“I don’t know what to do, Nicolas. I’m so overwhelmed.” The Reverend was practically hissing as he confided in his friend in the otherwise empty church,

“I mean, how did you even know?” he continued with frantic desperation, 

“And if you found out, what if others do too? I’ll be ruined!” With practiced concealment of any emotion— whether of concern, support, or condemnation— the friend of the Reverend said evenly,

“You know what you have to do. You must confess this sin or face God’s wrath in Hell. I know a good priest; you should go see him tomorrow. The sooner the better.” The Reverend nodded, but the blood had drained from his face. 

“I will. Thank you for being here with me through all of this.” But the friend of the Reverend stared off in the distance, denying the priest a response. 


Transcription by Mlle. Cecile Montague, from audio tape recording. Bracketed portions added by Montague with best judgment. Released to the public with permission from the Anzin Police Department on 6 November, 1954. 

18 May, 1951. Recording begins at 09:32.

[Muffled sounds of sitting down, door closing, and panel sliding open. Cough from one party.]

Father Eduard Fontaine: I apologize for the delay; my stomach is quite upset with me today. You may begin whenever you are ready. 

Mssr. Henri Durand: Oh, please don’t apologize. I needed time to collect my thoughts anyway. Ahem….Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last confession. I… I have traveled far to see you. 

Fontaine: Ah, you must be the acquaintance of Nicolas’? He told me you might stop by. 

Durand: Yes, yes— he’s an old friend from our days at university. He insisted I come see you today. It… it would have been indelicate to confess at my local parish. 

Fontaine: I see. Well, you may take comfort in your anonymity and a lack of judgment here. Please, go ahead. 

Durand: Well, eh… I’ve had… I’ve partaken in unholy relations. On several occasions. Many, actually. And… I can’t seem to stop. 

Fontaine: This sin is very common among young men. You are not alone in this battle. 

Durand: Yes, but… it’s forbidden for me all together. I’m a man of the cloth as well. 

Fontaine: Ah, I see. You understand, then, the significance of confessing your sins?

Durand: Yes. I confided in Nicolas and he insisted the only way for me to move forward would be to confess. I traveled here for anonymity, but also because I cannot live with this burden any longer. 

Fontaine: That sounds like an insightful and wise decision. Please, tell me your sins, that you may be absolved. 

Durand: Right, yes. Well. It started a couple months ago. The one I loved, he came to the church to confess, and I suppose it was the insignificance of his confession that first caused me to fall. He made me laugh. Of course, I cannot share the specifics of his confessions with you, but— it showed me that he was a humble person who took even small infractions seriously, and, well— I suppose I admired that. 

Fontaine: It was a “he,” then, your lover?  

[Prolonged silence.]

Fontaine: I’m sorry for interrupting, please continue. 

Durand: No, it’s alright. There are… more reasons than one why I feel shame about this sin, and I find it difficult to talk about. 

Fontaine: That is perfectly understandable— and common, as you will know from your work. Tell me about the process by which you came to this place. If you had hesitations, why did you continue? 

Durand: Well, obviously I had hesitations because of my job. You and I aren’t allowed to be with anyone. And then, of course, you know… 

Fontaine: It was a man?

Durand: A male, yes. And other things were wrong as well. I guess what I mean to say is that I knew it was immoral. And yet, I couldn’t resist. 

Fontaine: Allow me to push back a little: as a man of God, you will know that it is possible to resist our fleshly desires— do you mean to say that you chose not to resist, despite knowing all of the infractions involved? 

Durand: I suppose that would be more accurate, yes. I apologize for misspeaking. I… I am nervous today. 

Fontaine: There is no need to be nervous. Please, continue. 

Durand: Well, I would have let it go, but he kept coming back. I’ve never known such a faithful parishioner. It seemed as though he wished to confess daily, and in learning the most intimate details of someone’s life, you naturally begin to feel a closeness. Anyway, I started to speak with him after confession was over, and eventually we would meet every day in the church— after confession hours, so that we knew we could be alone. 

Fontaine: So it was a mutual attraction, then? 

Durand: Oh, yes! I would never… I mean, of course I wouldn’t— Yes, it was mutual. We were in love; it was as simple as that. 

Fontaine: Did he ever say this to you, explicitly? 

Durand: I hope you are not implying that I took advantage of him. 

Fontaine: I am merely seeking to understand, Monsieur. Forgive my forwardness. 

Durand: Well, he loved me too. That isn’t the problem. 

Fontaine: And who was this mysterious lover, specifically? 

Durand: You mean his name? I’m not sure I feel comfortable— 

Fontaine: Monsieur, I can tell from your voice that I have several decades of experience on you in the holy life. I do not mean to condescend, but I hope you will have the respect to believe that I understand these matters somewhat better than yourself. 

Durand: Of course, Father, I didn’t mean to offend— 

Fontaine: In my considerable experience, which you may take or leave, I have learned that it is nearly always more effective for the guilty party to name their sins directly. 

Durand: I see. Well, his name was Claude. 

Fontaine: Just Claude? 

Durand: Claude Morreau. 

Fontaine: There is no need to get upset. Remember, I’m here to aid you in confessing to God.

Durand: Of course, I’m sorry. I don’t know why this is so hard to talk about. 

Fontaine: Please, do not apologize; I simply find that details help in confession. In a way, it feels like one has fully unburdened themselves when they release all the details to God— as though there is nothing you are still hiding from Him. Does that make sense? 

Durand: I see. I hadn’t really thought about it like that before. 

Fontaine: Please go on— and leave nothing out. It will ease your soul to have confessed all to God. 

Durand: Well, to tell you the whole truth, Father, it became sexual between us. After about a week of Claude coming to the church every day, I started to make advances. We were alone in the building, and I had the key, so we were guaranteed privacy. At first it was only touching, comfort… but it soon became more. 

[Clearing of a throat.] 

Durand: I… I asked Claude to do things to me, and he always complied. On one or two occasions, I did the same things to him, although we found the relationship worked better in the former set up. This went on for weeks. 

[Prolonged silence.]

Fontaine: I suppose something happened to disrupt this affair, or you wouldn’t be here talking to me?

Durand: He— Claudehe just disappeared. Stopped showing up one day. I thought something must have happened to him, but then I saw him out in the village one day, so… at least I know he’s alive. 

Fontaine: Forgive me if I am misreading things, but the tremor in your voice conveys fear, not grief. You are not just mourning the end of this relationship— am I right? 

Durand: You’re very insightful, Father... I’m terrified. I’m so frightened that he will tell others of our relationship, and I’ll be ruined. 

Fontaine: I will not lie to you, I’m fairly certain that your career with the church would come to an end if this affair became public. But I wouldn’t fear being “ruined”; homosexuality is not illegal in this country, and I’m sure you could find a more progressive city in which to pursue your new life. From what you’ve told me, I’m sure you could find a happy life elsewhere. 

Durand: That’s the thing, Father. “From what I’ve told you.” I— Claude… 

Fontaine: You have nothing to fear in this space. Please, share what you need to with the Lord. I can assure you, He forgives. 

Durand: Claude is eight years old. 

[Prolonged silence. Shifting in seats.] 

Fontaine: And is Claude the only child with whom you have had a sexual relationship? 

Durand: No. No, he is not. But he is the first one to leave before I told him to. In the past, I was able to ensure they would not tell, but Claude… He left first, and now I fear he'll ruin me. 

Fontaine: And who were the others, Reverend? 

Durand: You wouldn’t know them, Father… And those relationships are long over anyway. 

Fontaine: I believe that in this circumstance— in order to receive absolution—you need to lift every name up to the Lord. You must release all of these past sins. Please, tell the Lord of all the children with whom you have had a sexual relationship. 

Durand: All right, if you think it necessary. Um… Pierre Boucher. Antoine Allard…. Um. Hugo Aubert. It’s hard to remember, there have been quite a few. 

Fontaine: Please, try to recall. I wouldn’t want the Lord to hold anything against you for lack of confessing. 

Durand: Okay, um… Mael Blanchard. Marcel Fournier. I think that’s all. I am ashamed, you know? I’m not some kind of pervert or pedophile. I just… have temptations like everyone else and I deserve to be happy too. I mean, they all loved me as well. 

Fontaine: And each of these names: were they all children at the time of your connection? 

Durand: Yes, all. 

Distant External Voice: That’s enough for us, Father. You may go. 

Durand: Who is that? Father Fontaine? Is someone else here with us? 

[Creaking of the confessional door opening.]

External Voice 2: Don’t let Durand leave! Father Fontaine, please exit the building for your safety. 

Durand: What is this? I have a right to privacy in confession! Hey— hey! Is that a recorder? You can’t have that! Father— don’t give that to them! 

External Voice 1: Restrain him. 

Durand: Get back from me. Get back! Don’t put your hands on me. This is a place of God! You have no right to be here. 

External Voice 2: Henri Durand, you are under arrest for six accounts of statutory rape of a minor. You will be taken into the custody of the Anzin Police— 

Durand: This is bullshit! He’s sworn to confidentiality! He can’t record a confession, it’s not allowed— I would know! I’m a priest too! 

External Voice 2: Father Fontaine has chosen to resign from his position in the church in order to work with us in obtaining your confession. He has done both us and the children of your parish a great favor, and will be reprimanded by the church as his Bishop sees fit. 

Durand: How did you even know I would be here? I don’t even live in this parish, I traveled here just to speak to him! And get your hands off me; I’m a holy man, damn it. 

External Voice 1: Your old pal Nicolas tipped us off that you would come here to confess today. I understand that his bastard child Claude didn’t like the way you touched him… Father. 

[Prolonged silence, heavy breathing.]

Durand: His what?

[Recording cut, end of transcription.]

November 28, 2023 14:23

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Ferris Shaw
11:36 Dec 04, 2023

That was a powerful story. I did not see the twist coming, though upon re-read there were plenty of hints. Probably because I am not a Catholic, and am less familiar with the norms of confession.


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Kate Winchester
01:37 Dec 04, 2023

I liked the way you wrote this as a recording. It made it easy for the reader to know what was going on and it kept my interest. You tackle a difficult subject in a delicate way.


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19:30 Dec 02, 2023

again, good job, mallory. you are brilliant


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Mary Bendickson
03:19 Nov 30, 2023

Bold to take on this subject. It's been going on for a long time.


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AnneMarie Miles
16:23 Nov 28, 2023

I knew something was up when the confession was being recorded. But I wasn't sure what... That kept me reading! I thought maybe Fontaine was a past victim but then again Durand would have recognized him. So there's a bit of mystery to be revealed and that is always a great way to hook a reader. I also like the structure of the story, setting it up as a dialogue supports the suspenseful tone. Poor Claude. And the other victims. So sad that these assaults are so common. But what a great, though sinister, place to take this temptation prompt. T...


Mallory Jones
16:04 Dec 05, 2023

thank you so much for reading! this is an issue I'm really passionate about, so it was cool to be able to work it into this prompt. </3


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Kailani B.
17:30 Dec 07, 2023

I just watched Sound of Freedom and this hurt me in a similar way. Good job!


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Needs Chocolate
18:54 Dec 06, 2023

Very well done. Gripping.


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12:18 Dec 06, 2023

That was so powerful! You have a gift on how and when to reveal information that packs the most punch.


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Michał Przywara
22:42 Dec 05, 2023

I had a suspicion. The fact it's being recorded is one thing, but considering we start off with a priest desperate to confess - well, this is a known, serious problem in the church. So we assume. But then the actual confession is very skillfully done, because it really does first appear as merely a breaking of the chastity vows, and then merely a relationship with another man. Each step of the way, Durand holds back a key detail, until he finally drops the bomb. Maybe that makes sense, as it's not the kind of secret he's eager to share, an...


Mallory Jones
23:08 Dec 05, 2023

wow, thank you so much for reading and offering such a thorough analysis! sounds like you read everything as I intended. :) I was also hoping to offer a little redemption for the church in that Father Fontaine did the truly righteous thing by surrendering his career to bring justice to his colleague. he really is one of the good ones, and chose righteousness over saving face for the church. thanks again for reading!


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