How do deaf and mute people confess?

This is something that I am curious about lately. Since confession usually involves a lot of talking and listening, how are Catholics who are hard of hearing or unable to speak able to procure this sacrament?
Now say if somebody is both deaf and mute, is he still obligated to confess? What if he is blind as well? :confused:

In one parish in Austin, Texas, there is a TDYY device that looks like a telephone that the deaf and hearing imparied have. If the deaf person is going face-fo-face, then sign language is used.

My father was actively involved in ministry to the impaired. In fact, he brought a priest who knew sign language to come and minister to the deaf and those with disabilities. Many children were able to make their first confession and receive First Holy Communion because of this, as were many adults. Some even had their marriage blessed.

there are priests whose ministry is with these people; someone who is hard-of-hearing may read lips so special skills wouldn’t be needed, but if the person uses sign language they would need a priest who signs as well. a blind person wouldn’t need anyone other than a ‘regular’ priest either --they can hear and speak – unless they were deaf as well. deaf / blind people typically communicate tactially, the signs and letters for finger spelling, are done on the person’s hand

fyi, a TDY looks and acts like a phone, but the communication isn’t audible. the message is typed, sent, received as text, and read.

Canon 990 in the Code of Canon Law also makes an allowance for an interpreter to be used in Confession (provided the sacramental seal is respected by all parties):

No one is prohibited from confessing through an interpreter as long as abuses and scandals are avoided and without prejudice to the prescript of can. 983, §2.

Okay, everyone, thanks for the replies. :slight_smile:

If people have seen documentary footage of Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan used with Helen a kind of fingerspelling you could say is done in the hand. And some people do a print on palm, where capital letters are “written” on their palm with an index finger. (I see OP is in Japan so I imagine the characters would be drawn in the palm for a Japanese language user. A number of our US deafblind folks have gone to Japan, I should ask them. :slight_smile: ) More often the deafblind who use tactile signing place their hand on top of the hand of the person signing and read the signs off the back of that hand, the knuckle side. :slight_smile:

If they don’t have access to a deaf priest or a hearing priest who is fluent in sign language deaf Catholics can write notes back and forth with the priest.

I have gone to confession over the years quite a few times to our deaf priests although I am hearing. In that case I make my confession in sign language. The deaf Catholics in our area are served by deaf priests and hearing priests who are fluent in sign language. Like we Eastern Catholics that often means deaf parishioners commute a fair distance to get to their parish.

I don’t think anyone else mentioned this-- the term “mute” is not considered acceptable in the US and I think most places in the world. It’s considered derogatory. Deaf, either "deaf "or “Deaf”, is all that is needed. :slight_smile:

and to detail this a bit more, big D deaf refers to the culture among deaf people…

Really? I have never heard that before. I knew that “dumb” was definitely a word to avoid because it is now laden with negative connotations, but I never heard that the word “mute” was also considered derogatory. To me, it is merely a descriptive word, not a derogatory one. :shrug: It’s good to know that some are offended by it, though, so I can avoid misspeaking.

EDIT: I just checked Wikipedia (;)) and it says “In the past deaf-mute was regarded as a socially acceptable term, usually to describe deaf people who use a signed language, but in modern times, the term is frequently viewed as derogatory.” But then, where one would expect a citation to back up the claim, it says “[citation needed] [neutrality disputed]”. :shrug:

So what term do we use for someone who can’t speak but can hear? And is there a reason to distinguish between someone who became deaf after learning to speak and someone who was born deaf (or became deaf early) and so did not learn to speak? There has to be a term for non-speakers whatever their ability to hear. :confused:

I work as a relay operator, and we say “speech-disabled” or “speech-impaired” for those who cannot speak (which includes people who’ve lost the ability to speak due to cancer, for example). We don’t (in relay) distinguish whether the deaf person using tty can speak or not, though there is also the VCO (voice-carry over) which seems to be typically used by the hearing-impaired who lost hearing late in life (they speak for themselves, but receive text back, and almost all seem to be rather elderly in my experience). The traditional relay user sends text & gets text back while the relay operator reads what the traditional relay user typed & types what the voice person says. HCO (hearing carry over) is for the people who can hear but cannot speak for whatever reason. They send text & the relay operator reads and the voice person just responds like any non-relay phone call (except that, to the best of my knowledge, HCO phones do not allow the HCO user to hear anything said while s/he is typing so the relay operator may interrupt the voice user ‘one moment please, your party is still typing’).

Melissa, you have one of my dream jobs! I wanted to switch careers and become a relay operator ever since I worked in insurance and one of my disability claimants used one to call me. The first time she called I nearly jumped over my desk to keep the relay operator on the line so I could ask about the job.

You have my deepest respect for what you do, Melissa! I’m going to say a special prayer tonight for all relay operators.

Generally someone who became deaf after learning to speak is called post-lingually deaf. One can’t say anything absolutely but if they lost their hearing after living as hearing person for a number of years, especially lost their hearing as an adult then they are a hearing person who can’t hear. Their identity was formed as a hearing person. Not many will learn sign language because they have lived most of their lives in the hearing world and all their friends and family are still in the hearing world. It can be very difficult.

Someone who is born deaf or becomes deaf at a very young age is more likely to identify as a deaf person, and depending on the social circumstances identify as a Deaf person with a central attachment to the Deaf community, using sign language. On the other hand they may be raised in the “oral” tradition where they do not learn sign language and instead their training is focused on speech reading (“lipreading”) and speaking. Some people who are raised in the oral tradition are very successful at developing speech that others understand and/or at being able to understand speech by so called “lip reading”. Others never are able to develop one or both of those skills.

The groups they would belong to generally are different. The deafened adult might belong to ALDA. Someone who has grown up identifying in the Deaf world would maybe belong to NAD, be active in local Deaf clubs, and Deaf sports leagues etc.

This can vary a great deal, especially depending on whether someone who is deaf grew up around other deaf people, for example attending a school for the deaf or has deaf family members (most do not have deaf family members), or instead grew up rarely if ever seeing another deaf person.

Another emerging group are Deaf people who have had cochlear implants which turned out to be successful in allowing them to decode some speech auditorally. Some implants end up with a successful outcome and others do not, depending on a number of factors. These are Deaf people, having had their identity formed as a deaf person, who can hear. Are you confused yet? :slight_smile:

The one universal I would say is that all of them experience discrimination and as with other populations end up with someone outside their group trying to make decisions for them or making judgments about them. (Like Protestants explaining what Catholics believe, or Catholics explaining what Orthodox believe :wink: )

Thank you Melissa. That was really helpful!

5Loaves, this was also really helpful! Thank you, your explanation was very clear and I did follow it.

I remember my beloved father who was a completely paralyzed quadriplegic on full ventilated life support with 24/7 nursing care in our home, a few months before he died December 20th, 2007. As a close knitted family we asked my father if he would like to receive the sacrament of Penance from a priest. The first time in eleven years since his tragic accident that left him an invalid though he had his full mental faculty he couldn’t talk or move any of his limbs. We brought a close family priest and friend of the family. We closed the door to allow my father privacy and the priest gave him graced sacramental absolution from his sins. Three months later after my father living eleven long years in suffering passed away peacefully with his loving family and nurses always by his side.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Prayers for our beloved priests who bring us the Sacraments under all conditions!

This is all well and good theoretical talk, but has anyone actually tried to find a church that has mass and confession for the hearing impaired much less a ministry to the hard of hearing Ha! Try if you will, but I think the catholic church has given up on all the old people who can’t hear assuming we will continue to tithe, support the church and otherwise avoid being a problem. Gray power is lost on the archdiocese of NY that’s for sure.

Cath24, have you tried St. Francis on West 31st Street?

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