Can Another Person Be Present During Confession?

This is not relevant to my life in any way, but I was wondering:

Can a person other than the penitent and the confessor be present during confession? I’m not talking about a translator, but rather something like the following case:

Suppose a woman has a severe anxiety disorder. She requests that her husband/sister/etc. joins her during confession (as a silent companion) to make her more comfortable. Is that person allowed to join her?


I have brought my children with me, they are two small to know/remember what I say and I speak in a low tone anyway.They are to small to be left alone in the adoration chapel to which the reconciliation room is attached to in my case.
None of my parish priests have ever said anything about it.
As for someone that is older and would know what is going on, I would say they would not be allowed to accompany you during the sacrament due to the nature of the sacrament, mainly being one between yourself and Jesus.
Just my thoughts…

Answer: Ask the priest.

Besides that, there are situations where a third person needs to be present for Confession as some have already mentioned. Priests and others who hear/overhear a confession are not permitted to reveal anything that was said. In the early Church, confessions were often done publicly before all of the people.

In the case of someone having severe anxiety, there should be no problem having someone present with them. Confessions involving an extra person being present should be able to be accommodated by the priest in order to reconcile the anxious person to the Church.

In the Byzantine Rite, we confess quietly in which our back to the people in the sanctuary with the priest while the choir chants loudly. Technically everyone is present. :wink:

Like Fr. David said, “No.” I took a quick glance at Canon Law and there seem to be allowances made for interpreters, not for emotional support. I can see someone accompanying one during an appointment to a priest for instruction or direction but not for the Sacrament of Penance proper. While I sympathize with folks with anxiety, as I too suffer from the affliction, to even start this type of practice would be to open up a huge can of worms.

You would think a “quick glance at Canon Law” would settle anything, but your first mistake is trying to practice canon law without being a canon lawyer…(an I say this tongue in cheek, and not pejoratively)…but seriously, we can all read the canon law, but specifics of a given case, and require study of case law and precedence before we simply say its in the Canon Law. Like constitutional law, its not always as clear cut as it seems, that’s why becoming a canon lawyer takes so much effort and education.

Rarely is there enough specifics in an OP’s background to questions to point to Canon Law for a definitive answer, and even more rarely is there anyone who can weigh in on canon law with sufficient authority on the subject.

I think it best to just ask the parish priest. Ultimately, it is his dedication. :slight_smile:

Father, I respectfully disagree with such a blunt assertion, generally no would be the appropriate answer, but if I am not mistaken, if the penitent has a severe medical issue, then they may have a facilitator, but that person who is helping would have to be well aware that they too are under the Seal of Confession and bound under the same penalties. I am open to correction, If I am wrong, but this was my understanding. Whether the OP’s situation meets this requirement would be up to the Pastor or Bishop wouldn’t it?

The answer to the OP’s question is “no.”

My wife has taken our son in the past when he was a toddler (3 and 4 years old). He was to young to sit by himself. It was never a problem.

I respectfully disagree too. There are circumstances that arise. For example, my wife used to take our toddler son with her on several occasions. I would like to think that Christ would laugh and say whatever works - at least you are here.

The answer to the OPs question is “no.”

I tried to tell you guys, you just read too much (in the case of about 3 or 4 of you), and too little in the case of another…A simple “No” is probably correct, but unhelpful, and a very detailed “Yes” might be right, but not for the question asked so is probably just as insufficient and unhelpful.

From questioner to answerer, no winners here!

Let it go!

No offense Father but no is not an answer. Please provide a source.

There are variable levels of privacy even in the Western Church. Sometimes during a penitential service the many priests hear confessions in the sanctuary in full view of everyone else (with loud worship music being played). Sometimes an interpreter is present. Etc, etc.

Ask the priest. It is ultimately up to him (or even his bishop) to say yes or no when asked.

No offense, but “no” is exactly the answer to the OPs question.

Where is it forbidden for someone with mental problems to have a caretaker present? It appears that this is not a black and white situation and only revealing the confession is prohibited from what I can see.

Can. 983 §1. The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.

§2. The interpreter, if there is one, and all others who in any way have knowledge of sins from confession are also obliged to observe secrecy.

Can. 1388 §1. A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; one who does so only indirectly is to be punished according to the gravity of the delict.

§2. An interpreter and the others mentioned in ⇒ can. 983, §2 who violate the secret are to be punished with a just penalty, not excluding excommunication.


Does that mean, for example, that in a hospital setting that the medical staff cannot be present during the confession or any part of the confession?

And, by “no” am I correctly taking that you are referring to no one being able to hear the confession, as opposed to the situation mentioned by some in which others can see that there is a confession but are not “present” in the sense that they cannot hear or otherwise perceive-i.e., can’t lip read-the substance of the confession.

But Father, are you sure you really know? I mean it’s not like you’ve studied canon law or sacramental theology or had any practical experience in administering the sacrament, have you?


You have?

I believe the trouble with running to Canon 983 is that you drive right past the one that addresses the issue at hand, Canon 960: (bold parts are mine)Can. 960 **Individual and integral **confession and absolution constitute the **only ordinary means by which a member of the faithful conscious of grave sin is reconciled with God and the Church. Only physical or moral impossibility **excuses from confession of this type; in such a case reconciliation can be obtained by other means.
So to the examples at hand:

  1. Individual confession is the only ordinary approved way.
  2. The only way not to have individual confession is for it to be a physical or moral impossibility, so the person who is deaf needs an interpreter and the person getting last rites in the emergency room does not need to have everyone leave.
  3. The second part of 960 appears to be at the discretion of the confessor and while it is not my call, it would seem simple anxiety is not enough to warrant an objection to the Canon.

Or, as Father David put it, “no”.

Please cite a source for “no”

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