Hypothetical Question


I’ve seen various members express different opinions on this site as to whether a priest may require a penitent to turn him/herself into the police. Most of these opinions have to do with whether someone is guilty or about to commit rape or murder. Some have said that it is a moral obligation.

Okay, so what about something sinful, illegal, but not quite that serious? For example, confessing stealing from a grocery store? Or public drunkenness?


It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. The priest may not do so, regardless of what the sin is. Minor or major, makes no difference. It is a violation of the seal.


A priest cannot reveal someone’s sins or force a person to reveal his own sins.

This is true no matter what someone may confess.


What they said.


The priest is neither a social worker nor a police officer. He doesn’t work for the government. He works for Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to forgive you; so does the priest.

Go to Confession. The priest will give you the Absolution, and whatever advice he thinks you need, to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. :slight_smile:


And a moral outrage too.


No he cannot say anything.

I’m not sure how many devout Catholics will kneel in the confessional and say they are about to rape or kill someone.



You should know that that Sacrament of Confession is as old as the Church, and what is said in the Confessional (or anywhere else the Sacrament is being conferred) stays there. ANY priest that reveals anything he hears during a confession is automatically EXCOMMUNICATED. That means he is now outside of God’s Church and must confess the sin he committed by breaking the seal of the confessional to THE POPE (Code of Canon Law, 1388 §1). Pretty serious.

Catholic priests have been imprisoned, tortured, and even martyred (that means they were murdered because of their faith, [edited] because they refused to reveal things that were confessed to them. They answer to God; not any earthly authority. [edited]

The Sacrament of Confession is for saving souls [edited] NOT aiding the police. [edited]


Did moondawg mean that not reporting was a moral outrage, or that the violation of the seal of confession would be a moral outrage? Perhaps we should give him or her the benefit of the doubt?



That’s what I was thinking, too. When I read it, I thought to myself, “yep, breaking the seal of the confessional is a moral outrage!”


Umm… hang on a second. If someone is “about to commit rape or murder,” how can they be a “penitent”? We can’t go to confession and say, “bless me Father, for I am about to sin” and expect to be absolved! :eek:

Now, if someone came to a priest for counseling (not the sacrament of reconciliation) and said that he felt that he was on the verge of committing rape or murder, that would be a different story. In that circumstance, a priest might consider his obligation to prevent the crime from occurring. (In fact, he might be considered a ‘mandatory reporter’ in certain circumstances.) Probably, he should lead into the session by informing the person of his obligations to report. But, that’s a whole different situation than that of the ‘seal of the confessional’…


Surely the duty to prevent harm to a person is more important than the man-made policy of “seal of the confessional”.



The worst harm would be for someone to go to Hell because they were afraid to go to Confession, in case the priest might call the police on them.

And as someone has already pointed out, Confession is for sins already committed; not for those in the planning stages. One cannot be sorry for something one hasn’t yet done.


The Seal of Confession is absolute.

No matter what is said in Confession, the priest cannot betray the penitent in any way.

The priest cannot reveal what he heard. The priest cannot compel the penitent to say anything to anyone else. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

People who do not know what they are writing speculate on “well, a priest can do…” Those people are wrong.

The priest cannot say anything, nor can he compel the penitent to say anything.


He absolutely cannot say anything. That is why we need to pray for our priests. They are probably in the most sublime profession/vocation on this side of life.


In fact, there may be times when the priest advises you strongly NOT to admit the sin/mistake to anyone else.

closed #17

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