Also see: How to avoid a bad confessor
Now then, TO get any confessor, make sure he’s…
… a lion in the pulpit and a lamb in the confessional (–Saint Alphonsus). It is almost always true that a lion in the pulpit will be a lamb in the confessional. His goal in teaching the truth, in season, out of season, is to get people to repent. It is his joy to offer absolution with enthusiasm.
… a validly ordained Catholic priest having the faculties of his diocese and, if applicable, the religious order or congregation or other society to which he belongs. If he doesn’t have faculties, and he knows you know this, the confession is invalid. This applies to most confessions of the Fraternité Sacerdotale Saint Pie Dix, does it not? Don’t risk your eternal salvation by bucking the Church on this matter. I am terribly distressed about all this, and have appealed to the Holy See for a solution. I did get a hearing, and great sympathy for the idea, but it looks like the chances are small. The wisdom of Canon Law on this matter is, in fact, great, and learned by the Church with no small amount of suffering. But, we’ll see…
… a priest who will recite the words of absolution without ad libbing, risking the validity of the Sacrament, with you paying the price. You should always hear the words Et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris + et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. That is: And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father + and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If you hear something like “I absolve you Father, Son, Spirit” (something a huge percentage of Irish born priests say), the absolution of sins is invalid, is it not? Don’t such words say that he is absolving God? Maybe he means something else, but this is what the words say, and… and… I’ve heard three, if not four priests actually speak favorably about such nonsense, about forgiving God? Honestly! So, if you have to do it, just bring the text of the absolution with you and have him read it. Do him and all his penitents a favor and insist on this.
To get a good confessor, make sure he’s…
… a priest who preaches up confession, the joys of frequent confession, about all the various aspects of confession, about his own joy in going to confession frequently, about the great friendship with our Lord which this sacrament brings.
… a priest who makes time for scheduled confessions, not just Saturday morning or afternoon, but before the weekday Masses as well.
… a priest who is happy to hear, if possible, your confession at a time you schedule with him. Sometimes there are confessions we know will take a long time because of the gravity and aggravating circumstances and complexity, and we ourselves would prefer to have another time for this. That’s O.K.
… a priest who knows why he’s a priest, and who will be a priest for you, in other words, someone who will tell you like it is, ever so gently, but frankly, if you need to have absolution delayed or denied, for instance, if you declare that your sin is not sin, no matter what Jesus and the Church say about it, and that you want to continue in this sin. “You mean there are priests who would absolve someone like that, sealing their trip to hell, and the priest’s trip too?” Why not? If Judas betrayed Jesus, would Judas hesitate to betray us as well?
… a priest who will not compromise in his advocacy for the vulnerable, in season, out of season, who will just not compromise, who will not betray, who finds his security not in political correctness, in getting along, but in the Heart of Jesus, which was pierced right open. A dangerous place to be, that Sacred Heart. Such violence takes place there, most of all the violence of ourselves receiving His mercy. And that is a violence by which we storm heaven, receiving His mercy, His goodness and kindness, which is so very, very different from the ways of the world, the flesh and the devil. That mercy is a sign of contradiction. Thus the violence against the non-politically correct, against those who stand up for the most vulnerable, in season, out of season. Any priest who has suffered terribly in this way will likely be a great confessor, putting us right before Jesus.
You get the idea. See How to avoid a bad confessor.