Seal of confession?

Is it true that the seal also forbids the penitent from revealing what the priest says? Or does it apply only to the priest? Please, don’t give oppinions but whatever the Church teaching (or canon law?) on this is.

Best author on the Sacraments that I have read…

The Sacraments and Their Celebration
by **Nicholas Halligan **

pg. 94

The** penitent is not bound by the seal but rather by the obligation of a natural and committed secret concerning the things spoken of or done by the confessor in confession, if their revelation would harm the confessor or bring injury or contempt to the sacrament. **

It is sometimes necessary for a penitent to speak about a confessor, e.g. when he wishes to have his penance commuted by another confessor, or when he is justified in complaining about a confessor. Confessors on their part should employ great discretion in the confessional, since they cannot defend themselves from the tongue of their penitents.

Nicholas Halligan, O.P., received his doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, Rome. He subsequently taught pastoral theology of the sacraments for over twenty years at seminaries in Oakland, California; Dubuque, Iowa; and Washington, D.C., where he was for a time Assistant to the Dean of the School of Theology, Catholic University of America. Author of ‘The Administration of the Sacraments’ (Alba House, 1963) and the three-volume work on ‘The Ministry of the Celebration of the Sacraments’ (Alba House, 1973), Father Halligan also served as Judicial Vicar of the Military Archdiocese in Washington, D.C. until his retirement in the early 1990s. He died on June 29, 1997.



2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

  • of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
  • of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279
  • of** calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth**, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the** virtues of justice and charity**.

2507 Respect for the reputation and honor of persons forbids all detraction and calumny in word or attitude.

Pax Christi

No. That is not true.

The priest, the interpreter if present, and anyone who overhears the confession.

Can.* 983 §1. The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.

§2. The interpreter, if there is one, and all others who in any way have knowledge of sins from confession are also obliged to observe secrecy.

Can.* 984 §1. A confessor is prohibited completely from using knowledge acquired from confession to the detriment of the penitent even when any danger of revelation is excluded.

§2. A person who has been placed in authority cannot use in any manner for external governance the knowledge about sins which he has received in confession at any time.

Very good post, especially since it is good to keep in mind that your confessor is in no position to defend himself, if your report is wrong or incomplete. It is at least safer not to mention who your confessor was that said such and so particular thing in the confessional, then, so that you will not unintentionally cause any harm to his reputation or set up any false expectations in other penitents. What can be profitably shared about the experience of confession can be shared without putting the priest in an indefensible spot.

A decent comparison is like doctor/patient confidentiality. The doctor is not allowed to disclose the information to anyone other than who the patient wants to be notified. The patient can tell whomever he/she wants.

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