Seal of Confession- non confessions

When exactly does the seal of confession apply- only after the sign of the cross and before the end of absolution? Or when priest and confessee are both in the confessional at all?

If you - say, hear them socializing - I assume you are not bound by seal by those words or are you?

Neither scenario you give is a good thing…one is gossip, the other is far more serious.


Why would you be repeating stuff you hear a priest and a person say when they are “socializing”? Isn’t it between the two of them? Unless you are going to come up with some extreme scenario like you heard one of them admitting to a felony over coffee and donuts?


Very true. Sometimes I do hear socializing but the confessional door is open and they are leaving and it’s clear confession has ended even though they are still there in the confessional. Not that I would repeat what they say to anyone anyway.
Just curious if there is an exact window where the Seal applies- between entry and exit of the confessional or something smaller…

In a common scenario, it applies while the penitent is in the confessional, regardless if absolution occurs.

Yes all of it is bound by the seal. And if you overhear anything you are bound by the seal.

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If your confessional is built were people can overhear, I’d suggest telling Father so that can be rectified.

I would suggest maybe standing further back so you don’t hear stuff coming from the confessional even when the person is leaving.

I try to tune out any voice I hear coming from the confessionals. I do not want to hear anything! It is absolutely not my business.

Don’t listen, even if it isn’t part of the actual Sacrament. If you aren’t listening, you should not be able to tell what they are saying.

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When we changed from carpet to tile in our Church and there was a gap at the bottom of the Confessional door that allowed us outside to hear I told our Priest at the time. He had them add something to the bottom of the door that took care of that.


Most parishes I have been to today, play Gregorian chant or have a fan or something going outside the confessional door. Many years ago I remember being at different parishes where people tended to congregate to closely in a line outside the door waiting for confession (jockeying to hold their position, I suppose). Some of the confessionals only had a curtain.

We had one visiting elderly priest who couldn’t hear very well, and would encourage people to speak louder, which is the last thing I would want to do in a confession with others outside the door.

If you can hear what is being said the polite thing to do would be to move back further.

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