Did this priest break the Seal of Confession?


I go to a small Catholic University, and I was making a quick confession with a priest in his office. During the confession, the priest thought of a relevant quote from a book that he thought would help explain a question I had. The quote he read was about Heaven and Hell, and not directly related to any sin in particular. During this, a custodial worker/student walks in and does his rounds quickly, sweeping the floors of the small room. The priest notices, but continues explaining the quote, just saying that Hell isn’t as easy to o get into as I thought. The cleaning guy heard this, I’m pretty sure, and it might have implied to him that I thought I had committed a serious sin, but no specific sin was mentioned (I’m pretty sure, the details are fuzzy). Did this priest break the seal? Also, can I get some sources saying whether he did/didn’t? Should I be asking a priest this?


No, he didn’t break the seal of confession.
Still, I think it imprudent to allow another person to enter the office during the course of a confession, or even a counseling session.



Your othre posts show a high level of scrupulosity and anxiety. You need to talk to your priest about these issues.


sorry this is not scrupulosity,this a legitimate complaint.this is something the op should let his Bishop know about.this priest showed a serious lack of judgement regarding the sacrament of confession.





Well you would have all kinds of complaints about the priests where I go to confession.

We have 1 priest for 2 churches. Sometimes he gets help from another old priest this guy can’t hear. Your confession takes an hour, mostly because you have to reapeat it about six times after a while you just give up and confess out loud for everyone to hear. It is a small community I might add. Everyone knows everyones sins anyway because they done them as well. Hopefully, you didn’t murder anyone.

I would say get over it the cleaning guy didn’t know you. And what you doing having a QUICK confession anyway, you suposed to prepare for it.


In what way please? It may have been imprudent to allow the janitor to be in the room but the Priest did not address anything to the janitor nor did the priest seem overly concerned that the janitor overhear what was being said at that moment. It is unclear even if confession was still taking place or if this was spiritual direction. Knowing only the OP’s side, I can’t see anything seriously wrong.


I do not think he broke the seal of confession.

According to Canon Law (see here):

Can. 983
§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.

Definitely it seems to me that it was not proper for that person to enter the confessional - for that was the office at that moment - and I do not know how a priest is supposed to act. Perhaps he cannot interrupt the Sacrament and address the person. However, in such a circumstance, the person is automatically under the seal of confession as well, under pain of excommunication if he were to break it.

Furthermore, it is my understanding that the third party did not hear any concrete sin from you. That’s what the seal protects: the sins you confess.

Priests know what they are doing when they act in persona Christi, and I don’t think he’d get a latae sententiae excommunication so lightly. You should not worry too much, and try to focus more on what Christ tried to tell you through His minister.



and use the full section

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.

again if their Catholic


Nope: from the cleaner's point of view the priest was just explaining a theological point.


I think this would have bothered me, too, initially, but then I would think about the situation. The priest doesn’t want to lock the door, not with the scandals of the past. So someone walks in and if the priest stops speaking suddenly, this might give rise to the idea you were there for confession and not just a chat. I think it’s possible he did what he did as the best choice to protect your privacy.

It still would have bothered me, but I think I would work through it this way and I certainly wouldn’t go writing letters to the Bishop. I suggest sharing with him how you feel. He sounds like a great priest, to me. He really took time to delve into your issue. That’s not that common.


IBeenStupid—I’m SO glad you posted! I laughed so hard! Then I called a night owl friend back in my home state and directed her to your post. We both roared. Were the poor priest in our past not dead for several decades, we’d think you were describing our home parish! Thank you, thank you!

My father used to drive us to another town about 40 minutes away on the last Saturday of each month, so we had the occasional opportunity of confessional privacy. Also, parishioners sat half-way across that half of the church, in one pew behind another, instead of standing in the aisle near the confessional. Even so, the bellowing from the confessional sometimes made grins cross our faces. Thanks for the memories!


We don’t even know that it really was confession. Or that what the OP relayed happened during confession.

The priest might have thought he was simply giving counsel or chatting at that point.

The right thing for the OP to do is to talk to his PRIEST about it.


I have to agree. I don’t think this one particular point is one of scrupulosity.

Having said that, I don’t think the priest broke the seal of confession either. While I could see why some may feel it was innapropriate (although I think it was just fine), the cleaning guy MAY have heard a few sentences and even then wouldn’t have the full context of the discussion. You know the context of the discussion and probably carry the guilt/embarresment of whatever sin you committed, which probably leads to a more critical view of the priest’s actions.


Here’s what I don’t understand with this post, as with so many other posts that question people’s liturgical and sacramental “correctness”, and their motivations…

You are in confession with a priest…(who is also a human being)… you have a concern that involves him…and you don’t take the time to engage him in a discussion about it?

Talk to the man, one human being to another, before going to the internet and asking a question on a public forum.

That is a good policy for many of the concerns and disputes we have on these forums…like guitars at adoration, other questionable parish practices…if people would just have the courtesy to speak to one another many of these issues would ge solved the right way. Going to the internet to get the “truth” seems to be a reflex these days. And yes, I do think this feeds and indicates some scrupulosity.


My final thought - if you ask a priest for confession in his office, then you are also open to all the interruptions that his office is subject too.

If you want to guarantee undisturbed confession go in the box at Church.


Exactly! I’m puzzled as to why this didn’t happen immediately. :confused:




No, although this is one example as to why Confessionals are important and that Confessions should not be ordinarily heard just anywhere.

But the priest did not break the seal. However, the cleaner is now bound to the same seal as the priest. He cannot even relate what Father quoted on pain of grave sin.

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