I was just curious if anyone can relate a similar experience. SO… I was in line waiting for confession. There were people ahead of me and I could sort of hear Father talking in the confessional. I could not hear the confession but I remember that it sounded like it was Spanish being spoke and I though I made out 2 words. So I tried to not pay attention so I don’t hear anything I should not. I did not hear anything else until I think I was next for confession. I could not make out what was being said (and I didn’t want to either) I did not want to draw attention to myself by moving far away from the line when I was next) But I felt so uncomfortable, I started purposely fidgeting around to make a little noise (not so much that it disturbs anyone, just enough to drown out what I was hearing coming from the confessional room) and turning the pages on my prayer book to hear the rustling sound and I even started kind of pretending like I was scratching my ear so I can cover my ear. The only thing I clearly heard was when Father said “For your penance” (and he was speaking in Spanish) Man, it was uncomfortable Luckily I did not hear any sins. Had anything similar happened to anyone else? What did you do? I have only been Baptized for 6 months so this is kind of new to me.
I thank God that this has yet to happen to me. God willing I will be the one hearing every word spoken in the confessional but I believe that priests are given a special grace from God that helps priest keep tight the seal of confession.
But if this EVER happens to you that you hear someone’s sin you must not revel to anyone what was said or who said it. I would hate one day to go to confession and after reveling one of my deepest darkest secret to the priest in confession having full trust that he would keep this under the seal that someone in line would spill the beans. Personally I think there should be a way that allows there to be secrecy in confession that only you and the priest (and God) knows what is said but sometimes that is difficult.
But again if you ever hear a sin that is said in confession you are bound to the same seal that the priest is bound to.
What I may suggest is if you do overhear the priest or confessor talking bring it up to him in the confessional or another time. Its possible the priest doesn’t know this is happening and the knowledge may help him fix the problem. Again as I said I believe confessionals should be set up in such a way that no-one other than the priest and the confessor can hear what is going on in the confessional.
Perhaps the line for confession could start a little bit farther back. Our confessional is closed with a heavy door. Sometimes you can still hear. I try to ignore what I am hearing and concentrate on what I have to confess and practicing the Act of Contrition. It’s only about me and the priest and being reconciled to God. Such a blessing to get back in His Grace and receive the Holy Eucharist. In time, this will not cross your mind. But chances are, it will happen another time. God bless.
This has happened to me a few times, where someone in the Confessional was speaking louder than they intended to speak; you just move away, cover your ears, or as you did, simply focus your attention elsewhere. If you happen to overhear someone’s sins, you are bound to keep their secret the same as the priest. Your next step is, when you go into Confession, simply mention to the priest that you accidentally overheard something. It’s not a sin, but he needs to know that people can hear what’s going on in the Confessional.
Yes, I have had to say “LaLaLa…” quietly to myself once or twice.
Now I have a question for you…
Were you properly instructed on how to go to confession in a regular confessional? I wasn’t.
When I first got up close and saw three doors, I thought maybe there were three priests to go to. Then when I got closer in the line, I saw that one of the doors had a sign that said, “screen.” I asked the person in front of me what “screen” meant, and he looked at me as if he were a deer caught in the headlights. I was left to my own conclusions. I thought maybe someone was in there to screen us penitents and decide which priest we should talk to. By the time I was next in line, I still didn’t know which door to go into. I saw people going into two different doors: one labeled “room” and one labeled “screen.” I went into the closest one, which was the one with the screen. I remembered reading in a book on confession that the penitent should speak up so the priest could hear him. When my first attempt at “Father, forgive me,…,” was met with silence, I spoke again a little louder. After my third attempt, a little louder, the priest sharply whispered something to me which I did not understand. So I said, “What?” No answer. Again louder, “What?” Then the priest whispered loudly enough so I could hear, “Please wait!”
Now I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. It was slowly dawning on me that there was only one priest, and he was speaking to another penitent on the other side of the screen, although I don’t remember hearing the voice of the other penitent. It was the Saturday before Easter Sunday. I was to be confirmed that evening in a neighboring parish, and I had felt the need to go to confession once again before receiving the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion. By the time the priest got back to me, I was in tears, barely able to speak. I managed to get through my confession and then explain it was my second confession and I was to join the Church that evening. He was very kind to me, and even asked me to pray for him. As I look back on that time, now I can laugh. It is pretty funny to think how wildly clueless I was about even the physical setup of the confessionals. But the priest’s kindness will live forever in my memory.
I have that ALL the time, here in Mexico! If I can move farther away, I try that. If I can’t, due to my position in line, I ignore it as hard as I can! I try to tune it out, to think of something else.
I try harder to focus on my own confession, what I intend to say…my review of conscience…prayers for guidance with my confession to my angel. Let’s see…what did I want to say? I need to remember to end with…and all the other sins I don’t remember right now…to ask forgiveness.
In Mexico, privacy is a CONSTANT problem. We rarely have privacy!
I like to wear very modest clothing so get almost all my clothing at bazaars. You should see the changing rooms. No privacy! Everybody can see your business. In fact, I’ve actually confessed changing in the changing “rooms”!
I’ve also mentioned in confession about my apartment window. I’ve tried to make it more modest on my own. I tried, before, to string up a curtain, but it’s not designed for it. My cat liked it and pulled it down.
I tried again, and I put up my night gown. It’s not pretty, but it works at least on one side, and my cat isn’t interested in it.
If the man was from Latin America, he’s probably used to the lack of privacy! lol
In Mexico, we can hear everybody and see everybody…in our most private settings! He probably is used to that, and it didn’t faze him one bit!
I am certain that those in line behind you will gladly move back if you tell them that you can hear the confession from there. After all, the one standing behind them can then hear their confession.
I have hummed to cover the sound in one parish, and have prayed the Rosary while waiting in others. One nearby Parish is terrible. Small building, but you can hear it from the back pews! Still, the seal of the confessional is upon the Priest, but we do not need to hear others’ sins, as we will not answer for them. We will answer for deliberately listening to them, since they are confessed in confidentiality.
Happens all the time. In such situations I fidget, shuffle, flip pages, whisper prayers, or cover my ears. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but much less so than hearing someone else’s confession. Instead of making “reconcilation rooms” back in the 70s, I wish they would have made soundproof confessionals.
I think I’m just going to confess to my priest using a mixed combination of braille text messages hidden inside fortune cookies and sign language in Navajo WW2 code.
Just keep your voice down; you’ll be fine.
That combination is funny… and pretty difficult! But now I’m wondering… does the priest really have to understand the language you are speaking in order for your sins to be forgiven???
I know that people have heard me, and it makes me uncomfortable because I have a quiet voice. It is kind of funny though because I gave the priest a short version of something, and people came to a way wrong conclusion…
But, now I usually make an appointment and see the priest in his office… that way I have time to really talk about things, ask other questions and try to solve whatever, rather than just repeating the same sins over and over and over… well… I still repeat them… but perhaps less often…
One church I went to… they had people sit in the back pews, and then ushered them back one at a time to where the priest was. I thought that was nice… but it takes an extra person to usher them back…
I’ve been at Confession before when the entire line moved as close to the confessional as possible. I didn’t feel comfortable about that and would have left if it had happened before I went in. I’ve also seen people go and take whatever side is open. In other words, someone was already in the face-to-face side so they went and knelt in the anonymous side while the other person was still in there. The priest usually tells them to get out, but once or twice I’ve seen people get to kneel through the other person’s entire Confession.
One that really bothered me was the time I went to a different parish and there was a much older couple in line before me. I’m guessing they were both hard of hearing because they were both extremely loud. My kids were with me so I knelt down and started chatting with them so none of us could hear or understand what the older couple was confessing.
In fact, the very same thing happened last Sunday before Mass (the parish I was at offers confession before Mass). There was somebody in the confessional and a young lady standing fairly close. Being familiar with the church’s acoustics, I stood farther away.
When another person, seeing the gap between myself and the young lady in line ahead of me attempted to get in between us, I told her “excuse me, but I’m also in line” – then I used the opportunity to explain that I didn’t want to be close enough to overhear the confession. The young lady in line before me heard what I said and she backed up to where I was.
The point being that if you already know that the acoustics are such that you will hear the confession before you, it would be best to keep a distance. Others behind you should respect that and keep a distance. If you inadvertently get too close, it’s best to distract yourself so as to not inadvertently listen to another’s confession.
Even if you do hear it, though, Canon 983 binds you (or others) to keep it to yourself:
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.
am anglican and as we don’t have a set time at all in our church I get to book mine and have always tried to at a totally seperate time. Once I booked it just before the service as I knew it wasn’t a bad sin as such but wanted to go thru the confessonal route with it (as unconciously aware that I wanted help in the next stage and got that full help,) someone turned up early so ‘we’ moved into the vestry and they entered the vestry as they wanted the priest. Am a server so it wouldn’t occur to that person (if they had noticed even) why priest and me suddenly went into the vestry if they thought about it. Just about the one person who hardly ever enters the vestry, we have a few who love to be seen in the vestry though at the moment that has died down a little but she isn’t one of them. I had to work hard not to get agitated because I was getting that way. Never again before a service though for me and luckily Priests don’t insist on at that time. That was urgent though very minor urgent if there is a mix…
Wow. Yes, that priest handled the situation very kindly. Yes, I was properly instructed about confession through RCIA and reading these forums. We did a tour of our Parish while I was in RCIA and our Deacon showed us how you enter one door for a face to face confession and a separate door for a anonymous confession. That is how it is set up at our parish anyways. I have gone to several parishes for confession so I learned that some are a little different.
Interesting thoughts. I am Mexican American, or “Chicano” if you prefer. Born and raised in southern California, so I would not be use to such a lack of privacy at all. And I am a pretty private person. Though the thought of being able to hear someone else’s confession by accident bothers me more than the thought of someone else, other than a priest, accidently hearing mine. I think the privacy is ok for this particular confessional. Maybe Father just really wanted to stress some points so he raised his voice louder than normal. The person confessing might have been from Latin America, since Father was talking to them in Spanish but I don’t think Father is from Latin America. He is Asian.
As a previous person said, we are bound to keep silent if we overhear any part of the confession.
Sorry, but I can’t resist as we are on the subject - I still laugh at this old YouTube view of a confession: youtube.com/watch?v=d_z44dBDBJA
I am blessed to be in a parish where they hear confessions after morning Mass on Saturdays. The rosary group also prays right after Mass, so the sound of praying in the church blocks any sound coming from the confessional.
In a neighboring parish, the priest plays soft recorded music over the PA system in the church during confessions, which also works to keep confessions private.
Something else I sometimes notice: a few people like to park themselves in the pew just outside the confessional to pray their penance, and this seems too close. It seems to me they will overhear everything. Here again, a reasonable distance seems like the prudent way to go.
Lets say you accidently hear a priest tell a person confessing “Sin no more”
And then you tell someone else. "The confessional booth is not very soundproof. I accidently heard the priest tell a person to “Sin no more” once.
Would that count as revealing what you accidently heard in a confession?
Not really, no. Nor would it “count” if the priest were to generalize and say something like, “we seem to have a lot of people confessing to gossip these days; perhaps I will run a homiletical series on the subject.”