Etiquette of confession behind screen


I’ve always used the face-to-face option for confession at my church, because I used to work there (as a vocalist!), and a screen isn’t going to disguise my voice. However, recently I switched to using the screen. The reasons for this have no bearing on my questions.

My understanding is that when a penitent chooses to confess behind the screen, etiquette dictates the priest and penitent behave as if they don’t know each other. Is that correct, or am I wrong?

If in assigning penance from behind the screen, the priest references the name and circumstances of the penitent’s spouse (neither mentioned in the confession), is that a breach of etiquette, or law, or neither?

If in your understanding it’s a breach of some sort, I’d be most grateful if you could cite a source I could go find and read.

Thanks so much.


I have confessed face to face and behind a screen. Face to face seems more personal. I think I prefer face to face.


Not too sure how this helps the OP.


Yes, that’s correct

It’s certainly suspect and bizarre. Not at all common, as far as I know.


I’ve never heard of that. I wouldn’t consider it a breach. Most of the time, the screen doesn’t really conceal your identity anyway.


I’d be worried - I know for a fact that I sound like my sister, as people confuse us on the telephone. What if a priest did the same :eek:


Yeah, generally you act as though you don’t know each other, unless you meet the priest beforehand and asked to go to confession in the confessional.


I rarely go behind a screen - only if there is no other option, such as the FSSP parish where I confess occasionally - but I am unfamiliar with any such etiquette, particularly on the part of the penitent. If you wish to make clear your identity, what would be the problem?


Ha! And in my family there are three who sound alike, one of whom is me, and even I have been known to confuse the other two on the phone! :slight_smile: Fortunately, no worry about that here, the similar-sounding females are two states away.


Thanks for your replies, folks. Have a good weekend!


A friend of mine made an agreement with her sister that they would go to different confessors as my friend had been mistaken for being the sister. Identical twins whose voices sounded the same and very few could tell them apart if they only met one of the sisters.


I don’t know if it breaks any written rule, but it opens the possibility a serious breach of confidentiality if the priest says such a thing to the wrong person, that is, if he is mistaken about the identity of the person to whom he is speaking. It would reveal confidential information to that person, possibly troubling that person and possibly leading to harmful speculation, gossip, and injury to reputations. Yikes!


That’s what I was going to say. There are, of course, written rules about breaking the seal of the Confessional, but I know of nothing that spells out “behind the screen etiquette.” Still, it would seem the priest could be taking a gamble in doing this. If a priest asked me his opinion outside the Confessional, I would say it’s not a smart thing to do. But if a priest did do this, I don’t think I’d call him out on it after the fact.


How do you look him in the face ever again? I know priests forget confessions very quickly (and would never break the seal) but knowing that he knew would make me feel twitchy when interacting with him.

We have a cute little curtain so it is quite obscured. I can make out the priest if I really squint but they sit sideways so really can’t see me.


I would say no it not a break of the seal. I would recommend that if you go
to the same priest again and you feel comfortable doing it to say to him
I’d prefer you not mention anyone related to me!

I can understand if you would feel uncomfortable doing that since I used to
be bothered by a priest I went face-to-face to. He would never break the seal
but when he ran into me again he would quietly ask me how I was doing with
“X” situation. I did not appreciate that but found it hard to bring it up to him.



I have no reason to believe that is correct.

Neither (Though, as has been mentioned, I hope a confessor would not do so unless he is certain of the penitent’s identity).

The purpose of a fixed grate is to provide a physical barrier between confessor and penitent. It need not be impervious to light, nor does a penitent have any particular right to anonymity (though some screens may provide such).


Before confession, I usually have a friendly conversation my my parish priest. And afterwards we talk some. Inbetween is when I confess and receive absolvement. My impression is that he is happy to have been able to absolve me and to welcome me back to
Communion. I have never felt discomfort, because he always eases my mind.


I’ve not heard of the “if we know eachother, let’s pretend we don’t”

If I don’t want to be known by the priest, i go visit a neighboring parish for confession. Looking through the codes and laws, the only thing I read about names is that the priest is not to ask, “who did you do that sin with?”

Here’s the cannon law on the confession:

and the ministry of it:

Confession is my favorite sacrament! without it, I’d be so lost!



Amen. We all would be lost without confession.


I would say this is a common practice, but not really a rule.

Again, I don’t think this is a rule. It’s not typically, but I don’t think it’s a rule.


Oh, wow. I’ve always scheduled confession, so the priest knows who I am even if I’m behind the screen, but I’ve never, never had a priest EVER bring up anything mentioned in the confessional outside of it. EVER. It’s my job to bring it up, in whichever setting, when I’m ready to talk about it. I think I would flip if anyone did that to me.

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