Penitents publicly discussing confession details


We know the priests of the Lord’s Church are bound by the SEAL of confession. Why then are penitents so open about about publicly telling
what the priest said in the reconciliation chapel? Is this right?



Good question. I don’t know. The only thing I’d discuss with anyone is the penance he gave me. Now that you ask I’m not sure if this right either


In certain cases it may help those who are hesitant to go, those who are afraid to confess certain sins, those who are confused about something regarding Confession.


We, as penitents, may talk about our confession. We are not bound by a seal like priests are. Think of it like talking about a doctor visit and what the doctor said. Because it is “our” confession there is no problem of freely disclosing it if we choose to.

Of course no one is free to demand we disclose the details of our confession.


It is not forbidden, but it might not always be prudent. The advice that the priest gives is for a particular individual and the circumstances of that particular individual. It does not necessarily apply to someone else.

An example of this might be in the case of advice given to a scrupulous person regarding confessing doubtful sins. This same advice would not apply to a person with a well-formed conscience.

Having said that, I don’t have a personal problem discussing certain aspects of my confessions with some people.


The priest is bound not the penitent. I e discussed the contents if a confession with a bishop before.


Same here. When I was encouraging my sister to return to the church, I talked to her about my confessions to help her along. It worked!


I think that it can be very useful to me and to other people to talk about our confessions openly. It normalizes them and a lot of people think that the very fact of confession is something that ought to be shrouded in secrecy; kept in the box, if you will. I think that our Byzantine style of confession, wherein we can see others making their confessions, is also very helpful.


The penitent is allowed to talk about his or her own confession. The priest is not allowed to talk about it. The reason for the rule is to allow the penitent to feel free to tell the priest sensitive information, without having to worry that the priest is going to blab it to someone else.

It’s similar to lawyer-client confidentiality in the USA. The lawyer and the client talk about the client’s case. The lawyer is not allowed to disclose the conversation. However, if the client decides he wants to publicly reveal it, then the client is allowed to do so. Again, the purpose of the rule is to allow the client to tell the lawyer things that might be sensitive in order to get the best legal advice, without worrying that the lawyer will tell others.


You can give details of YOUR confession but not absolutely not someone else’s if you overhear them even accidentally.


[quote=“Flopfoot, post:2, topic:539728, full:true”]

I know that a priest is obliged not to reveal anything he has been told in confession. However, Is it OK for a confessor to discuss with others what the priest told him/her? [/quote]

FYI, a confessor is a priest who hears confessions. The penitent is the person who confesses sins.


Many Catholic chastity speakers (Jason and Chrystalina Evert, Matt Fradd, etc.) refer to having previously viewed pornography, (at least possibly discussed having) masturbated, and having had pre-marital sex, having since confessed these things, if they too were bound by the seal, they couldn’t do this.


If someone claims a priest did something wrong in the course of a confession, and complains, is the priest allowed to give countervailing evidence? Or to deny what is claimed? If so, how can the seal be absolute?


The penitent is free to speak about their own confession.

An interesting side note: a priest can’t talk about a past confession under any circumstances ie. even to defend himself from allegations. So if you’re going to talk about a confession for anything along those lines it’s especially important to be honest and fair and leave nothing out. If that isn’t done, even in a harmless-seeming way. Then no, it’s absolutely not right.


Yes, a penitent is free to discuss with whomever he wishes what he confessed. It is the confessor who is bound by the seal not the penitent.

It is similar to when I have been to the doctor’s or my solicitor. I am free to tell others what happened in my doctor’s surgery or my solicitor’s office. However, they are not free to reveal what I told them.


It’s my understanding that the priest is not allowed to give “countervailing evidence” as he is still bound to silence even if the penitent talks to third parties about the confession. And he probably isn’t even going to remember the confession, as priests generally say they forget everything that was said in there almost immediately because of the volume of confessions they hear and because they have other things on their mind. So even if he was allowed to give “countervailing evidence” he wouldn’t remember anything.


It might not be a great idea, depending on the sensitivity of the information, but there’s no reason the penitent can’t if he or she chooses.


He is not even allowed to say who went to Confession to him. No and that is what is so sad because some people who are up to no good will use Confession for their on horrible purposes and KNOW that the Priest can say nothing in his defense if it was said during Confession.


The priest couldn’t even acknowledge that the person had gone to him for confession (I assume an appointment scheduled on a calendar would partially break this as the person would have set up confession with him outside of confession, and it would be noticeable to him on the calendar).

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