Seal of Confession

I was wondering if this was licit in Catholic church law or theology. If a priest and penitent are outside the confessional and only the two of them are present, may the priest indirectly allude to something the penitent confessed without first obtaining permission from the penitent? And if so, under what conditions would that be licit?

the most he could do was simply ask the penitent" is there anything further you wish to discuss outside the confessional?"

CCC:1467:Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents lives. This secret, which admits of no exceptions is called the “sacramental seal,” because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains “sealed” by the sacrament.

Now what if a penitent has a face-to-face confession, so the priest knows exactly who they are. Could the priest, when they see them next (still assuming they are alone), perhaps ask them about progress made since their last confession or how things are going in regards to something they confessed (for arguments sake, say they confessed an on-going problem)?

In Christ,

Absolutely not! Only the penitent may bring it up. I once had a confessor who was so strict about it that when he recommended a book and offered to lend it to me, I had to ask for it by name outside of confession so he could give it to me.

Absolutely not. Not in any way or in any circumstance. Any priest who did so would be subject to the “very severe penalties” mentioned in CCC 1467 in the previous post.

And, btw, I suspect that most of what priests hear in confession is an “on-going problem” of some sort. The priest would wait until the penitent chooses to come to confession again, if he does so, to discuss it. But they probably just forget it as soon as the penitent leaves the confessional.

Definitely not! The priest would incur an automatic excommunication.

Have these responses answered your question?

no. when they next meet it as if the conversation in the confessional had never occured. He may not refer to anything said there unless the penitent first broaches the topic. He should then ask the penitent if he wants the ensuing conversation to be in the context of confession.

My regular confessor is also my spiritual director and many times we celebrate reconciliation following a direction session. Now that makes it tricky since some of the things I confess we discussed as part of direction. Yet I have noticed that he never brings up particular sins I confessed while we are in direction. He never says, “how are you doing in beating the sin of gossip.” (OK that’s a biggie for me that I am working on - and doing well with for the most part). If I bring it up we will talk about it. He will always ask me “how are things going?” which is an “in” so to speak for me to bring up things that I might have confessed that are still problem areas. Once he got close to crossing the line, but caught himself. It must be very hard for priests to remember what was confessed and what was just discussed in a pastoral counseling or spiritual direction situation. That is why we need to pray for our confessors.

There is no lawyer-client secrecy between the priest and the faithful. Outside of the frame of confession there is no secrecy. In the confessional that frame is always presumed, but outside of that no matter who is present it has top be explicitly indicated.

You misunderstood the question.

Yes. Thank you.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit