Question regarding seal of confession


In a case I am familiar with, a child went to confession, followed by the father and then the mother. The mother confessed some sins related to situations her husband and daughter were involved in. The mother reports that the priest responded to her confessions about these situations, “we discussed it.” No specific sins were revealed, but it was revealed that situations had been discussed.

Has he violated the seal of confession? I know how to look up the appropriate canon 983. It does say the priest may not betray the penitent “in any way,” but I wish to verify my understanding that the situation described meets the sense of the canon. Citations would be preferable.



Well, my first question would be whether the situation had been discussed with the priest outside the confessional. “We discussed it” does not mean “we discussed it in the confessional.”

The priest may not break the seal in any way. If the parties are concerned, they should talk to their priest.


I don’t think there’s any better citations than the code of canon law.

My biggest gripe about confession is that the confession rooms in a lot of places don’t allow a lot of privacy. A priest even told me to whisper, because the voice echos off the walls of the room itself. I think that the lack of ordinary confidentiality keeps people away from confession, not to mention the rare, isolated case like you mention.

I don’t like face to face confession. One time I did a face-to-face, I started to look down while the priest was giving me absolution. He paused, making me stare at him, eyeball-to-eyeball, for the whole thing. I was mortified already by my usual laundry list of sordid sins, but he was playing games with me. A penitent does not have to have face-to-face confessions.

Didn’t these priests ever hear of white noise machines, to cover up the sounds of somebody confessing?

I’ve never really seen a sound-proofed confessional. And, with electronic devices today, there may not be such a thing as confidential confessions.


Beyond the wll known commentary on the code, there are interpretations and further commentary by bishops, canon lawyers, seminary instructors, etc.

To make the question simpler, if a priest reveals a subject that was discussed in confession and who discussed it, but does not delineate specific sins, is it a violation?

For example, if I confessed having become angry at my wife at the state fair and he says of her most recent confession, “she and I discussed the state fair,” would this be a violation?


If you are asking purely as an intellectual exercise, I’ll say technically it appears to be a violation, although I should think my opinion hardly stacks up to the interpretations and commentary of bishops, canon lawyers, and seminary instructors.

However if you are asking as a prelude to taking some action about this, I would simply ask to what end?


This would be a violation of the seal of confession. If a priest did this, he would have been automatically excommunicated. If you know this happened you should report this to the bishop, to deal with it.
Personally, I doubt this happened. You are speaking hypothetically, rather than about an actual case?


Even assuming this is a real case, and that the facts indicate a clear violation of the seal of confession, wouldn’t reporting it to the Bishop be a waste of time? The priest would claim the seal applies to all three confessions, and would not reveal anything about them including the confession with the alleged violation.

The Bishop isn’t going to ask the priest to break the seal. Nothing would be done.


The bishop could ask the priest if he broke the seal of confession, and wait to see if he says no.


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