated willingly with his sexual demands, but when he began paying greater attention to a fourth nun, they became furious and denounced him to the Holy Office.”[10]

Exorcism Leads to Sexual Solicitation

    “When nuns were possessed by demons, it was natural for their superiors to call in a male member of the order to drive them out through officially sanctioned forms of exorcism. Exorcism, however, could involve close physical contact with the possessed individual including touching, massaging, and anointing with holy oil, and in some cases, this led to significant abuses, including solicitation, especially when the exorcist doubled as confessor to the convent. Exorcism was just one of the ways in which priests were brought into intimate physical and emotional contact with female penitents….”[11]

Confession not always in a Closed Confessional

    “The confessor’s ability to solicit his female penitents was greatly enhanced by the Church’s failure to fully impose the closed confessional until late in the eighteenth century…..The evidence from the 15th and 16th century suggests that penitents assumed a kneeling position close to the priest, who was seated on a chair or bench. Such forced intimacy afforded the confessor ample opportunity to abuse his penitents both verbally and physically. In order to reduce the danger to morality inherent in the old system, the post-Tridentine Church gradually introduced the confessional box with its partition separating priest and penitent…….The traditional penitential position offered alluring possibilities to a confessor bent on seducing his penitent.”[12]

The Perversion Practiced by Pedro Pons

    “During the twenty years between 1667 and 1687, Pedro Pons, the prior of the Augustinian convent of Nuestra Senora del Toro on the island of Menorca, took advantage of his physical proximity to his female penitents to kiss them, grab their breasts, and attempt to set up assignations with them. On one occasion, when a thirty-five-year-old widow with whom he had a longstanding relationship came to confess with him, they first excited each other with suggestive language and then engaged in mutual masturbation.”[13]

Nuns and Priests

    “In certain convents that might have been too poor to have confessional boxes, the porter’s lodge was used when the nun’s needed to confess. This was convenient and offered protection for the nun because the porter’s lodge where they normally talked with family members who came to visit them, so it was always supposed to have a screen. The porter’s lodge was routinely used for confessions by the nuns of the Carmelite house in Guadalajara when Friar Francisco Corbera was assigned to hear the nuns’ confessions in the 1670s. The screen did not prove to be much of an impediment to seeing or touching the nuns in this instance, however, because it was frequently missing. On several occasions, one of the nuns, Sister Eugenia de Santa Teresa, even removed the screen herself and then raised her habit so that Corbera could see her thighs.

    “Even more scope was given to the male vicars or confessors of female religious by the rule that allowed nuns to make their confession in the privacy of their cells when they were indisposed. In 1705, Friar José Lozano, a Franciscan who was confessor of a convent in the village of Alcázar de San Juan, used the freedom this rule gave him to visit Sister Antonia de Santa Rosa Romani, a distant cousin who was one of the nuns and happened to be ill. Just as she began her confession, Lozano told her he was very attracted to her……and proceeded to try to insert his hand in her habit……A tussle ensued with the nun trying to cover her breasts…..”[14]

ILL Penitents likely Targets

    “The parish clergy could also take advantage of the illness or indisposition of female penitents to visit them at home in order to hear their confessions. Once in a woman’s bedroom, her state of dishabille and lack of prying eyes offered limitless possibilities. Of the nine witnesses testifying against Gabriel de Osca [in the late 16th century], four had been solicited in their homes while they were ill. In one case, Osca put his hands inside Lucía Hernández’s shift under the pretext of soothing the place where she felt sick. When his hand wandered down between her thighs, Lucía became alarmed and started to scream…..Osca reversed this stratagem by inviting penitents to come to his lodgings when he was ill so that he could hear their confessions….”[15]

Confessional Boxes No Restraint to Suggestive Language

    “The confessor could not be stopped from making suggestive remarks through the screen. The screens themselves, even if they were not torn or missing, were often transparent, so that a confessor could easily identify a penitent and obtain an assignation with her outside the church, often with her cooperation…..The closed confessional actually offered greater privacy to those who wished to discuss or plan an ongoing relationship.”[16]

Pedophilia Reported

    “In general, victims of solicitation were fairly young, with an average age of twenty-seven when they made their depositions before the Holy Office. The impression of youth was confirmed by the fact that the first incident of solicitation occurred an average of six years earlier, with some victims delaying their testimony for as long as thirty years. There were many reasons for this delay, from simply forgetting an incident that happened long ago to repression of something that was acutely painful. This was especially the case with the thirty-six victims who were age fifteen or younger when they experienced the first incident of solicitation. Such witnesses were frequently too upset to come forward or, because of their youth, unaware of their obligation to denounce the confessor….

    “Very young witnesses presented special problems to inquisitorial officials in much the same way as their testimony in child abuse cases raises controversy in the law courts of today. Commissioner Navarro, who took a deposition from ten-year-old Catalina de la Cruz against Gaspar de Nájera, who served as preacher and confessor in rural Lanzarote, was extremely reluctant to take her testimony seriously even though he reported that Nájera had such a bad reputation that the children of Granadilla had made up a little ditty about him beginning with “boys and girls watch out for Father Nájera …” When little Catalina presented herself, he warned her not to tell any lies “because liars go to hell,” and after he finished taking her deposition, he expressed his doubts about accepting it as valid because she was so young and unsophisticated. But he was forced to admit that Nájera’s reputation and the fact that the molestation of the little girl had been witnessed by her grandfather and grandmother lent credence to her testimony.”[17]

Homosexual Priests and Friars

    “The confessional was, in many respects, the most convenient and frequently the only way in which a priest could speak about his sexual desires to a woman…..But such was not the case with the homosexual priest or friar, who had many outlets for his sexual needs. The greater personal freedom enjoyed by boys and men meant there were always large numbers of vagabonds, foreigners, and itinerant laborers available for exploitation. Furthermore, in many Spanish cities an organized homosexual subculture existed where a priest could satisfy his desires without incurring the risks of solicitation in the confessional. The growth of monastic colleges, the increasing role of the priesthood in providing primary education for boys to which girls had no access, and the establishment of seminaries also provided homosexual priests with many opportunities. García Ferrer, a defrocked Augustinian who was sent to the galleys by order of the Suprema in 1617, was a schoolmaster convicted of sodomizing numerous students aged ten to twelve. The bisexual Mercedarian Juan Nolasco was forced to use the confessional to try to obtain the sexual favors of 19-year-old Angela Regual, but was easily able to satisfy his homosexual proclivities by seducing the novices who studied under him in the monastic college.”[18]

Confessors Ask Overtly Sexual Questions

    “The combination of the intense anxiety about the need to confess sins fully and the incessant demand for slavish obedience to the confessor created a situation in which penitents felt they could not refuse to discuss anything that a confessor felt they could bring up, even if overtly sexual. Confessors who crossed that thin line between prudent inquiry into sexual conduct and prurient interest designed to satisfy their own need for sexual excitement posed a serious dilemma for penitents.”[19]

Raped Though ILL

    While Bernarda Suárez de Quintana lay seriously ill, her parents called the confessor, Mateo González, a friend of the family, who “raped her twice in her own bedroom.”[20]

Confessor Uncle Abuses Niece

    19-year-old Paula Petronila de Paz’s confessor was her 53-year-old uncle, a Franciscan and warden of the local convent. He solicited her at her second confession. “The young girl was deeply offended by what had happened and made up her mind never to confess to him again, but when she tried to break off the relationship, he came to her home and convinced her parents that she needed to confess every week with him. These ‘confessions’ took place in the wee hours of the morning at a time when the uncle was sure no one would be in the chapel. Invariably he abused her sexually during these sessions, and when she protested, he mocked her and told her that she had no one to protect her at home. He also told her to forget her fiancé because he wanted to reserve her for himself.”[21]

Priest Seeks Abortion for Penitent

    “The prohibition of concubinage meant that the old tolerance for unmarried mothers was replaced by hostility, and a woman who had an illegitimate child was often tempted to abandon or kill it. All of these trends came together in the tragic case of 19-year-old Antonia González, the daughter of a poor farmer, and provided her confessor Francisco Carrascosa with an opportunity for seduction. One day in the confessional Antonia told Carrascosa that she was pregnant by her fiancé and that she would probably come to term shortly after they were scheduled to be married. Fearing that she would lose her honor and that her fiancé’s family would repudiate her, she begged Carrascosa to get her an abortion. He promised to procure a special potion that she could take, but told her it would not work unless he had a piece of her pubic hair and allowed him to have sexual relations with her. The desperate girl agreed and they had intercourse in her house, but she balked at taking the potion that Carrascosa had mixed up for her and ended by drowning the child.”[22]

Jesuit Who Taught Moral Theology a Fornicator

    “Father Antonio de Contreras, one of the few Jesuits convicted of solicitation, was able to take advantage of his relationship with the Cabreros family to seduce young Francisca de Cabreros, with whom he had an affair that lasted for nine years. While Contreras’s ability to enter the Cabreros home virtually at will was of critical importance in establishing this relationship, it also helped that the family lived right opposite the Jesuit College where he taught moral theology.”[23]

Opportunity for Solicitation When Tutoring

    “A 35-year-old widow, Mariana Mulet, was extremely grateful to her confessor, Pedro José Pons, for undertaking to teach her son the rudiments of grammar…….Mulet began coming to his convent not simply to confess, but to converse about a variety of topics. It was on one of these occasions that she and Pons had their first conversation using overtly sexual language. During subsequent confessions, they engaged in touching, petting and mutual masturbation.”[24]

    “…………….Education provided the basis for friendship between the Franciscan Manuel de Peraleja and 15-year-old Juan Antonio de Escobar…..They had homosexual relations on numerous occasions in Peraleja’s cell and other locations in the convent.”[25]

Sign of the Cross Made Over Penitent’s Breasts

    “The Trinitarian Rafael Serre, who was a charismatic figure in more ways than one, was also a dynamic preacher [who] ordered 22-year-old Catalina Sastre to unbutton her blouse so that he could make the sign of the cross over her breasts. When she protested, he was easily able to convince her that this was all for her spiritual benefit and to rid her of evil spirits………Like the repeat offenders in recent surveys of psychiatrists who had sexual contact with their patients, Serre was loath to acknowledge any wrongdoing. When pressed by female penitent, Francisca Noseras, as to the reason why he insisted on placing his hands on her bare breasts, he assured her his only intention ‘was to cure her in the places where she felt pain.’ ”[26]

Nuns Flogged & Tied Up By Their Feet

    “The reformed Carmelite convent founded in Seville was almost destroyed when one of the nuns accused the others of  immorality and heresy. The following year, the same convent was rocked by the sudden departure of a novice who declared that the prioress had flogged the nuns and left them tied up by their feet.”[27]

Sexually Provocative Language and Foreplay During Confession

    “Confessors would sometimes make a suggestive remark with the clear intent of provoking lascivious thoughts or actions in a penitent who had never considered her confessor as a sexual partner. On two occasions, after he had finished hearing the confession of Sister Bernarda de San Antonio, Friar Juan de la Olmeda told her of his desire to kiss and fondle her and suggested that she think of him when she urinated.

“Suggestive or provocative language could also form an exciting part of an ongoing relationship that included sexual foreplay during confession and other sexual activity outside the confessional. Isabel de Tena was fifteen when she began confessing with Francisco de las Llagas, a Franciscan, who resided in a convent northwest of Toledo. Llagas began using suggestive language almost from the beginning of the twelve years during which she was his penitent. At first, he simply told her that he loved her, but later, as their relationship intensified, he would say that he could not live without her and could not put her out of his mind awake or asleep. On twenty or thirty occasion when this would occur, he would then ask her to kiss him and put his tongue through the hole in the confessional screen so that she could take it in her mouth. Isabel willingly complied, even though she made a pretence of reluctance by asking coyly, ‘But Father Llagas, how could you do this…..and in such a holy place?’ After the excitement of the confessional, Llagas and Isabel de Tena went on to have coitus and engage in mutual masturbation in the home of a widow who made extra money by making it available for assignations.”[28]

“……A desire to witness forbidden or sinful sexual acts also figured strongly in many sexual fantasies. Friar Juan Ibánez repeatedly urged Sister Augustina to clean herself after menstruation by inserting her finger deep inside her vagina, but was also extremely excited by the idea of female homosexuality, and at one point expressed a desire to see Sister Augustina and another nun engage in sex play……Friar Pablo Ginard expressed a desire to shave Juana Ana Tarrasa’s pubic hair and wash her clitoris.

“A variation on the theme of female masturbation appeared in the testimony given to the Valencia tribunal. A few months after Vincent Ripoll had begun to serve as Sister Catalina Angelo’s confessor, they were on such intimate terms that they would make extra appointments just to get each other excited by using smutty language. It was on one of those occasions that Ripoll begged her to insert her fingers inside her vagina and then put them through the holes in the confessional screen.

“……After trying and failing to get Catalina Flexas y Proassi to masturbate him, Gabriel Canevas offered to kiss her clitoris ‘many times’ if she would allow him to do so……..Once, while hearing the confession of Antonia Grande y Mirona, Geronimo Vincente Maymo told her that his greatest happiness would be if she disrobed and allowed him to see every part of her body.’ [29]

Priests Interested in Details of Sex Among the Married

    “Priests were also extremely curious about sexual activity, especially among the married. The Augustinian friar, Joaquín Ubeda, asked María Teresa Cervera, a 36-year-old married woman, about the positions she assumed when she had sex with her husband. The Dominican Friar Andrés Frau was really fascinated by the sex life of his married penitents and constantly badgered them for details. While hearing the confession of 28-year-old Barbara Morney, Frau placed his hands on her breasts and asked her to tell him how many times she had intercourse with her husband.....”

    “…….When 15-year-old Lucía Rodríguez, who had recently married a Labrador, came to Gasper de Nájera for confession, he demanded to know how big her husband’s member was and if he had thrust all of it inside her on their first night together…..

    “…….Doubtless the motives for at least some of this questioning went beyond mere curiosity. Francisco Pons, a Franciscan from La Palma, questioned his penitents about the details of their sex lives in order to find out if they were sexually frustrated. When he found out that Catalina Real y Massenet was a widow, he encouraged her to talk about her relationship with her husband and asked if she missed having him beside her when she went to bed at night. When she admitted that she did, he tried to provoke her further, bringing his face close to hers, asking how many times they had coitus in one night. Pons did something very similar with Francisca Juan, a 22-year-old who was married to a tanner. After she told him she was childless, he asked if her husband embraced her in bed and if she enjoyed sexual relations with him, while offering to ‘serve her in anything that she might require.’” [30]

The Sins of Dominican Juan de Monseratte

    “Petting to orgasm was followed by sexual intercourse in the relationship between the Dominican Juan de Monseratte and two of his penitents, Margarita Tura and Catalina Planellas. In both cases, sexual interaction began with Monseratte kissing and caressing the women, then fondling their breasts, and finally inducing them to masturbate him. In this case, as in many others, sexual interaction between priest and penitent was made extremely convenient because the convent chapel did not have a closed confessional, so that the women merely knelt before their confessor in a submissive posture. After both women had been thoroughly aroused during confession, Monseratte had intercourse with them in the home of a woman who made extra money by renting it out for use as a rendezvous for illicit sexual interaction.”[31]

Priests Who Involuntarily Ejaculate While Hearing Confessions – Not Sinful

    “…..the confessional, where contact with women was combined with a certain degree of privacy, would provide an ideal venue for masturbation…. Bartholomé de Medina depicts the confessional as a place where the priest could expect to experience erection and ejaculation while hearing the confessions of female penitents. Under these circumstances, ejaculation was seen as involuntary and, therefore, not sinful, but simply one of the moral risks that came with the job of the confessor.”[32]

Priests Who Voluntarily Ejaculate During Confession - Sinful

    “Voluntary masturbation in the confessional was viewed as especially serious since it combined elements of blasphemy and profanation…..In 1682, Dr. Jorge Rosellό was condemned for having committed the ‘most odious and detestable offense that it was possible to imagine against the performance of such a sacred ceremony in such a holy place’ by inducing Antonia March y Cifre to masturbate him in a chapel in the cathedral of Las Palmas…..In 1607, one woman….had exceptionally bad luck with the friars of the Mercedarian house in Baeza. Shortly after she began her first confession with Friar Carranza, she saw him throw himself down in his side of the confessional and begin making disgusting movements as if he were a woman engaging in the sex act.’ After ejaculating, he regained his composure and without saying anything, helped her to complete her confession. Horrified by what had happened with Carranza, she decided to never confess with him again and turned instead to Friar Cavallero, of the same convent. Unfortunately, the result was the same, and she saw him masturbate through the confessional screen ‘with great filth and lewdness.’ After trying still another friar and finding that he kept rubbing his member during confession, she decided to abandon any attempt to find a confessor from among the Mercedarians and left angrily, declaring that ‘this convent is more like a house of prostitution than a house of worship.’[33]

Mutual Masturbation Between Priest and Penitent

    “One of the most complete descriptions of mutual masturbation in the case records is contained in testimony taken from Eugenia Ordόnez concerning her affair with Alonso Guerrero, a Trinitarian friar. Testifying before the Toledo tribunal on June 19, 1639, Ordόnez described how on numerous occasions she had knelt before Guerrero, who was seated on a bench in a side chapel where the friars normally heard confessions. After exchanging filthy and lascivious language with him, she would put her hand inside his habit and manipulate his genitals until he achieved orgasm. He would then lift her skirts and insert his fingers inside her, rubbing her until she, too, experienced orgasm. Immediately afterward, they would kiss passionately.”[34]

Homosexuality & Bisexuality Among Priests

    “In order to make up for his sexual failures and the severe heterosexual deprivation that life as a Franciscan entailed, Pedro Estéban was able to fall back on what appears to have been a well-established homosexual subculture in his convent. As warden, Estéban could gain easy access to the coterie of homosexuals and force his attentions on those he desired. On one occasion, he ordered Friar Onofre Llompaid, who was later expelled from the order for his rampant homosexuality, to come to his cell under the pretext of helping him clean his private parts where he claimed he had an infection. Friar Llompaid’s assistance proved more sexual than hygienic since Estéban embraced and kissed him and then had anal intercourse with him three or four times.”[35]

The Perversions of Friar Juan de San Jacinto

    “The San Jacinto case involved Rosa Díaz Moreno and Catalina de Jesus María. Both women were widows, [having taken religious vows], living in the village of Herencia (Toledo), where San Jacinto was resident in the local Mercederian house. In 1703, Rosa Díaz Moreno asked San Jacinto to be her confessor because he enjoyed an excellent local reputation. Everything went well for several months, so she decided to make a general confession, but when she began discussing her married life, he insisted that she relate everything having to do with her sexual activity before and during marriage ‘clearly and unambiguously’ including words, actions and thoughts.’ Although she was at first reluctant to do this, he convinced her by appealing to her desire for spiritual perfection, telling her this would be a measure of her love for God and that she would be able to attain ‘many degrees of blessedness’ by obeying him. Further linking his sexual urges with religious observance, San Jacinto made Díaz Moreno repeat what she had told him about her sex life during all of the major Catholic holy days.

    “For the next two years, in all of the confessions that she made with him, Friar Juan insisted that she repeat the same sins ‘using the exact words that she and her husband exchanged.’ During one confession, he even made her repeat the names of the male and female sexual organs fifty times and threatened to slap her if she refused to do so. Frequently, just before she was about to being her recitation, he would experience an enormous rush of sexual excitement at the prospect of hearing dirty words and would urge her to ‘say them, say them, you impudent whore.’ When she finished, he would inform her that she behaved like a ‘filthy prostitute’ with her husband…..In order to increase her mortification, he also insisted she look straight at him while she said dirty words as if she were looking into the eyes of God, whom he represented. Later in their relationship, sadomasochistic themes were carried further when he insisted that she repeat the same language before him in her own home and then forced her to partially disrobe so that he could scourge her shoulders.

    “San Jacinto’s relationship with his other penitent, Catalina de Jesus María, was somewhat similar. Since she was also a widow, he insisted that she relate all of her sexual experiences, repeat the names of the sexual organs, and use filthy language. At one point, he even demanded she repeat the obscenities while holding a consecrated host in her mouth. He also frequently humiliated her by slapping her in the confessional and regularly beating her with a belt in her home, while insisting she repeat dirty language.”[36]

Ex-Spanish Priest, Antonio Gavin, Denounces Solicitation in the Confessional

    “…..anticlericals and liberal Catholics were openly questioning practices that encouraged an excessive emotional closeness between confessor and penitent. The most extreme expression of this view was to make solicitation synonymous with confession either directly, through the fear of the physical seduction of penitents by confessors, or indirectly, through an insidious form of moral seduction by which ‘through the confessional the priest is much more the husband of the wife than the man to whom she was wedded at the foot of the altar.’ An early work that openly discusses sexual solicitation was written by Antonio Gavin, a renegade Spanish priest who fled to England shortly before 1713. As a secular priest and confessor for several years in Saragossa and as a member of the so-called moral academy, where local confessors would routinely discuss their most difficult cases with their colleagues, Gavin was in a good position to learn about instances of sexual solicitation.

    “Within a few years of his arrival in England, Gavin had published, The Master Key to Popery, in which he denounced questioning of penitents on sexual matters as a school for scandal by which ‘the penitents learn things of which they never had dreamed before.’ The Master Key of Popery is filled with stories about the lewdness of priests……some of the solicitation cases he discusses have the ring of truth…… Regardless of the degree of exaggeration contained in Gavin’s discussion of solicitation, The Master Key of Popery is important because the shameful secret of sexual solicitation by priests, which had been so carefully preserved by the Holy Office, was revealed to a popular audience and by no less a source than a former Spanish Catholic priest.”[37]

Haliczer’s Conclusions

    “The Protestant attack on the sacrament of penance was two-sided: an unworthy, sinful priesthood was administering a sacrament of dubious scriptural validity and of no value at all in obtaining justification…. More than 2 ½ centuries of persecution by the Holy Office failed to end the problem of solicitation in spite of the fact that few priests could plead ignorance of the laws against it….Organized persecution of solicitation ended with the demise of the Holy Office, but the Spanish obsession with an eroticized sacrament of penance remained very much alive.”[38]

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[1] Sexuality in the Confessional, A Sacrament Profaned, (Oxford University Press, 1996).

[2] p. 4.

[3] p. 35.

[4] p. 37.

[5] P. 39.

[6] Ibid.

[7] pgs. 40-41.

[8] p. 86.

[9] pgs. 89-90.

[10] p. 90.

[11] p. 91.

[12] p. 100.

[13] Ibid.

[14] p. 101-2.

[15] p. 102.

[16] p. 103.

[17] p. 106-7.

[18] p. 109.

[19] p. 114.

[20] p. 120.

[21] p. 120-21.

[22] p. 131.

[23] p. 135.

[24] p. 135-36.

[25] Ibid.

[26] p. 137-38.

[27] p. 146.

[28] p. 156-57.

[29] p. 159-60.

[30] p. 160.

[31] p. 163

[32] p. 165.

[33] Ibid.

[34] p. 166.

[35] p. 169.

[36] p. 174-75.

[37] p. 183-85.

[38] p. 207.