Breaking Seal of Confession

1 Like

No.

I’m sure there has been in 2000 years of church history, but I don’t know if any specific cases.

It is a grave offense and the priest is censured for it according to canon law.

It doesn’t matter how many examples you give, the priest may NEVER break the seal of confession.

Google is your friend. In addition to Fr Igbo, here’s 3 more:

I’m a bit baffled as to why you seemed to think there weren’t any documented cases of this.

3 Likes

I love that movie!!

1 Like

A priest in my diocese who works in the chancery indirectly violated the seal of confession by publishing an article describing the details of a penitent’s confession on a well known Catholic blog. Sadly, not only did our bishop take no action against this priest, he increased his responsibilities at the chancery.

1 Like

It depends how much information he gave. Simply setting out an example (which may or may not be hypothetical) or saying “a person came to me for confession once and…” doesn’t by itself violate the seal without the penitent’s name or at least enough information to (potentially) identify them. On the other hand, saying something like “when I was at St Margarita of the Flaming Chicken Parish in December 06 there was a middle aged woman who used to come to mass with her 16 children and her confessions were something else let me tell you” would violate the seal.

Still, there’s a need for caution even when identification is highly unlikely because of the “chilling effect” but also because people will try and work out who it is that the priest is talking about.

5 Likes

I’m a bit confused about how a priest indirectly violates the seal of confession? If no information identifying the penitent is communicated how would others know the priest wasn’t merely talking about a hypothetical penitent? Where is the line drawn? How could it possibly be proven?

A quote from one of the articles up thread says:

“An indirect violation is one in which the priest reveals a penitent’s sin but not necessarily his or her identity, said archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf. Such situations are extremely rare.”

I’m just trying to understand how this works. How can you reveal someone’s sin and not their identity?

Easy - e.g. “someone came.to me in confession yesterday and told me they had stolen 6 of their neighbour’s chickens”.

The priest might not have named names, but if it is a tiny town where only one resident keeps chickens and only one other person lives anywhere near them, not hard to figure out who he is talking about.

But where is the line drawn?

The line is drawn when there is enough identifying detail that whoever hears what the priest says is likely to be able to figure out who the penitent is that he is talking about. That can only be judged case by case.

Well, that answers once and for all whether it’s ever happened! (Albeit, the Church doesn’t disclose the details and there’s just the linking of “complaint” about breaking the seal and the excommunication).

Curiously, I’m in Australia and I’ve never heard of this, even though it happened in 2018.

Another possible case I know of is that involving the commandant of Auschwitz in World War II, Rudolf Hoss. He was raised in a strict Catholic home, and once he suffered from an apparent breaking of the seal of the confession by a priest, and subsequently abandoned the faith. It’s not entirely sure whether the priest did break the seal, but the evidence is there an Hoss believed it. If he did break the seal the priest got away with it.

He brooded over this “monstrous” breach of trust for months. “My faith in the sacred priesthood had been destroyed,” he recalled, “And doubts began to arise in my mind for the first time.”

After the war he was tried and sentenced to death. Before his death he returned to the faith and received the last sacraments.

3 Likes

Thanks! Sorry, I responded to an earlier post before seeing this.

There is a (somewhat) common myth that the seal has never been violated, ever, in Church history, and that this is a “miracle” which proves the validity of the sacrament. I saw a video with two quite reputable priests discussing the sacrament and they repeated this myth (c 2010?). This was the sort of myth which more easily took hold before the internet.

1 Like

Hmm, that’s interesting. I never heard of this myth.

Priests being human, I would find it hard to believe that in 2000 years no priests or only a tiny handful of priests slipped up and broke the rule.

1 Like

I heard a priest give a homely one time where he described the contents of someone’s confession in detail, identified that it was a woman at the current parish and happened when he first got there (just a couple months ago). So very possible she was sittings in the pews. I pretty much was in shock and I think everyone else was too.

2 Likes

Given the gravity of breaking the seal, why would a priest ever risk talking about any real confession? How could he ever be absolutely sure that no one would ever be able to figure out the identity of the penitent?

1 Like

Just put a newly ordained priest in the confessional for two hours and he will come out with a very muschy brain and find it very hard to even concentrate on leading the university students´ Bible study. :sweat_smile:

Here’s a question I have concerning this.

If the priest has already given absolution, but the person says something else while still in the confessional and it was not about a sin, can the priest repeat it ?

@edward_george1 could you weigh in on this question from Jim in the post directly above, “if the priest has already given absolution, but the person says something else while still in the confessional and it was not about a sin, can the priest repeat it?

Thank you.

This is exactly what the priest did. He described the penitent, how the penitent always approached him outside of the confessional, while other parishioners were around, said what the penitent’s confessed sin was and proceeded to make fun of the penitent and the sin.

2 Likes

I don’t get it either, unless perhaps it was a private discussion with another priest for the purpose of getting or giving advice on how to priest.

Then again, priests often do, say, and post on the Web things that I find very imprudent. Sometimes humans simply have bad judgment.

2 Likes
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.