Is the "Seal of the Confessional" Binding on the Layperson?


I am interested in the Latin perspective on this. A priest cannot reveal what he hears in confession, but does this also apply to what the priest says to the penitent? I ask because I am wondering if the priest says something extremely offensive or damaging to the penitent if it can be reported to someone or if the layperson is also supposed to keep quiet about these things?


No the penitent is not bound by the seal of confession.


Does this happen that often? It would become a “he said-she said” thing. Bringing a tape recorder in to prove it would be problematic.



Indeed. It would result in an automatic excommunication.

To the OP: I think Fr. Z gave a good explanation.



The penitent is not bound by the seal but the priest is. Any accusation would therefore be impossible for the priest to defend. False accusations can be especially damning because the priest could not say anything in his defense - except possibly to deny it happened or to say the accuser is not telling the truth or the entire truth. The present climate of overzealous pursuit of allegations against priest is almost as bad as in the (I hope) old days when accusations were buried and the victims punished.


To the OP, excellent question, thank you.


A layperson is only bound by the seal if s/he overhears another’s confession. For example, if you’re standing in line and you overhear the person in front of you, or if you’re a translator for someone in the confessional. The person confessing is not bound by the seal.


Thanks for the Vatican link.


Not always. I have complained about a priest in confession once and the priest fully admitted his response. There was no “he said, he said” thing. The priest said, Yup, that is what I said:shrug:


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