Confession style is priest's discretion?


#1

We are making some renovations to our church, and our priest told me that he is changing the confessional. Currently, our set-up is that when you go in, you can kneel behind a screen or walk further in to sit a chair for face-to-face confession.

Our priest wants to change it so that it is behind the screen only. His thinking is that someone who wants face-to-face confession would have no problem with calling him to ask for an appointment. I told him that I prefer face-to-face and I do not like behind the screen, and I also prefer to go to confession when he has regularly scheduled appt times. I don't want to have to make an appt when I could easily go on Sat afternoon or First Friday or any other time he usually does confessions. I told him I thought both styles of confession should be available in the confessional.

He said the it is the priest's discretion how the confessional is set up. Is this true?


#2

Here is the relevant canon relating to confessions:

[quote=“Code of Canon Law”]Can. 964 §1 The proper place for hearing sacramental confessions is a church or oratory.

§2 As far as the confessional is concerned, norms are to be issued by the Episcopal Conference, with the proviso however that confessionals, which the faithful who so wish may freely use, are located in an open place, and fitted with a fixed grille between the penitent and the confessor. §3 Except for a just reason, confessions are not to be heard elsewhere than in a confessional.

[/quote]

The canon makes no mention of face-to-face as a possibility, but it does stress that the faithful have a right to use the grille. Wanting to be face-to-face can be considered a “just reason” to hear it outside the confessional.

It is my understanding that the grille is primarily there for anonymity, and in many locations, the priest is not physically separate from the penitent, because the confessional also allows face-to-face, but there is the possibility that the grille is also there to prevent physical contact and allegations thereof between the priest and penitent, and in that case, there is good reason not to allow for a “combination” arrangement.


#3

A priest cannot be compelled to hear confessions face-to-face to begin with, so he is perfectly within his rights as a priest to do what he is doing. Our traditional priests from the FSSP do not do face-to-face confession. Even when the confessional isn't available, they will make a make-shift screen (ie: holding something that blocks their line of sight such as a book

Back in 1994 the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, with the Holy Father’s approval, published a note, responding to an inquiry posed by several conferences of bishops regarding confessionals. He said:

“If, according to Canon 964, paragraph 2, of the Code of Canon Law, the minister of the sacrament, for a just cause and excluding cases of necessity, can legitimately decide, even in the eventuality that the penitent ask for the contrary, that sacramental confession be received in a confessional with a fixed grille.”


#4

Confession behind a grill was the universal norm for hundreds of years before V II except in exceptional circumstances, like in a sickroom or in the military.and face to face Confession was a particularly American innovation.
Why not just offer up doing Confession behind a grill as part of your penance?


#5

I am not so sure that face to face is a particularly American thing. It certainly happened quite often in the past when there special events and many people wanted to go to confession. Then, as now, extra priests would come to hear the confessions and would be sitting in church pews, along the back wall of the church, even in the street.


#6

I used to always confess face to face until I encountered several priests who are uncomfortable hearing Confession that way. One told me that it puts him on edge because someone who goes face to face could decide they want to accuse him of doing something inappropriate while in there and he would not be able to say one word to defend himself. So now I'm back to behind the grille.


#7

[quote="jpjd, post:1, topic:301867"]

He said the it is the priest's discretion how the confessional is set up. Is this true?

[/quote]

It is the at the priest's descretion whether to offer face-to-face confession as an option. A priest can choose to either have only "behind the screen" or to offer both ways. He cannot choose to offer only face-to-face.


#8

This is what the "APOSTOLIC LETTER IN THE FORM OF MOTU PROPRIO "MISERICORDIA DEI -- ON CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE" says:
**
**

[FONT=Comic Sans MS][FONT=Arial]9. Concerning the place and confessional for the celebration of the Sacrament, it should be remembered that:[/FONT]
[/FONT]
[LEFT][FONT=Arial]a) “the proper place to hear sacramental confessions is a church or an oratory”,(26) though it remains clear that pastoral reasons can justify celebrating the Sacrament in other places.(27)[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]b) confessionals are regulated by the norms issued by the respective Episcopal Conferences, who shall ensure that confessionals are located “in an open area” and have “a fixed grille”, so as to permit the faithful and confessors themselves who may wish to make use of them to do so freely.(28) [/FONT] [/LEFT]

**Footnote 28 refers to this:

**

Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Text
[LEFT]
Answer to query on Confessionals:

Can the priest decide that sacramental confession is to be received in a confessional with a fixed grille?[/LEFT]

[LEFT]The following notice was published, July 24, 1998 by the Vatican Information Service:[/LEFT]

The Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, with the Holy Father's approval, in a recently-published note, **responded affirmatively to the following inquiry **by several episcopal conferences regarding confessionals:

[LEFT]"If, according to Canon 964, paragraph 2, of the Code of Canon Law, the minister of the sacrament, for a just cause and excluding cases of necessity, can legitimately decide, even in the eventuality that the penitent ask for the contrary, that sacramental confession be received in a confessional with a fixed grille."[/LEFT]

Comment: This response of the PCILT (reported above) affirms that a priest who hears confessions has the right decide to hear only anonymous confessions (with the penitent behind a fixed grille), and may not be compelled to engage in the "face-to-face" form of administering the sacrament of penance.

[LEFT][LEFT]Background to the question addressed to the PCILT is that some priests had expressed concern about the potential for abuse of the "face-to-face" form of confession, and a reluctance to be placed in a situation where there could be any possibility for inappropriate communication of any kind, either on the part of the priest or of the penitent. Some had held that only the penitent (not the priest-confessor) had the right to make a decision about whether to confess anonymously (within the fixed-grille confessional) or "face-to-face" in a "reconciliation room". [/LEFT]
[/LEFT]


#9

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