A scene where a character confesses things to a priest, whether or not they're (implicitly or explicitly) Catholic.
This doesn't have to specifically be in a confessional. Deathbed Confessions (of the religious type) should also be included, and any other situation in which a confession of this nature is made to a priest.
As a literary device, there could almost be a subtrope for cases in which the character discovers (usually after making their confession) that the "priest" is not actually a priest. Sometimes they don't discover it. See Bad Habits for impersonation of religious figures generally.
Definitely related to Christianity is Catholic, since the Catholic Church encourages its adherents to practice Confession and a proscribed Penance once a year at the absolute minimum. Lutherans and some Anglican Churches also have the option of private confessions, though it's seldom exercised, nor do they have formal confessionals. Eastern Orthodox have confessions much like Catholics do, but face-to-face with the priest — not in the "confession booth" most Westerners are familiar with.
For the reality show equivalent, see Confession Cam.
The booth itself is so very useful to the screenwriter for a number of well-worn reasons:
- Similar to placing a character on a psychiatrist's couch — it allows the character to spout emotional or narrative exposition, speedily cluing the audience, while often implying a certain amount of religious angst into the bargain. You don't even have to write characterization for your protagonist's confidant — a disembodied "Yes, my child?" will do.
- It places the confessor — priest or not — in a position of great psychical or very real power (blackmail, intrigue) over the one who confesses and makes for tales of cruel abuse and inspiring integrity.
- Can create interesting ethical dilemmas for the priest: when a criminal confesses a crime, usually a murder, to a priest, the information can't be passed on to the police because it's forbidden to divulge the content of a confession. If a priest does repeat a confession, he is automatically excommunicated from the Church and has to confess to the Pope himself in order to be absolved. Even if that does happen, the priest will normally end up being barred from ever hearing confessions again. note
- The element of concealment allows for shock reveals.
- The association with the taboo and "naughtiness" supplies gag material.
- Is a good way to round a character otherwise seen as steadfastly upright and moral. His confession can reveal that he, too, deliberately does things he knows to be wrong and subsequently regrets them, but that those things are simply smaller and less frequent than those of the average person. This makes the point that even the best, most upright people sometimes do evil, but without actually undermining the idea that we should admire characters who do good selflessly.
See also Confess in Confidence.
- The yaoi comic Little Lost Lamb has a storyline where a young priest is put on confessional duty and finds himself taking confessions from a young man he's attracted to. The man confesses being attracted to other men and masturbating, and the priest encourages him to demonstrate such acts before God (including things that should not be done with icons EVER), before finally revealing himself for happy sexy times.
- In the manga Fist of the Blue Sky, which is a prequel to Fist of the North Star, the priest at the local Corrupt Church is only too happy to dole out forgiveness in his confessional in exchange for fat stacks of cash. Unfortunately for him, Kenshiro Kasumi considers his behavior to negate the protection of clergy.
- The protagonist in Osamu Tezuka's suspense thriller manga MW is a Catholic Priest who is wracked with guilt because he is unable to tell the police about the crimes that arch-villain Yuki Michio has confessed (read: bragged) to him about, including blackmail, robbery, murder, and a plot to steal an American chemical weapon and use it to destroy the world.
- My-HiME: While the confession is given to a nun rather than a priestnote , Yukariko decides to hear Nao'snote confession, and after a short time, runs away, screaming that she can't bear to hear any more.
- In Saint Young Men, Jesus confesses to a priest that he is, in fact, Jesus. And that it's his birthday but he's jealous of Santa Claus. The priest thinks he's crazy.
- Hudson and Landry's "Ajax Liquor Store" has a besotted customer on the phone to the store ordering copious amounts of alcoholic beverages:
Clerk: That's a big order, sir. Are you having a party?
Customer: No...I'm just tryin' to work up the nerve to go to confession.
- A young man goes to confessional and admits that he seduced a young woman out of wedlock. The priests asks to know which one, citing the mechanic's daughter, the policeman's widow, the doctor's sister, the banker's Trophy Wife, but the man remains silent, only accepting the priest's punishment of a certain amount of prayers. The man's friend waiting outside asks him how it went, and he answers "Thirty Paternosters, forty Ave Marias... and four good prospects."
- A man goes to church to confess to having recently committed a spectacular act of debauchery (a common version being a Twin Threesome Fantasy).
Priest: What kind of Catholic are you?
Man: I'm not any kind of Catholic.
Priest: Then why are you telling me this?
Man: I'm telling everybody!
- A priest hears a man stumble into a confessional, but say nothing. After a while the priest knocks on the divider, and hears the slurred response "Sorry buddy, no paper on this side either."
- Hyperion seeks guidance from a priest in a confessional in Supreme Power. The priest's words give him an epiphany... causing him to storm the US Army base he was kept in before he was assigned a foster family, looking for answers. This was so awesome for the way it ended: "You've got this weird tan, father!" — Hyperion's "flash vision" had flared up briefly during the confession, giving the priest tan lines in the pattern of the booth's screen.
- Subverted in the original Sin City, in which Marv confesses, but it turns out the priest is someone he is looking for and so he interrogates the priest and then kills him. In the movie, played by author Frank Miller. He's in heaven with his whores now.
- There's an independent comic out there where a gangster confesses to assaulting and disfiguring a priest a long time ago, among many other sins. Guess who was in the other side of the booth.
- In The Punisher story arc Welcome Back, Frank, a priest snaps and turns into a brutal vigilante killer from hearing way too many people bragging about their sins rather than confessing them.
- MAD features them sometimes.
- In one feature showing what the comics would look like if L'Osservatore Romano had a comics page (i.e., Catholic-themed versions of many strips), Superman darts into a confessional to change, but the priest who's inside is more interested in hearing about his "impure thoughts" regarding Lois Lane.
- One "A Mad Look At" has a churchgoer tearfully confessing his sins while the priest, who's smiling and listening to a Walkman, can't hear him.
- DJ Croft in Neon Exodus Evangelion does this, kind of, at an Episcopalian church. He isn't seeking penitence so much as religious reassurance that he's not trying to thwart the divine plan; the priest reassures him, saying, "...if [God] wished to destroy us with the Second Impact, He would have done it right the first time."
- Forbidden Games: Michel confesses to the priest that he stole crosses from the hearse. Immediately after doing this, he sees the altar cross, and tries to steal it. But he makes a big noise doing so, causing the priest to interrupt another confession while he rushes out to investigate.
- In A League of Their Own, before a big game the team goes to a church and everyone goes to confession. After Mae's, however, the priest is in a great state of distress and Mae looks very pleased with herself.
"Mae, what did you tell him?"
- The film version of Amadeus uses the Framing Device of Salieri's confession to a priest. (The play version just talks to the audience).
- The Godfather Part III has Michael Corleone confessing his sins to a priest (Cardinal Lamberto, who later is elected Pope). The priest considers Michael so evil that this is what he has to say: "Your sins are terrible. And it is just that you suffer. Your life could be redeemed, but I know you don't believe that. You will not change." Note that a precondition for the Sacrament of Confession is sincere contrition and willingness to change. A priest has the right to refuse absolution to someone who does not appear to be repentant. Pertaining to this, while the priest does chastise Michael for his lifetime of evil, Michael is visibly sorrowful for his sins, and the priest gives him absolution.
- In Ghost Rider (2007), Blackheart goes into a church and says, "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned... I've sinned a lot."
- Used rather badly in Priest (1994). A great moral conflict is created when someone reveals to a priest in a confessional booth that he is committing and has every intention of continuing to commit, a heinous and disgusting crime. From that point on, the priest is deeply conflicted about whether to reveal this information to the police. The only problem is that the seal of the confessional does not apply in this situation. The seal of the confessional applies to all sacramental confessions, and to sacramental confessions only, regardless of where the priest hears them. Note to future criminals: if you go into a confessional booth and tell the priest that you have perpetrated a crime, intend to perpetrate the crime again, are not sorry or remorseful at all, and are not seeking any advice or counsel, that priest has every canonical right to turn you in to the police. Though the movie does make a point of how said priest is not keeping up the seal of the confessional for the perpetrator, but for the victim of the crime who has told him the same thing in the confessional and repeatedly asked him to keep silence.
- Agent Smecker in The Boondock Saints goes to a confessional whilst very hung over. He realized that the McManus brothers were only killing bad guys who would otherwise get away and asked the priest's advice on whether he should help them or turn them in. The priest reluctantly gives Smecker his blessing, but only because Rocco has a gun to his head (while Connor is holding a gun to Rocco's head at the same time; the brothers do not like it when anyone hurts a member of the clergy, and Rocco had originally wanted to kill Smecker because he perceived him to be a liability, which neither of the brothers wanted either).
- In A Bronx Tale, the main character (who is 10 years old at the time) witnessed a murder but lied so as not to implicate the Mafia boss who had done it. He confessed his lie to the Priest, who (it is implied) understood who the murderer was. The Priest gave him 10 Hail Marys as penance. The kid's reaction to his penance:
Calogero: For a murder rap? That ain't bad, Father!
Priest: What'd you say?!!
- At the end of The Exorcist, Father Karras commits suicide to get rid of the demon, who has recently possessed him. Father Dyer arrives just in time to take his confession, but Karras is unable to speak and just squeezes Dyer's hand as a confirmation that he repents his sins
- Soylent Green. It's implied that a priest heard the truth about Soylent Green from the murdered businessman, and he appears traumatized by this revelation. The priest is later murdered by the assassin, who shoots him during confessional.
- In Dracula 2000, Mina Van Helsing goes to see a priest who is an old childhood friend, to confess the weird dreams she's been having about a strange man Dracula and to ask about her mother's dying confession. The original Abraham Van Helsing is her father, and since he's been using Dracula's blood to live this long, she's part vampire as well.
- In Short Circuit 2, Johnny Five finds himself in an unintentional confession, talking to somebody behind some funny window. When the priest realizes he's talking to a robot, he angrily ejects him from the church, not realizing that he's talking to a sentient AI.
"You can't confess by remote control! Now out! Get out!"
- In the Grindhouse trailer for Machete, the titular Machete goes to confessional to visit his brother who is now a Priest to enlist his help in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
Priest: I took a vow of peace, and now you want me to help you kill all these men?
Machete: Yes, bro. I mean, Father.
Priest: ...I'll see what I can do.
- In the actual movie, Booth goes to the priest and confesses that he has feelings for his daughter April.
- Parodied in Hudson Hawk. A nun who's an agent of an undercover Vatican organization goes to confession with her superior, a priest.
- The movie Heaven Help Us, set at a Catholic high school, has The Bully advising the other boys on how to cut down on their penance by reducing the number of sins they confess to manageable but still believable levels, and then adding one lie to the list.
- Played with in 40 Days and 40 Nights — the protagonist goes to confession not to seek repentance for his sins, but simply to discuss his sexual hang-ups with the priest who happens to be his brother.
- Appears in The Conversation.
- Subverted in In Bruges: in a flashback, Ray is seen going to confession and confessing to the crime of murder. What the priest doesn't realize is that he's confessing to the murder he's about to commit — of the priest himself.
- In The Mask of Zorro, one of Zorro's allies is a priest, and they use the confessional to collude. After one such meeting just prior to the final battle, the priest asks if Zorro needs to confess as long as he's there, but he declines, saying, "Where I'm going, I'll just have to come back."
- A similar scene occurs in Tyrone Power's The Mark of Zorro (1940).
- In The Ringer, Johnny Knoxville's character is in a confessional and tells the Priest that he's entering in the Special Olympics to pay off a debt with the prize money. The Priest then punches him in the face, through the lattice.
- Since the eponymous character is a Catholic priest, it is no surprise that the books and films of the Don Camillo series regularly feature confessional scenes.
- In the Made-for-TV Movie Soulkeeper, the two thief protagonists are pitted against Simon Magus, an Evil Sorcerer who specializes in corrupting souls. A spirit ally tells the two that they need to cleanse their souls to avoid being corrupted by Magus. So they go to a confessional and confess every sin they ever committed in their entire lives. The priest needs aspirin by the time they are done.
- At the end of The Sound of Music, the two nuns confess to the abbess that they stole the wires from the Nazis' cars, thus preventing them from pursuing the von Trapps. The abbess just smiles.
- During the Omaha Beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan, the camera passes a dying soldier reciting an act of contrition to a Catholic chaplain: "Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I detest my sins for having offended thee, O Lord..." This is immediately followed by a shot of a different solider reciting the Hail Mary in Latin.
- In one scene in Angela's Ashes Frank goes to Confessional for the sin of 'regurgitating God' into his backyard, as he had eaten too much from his First Communion meal and threw up because of it. He's given penance but is then sent back to the confessional by his granny to ask how to clean it up. Upon returning with the answer of 'Water', he is sent back by his granny, again, to know if they are to use normal water or Holy water to clean up the mess. The Priest, frustrated, tells him normal water and to leave him alone.
- In Daredevil (2003), Murdock goes to church and tries to confess the sins he has committed as a vigilante. The priest denies him absolution on the grounds that he isn't truly repentant, he's just going to put the suit on again and sin some more, and that what Matthew is really asking for is permission to keep beating the crap out of criminals. The priest does refrain from turning him into the cops for vigilantism, though.
- Van Helsing has an agent of the church meet his superior, a Cardinal, in a Vatican confessional. Which drops down into a secret chamber.
- Night on Earth. In the Rome story a cab driver picks up a priest for a fare and insists on confessing despite his objections. Cue a hilarious rendition of the cabbie's sexual history (everything from a sheep to his brother's wife) which causes the priest to have a heart attack, which he can't remedy since a swirly maneuver from the cabbie made him drop his heart condition pills.
- Paix sur les champs: The main mystery behind events is whether or not Stanne killed his girlfriend Lodia twenty years ago—she was stabbed to death, and many people including Lodia's mom assumed he did it, but there was no evidence and he was never charged. Turns out that he did, as shown when he goes to confessional and tells to a priest. When Stanne asks if he should admit it to Johanna, which obviously would risk him going to jail, the priest tells him he has to follow his conscience.
- The fifth scene of Stations of the Cross, paralleling the Station where Jesus gets help carrying his cross, has Maria confess her sins to her traditionalist parish's young priest. Instead of the atmosphere of honesty and forgiveness typical to most Confessional scenes, the Fifth Station sees the priest interrogate Maria and extrapolate sins of lust from Maria's innocent crush on a school boy, leaving Maria more uncomfortable and convinced of her own sin than before she entered the booth. The scene, like all others in the movie, is made up of a single shot, this time focusing on a sideview of Maria's face as she speaks into the screen with the priest on the other side.
- Hail, Caesar! opens with Mannix, wracked with guilt, confessing to his priest that he bums cigarettes even though his wife wants him to quit... just twenty-four hours after his last confession, in the dead of the night. He visits again near the end, seeking advice on whether or not to leave his job and confessing that he "struck a movie star in anger." The priest counsels him, and also says he should stop coming in so often because he's really not that bad. Still, Eddie learns what he needs to hear in the confessional: God wants him to do what feels right, which is helping people at Capitol Pictures.
- In Phallus In Wonderland, Father Bohab chases an altar boy in and out of one like a cartoon. A group of journalists led by Sleazy P Martini catch him with his pants down in more ways than one.
- Stealing Heaven: Abelard goes to confession twice in the film over his thoughts about and acts with Héloïse.
- In Date with an Angel, Jim tries to get help from the Catholic Church in dealing with his Angel. He winds up, confused, in a confessional booth. The priest thinks he's pulling his leg.
- We're No Angels: The escaped convicts posing as priests in the remake hear confessions form the locals but are unprepared for this. When one man confesses to chewing on his wife, Ned tells him that it's no big deal as long as she doesn't know.
- At the end of The Stone Killer the Mafia boss who was behind The Purge is shown attending confession during which he confesses to various petty sins and asks for absolution for these "and any other sins" he might have committed.
- G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown (a Catholic priest and Amateur Sleuth) routinely takes confession from the criminals he apprehends. He also hints that much of his knowledge of the criminal underworld comes from the confessions he has heard in his duties as a priest.
- The protagonist of Angela's Ashes regularly goes to confession as part of his Irish Catholic upbringing.
- Subverted in Diderot's Jacques the Fatalist, there's an interpolated tale where a woman has to pretend to complete piety as part of a revenge plot. The Marquis falls madly in love with her (which is basically the point of the plot) and bribes her confessor to share her secrets and influence her in his favor.
- Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton starts with a deathbed confession. The fact that the confession occurred is actually more important to the plot than its content — while priests in Walton's setting are technically allowed to take confessions, it ruins their reputation if anyone ever finds out about it (as it's associated with the pseudo-Catholic Old Believers). Oh, and they're all dragons.
- In an old novel about the Wandering Jew set primarily in France (if I remember correctly, it may actually have been titled "The Wandering Jew" and may or may not have been originally written in French), the evil Jesuits plant their agents as confessors to the rich and powerful to gather blackmail and other useful information.
- The entire plot of Ann Radcliffe's The Italian hinges upon this trope—unsurprising, for a melodramatic (though well-written) Gothic romance/murder mystery.
- A Prayer for the Dying, a novel by Jack Higgins (later turned into a movie) is about an ex-IRA terrorist whose contract killing is witnessed by a priest. Rather than kill this witness, the killer simply goes round to his church and confesses, knowing the priest will have to keep silent. Unfortunately, the crime boss who set up the assassination doesn't believe that the priest will keep his mouth shut, leading to an inevitable conflict.
- In the sci-fi spoof novel Bill the Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison, Bill goes to see the ship's chaplain, who also doubles as the laundry officer as there's not much call for a chaplain on a warship. Bill says that he thinks one of his crewmates is a spy. The chaplain downplays Bill's suspicions and promises to keep the confession a secret, but as soon as it's time to become the laundry officer again he calls the MPs.
- In the sixth Pretty Little Liars book, Emily receives a picture clue from A showing Wilden coming out of a confession booth with the caption "Guess we all have things to feel guilty about, huh?"
- Stephen King's story Mute has the traveling-salesman protagonist confessing to a priest about what happened after he picked up a hitchhiker and started venting about his wife's marital and financial transgressions.
- In Purple Hibiscus, there is a scene with one of these. It's an interesting insight into Kambili's mind: she confesses to, among other things, eating Cornflakes so that her painkiller will work.
- Features occasionally in the Outlander series, appropriately enough as the majority of characters are 18th century Scottish. The most memorable incident is an instance in which Jamie, needing to divert suspicion for some reason, claims to be in need of confession in the company of several government agents who are noticeably uncomfortable with the subject. Knowing full well they're listening in, he goes on to confess to the priest a sin of lust — describing in detail the sight of a shapely young woman bobbing up and down as she's churning butter. Unfortunately, the protagonist (his wife, and none too young) recognizes that it's not just her, but also her butter churn. (Jamie later admits IIRC that he simply wanted something to throw the Regulators off, and he couldn't admit to theft or sodomy, as he might have to do business with them later.)
- The very first Don Camillo story is called "The Confession"; Peppone confesses to Don Camillo that he hit him over the head with a club. It would neither be the last story featuring a confession nor the last time someone used that gambit on Don Camillo, despite the way it turned out in this one.
- The Ray Bradbury short story "Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned..." opens with a priest in the middle of the night opening his confessional after having gotten a flash of intuition that someone would be there looking for Confession. Lo and behold, there is a penitent there who goes to confess sins from 60 years earlier. As the priest listens, he recalls and tells the penitent that he too had committed extremely similar (even suspiciously so...) sins in his own youth. At the end, he absolves the man and invites the penitent back to the rectory for a glass of wine... only to find nobody on the other side. It's implied that he WAS confessing his own sins.note
- The plot of The Genesis Code begins when Father Giulio Azetti hears the confession of a dying doctor that is so spiritually troubling for him, he winds up traveling all the way to the Vatican to unburden himself. Later in the book, the same priest is murdered by an agent of the villains in the same confessional booth.
- Bless me, Father, for I now sin.
- In The Great Brain series the Fitzgerald family are Catholic in a small town without a priest, except for a travelling one who comes by once a year to hear confessions. Tom is used to getting a few Hail Mary's at most. Then in The Great Brain at the Academy Tom is sent away to Catholic boarding school and experiences confession with a real dedicated priest, who gives Tom a lot of penance to do.
- A tiny genre of written/audio pornography consists of a female speaker tormenting a priest by confessing her past sexual sins in excessive detail.
- Francie, the protagonist in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn goes to confession once. Strangely, although the rest of the family is devoutly Catholic, only her maternal aunt is mentioned doing so as well.
- In the short story "Through and Through" by Tim Powers, a priest is visited in the confessional by the ghost of a recently-deceased parishioner, who is unable to move on because he refused to assign her a penance the last time she came to confession. (Not because he considered her beyond absolution, but because he's a progressive-minded post-Vatican II priest and didn't think the transgression she was confessing to counted as a sin requiring absolution in the first place.)
- The Confessions is framed as a confession by Augustine of all his past sins to God.
- In The Vampire Chronicles, Louis visits a confessional in a pang of Supernatural Angst and tells the priest all about his blood-soaked existence as a vampire, only for the priest to dismiss it as a sick joke and storm out. Furious, Louis drinks him dry.
- Esther Diamond: Its speculated Father Gabriel in Doppelgänger become a priest hoping to hear more about how his mobster father died via confessions.
- In the Mercedes Lackey novel Tiger Burning Bright, the high temple of a recently conquered city uses certain confessionals as intelligence drop points for the resistance, as they are private, soundproof, and the fact that people go to church to make confession at all hours anyways makes it perfectly inconspicuous. Such a thing would not be ecclesiastically sound practice in real life, as even though the people taking the intel are real priests (after all, some of the people in line for the confessional might really be there to confess, and some of the spies might want to confess their sins while they are there), they aren't using it for the appropriate purpose.
- On 30 Rock, Jack (an extremely lapsed Catholic who hasn't set foot in a church in years except for weddings and funerals) steps into a confessional purely to please his extremely religious girlfriend. He ends up spilling his guts about a variety of Noodle Incidents and Continuity Nods. The priest is... overwhelmed.
Priest: [sprinting from confessional] I NEED BACK-UP!
- The British comedy series Bless Me Father played with this several times (hardly surprising since the subject matter was Catholic priests). In one particularly notable episode, however, the young curate Father Neil Boyd informs the parish priest Father Duddleswell that the confessionals in the church are not entirely soundproof. Father Duddleswell agrees to invest in new confessionals and a new microphone system at the same time. When hearing the confession of an adulteress after Mass, however, he forgets to remove the microphone from around his neck. Hilarity Ensues...
- The Borgias, being set at the height of Renaissance Italy, naturally has a few confessional scenes. The first one involves Giulia Farnese seducing the new Pope, Rodrigo Borgia — by confessing to her abortion of her unwanted child. Repeat after me; It Makes Sense in Context.
- The opening scene of Brimstone uses the confessional as exposition that the protagonist has been brought back from the dead to hunt down 113 souls who have escaped from Hell. When the priest demands to know why he's telling this ridiculous story, the protagonist says: "Oh I think you know." (The priest is one of the 113).
- Casanova had a hilarious scene where the title character reels off his many sins. He starts off just confessing to wanting money so his could marry his True Love but he keeps referring to many "adventures" until the priest has a heart attack. Yes, even that's played for laughs. Casanova saves his life, and the priest repays him by making him his heir. It goes downhill from there...
- One episode of Cold Case dealt with the "criminal confesses" dilemma when one of the witnesses — a retired priest — has vital information that could break the case wide open, but since it was revealed to him through a confessional, he couldn't divulge it, even though he was retired.
- Daredevil (2015): The first shot of present-day Matt in season 1 is of him in Confessional with Father Lantom, trying to justify his vigilantism. Several times throughout the series they speak outside the confessional, and Father Lantom reminds him that the seal of confession still holds.
- The Defenders (2017): The first episode sees Matt, after doing a lunch interview with Karen, visit confessional with Father Lantom. The scene here is done to establish that Matt has temporarily given up Daredevil activities out of guilt over Elektra's death in the season 2 finale of Daredevil.
- In Due South, Fraser visits a confessional when his life begins to spiral out of control (in "Victoria's Secret") and reveals how he met and fell in love with Victoria.
- In an earlier episode, played for laughs, as Francesca goes to confession to confess that she is going to commit the sin of lust by seducing Fraser. The exasperated priest points out that she can't keep confessing for sins she never commits (all of her attempts to seduce Fraser fail for various reasons, not least of all Fraser's tendency to flee due to his inability to handle Francesca's forwardness. On one occasion, he seizes on an excuse to jump off of a balcony to get away from her.
- In "The Deal", Fraser asks a priest about Don Zucco, a local Mafia boss who happens to be a member of his congregation. The priest replies only that he knows he shouldn't wish harm upon others, and that when he does, he confesses, implying that Zucco is a bad enough character that an ordained priest catches himself wishing ill of him.
- The Equalizer: In "The Cup" a Polish terrorist confesses to the planned assassination of a Soviet diplomat, then is gunned down on the steps of the church. The priest tries to avert the assassination without revealing how he came to the knowledge. At one stage McCall and Kostmeyer (the priest's brother, who knows something is wrong but not what) ask another priest what someone in that situation could do if they found out about, say, a bomb in a theatre. The priest says: "He could ring the fire alarm, but couldn't tell anyone why. He shouldn't even let anyone see him doing it."
- Everybody Loves Raymond: troubled by unaccountable feelings of rage and angry hostility towards his parents, Ray Barone takes a deep breath and goes to Confession for the first time in twenty years. He is surprised his confession takes the form of a quiet face-to-face in the priest's officenote and asks what happened to the booths. After discussing the tricky one about loving and honoring thy father and mother, the priest adds two and two and realizes the parents who are hard to love are Frank and Marie Barone. The priest immediately, absolutely and unconditionally absolves Ray of all sin. note
- Father Ted features an episode which opens with Father Ted and Father Dougal gossiping about stuff they heard in confession.
- In one episode of The Golden Girls, Dorothy falls in love with a priest who decides he might give up the cloth to date her. Sophia goes to the confession booth to try to talk the priest into not dating Dorothy but gets the wrong priest.
- Forever Knight. In "For I Have Sinned", the Villain of the Week is a religious maniac killing churchgoers who have broken their vows. He brags to his priest in the confessional that he will kill another victim, and the priest is advised that he can't do anything which will identify the confessor. The priest does try to warn the victim but she's already been attacked by that point so all he does is get himself arrested as a Red Herring, though fortunately the police have already figured out why he's involved. It also has Nick Knight doing the Fake Priest version (see below).
- Gossip Girl: One of the episodes starts with Blair at confession. Her sin? Sleeping with Chuck Bass. The priest is appropriately bemused.
- In one Highlander episode, an Immortal confessed an extremely long lifetime of sins. He doesn't seem particularly repentant, and when he's done, he steals from the poor box and confesses for that, too.
- Hill Street Blues: A very long and tough investigation into the rape and murder of a nun ends with the perpetrators caught and convicted, but in the process Captain Furillo (who is himself Catholic, and this case was one of the few times he's visibly horrified at what he's seeing) has resorted to some very morally ambiguous tactics that only barely stop short of Framing the Guilty Party and which he would never normally tolerate. Joyce Davenport, public defender and Frank's lover, pointedly calls him out on this fact and asks him whether he thinks it was worth it. Frank doesn't answer her directly, but the last scene of the episode has him entering a church to make use of the confessional.
Frank: "Bless me, father, for I have sinned." (Fade to Black, followed by Silent Credits.)
- Dr. Chase on House, in S06E06, "Brave Heart", confesses to killing the African dictator Dibala, who had come to the U.S. for treatment a few episodes prior (by falsifying blood test results and leading the rest of the team to treat him for something else while the actual illness killed him). Chase still believes that he did the right thing, in that the dictator had shown signs of being genocidal, but the priest he confesses to refuses to grant him absolution unless he turns himself in to the authorities.
- Jane the Virgin parodies this trope in the Show Within a Show, The Passions of Santos:
Penitent (a nun): Bless me father, for I have sinned. I have had impure thoughts.Priest: So have I.[they emerge from the booth and make out]
- In the Law & Order episode "The Collar," a priest is murdered in the confessional booth. It turns out the target was meant to be his colleague Father Evans, who has communicated with the suspect. The police try to persuade Evans to testify, but he argues that the Seal of Confession applies— although technically the suspect never asked for forgiveness, so it's a gray area. In the end, he decides to testify about the suspect's confession and defrocks himself after the trial, causing a bit of angst for Jack McCoy.
- The Law & Order: UK episode appropriately titled "Confession" (based on the original series episode "Bad Faith") concludes with DS Matt Devlin sitting outside of one of these, trying to work up the nerve to go in, and admitting to his partner Ronnie that hasn't been to confession in 20 years. The backstory of the episode's plot explains why he's become disillusioned with his faith—his friend (and others) were molested by the local parish priest when they were children. Whether Matt was a victim as well is left ambiguous.
- Let the Right One In: Mark confesses to a priest about his sins and spends a long time inside of one relating his story when doing so there.
- Leverage uses this in "The Miracle Job" when Nate enters the confessional (wrong way 'round) with his former priest to discuss both the con he's trying to pull and his grief over the death of his son. When the priest steps out, the mark's beleaguered assistant steps in... putting Nate (still in the priest's side of the confessional) in the right position to sway him into exposing the mark's plans.
- In the Lost episode "The Moth," Charlie confesses his rock star excesses, such as having "relations" with two women and then watching while they had "relations" with each other.
- M*A*S*H did it a lot without the actual physical confessional, since their Catholic chaplain was a major character and the structure would have been difficult to keep Mobile. Notable instances included the crisis of conscience over disclosing the location of stolen medical supplies. In at least one circumstance, Mulcahy had a crisis of confidence over a confession that was perhaps unwarranted — when a soldier confessed that he had stolen a dead comrade's identity to essentially desert, Mulcahy tried to elicit remorse for the sin and a purpose of amendment from the penitent. He instead said he was going to go through with it because he felt that self-preservation was not wrong. Mulcahy was still conflicted over the confession, even though no valid confession had occurred. In an attempt to nudge his conscience and show that his actions had ripples affecting others than himself, Fr. Mulcahy gathered up the dead soldier's letters to give to the trooper. This was shown as a means of resolving the dilemma without violating the seal, but had the confession been valid, it would still have been an incorret choice. In real life, he could not even have done that, as the priest giving any indication outside of the confessional of what was confessed without the penitent first bringing it up, even to the penitent him or herself, is forbidden.
- On One Life to Live, Marty enters the booth to confess to her love for a married man, and is mortified to see that the minister is Andrew Carpenter, the very married man in question. (a bit of Artistic License here, as confession in Protestant churches isn't typically done in a booth)
- Oz: The confession booth consists of Father Mukada sitting on a bench facing one way, while the confessor sits facing the other way (presumably an enclosed confession booth would have the potential for all kinds of mischief in a prison. note One comedic situation occurs when Mukada realizes the penitent sitting behind him asking about the Eucharist (eating the body of Christ) is a notorious inmate who killed and ate his parents. A more serious incident is when Chris Keller admits to being a Serial Killer. A shocked Mukada says he can absolve his crimes, but Keller must confess to the authorities to show God he is truly repentant. Keller won't, so Mukada refuses to absolve him.
- Which is forbidden, by the way. A priest can no more compel the penitent to divulge the contents of the confession to someone else as a condition of absolution than he can break the seal of confession himself. Breaking the seal of confession is an offense that incurs an automatic excommunication for the priest.
- While traveling on a prison bus, the sister of a crime boss casually tells Father Mukada that she's planning to ask her brother to do something nasty to her husband. Mukada tries to explain that when he's not in confessional, anything she might say to him is definitely not confidential.
- The final episode of Passions has Tabitha confessing each and every one of her sins so that Father Lonagan can baptize her. Endora speeds it up for everyone.
- An episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy had a priest break the secret of the confession of murders and future ones, leading to the killer's arrest and execution. It was justified by stating that the killer didn't actually repent (making his absolution impossible), and was merely trying to "buy" his way out of hell. It didn't work.
- Prison Break has guilt-ridden Scofield visit a confessional once in the second season, to work out how much responsibility he has for the crimes that the people he helped escape will doubtlessly commit in the future.
- One episode of Privileged ends with Sage going to confessional and claiming that it's her fault her parents died.
- In Pushing Daisies, Ned unburdens to a priest in "Bad Habits."
- On one episode of Quantum Leap, a small time mafia hood finds out that the local priest was a Vietnam war veteran... and he wants to kill him because the priest was to be a witness against the hood in the trial. He attempts to shoot the priest in the confessional, but Sam took the priest's place and escapes with a minor wound.
- SCTV did an Italian movie parody where the protagonist, in a fantasy where he's (unsuccessfully) trying an extramarital affair, goes to confession. It's been fifteen years, and he warns there'll be some major sins, but it boils down to him "lying to my mother a couple of times...that's about it." The priest gestures for him to lean in, then socks him in the nose, telling him to have some good sins next time.
- Seinfeld: Jerry only visits a confessional to complain about the dentist who converted to Judaism purely so he could make Jewish jokes.
Priest: And this offends you as a Jewish person?
Jerry: No! It offends me as a comedian!
- Taboo: Ibbotson confesses his complicity in James's gunpowder plot to the local priest. Subverted since the priest turns out to be on the payroll of the East India Company. Ibbotsen's body is subsequently left behind for the corrupt priest to find.
- One second-season episode of Veronica Mars has Logan and Weevil trying to convince Veronica to bug a confessional, as they're convinced that the priest is involved with a drug ring. She refuses, but agrees — with reservations — to plant a camera with no mic, so they can see if any drugs are being handed off. note
- Whose Line Is It Anyway? once does a World's Worst sketch for the world's worst priest or rabbi. Ryan Stiles shows how such a priest would behave in confession.
Ryan: I understand you slept with three women. [aside whisper] He slept with three women!
- The UK series also had a World's Worst person to take confession. Examples included Colin Mocherie having been listening to headphones the whole time, Greg Proops asking for more details, and Ryan casually cooking a burger during the conversation.
- Wiseguy. Undercover cop Vinnie Terranova has a brother, Pete, who is a Catholic priest, so naturally the 'confession to an impending murder plot' is used. Pete loses his temper when Vinnie accuses him of leading a sheltered life and partly reveals the confession, then clams up. Vinnie has to avert the murder, and later save his brother from an assassin who tries to shoot him during confession.
- Scully is seen going to confession in The X-Files, most notably in the episode "All Souls".
- "Bak et hallelujah" by Kaizers Orchestra has the singer confess to a priest that he accidentally killed his friend in a game of Russian Roulette. The priest gives him advice on what to do next, but also orders him never to return to the church, as people are looking for him.
- Vampire: The Requiem: Vampire society has the Lancea Sanctum, a Religion of Evil focused on becoming Fully-Embraced Fiends. In keeping with its overall heavy themes of Creepy Catholicism, its ministers hear confessions... in full view of the rest of the congregation.
- In Man of La Mancha, the song "I'm Only Thinking of Him" shows the village Padre taking confession for two people (Quijana's niece and housekeeper respectively) at the same.
- One of the errands for the second day in Postal 2 is to confess.
Postal Dude: Bless me, Father, for I have really sinned. Really. I'm not kidding here. Big sinner. Yep.
Priest: Did you drop an offering in the box?
Postal Dude: Yes.
Priest: Then you are forgiven, my son. Next!
- The beginning of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, where 47 confesses his sins to the priest of the church he's living in. Said priest is kidnapped right after, forcing 47 to take appropriate measures.
- In World of Warcraft, Argent Confessor Paletress hears some of the tournament's confessions, although they're often personal doubts rather than sins (And a Forsaken who wants to get a rise out of her).
- In the first true battle in Concession, the anti-religious Joel casually walks into a confession booth and confesses his sins (murdering families, forcing a friend to commit pedophilia, etc.) before trying to kill Father Timothy with his alluded-to dark spiritual power. Oddly enough, the Father also has great spiritual power, and they fight to a psychic standstill. While separated by the confessional wall. Matt had also used the confessional earlier, looking for advice on his worries about his sexuality and his budding relationship with Joel. Father Tim warned him to stay away from Joel, but he didn't listen.
- Brian from Rhapsodies frequently gets dragged to confession by his mother, much to the horror of the priests. He's the main reasons the neighborhood church has a fully stocked wet bar.
- Girl Genius: The Corbettites are a monastic order that operate the railways across Europe. They offer sanctuary and safe passage provided the passenger tells them under the seal of the confessional an honest explanation of who they are, where they're going, and why. When Agatha Heterodyne takes the train and fills Brother Ulm in on these details, his reaction is to press the Big Red Button that puts the train on Red Alert.
- One Bruno the Bandit revolved around Bruno facing trials based around the Seven Deadly Sins. Carlin the priest has Bruno confess his sins before they begin in order to help prepare for the journey. It takes Bruno two days of confessing just to get up to his teen years.
- In Big Mouth, Andrew goes to a Catholic church after being told that Jews feel guilt instead of shame, confessing that he pleasured himself in his best friend's poolhouse. After being disappointed by the answer ("just do ten Hail Marys"), he ends up getting into a heated argument with the priest over religious stereotypes.
- The Simpsons featured Homer discovering confessionals after talking to a Catholic priest. After going through it, he's informed the priest can't really help if he's not Catholic.
- In the South Park episode "Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?", the boys (excluding Kyle) are being prepared for their First Communion; this includes making one's first confession. During his turn in the confessional, Eric Cartman mentions some particularly egregious transgressions that he committed against Father Maxi himself while in second grade. note Father Maxi loses his temper and rips through the confessional partition to assault him. Then later Father Maxi is caught having sex (with an adult female) in the confessional.
- The plot of Bitter Virgin begins with a girl confessing in a church. She says that she isn't Christian but she hopes the priest hears her out anyway. He does. She confesses that she has been raped and had an abortion, and another time couldn't abort and had to give the baby up for adoption. The "priest," whom she can't see, is actually a classmate who wanted to hear an embarrassing little confession to laugh at. Needless to say, he is shocked and regrets having tricked her, from then on devoting himself to preventing any more misery from falling on her (but not once does he ever mention the confessional bit).
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
- Diamond is Unbreakable: In the spin-off; Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan, Rohan visits Italy and goes inside the priest's compartment to examine it from the inside, until another man walks into the other side, mistakes him for a priest, and narrates his tragic history of mistreating a hungry beggar who turned out to be a spirit who would make him suffer greatly at his highest point of his life.
- Stone Ocean: In a flashback, Enrico Pucci (prior to becoming an actual priest) took a woman's confession and learns that years ago she switched out her own stillborn son for another baby born the same day. The child she took was none other than Enrico's twin brother, Weather Report. And then later, he found out said brother is the guy who's been dating his sister.
- The sequence in Negima! Magister Negi Magi where the girls don't do any actual confessing and use it as an advice column. The sequence serves as a major source of humor because while the woman on the other side of the booth is an actual nun, she definitely isn't qualified and isn't supposed to be there in the first place; she was cleaning the confessional when someone got into the other side.
- The first chapter of Blade of the Immortal has an assassin use this to kill criminals.
- Wolfwood of Trigun carries around a "portable confessional" with him (which is basically a box he puts on their head) — and charges people for it!
- George Carlin, on his 1972 album Class Clown, mentions that, as a child, he could do spot-on impressions of all the priests at his school, and evinces a wistful regret that he never got a chance to sneak into a confessional and perform them. He presumes, reasonably enough, that any confessions he heard, as long as they were sincere (and the assigned penances performed), would have been legitimate, and the sinners duly forgiven.
- This is actually a very complicated and highly debatable point of Catholic theology, but Carlin's position is actually (probably) sort-of-correct. Sacramental absolution to a fake priest is certainly invalid... but it is generally (though not universally) agreed that if a person believes in good faith that he has participated in a valid sacrament, God will supply the necessary graces nonetheless. Practically speaking, what this means is that anyone who confessed to Carlin's hypothetical fake "Father Burn" would have his sins forgiven by God... until such time as the penitent discovered that the "priest" to whom he confessed was a fake, at which point he would be obligated to repeat the confession to a real priest. It should also be noted that, had Carlin actually attempted this, he would have been instantly and automatically excommunicated... not that he would have cared much.
- In one of his books, Carlin writes a dialogue about a parishioner confessing that he's killed three priests so far and while he felt bad at first, he's starting to like it. He receives the response: "I'm not really a priest, son; I'm just cleaning the confessional."
- Studio C in one skit, 'Crisis at the Confessional' a man unfamilar with the confessional set up accidently goes into the wrong side of the booth. He thinks that the person who walks in is the priest, she is not. She thinks he is the priest. It all goes downhill from there.
- Le Petit Spirou: One page has l'abbé Langelusse come across his parishioners doing pushups as penance, like the new priest told them. He finds Spirou and Vertignasse in the confessional giving out other penances like three weeks without drinking to the town wino (and gym teacher) or writing down their prayers with the vowels in red and the consonants in green.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager Slash Fic "Confessions of a Talking Pig" the EMH is listening to various confessions as the priest in the Fair Haven holodeck program. When a penitent confesses to having sex with 7 of 9, he doesn't react well.
- In Three-Point Shot, Monokuma sets one up as the motive for the third chapter. Anyone can confess a secret to Monokuma, who has secrets regarding everyone in the killing game, and if they do, they'll hear a secret about someone else. If the secret that person confesses matches the one Monokuma has on them, he'll discard it, but if not, he'll add it to his stockpile.
- Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, the pair mistake the confessional booths for lavatories, and accidentally take confessions, asking for details of the sins committed. They both get struck by lightning when they leave the church.
Confessor: How many Hail Marys?
Beavis: A thousand!! And I want you to hit yourself!!
- Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet plays with this: in the scene in which Hamlet finds Claudius praying, Claudius kneels at a confessional (sans priest); Hamlet slips into the priest's side of the confessional and contemplates killing his uncle.
- Cinema Paradiso: The main character, though not a priest, sneaks into the priest side, and the girl he likes comes on the other side to make a confession.
- In the John Carpenter film In the Mouth of Madness, insane author Sutter Cane discusses the power of faith over reality with the protagonist while they sit on opposite sides of a confessional.
- Happens twice in the Mariachi trilogy:
- In Desperado, the Mariachi, after cleaning out the Tarasco Bar in the movie's bloodiest shootout, heads to the church to confess his sins, only to find out the guy behind the screen is his good buddy Buscemi, who proceeds to bitch him out about creating another bloodbath and breaks things off with him. Buscemi gets killed shortly afterward.
Mariachi: Bless me, Father, for I have just killed quite a few men.
Buscemi: No shit!
- And in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Agent Sands, disguised as a priest, gives the Mariachi his instructions concerning the assassination mission on Marquez. Mariachi then gets involved in a Bloodstained Glass Windows shootout.
- In Desperado, the Mariachi, after cleaning out the Tarasco Bar in the movie's bloodiest shootout, heads to the church to confess his sins, only to find out the guy behind the screen is his good buddy Buscemi, who proceeds to bitch him out about creating another bloodbath and breaks things off with him. Buscemi gets killed shortly afterward.
- Sleepers. As children, the protagonists hide in a booth to hear the confessions. Their dreams are answered when a woman comes in to confess to an affair, but she shocks them by concluding, "Thanks for listening, kids. I know you'll keep this to yourselves." It's then the protagonists realize they hadn't pulled across the grill concealing the confessor from the priest.
- Parodied in For Your Eyes Only. When James Bond goes into a confessional to meet with Q, who is disguised as a Greek Orthodox priest.
Bond: Forgive me father, for I have sinned...
"Priest": That's putting it mildly, 007!
- Another parody, this time in Sleeper (1973). After being captured by the Evil government, Miles Monroe goes to confession. He admits to various minor acts of disloyalty and asks for forgiveness. The priest is revealed to be a robot, which flashes "Absolved" on its screen and delivers a Kewpie doll.
- In George Lucas's early Dystopia THX 1138, confessions are made to pictures that apparently have tape recorders behind them. One manages a long speech about why buying things is a holy act; the rest play short recorded lines like "Could you be more specific?"
- Similarly in Priest, the main character goes to confession, but the monsignor appearing on the screen gives vaguely relevant replies (vague enough to literally respond to any situation with the same few phrases) to the Priest's inquiries, presumably using a Turing program. The Priest's annoyed reaction indicates this is hardly the first time he's used the booth.
- In The Mask of Zorro, Elena confesses her lust at seeing the new Zorro for the first time, not knowing she's not in the booth with a priest but with that same Zorro, who's hiding there after being chased by the authorities.
- The 1940 film The Mark of Zorro has a similar scene, where Lolita Quintero confesses to Zorro, thinking him to be a priest.
- In The Seventh Seal, the knight goes to confession to discuss his doubt in God, as well as mentioning that he is playing Chess with Death, explaining his next move. Guess who turns out to be in the booth?
- In the Joe Don Baker movie Final Justice, a fugitive tries to evade cop Joe Don by dressing as a priest. It might have worked, except a distraught old woman then begged him to hear her confession. He attempts to get it over with ("Sure... whatever you want") only to draw more attention to himself.
- The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. Parodied by Moriarty's coin-operated robot version.
- In the film Little Witches the girls have a running competition as to who gets the most penance.
- Virgin Territory: Gerbino and Pampinea make confessions before their wedding, though the "priest" they're confessing to is really a fake.
- One of the cons being run by Mario Trantino in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight involves dressing as a priest and collecting money for a fake orphanage, in the course of which he encounters mob boss Antonio "Baccala" Vestrummo, who invites him to lunch. Once they have sat down together, Baccala asks if Trantino can offer him absolution, but says he may need to omit some of his sins during his confession. Playing along, Trantino implies that Baccala can simply pretend he's forgotten about his more nefarious sins.
- The Sicilian, a novel by Mario Puzo. After the bandit Guiliano foils one assassination attempt, The Mafia sends a hitman disguised as a priest, who tries to get Guiliano alone to "hear his confession". Guiliano laughs and points out that his sins are all over the newspapers, so what's the point of confessing them in private? His bodyguard then searches the priest's effects and finds a silenced pistol. The priest assumes that he'll be released unharmed, as the previous assassins were, but Guiliano is infuriated by this violation of the confessional and tells the hitman he's got thirty seconds to make his peace with God before he dies (in the movie the fake priest is crucified and dumped at the Big Bad's door).
- In his non-fiction book on the Iron Cross motorcycle gang Wheels of Rage, author Kurt Saxon tells of how Paranoid George (infamous even among the bikers for his bizarre behavior) goes to sleep in a confession booth and wakes up to hear a woman describing what she did with her boyfriend in lurid terms. Thinking she's coming on to him he propositions her, only to be hauled out by outraged priests, who are startled to find the booth occupied by a crazed outlaw biker dressed as a bat.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer — in a flashback, Drusilla is a novitiate in a convent. Afraid of her newfound clairvoyance, she goes to confession. Unfortunately for her, Angelus is in the booth, having fed off the priest, and impersonates him to torment her.
- Father Ted did a gag where a woman went into confession to clarify a medical matter. She'd used the morning after pill and since the Catholic Church considered that an abortion, she had to pay a pretty steep penance. However, the Irish Medical Council had recently ruled that the morning after pill was actually a form of contraception, and so she presumably had a lot of surplus penance. The priest angrily waved her away, chiding her for her suggestion that the Catholic Church and Irish Medical Council were in cahoots. Then we got a shot of the priest, who was wearing a stethoscope.
- One season 2 episode of Life On Mars has Sam tracking down a bomber that his department believes is an Irish immigrant. Sam slips into a confessional and attempts to unburden his fears that his prolonged coma in 2007 is affecting his judgment in 1973.
- But he was sort of faking it (or was he?) because he knew the suspect was hiding in the confessional.
- Shameless: Frank sleeps in a confessional, and wakes up to Mimi describing, in detail, how she took a contract out on her husband.
- In Carnivŕle (season one, episode twelve), Ben confesses to Scudder his murder of a man for which he was temporarily incarcerated, thinking him to be a priest.
- Forever Knight. In "For I Have Sinned" (which has a 'killer confesses to an upcoming murder plot'—see above), Nick Knight is staking out the church for the killer, but the religious icons are too much for him and he hides in the confessional to recover. When an old woman comes in the other side and starts to confess he starts snoring loudly; she finds this Actually Pretty Funny and leaves. Then Nick's partner Schanke enters and starts confessing to infidelity. Nick puts on an Irish accent and plays along to troll him until Schanke realises what's happening and angrily pulls open the door to the priest's section. Nick maintains the accent and reiterates his command for Schanke to say his Hail Marys.
- A storyline on One Life to Live had a character working for a notorious gangster, in reality working for the police to obtain information for them. He goes to confession to admit to his duplicity and his fear of reprisal. After the man leaves the confessional, the other door opens... and the gangster steps out, having heard everything and knowing that his trusted right-hand man is betraying him.
- Alphonse Gangitano of Underbelly visits ones when he is thinking of his career as a gangster, makes the priest smile at a comment about how long it's been since his last confession, then loses his nerve and leaves. He later returns, wanting to try and find out if he is a monster because of the vicious Kings Street brawl.
- The Borgias again; in addition to the sort of legitimate version above, Cardinal Della Rovere gets caught in a confessional with an assassin who's spying on him — so he stabs the man through the confessional screen, right in the eye!
- In the opening scene of the pilot of Hell on Wheels, a Union soldier enters a confessional to speak with a priest. The priest turns out to be Cullen Bohannon, who's come to kill him.
- In one episode of M*A*S*H, Major Burns tried to visit Father Mulcahy and decided to leave him a note when he wasn't in his tent. A soldier who had shot himself in order to get out of the Army felt remorse for his actions and wanted to confess to Mulcahy, but he had mistaken Major Burns for the padre. Burns planned to have the soldier thrown into the stockade for desertion. Hawkeye and Trapper silenced Burns by suggesting that he could get 10 years for impersonating a priest.
Trapper: You can fool some of the papal some of the time.
Hawkeye: And you can count on us not to back you up, Frank. Very serious business this.
Trapper: Posing as a priest.
Hawkeye: They'll give you the electric pew.
- One recurring segment on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is "Stephen Colbert's Midnight Confessions", where Stephen makes humorous confessions to the audience about things which seem bad but may not be.
- The WWE actually subverted this at least once. The storyline was that Booker T was dodging "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, and wouldn't give him a match, so Austin would follow Booker around through his everyday life and beat him up wherever he caught up to him since he couldn't do it in the ring. So, we get to see Booker T hiding in the priests confession booth, being mistaken for the priest and taking confession...until Stone Cold shows up as one of the confessors, saying he hasn't sinned yet, but he's about to, and it's gonna be real bad. Cue one of the most sacrilegious brawls in WWE history, as Stone Cold and Booker T fight all around the church, breaking various holy objects over each other's head and shoulders.
- In the children's play The Secret Of Theodore Brown, 11-year-old Theodore hides in the priest's side of a confessional, while his mother is church cleaning. While he is there, a woman makes a confession, believing him to be the priest. Theodore learns a secret of tremendous importance, but he cannot share it, because his mother has emphasised that confession is strictly confidential.
- In Shadow Hearts 1, one sidequest involves going into a confessional in Rouen. When you do, a parishioner gets in on the other side and confesses that he lost his wife's wedding ring, at which point Yuri has to decide what to tell him. Do it right (by telling him to be a man and tell the truth to his wife), and you get an item essential to getting a powerful Fusion... as well as the chance at Margarete's Infinity +1 Sword.
- There's also the part where Margarete confesses to Yuri her respect for his quest and personal decisions. While it's meant to be a fairly touching character development sequence for her, Yuri's reaction seems ... inappropriate, and makes no sense in context, possibly due to a poor translation.
- There's a confessional in the chapel area of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Sitting in the chair on the left side causes the ghost of a priest to appear; he will nod his head as though listening to confession, cross himself, and disappear, dropping the grape juice item. Alternately, he'll laugh, pull the curtain closed, and try to impale Alucard with a half-dozen pointy objects through the screen note .
- Sitting on the right makes a ghostly woman appear and sit on the left. She will mime a tearful confession and disappear when Alucard gets up. Or laugh, pull the curtain closed, and try to impale Alucard with a spear through the screennote . Confessional ghosts are weird like that.
- Alucard sits up straight, with good posture, on the left side, but does his usual relaxed sitting pose on the right. Confessing is serious, listening not so much.
- Sitting on the right makes a ghostly woman appear and sit on the left. She will mime a tearful confession and disappear when Alucard gets up. Or laugh, pull the curtain closed, and try to impale Alucard with a spear through the screennote . Confessional ghosts are weird like that.
- In the beginning of Exmortis 2 the PC stumbles into an abandoned church that the now-extinct La Résistance were using as a base, and is led by a set of bloody footprints into the confessional booth. There, a shadowy figure gives you the task of destroying the Exmortis: unfortunately, the informant is actually the leader of the Exmortis.
- A confession booth scene is used in Silent Hill: Homecoming, where the Player Character ends up in the priest's side of a confessional and must decide whether to absolve the confessor. Whether or not Alex chooses forgiveness for the confessor determines if he chooses to forgive his father right before his dad is killed.
- Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories has a set of missions that start with the character going to a confessional.
Toni: "Forgive me, father, for I have sinned... a lot."
- This ultimately becomes a "Fake Priest" example as the pastor turns out to be a reporter who was using the missions he sent Toni on to create stories to get scoops.
- Serious Sam: The Second Encounter ends with Sam confessing his sins to Mental.
- Silent Hill 3 has Heather going into a confessional and overhearing an unnamed, unseen woman of The Order sobbing over what she has done — having murdered someone as revenge for the death of her own daughter — and asking to be forgiven for her sins. You have the option to forgive her or stay quiet. Nothing happens if you stay quiet (aside from maybe feeling guilty and uncomfortable), but forgiving her puts you on a one-way trip to a Bad Ending. The reason why isn't clear until a second playthrough: all this time, Heather has the Order's god inside her body. By forgiving the woman, you aren't so much soothing her fear and guilt as instead assuming the divine responsibility of said god.
- Joseph & Yusra has one of the characters use a cardboard box for her cousin.
- In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Chill of the Night!", Batman disguises himself as a priest to record a mob boss' confession.
- In The Simpsons episode "Who Shot Mister Burns? Part 2", Smithers, fully convinced it was he, partakes in a confessional (despite not being Catholic) with Wiggum concealed in the other booth. After arresting him, Wiggum notes that "I should do this more often."
- In Total Drama Isaland episode "Camp Castaways", Owen gets to talking in the outhouse about various bad things he had done and confesses to get them off his chest. He spends all night doing it and feels great. Later when the others worry about their predicament, Owen suggests they also do this, leading to the items in the Noodle Incident being referenced.
- This trope pops up a lot in Chrono Crusade fanfiction, with both a real priest on the other side and someone that isn't. There are scenes with everything from Chrono, er, having "fun" with Rosette while she's in a confessional with Father Remington, to Chrono going into a confessional and being shocked to discover the priest on the other side is really Aion. Occasionally the trope is played straight, too, as part of Christianity is Catholic embellishments (even though the denomination of the Order is kept pretty vague in canon).
- The New Mutants: Rahne goes to one in the chapel, confessing her sins there. However, as there's no priest, she just assigns herself the penance of saying ten Hail Marys.
- In Malevil, Fulbert brings confession back to the World War III survivors. It's almost certain he was not an ordained priest from before the war, but he has taken control of the nearby village. As such, Emmanuel refuses to confess to him, and Fulbert is not pleased.
- The song "Confessional" by Raine Maida plays with this trope with the singer listing off a series of transgressions with a chorus that begins "these are my confessions" with Ominous Chanting in the background. The song doesn't actually state if the singer is actually in a confessional, however, despite the religious motifs.
- Evillious Chronicles: In Daughter of White the former princess of Lucifenia, now living under a new identity as a nun, goes to confessional in the middle of the night when no one is there and confesses to the countless crimes she committed as a tyrant. As she prays, she's overheard by another nun who happens to walk by — a nun who lost the woman she loved to the genocide the princess led. She nearly murders her in vengeance later that night (the novelization reveals the princess would have let her), but relents and forgives her instead.
- The Magnus Archives: In the two-parter "Confession/Desecrated Host", Father Burroughs hears the confession of a troubled student before attempting an exorcism on her (naturally he will not reveal what she said). Later he himself confesses to a fellow priest, who proceeds to list every sin Burroughs has ever committed in his life, none of which the priest should have any way of knowing. It turns out that this was almost certainly not the real priest.
- The chapel in Stauf Manor of The 7th Guest has a confessional that only serves as a secret passage to Stauf's secret laboratory. The sequel, The 11th Hour uses it for a different passage.
- One of the Curios in Darkest Dungeon is a confessional. Using it will either lower your hero's stress and give them a buff...or do the exact opposite.
- Gabriel Knight has an odd example. The priest is genuine enough, and you can have Gabriel give a confession (though it doesn't do anything other than provide some atmosphere). One of the confessionals itself, on the other hand, is fake — it's an elevator to a secret underground voodoo hounfour.
- In Outlast II, you find out where Lynn is held captive by hiding in a confessional.
- In Persona 5, once you unlock the church in Kanda, you can invite your fellow Phantom Thieves to confess in the confessional. This has a practical purpose, since it enables them to relearn skills that you've had them forget to make way for new ones.
- There is a moment in Silent Hill 3 where Heather finds herself in a confession booth on the priest's side and has to listen to a confession from a woman who pleads to "God" for forgiveness. In a New Game Plus, choosing to forgive the woman gives you a huge boost towards getting the Downer Ending (since you're acknowledging that you are God, and God Is Evil in this game).
- In Silent Hill: Homecoming, your ending can change depending on your answers to a disembodied voice (heavily implied to be Alex's father) in a confessional.