Is your parish strictly your residential address? Baptizing outside of it


Not exactly; that is, not quite the way you describe. Diocesan priests faculties to absolve work somewhat differently from religious order priests.

Still, your overall point is spot-on. I have no doubt that the priests participating in that event had the proper faculties (and no reason to think otherwise).



Every priest needs to have faculties to absolve (in whatever circumstances or place applies).
A Catholic person can confess to “any priest” but the priest himself is the one who needs to know that he has proper faculties before he makes himself available for confessions.

For example, let’s say that Father John Doe OFM (who’s still a priest in good standing back home) doesn’t have faculties to absolve in Alaska when he goes on his annual fishing trip. He simply doesn’t make himself available for confessions.

On the other hand, if a priest does makes himself available for confessions-- let’s take an obvious example that a visiting priest is sitting in the priest-side of the confessional for an hour when he goes on his annual trip to Alaska–then the people who approach him for confession can be confident that he has the necessary jurisdiction.

Right. Exactly.

It doesn’t mean the priest “doesn’t need” jurisdiction. It’s that the people confessing don’t necessarily need to know exactly how (canonically) he has them.


Thank you for that informative answer.

It’s interesting to learn about some of these behind-the-scenes things I never would have thought of.


A parish is a territory, by the very definition of the word. Therefore, if there’s no parish territory, there’s no parish.

It’s like saying: over here we have Franklin County, but Franklin County doesn’t have any county-lines. Or, there’s no county-line between Franklin County and Benjamin County. Well, there has to be, because a county is a territory by definition.

Now, if someone who lives in Franklin wants to register to vote in Benjamin, that cannot happen. If it does, it means that someone’s not doing his job correctly. It doesn’t mean the county-lines don’t exist.

My grandfather died in 1970. Just because he still votes in Chicago, doesn’t make it legitimate.

Having said that, yes, there are indeed personal parishes. Most often, these are defined by ethnicity/language. However, 2 points. 1. That’s only relevant if we’re actually discussing the topic of personal parishes (which we’re clearly not) and 2. Even personal parishes belong to dioceses, so (once we connect all the canonical dots) even a personal parish is ultimately territorial.


How do personal parishes outside the diocese factor into all of this? I am 100% certain my territorial parish was never consulted regarding my marriage. You’ve raised some concerns now…


First, do not be concerned.

Priests know what they’re doing (sigh…) Whatever (if any) permissions or delegation was needed was most probably given. Don’t worry about it, please.

Now, to your question.

I don’t understand what you mean by a “personal parish outside the diocese.” Every parish is part of some diocese (or the equivalent of a diocese, such as the Ordinariate of St Peter). Therefore, this sentence just confuses me.

While I don’t know what you mean, I think maybe I see where you’re going, so I’ll say this:

In the case of a personal parish, the pastor of that parish can officiate at marriages that occur in his church-building. He can likewise delegate another priest (a parochial vicar or a visiting priest).

If your parish (ie the one where you live) was, as you say, never consulted, I’d venture to guess that’s because there was no need. The priest would have to contact your place of baptism to get a recent baptism record, but there might have simply been no need to contact your then-current parish.


My understanding is that it mostly comes up in the occasional case involving schismatic priests. Even though validly ordained, they cannot validly hear confessions outside of danger of death. But of course faithful Catholics should generally avoid such anyway.

@FrDavid96 can correct me on this though.


Same in my town.

We ask permission of the other pastor if someone on the rolls at St X wants to be baptized/confirmed/married here at St Y. It is the polite, courteous thing to do even when we don’t have boundaries. Rarely do the folks know what we do behind the scenes.


All of those priests were granted the facilities.


Thank you Father for providing answers to these questions. As you probably know, me, being in ministry in the church for almost 36 years, I have studied, read documents, prefaces to the Sacramentary, Lectionary, and various other publications in order to execute my responsibility accurately and according to guidelines and doctrine. My knowledge of is often shared with those in my ministry as an educational tool which I believe they should know when serving in the church.

Of all that I thought I knew, this subject of confession is something I was not aware of. I would never even think that any priest would not be able to hear a confession because of boundaries. Frankly, to me it is a rather weird (for a lack of a better description). I realize when it comes to other Sacraments, the office staff runs wild trying to get baptismal certificates and other documents from other parishes in order to fulfill proper proof, etc.

Father, what is your take on this ruling? Why is it in place? Why does it matter? I appreciate and respect your answers. Looking in, it appears to be much about nothing; set me straight. Thank you.


Not necessarily.

As I alluded earlier, the canons are somewhat different for diocesan priests and religious order ones. Some order priests only have faculties to hear confessions within their own places. They can get such faculties, but there are times when they lack faculties simply because they don’t have any need to request them Also, some recently-ordained priests simply don’t have faculties “yet.”

I want to be clear here: my intention is not to have anyone questioning “I went to confession yesterday, how do I know the priest had faculties?” Far, far from it. My purpose here is merely to provide some explanation on how this sort of thing works (jurisdiction, which is ultimately the topic of the thread).


I think what I was trying to say was that such a priest who lacked faculties wouldn’t be hearing confessions, or wouldn’t be hearing them outside of where they do have faculties. So if one goes into the confessional of a Catholic church one can presume the priest has faculties because otherwise he wouldn’t be there. So the only issue the laity are likely to encounter are priests who have gone off the reservation, so to speak. Like you mentioned, if Father Joe doesn’t have faculties in Alaska, he won’t be taking non-emergency confessions in alaska.

Sorry, not trying to be argumentative!

As an aside, it sounds like the rules are a bit different between marriage and confession? For a marriage, you need to speak specifically to your pastor, so it’s determined by where your domicile is under canon law. For confession, you just need a priest who has faculties where he is. So I can take a trip abroad, walk into a catholic church, and have my confession heard by a priest there - but I couldn’t get married there without talking to my pastor at home. I could see that being confusing to people.


Just following up on a priest not having faculties yet.

A friend of mine was ordained this summer and went off to his first assignment. It took a few days for the paperwork to get caught up so he didn’t have faculties at the very beginning. Someone came to the church looking for a priest and was directed to my friend. Later, he told me he was sincerely hoping the man didn’t want to go to confession because he knew how confusing it would be to try and explain that yes, I am a validly ordained priest but I’ll have to find someone else to hear your confession because I can’t do that yet. And I guess the lesson for the rest of us is that even a brand new priest knew what he was and wasnt allowed to do, so we don’t have to worry about it.


It’s about jurisdiction.

Absolution is a juridic act of the Church. In other words, it is a legal act. So, just like a sheriff or a magistrate has jurisdiction, so too do pastors.

Just as an aside, in ancient Rome, at the end of a trial, a jury did not vote “guilty or innocent” (like we do today) but rather “condemno or absolvo” (obviously, condemn or absolve). Confession is a court. The priest is the judge. Thankfully, by the Grace of God, the verdict is usually “absolvo.”

Also, the Catholic Church operates primarily on the diocesan level—this is not just practical but theological, even though most people might not always think that way. Local parishes are not just “branch offices of the Vatican” like we might see in the business world, nor are we just a collection of individual locales like we might see in some Protestant models (like the loosely affiliated Baptist conventions). Note to readers: see Vatican II document Lumen Gentium Chapter III.

Again, because absolution is a juridic act, a priest must have the juridic authority to make such an act valid. It isn’t enough that he be validly ordained, but he must have the authority to act in the name of the Church. Remember that he says, towards the end of the absolution “through the ministry of the Church…I absolve you…” In order to truly be a minister of the Church, he must be able to speak with the authority of the Church.

It is worth noting here that one of the changes made from the 1917 Code of Canon Law to the 1983 Code is this:

967 §2. Those who possess the faculty of hearing confessions habitually whether by virtue of office or by virtue of the grant of an ordinary of the place of incardination or of the place in which they have a domicile can exercise that faculty everywhere unless the local ordinary has denied it in a particular case…

In strictly practical terms, that means that most priests do indeed have worldwide faculties to absolve while the fact remains that every priest still must have such faculties in order to validly absolve.


From my experience, this is why some people tell the story of “I was on a layover at the Memphis airport and I approached a priest who was sitting at the gate. He said he could not hear my confession!”


Thank you for taking the time to explain this in such detail; much appreciated.


I could easily find maps of parish boundaries in my old diocese, but have had no luck when searching in my current diocese. Should I just contact the diocese and ask? Or the church I’m registered at?


Father, do you see this as applying to priests who have left the Church, or never were in communion with the Church (i.e. Orthodox priests)? It would seem to me that the necessity of jurisdiction for a valid absolution is not merely a matter of ecclesiastical law, but in fact transcends that domain, touching upon the very theology of the Church and her authority.


That was the point of the year of mercy declaration regarding the SSPX and the extension of it - that it was a special grant to the SSPX that they be able to hear confessions validly. Such a grant wouldn’t have been necessary if they had the validity without it.


Yeah, I don’t actually have any idea how it works for eastern orthodox. I do know that generally priests who were ordained as Catholic priests but separated from the church aren’t able to hear confessions (I’ll look up sources in a bit), but my understanding is the orthodox tend to get treated a little differently.

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