So I was at confession with my regular priest (face to face) and I ended up confessing a sin that I wasn’t really sure if it was a sin or not (sorry my memory is fuzzy this was a while ago). I can’t remember what he said at the time but the next day he came up to me and said something along the lines of the fact that he shouldn’t say it but since it wasn’t really part of my confession (he seemed to think I asked him after or something) he could say it. I just told him to say it because I didn’t really care if he brought up anything I said anyway and he gave me advice and told me what I was worrying about wasn’t a sin after all. I normally wouldn’t ask this online but he is away for a few days and I can’t wait that long to talk about it and I can’t discern the gravity if the situation because I have a history of scrupulosity and I think it is starting to come back so I don’t trust my own judgment. Honestly I’m scared to post this because I’m worried I didn’t describe it we’ll enough. Anyway did he break the seal? Thanks in advance.
He didn’t break the seal because 1) it apparently wasn’t part of your confession, and you gave him permission to discuss it with you. 2) it wasn’t a sin anyway, and 3) priests don’t break the seal. They have been known to die before doing so.
Relax. God loves you. Think of Him in relation to you as a father in relation to his seven or eight year old. Loving fathers do not demand perfection from their children, just the willingness to please.
Is it really breaking the seal if he only discusses it with you? I thought he would have had to tell another person.
As a rule outside the confessional he can’t even acknowledge you had been to confession.
It has happened that priests have broken the seal actually - but it is very rare, and yes, close to all priests would rather die. It is “in their blood”. And they would be obliged to do so. Breaking the seal would lead to excommunication even if it happened under torture, or with a gun to their heads. It is one of the gravest crimes in the Church.
So what I’m saying is that nobody should ever fear a priest breaking the seal - in practice, it never happens.
As to the specific case, no, he did not break the seal. Priests are hesitant to discuss things that was said during a confession with the penitent afterwards even if the penitent initiates it, in fear that people may overhear them, and simply because “what happens in the confessional stays in the confessional.” However, I have spoken to a priest once about something I mentioned in confession, and it was okay - it was behind closed doors, since it was during spiritual direction. It is rare, but does not constitute breaking the seal. And the seal should still apply - it is brought up in the context of confession, which should mean it’s still in the internal forum (though feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, anyone).
A priest is actually also allowed to mention things he has experienced in the confessional, but they very rarely do so, out of the danger of accidentally identifying the person. One example would be the following:
Priest: “People, you won’t believe what the first person who confessed to me today said! …”
Visitor who comes to the party thirty minutes later: “Oh hello Father! I must have been the first person who confessed to you today!”
The first does not constitute breaking the seal, since it was made anonymous. The second, however, changed the nature of the first. The priest would still be excommunicated, even if it were accidental. This made-up (I guess, though you never know) story is often used as an example of how dangerous it is to challenge the borders on this. Generally, priests find it best to avoid such stories at all - but I have heard one from a priest, when there was absolutely no way I could know or identify the penitent. It was a cute story from confirmation class, by the way, not something grave. I did however later ask another priests I know if even such telling of stories is allowed, and he said yes, but gave the example above to explain why you’ll rarely hear them. In addition, it might lead some people to tell such stories are frequently told in the “back room” (which could not be further from the truth), causing people to fear going to confession.
Wow, that’s very strict. I can see why though.
Suppose a priest did break the seal of confession, felt bad about it and himself confessed it. What would happen to him? Would the other priest not absolve him?
The other priest would not be allowed to absolve him, the crime is reserved to Rome.
Edit: From what I’ve been explained, the confessor could then write to Rome, all anonymized so as to not break the seal himself, and explain that a penitent confessed to breaking the seal (this could actually be a layman who overheard a confession too!), and then work something out. But the priest who told me this, also said that he expected Rome would require the penitent (if it was a priest) to come forward first, and that he would be suspended or more probably laicized, while also being granted absolution.
What a headache. Now I know why they don’t do it! (kidding, kidding!)
Yes. In order for the priest to discuss something with a penitent that was part of confession, the penitent must bring it up and re-state what was said in confession. If it was something already known outside of confession, that’s a different matter.