Are there norms for confessional rooms?


#1

There is a church where I attend Confession that only has one “traditional” confessional room, that is, a room which includes a kneeler and a screen.

When there are many people attending Confession, a second priest will hold confession in the sacristy. The sacristy does not afford the opportunity for a kneeler or a screen; the penitent must go face-to-face, which is fine for those who choose to do so. However, the chair that the penitent sits in is right in front of the door. It is positioned in such a way that the door cannot be closed. And while the line of people waiting cannot hear the penitent confess, they can see the penitent.

I find this to be very uncomfortable – both as a person waiting in line, trying to avert my eyes and as the person receiving the Sacrament feeling that everyone is watching me confess. Often times, people stand in line additional minutes to wait for the closed door confessional.

Are there any norms that guide the Church in terms of the confessional room?


#2

The penitent must be given the opportunity to anonymously confess and, in ordinary cases, others should not be able to see the person confessing. This second requirement may be impossible to provide for at times; for example, at penance services where there are more priests available than hidden areas. But at least a choice between secluded areas and “visible” areas should be made available. The most important requirement, of course, is that the penitent’s confession cannot be overheard. If anyone who can read lips sees a person confessing, he should turn away.

From your account, it appears that your parish is giving people the choice of anonymous and private confession. You might simply recommend to the pastor that the parish invest in a portable screen.


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