Confession outside of Confessional

I know Canon Law says Confession must not be heard outside of a confessional without a just cause.

I have actually had confessions where I ask the priest to hear mine within 1/2 hour of mass and he agrees to hear my confession right in the pew as opposed to walking to the confessional.

With respect to Canon Law is this a valid confession since it was not in the confessional? I believe everything else was proper form. I wonder if the “just cause” is the fact it’s shortly before mass and he needs to be in the pew area? Do priests have leeway on what “just cause” is? Hoping it is valid and I’m not being scrupulous!


I believe your confession was valid, although both priest and penitent have the right to hear/go to confession in a traditional confessional it doesn’t affect validity if it is done outside.

I have been to confession twice in recent years outside of the confessional. One one occasion I asked a priest before Mass for confession, he replied that it wasn’t his parish so he couldn’t use the confessional but was happy to do it in the bench as long as I was OK with that. On the other occasion, I had the need to ask for confession about 30 minutes before Sunday Mass, the priest heard my confession in his study, because, quote: “If people in church see me going into the confessional with somebody I’ll have a queue before we’ve finished”!

Thank you Mark that’s good to know and reassuring! And I’m sure it’s true that he would have a queue!

I did have a confession in the priest’s study one time as well and it too was right before mass, but other times before mass we did go to the confessional. Im thinking that priests would not agree to hear a confession if it was ultimately contrary to Canon Law and not valid but just wanted to be sure!

“Just cause” is a pretty elastic term. In college our chaplain heard confessions walking around the athletic track.

Canon 964, Section 3, says:

Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause.

My understanding of this is that the sacrament would be valid, but not licit, if there was no just cause. I say this because it doesn’t say “can not be heard.” It says “are not to be heard.” Don’t ask me what a “just cause” would be, though. I have no idea. Haha

A “just cause” can be any good reason; comfort, accessibility, etc… Confessions are routinely heard outside church buildings, in hospitals, private homes, jails, so there is no reason to worry about validity.

If you lack the competence to comment on what the canon actually declares…why would you even try to comment? Much less laugh at it. That is an incredible lack of respect to those who spent years studying canon law, in a faculty of canon law

Of course this celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation is perfectly valid and absolutely licit.

I once confessed in the Parish library, a separate building from the Sanctuary. Father was conducting a bible study and had sufficient time during a break for my confession.

I wish you had taken a kinder, gentler tone with the new, young poster and made it a teaching, learning response, but…then, what do I know. Peace.

I once gave my confession while walking with a priest through an open field out in the middle of nowhere South Dakota. It was awesome. :cool:

“Just Cause” is up to the discretion of the priest and is something that could be very loosely defined. I can think of several confessions I’ve made outside of the confessional and believe they occurred that way with just cause.

“Just cause” does not mean “grave reason”.

Avoidance of spending time walking, when the priest’s time is short, would to this sinner’s mind constitute just cause.



I work in a Catholic high school, and it’s often done in the little garden just outside the chapel, or in the priest’s dressing room at the entrance – both of which are private and uninterrupted areas.
There is no actual confessional in the school chapel. The alternative would be to bus the students down to the church and use the confessionals there.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I put trust in my priests they ‘know what they are doing’ for lack of better words and thus if they hear my confession it’s valid.


I hope you realise that Don Ruggero is a priest. Your tone to him is disrespectful.

I would think a poster who is new, and very young wouldn’t presume to comment on Canon Law. It seems people are VERY unaccustomed to having a priest correct them anymore.
Under the premise of being “nice”. :shrug:

This article shows pictues of Pope Francis hearing confessions sitting in a chair outside in St Peter’s Square. I would not worry about confessing in a church pew. When I went to Catholic elementary school the two priests would hear confessions, one in the confessional, one in the sacristy.

Speaking, obviously, only for myself, I must admit that I found the person’s post to be amusing and not disrespectful. Maybe I’m too easy-going.


It’s better to ask the priest to hear your confession before mass while he’s getting dressed, than to receive communion with mortal sin on your soul.

I know people who receive every Sunday, but haven’t confessed in years…and they are no Mother Teresa. :rolleyes:

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