Question about confessional

I asked an apologist but haven’t received an answer to my question. I looked through the CCC as well. Here’s my question. What is an acceptable place and manner for confession?

Here’s what happened Saturday. I went across town to another church for confession. I hadn’t been to confession at this church since this new priest was installed. This church has a confessional room. I sat down next to the confessional but there was no light on and the door was open and there was no one in there. I glanced around the church and saw people on the other side of the sanctuary scattered in the pews. They were waiting their turns for confession. In front of the sanctuary, standing next to the baptismal fountain (water running), was the priest with his arm around someone facing the wall. I could see them and hear mumbling. If I hadn’t been in the back and on the other side of the sanctuary, I believe I might have been able to hear some of what was being said. There is no way I am going to confession in that manner. I don’t want to be seen by others, not even the priest, and certainly don’t want to be heard. I would feel completely violated by confession in this manner. I was dumbfounded. I’ve never seen this before. I left the sanctuary and talked to a nice lady who mentioned that Father was hearing confessions, if I were interested. She said Father has a confessional room but doesn’t like it and won’t use it. Okay. I didn’t say anything about my misgivings. I just left. It was too late for me to go across town to the other church. So I went home. Is this an acceptable way to accomplish the sacrament of penance or is this taking Vatican II a little bit too far? If this priest’s parishioners don’t mind it, I guess it’s acceptable? I know I won’t go there for confession again. I was really very disappointed. I would appreciate an answer about what is proper and acceptable to the CC. And any comments. Thank you.

The penintent is supposed to have the option to confess behind a screen. Ask the priest.

Is this an acceptable way to accomplish the sacrament of penance or is this taking Vatican II a little bit too far?

Blaming everything one doesn’t like on “Vatican II” is not appropriate.

People go to confession wherever it is given. It is not always possible to provide a screen, and if one wants a screen, one is welcome to go elsewhere; but, for example, if one is on a battlefield, there isn’t going to be somewhere else to go.

and if one is on a retreat, and it is not given at a church, then it is likely there will be no screen either.

Further, at least twice a yearn many if not most parishes will have a night of reconciliation, with a number of priests hearing confession individually, and it is not the least unusual to have one hearing them in the sanctuary. Normally, one is in the reconciliation room, which normally has a screen.

While I might not agree with the priest’s reasons for not using the room, I ahve hear comments made concerning priests being accused of abuse in an isolated room (that is, behind a door. I don’t find such talk worthy of merit, but I am also not ordained, and have not been subject to rumors.

Vatican 2 has nothing to do with the matter.

One other comment: I am old enough to have had experience well before Vatican 2; and one could hear what was going on in the confessional if one stood much closer than 20 feet away. and those were the “boxes”, with doors. Obviously not sound-proof doors.

It’s not common to do confession standing up that way except Eastern Catholic churches may still do that. I’ve seen it happen that way at penance services too, but not at regularly scheduled weekly confessions.

What? No one knows you are a sinner? :ehh:

It is true that a confessional with a fixed grate should be available for use by those penitents (and confessors!) who prefer it. You do not describe the confessional room, so I cannot say if this was denied you. Presumably, Father would have accompanied you to the confessional room if you had requested?

And, honest to goodness, *anonymity *is not a right in confession, though individual privacy is.

:shrug:
tee

My course of action would be to talk to the priest and explain what happened, honestly and leave all else aside.

But you are correct that it isn’t treated in the Catechism. It’s in the Code of Canon Law, actually. I am not a canon lawyer, and I wasn’t there so I cannot say if the conditions you specified were appropriate for the sacrament but as below, confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause. He may indeed have had a very valid and sensible reason for hearing confessions outside the confessional. I’d speak to him and just simply tell him what I felt.

vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_P3F.HTM

Can. 964 §1. The proper place to hear sacramental confessions is a church or oratory.

§2. The conference of bishops is to establish norms regarding the confessional; it is to take care, however, that there are always confessionals with a fixed grate between the penitent and the confessor in an open place so that the faithful who wish to can use them freely.

§3. Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause.

The Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church states:

Can. 964 §3. Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause. (Confessiones extra sedem confessionalem ne excipiantur, nisi iusta de causa.)

Consult a canon lawyer about what constitutes a “just cause” (i.e. a good reason); but clearly the norm is the confessional.

ETA: cjb beat me to it.

This is a perfectly acceptable manner in which to do the sacrament and is the norm in the Eastern Churches.

Of course, the Latin Code of Canon Law requires that a fixed grille be made available for those who choose themselves to avail themselves of it, so if this priest prefers to hear confessions in this way, he seems he should have had another priest available in the confessional/reconciliation room, or ignore his own preferences in favor of the law. Of course, he might have “just cause” for doing it differently and, though we have access to the law, most of us are not canon lawyers.

[quote=]TThey were waiting their turns for confession. In front of the sanctuary, standing next to the baptismal fountain (water running), was the priest with his arm around someone facing the wall. I could see them and hear mumbling. If I hadn’t been in the back and on the other side of the sanctuary, I believe I might have been able to hear some of what was being said. here is no way I am going to confession in that manner. I don’t want to be seen by others, not even the priest, and certainly don’t want to be heard. I would feel completely violated by confession in this manner
[/quote]

You’re still not guaranteed the right to not be seen, though, and many confessionals aren’t exactly soundproof. For blocking the sound of the confession, having them near a running fountain seems like a really good idea. It would obscure the sound much more than the thin walls of old-fashioned confessionals would.

In my Eastern Catholic parish, we just move toward the back of the church if we are at risk of overhearing somebody’s confession. Often the psalms or the liturgy of the hours are being chanted as well, which helps tremendously.

Sometimes we can be taken aback by ways of doing things that are completely different that what we are used to. Confessionals in old churches in Europe are very often open and allow the penitent to be seen by others and even potentially overheard.

Best thing, as always, is to approach (not confront) the priest with your concerns. He might be doing this out of a misguided view that this is what people prefer. It might help him and others to hear from you, even if you never plan to return to this parish.

You brought up battlefields and retreats, etc., and I can certainly understand that. Also, it never entered my mind about abuse in the confessional. That could be an issue for some. I appreciate your comments and experience/knowledge as a lifelong Catholic. Thank you.

I thought standing was unusual, but I wasn’t sure. At least for me, personally, kneeling seems more reverent for receiving a sacrament. Thank you for your comment.

In the Eastern Churches, a penitent can be seen kneeling or standing, or even sitting. Often the priest will have the penitent kneel for absolution, although it is definitely just as common to give it standing. I actually prefer to kneel, but I’m flexible and do what the priest directs me to do.

I’ve given confessions in all kinds of places, even in the corner of an open room full of other people waiting their turn. The priest is forbidden from disclosing what you’ve confessed to anyone, but being within earshot of others is not all that uncommon, even in many confessionals.

But if I have something I need to confess, I’m concerned more with what Christ thinks than what those other sinners in line behind me think. Chances are they have their own issues in mind.

Yes, we are all sinners. No secret there. The confessional room at that church is a traditional confessional with a kneeler, screen, priest on the other side of the screen, a solid door and is probably pretty sound proof. You’d have to put your ear to the doorknob to try to hear anything. I do feel the room and anonymity was denied me b/c the priest wasn’t hearing confessions in the room during the weekly scheduled penance times. He probably would have gone to the confessional room with me, if I had asked, but by that time my anonymity is gone. I’m a convert to Catholicism and confession has never been easy for me so I need that screen and some semblance of anonymity and that’s what I feel was denied me last Saturday. It made it impossible for me (under the conditions I found) to confess. Anonymity may not be a right or promised during confession, but to me, I see it as a part of my individual privacy. I guess some people would not consider it as important as I do. So, it becomes a subjective experience at that point. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Thank you.

Thank you. This was the concrete information I was looking for. It validates what I thought. I don’t know if the priest had a reason for this other than what the lady told me, that he just doesn’t like hearing confessions in the confessional room. I just wish I had known so I could have saved myself a 20 mile round trip. Now I know. Thank you for the information. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question.

Thank you!

I was told that if a lay person accidentally overhears another person’s confession, the person overhearing that confession is bound by the same seal of the confessional that binds the priest hearing that confession. In other words, if you overhear what someone says while confessing their sins, you can never repeat what you have heard.

Sometimes the “Ask an Apologist” posts take a while for an answer. I’m sure the staff is swamped with them. Mine took around a month or so to be formally answered. Did you consider asking the priest if you could go somewhere more private? I know that in the case a confessional is unavailable I have seen Father go into the sacristy with the penitent while the servers are dressing the altar. I have been to a few churches where I will go specifically early and ask one of the ushers if Father will hear confession. I have had to wait a few minutes but never have been turned down. I know the feeling though, I remember walking into one church and finding the confessional full of folding chairs and discarded light fixtures!

I like this church. It was the church I was baptized in so many years ago as a convert. This priest seems very nice. I wouldn’t hesitate to attend his masses. I doubt it matters what I think. I just wanted to know what the CC required as concerns place and manner of hearing confessions. I thank you for your comments. I really do.

Wow. Didn’t know this. Thank you.

Ouch! Sounds like the confessional was almost discarded at that church.

There were so many people in the church, I just couldn’t even bring myself to ask him anything. he was in the middle of confessions and I was just kinda stunned. I didn’t know what to say. But now I know that what I expected about place and manner of confession should be the norm, according to the CC. Whether I get what I expect is a whole different issue. This isn’t a big city. There are only two Catholic churches in town. I very much appreciate your comments. Thank you.

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