MERGED: Regarding the seal of the confessional


#1

Hi everyone!
Just out of curiosity, is a priest bound to not tell anything he hears in the confessional, or just to not tell the sins he hears? For instance, if someone were to tell a priest something good in the confessional, like if they just got engaged or were expecting a baby, would he be allowed to talk of his? Thanks!


#2

I think everything that is said in confessionnal should remain there because when we are in the confessionnal, we confide to the priest, so I don't think people want there confidence to be said to everyone.

It is my opinion.


#3

Everything good or bad said in confession must be kept secret.


#4

During the confession, from the time you say "bless me father.." to the absolution the priest gives you, all that is said is under the seal. Now if you chat after the confession, (ie; after he has given you the penance and absolution) things are not sealed. My regular confessor is very good about discussing some subjects outside of the confession (but while we are still in the confessional) and making sure he is free of the seal when we talk.


#5

When I recently went to confession to a new priest in our parish, I told him that I have a bit of a hearing problem. He immediately responded, "Before we start your confession, can you hear my homilies okay?"

I told him that I do and I think it is because he has a good mike and because he read the homily. When someone reads it comes through more clearly than when they are speaking without a script.

He then said thanks and then announced that we were starting my confession.

It was sometime later when I realized that that was necessary so than he could use my answer. It's the only time I have had a priest state the limits.


#6

Everything. Apart from the moral culpability of disclosing something, the theological concept of once our sins are forgiven God forgets them, there is the legal aspect of the "veil of the confessional". The short version is if the seal of the confessional is broken for one thing, even something "good" it can be broken for everything.

That said, the person confessing has the authority to say whatever they want outside of confession even though the priest never can.


#7

Everything. A priest friend of mine has 2 younger siblings that I taught at Catholic school. When I mentioned that his brother was the best student I ever had for Religious Class, he said "oh, I wish I could share that with him, but this is confession, and I can't share anything you say here. But thanks for telling me. My family appreciates it. And by the way, he really enjoyed your class."

:D


#8

Once during my confession a priest offered to give me a certain set of prayers to help me. He told me that I would have to ask him specifically for these prayers when we were outside of confession since he would not bring it up or even offer them to me outside of confession lest he break the seal. The prayers dealt specifically with an issue I confessed so it would have been telling if he handed them to me say after Mass or in front of others.


#9

[quote="pianistclare, post:7, topic:350117"]
Everything. A priest friend of mine has 2 younger siblings that I taught at Catholic school. When I mentioned that his brother was the best student I ever had for Religious Class, he said "oh, I wish I could share that with him, but this is confession, and I can't share anything you say here. But thanks for telling me. My family appreciates it. And by the way, he really enjoyed your class."

[/quote]

The seal of the confessional obliges only the confessor. Moreover, if the penitent explicitly gives permission, the confessor can share something he's heard in confession (but not otherwise). So, if your confessor had asked, "may I share that with him?", then he could have told him. ;)


#10

[quote="ncw98, post:1, topic:350117"]
Hi everyone!
Just out of curiosity, is a priest bound to not tell anything he hears in the confessional, or just to not tell the sins he hears? For instance, if someone were to tell a priest something good in the confessional, like if they just got engaged or were expecting a baby, would he be allowed to talk of his? Thanks!

[/quote]

Hello,

I'll make a distinction. Yes, a priest should always leave everything he learns only from confession in the confessional. The priest should always presume that the penitent does not want anything whatsoever to be revealed. That's always prudent and considerate. If you are actually asking if the "seal of confession"--strictly speaking--always applies to everything said by the penitent, no, it does not. It applies to confessed sin and all that is connected to a confessed sin. So, if a priest were to hear that a penitent is just now engaged but that fact has nothing at all to do with a sin, and he were to tell someone else about that engagement, the penitent would not be able to accuse the priest of breaking the Seal and incurring an automatic excommunication (cf. c. 1388).

The old Catholic Encyclopedia briefly addresses the Seal here: newadvent.org/cathen/11618c.htm

There is a 1960 dissertation by Fr. Roos called "The Seal of Confession" and he goes into some of these distinctions, too.

Dan


#11

I've always been curious about another situation...........

I know the priest cannot break the seal under any circumstances, and my question refers to civil law, not Church law.

Can a priest be prosecuted if he hears the confession of a serial killer? That is, assuming the serial killer is still loose and on the hunt.


#12

I can remember when Timothy McVeigh was executed. The priest that gave McVeigh the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick refused to say whether he heard McVeigh's confession or not. I always admired the priest for that. Personally, I would prefer that a priest not even acknowledge that he has heard one of my confessions.


#13

Is there actual canon law on the subject? It seems that a lot of this is just exercising an abundance of caution in protecting the seal, which is laudable, but is it strictly necessary?

According to some, my priest regularly breaks the seal, but I never considered it so.

One time, I shared with him a prayer that I had come across to illustrate to him one of my goals. He told me that it was one of the priest's prayers from vespers. A week or so later, we were in a book discussion group together and the subject came up again, so I turned to him and asked if he had a copy of the prayer that I could share. A few minutes later, he brought me the prayer and I shared it with the group. Neither of us mentioned that we had first discussed this prayer in the confessional and he did not require me to explain which prayer I was talking about, even though we both knew that it had first been discussed in confession.

Another time, I asked for his advice (in confession) about how to handle a particular situation. I saw him a few days later, and I shared with him how his advice had worked in the situation. He didn't pretend to not know what I was talking about. :eek:


#14

I think the seal prohibits him from even admitting that he heard someone's confession.


#15

Can 983 and 984


#16

[quote="babochka, post:13, topic:350117"]
Is there actual canon law on the subject? It seems that a lot of this is just exercising an abundance of caution in protecting the seal, which is laudable, but is it strictly necessary?

According to some, my priest regularly breaks the seal, but I never considered it so.

One time, I shared with him a prayer that I had come across to illustrate to him one of my goals. He told me that it was one of the priest's prayers from vespers. A week or so later, we were in a book discussion group together and the subject came up again, so I turned to him and asked if he had a copy of the prayer that I could share. A few minutes later, he brought me the prayer and I shared it with the group. Neither of us mentioned that we had first discussed this prayer in the confessional and he did not require me to explain which prayer I was talking about, even though we both knew that it had first been discussed in confession.

Another time, I asked for his advice (in confession) about how to handle a particular situation. I saw him a few days later, and I shared with him how his advice had worked in the situation. He didn't pretend to not know what I was talking about. :eek:

[/quote]

I think the difference is that each of those times YOU brought it up. If you bring it up outside of the confessional it's fair game. He still can't launch into a discussion (and he didn't) about your previous conversation in the confessional though. I have also done some "follow up" with my confessor afterward and it has been a great conversation. But, he won't ever ask me how's it going with x if it's something we've only discussed in confession.


#17

canonlaw.info/2006/01/why-risk-so-much-for-so-little.html


#18

And here an article for you:
catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0059.html


#19

[quote="Joe_Kelley, post:14, topic:350117"]
I think the seal prohibits him from even admitting that he heard someone's confession.

[/quote]

Hello,

It might, in certain circumstances. For example, a woman is killed one night and that same night, at 3:00 AM, a person who turns out to be a suspect--the husband--was seen going to the rectory of a parish. The resident priest(s) should never say whether or not that person went to confession. People can put two and two together, so to speak, and the confessor might at least come close to indirectly violating the seal, just by saying "Yes, he came to confession." (This is an example offered by Woestman in "Ecclesiastical Sanctions and the Penal Process," commentary on c. 1388).

So, to be safe, a confessor is always prudent to never answer the question "Did so-and-so go to confession to you?" He should say "Go ask so-and-so" even if 20 other people standing in line saw So-and-so going into the confessional. If he said "yes" in that circumstance, the Seal would not be broken but what good can come from the confessor ever answering the question?

Dan


#20

[quote="Bookcat, post:17, topic:350117"]
canonlaw.info/2006/01/why-risk-so-much-for-so-little.html

[/quote]

Thanks for posting this link, Bookcat. I'd be interested in seeing what happened in that case. Did the priest refuse to tell the judge whether he heard a particular person's confession?


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