Unintentionally breaking the seal of confession


#1

I recently was having a very serious phone conversation with my confessor and during the conversation he brought up something I had previously confessed. I had not given him permission to talk about this particular sin/confession prior to him bringing it up and I immediately stopped him and made him aware that he just broken the seal of Confession and told him I didn't want to talk about it. I am 110% sure Father did not intentionally break the seal; I think he thought that I had mentioned this particular sin outside of confession and therefore it was okay to talk about during our conversation and he immediately stopped talking about it when I made him aware that was not the case. Is my confessor in trouble in this instance? I know that breaking the seal of confession leads to automatic excommunication and I would HATE to think that this has happened to my confessor.:( Again, I'm 110% sure he didn't mean to do this. And apart from posting on here, I am not going to mention it again to anyone.


#2

[quote="hopeful3542, post:1, topic:336983"]
I recently was having a very serious phone conversation with my confessor and during the conversation he brought up something I had previously confessed. I had not given him permission to talk about this particular sin/confession prior to him bringing it up and I immediately stopped him and made him aware that he just broken the seal of Confession and told him I didn't want to talk about it. I am 110% sure Father did not intentionally break the seal; I think he thought that I had mentioned this particular sin outside of confession and therefore it was okay to talk about during our conversation and he immediately stopped talking about it when I made him aware that was not the case. Is my confessor in trouble in this instance? I know that breaking the seal of confession leads to automatic excommunication and I would HATE to think that this has happened to my confessor.:( Again, I'm 110% sure he didn't mean to do this. And apart from posting on here, I am not going to mention it again to anyone.

[/quote]

Was there someone else on the call? If he was only discussing it with you, I don't see how this breaks the seal. The requirement (from Canon 983) is that

it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.

I don't see how your confessor violated that requirement if he was speaking only to you.


#3

I think that in order for the priest to be excommunicated, it is not a 'de-facto' excommunication, but rather it has to go through the Vatican and it would likely not be done in this case for 2 reasons. First (and most important), he was talking to YOU about it. He didn't talk to another person about you or the sin. He in no way made your confession public or known to anyone else. Second, it wasn't intentional and it was in the interest of counseling you. I found this that might help: catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0059.html

"However, a priest may ask the penitent for a release from the sacramental seal to discuss the confession with the person himself or others. For instance, if the penitent wants to discuss the subject matter of a previous confession — a particular sin, fault, temptation, circumstance — in a counseling session or in a conversation with the same priest, that priest will need the permission of the penitent to do so. For instance, especially with the advent of "face-to-face confession," I have had individuals come up to me and say, "Father, remember that problem I spoke to you about in confession?" I have to say, "Please refresh my memory," or "Do you give me permission to discuss this with you now?"

My guess is that since he stopped talking about it as soon as you asked that it certainly wasn't intentional and he didn't realize it. He may need to see his confessor however.


#4

[quote="hopeful3542, post:1, topic:336983"]
And apart from posting on here, I am not going to mention it again to anyone.

[/quote]

This makes me smile! :)

Do you care if we read this again and again or if more and more people read it. (I'm teasing you.) :)


#5

:thumbsup:


#6

[quote="TMC, post:2, topic:336983"]
Was there someone else on the call? If he was only discussing it with you, I don't see how this breaks the seal. The requirement (from Canon 983) is that

I don't see how your confessor violated that requirement if he was speaking only to you.

[/quote]

It is a violation...

...Outside the confessional even the priest may not lawfully speak to the penitent about a confessional matter without receiving first the free, express and certain consent of the penitent. pg. 95

The Sacraments and Their Celebration
(Father) Nicholas Halligan O.P.(Author)

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
SECOND EDITION
**
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.72 **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.

OP did not state the nature of their conversation...but if it was about spiritual things...spiritual direction...spiritual questions...it is a disservice to a priest...who as a human being was probably only trying to clarify or make a pertinent point that applied to the conversation with the OP...and inadvertently broke the seal.

My priest-chaplains never took any chances...when in an office visit or outside Confessional conversation started with spiritual matters of a personal nature...they put on their Purple Stole (which they always carried)...said a prayer to the Holy Spirit and then let the conversation proceed...saying..."just in case we get into confessing sins...I can affirm your sorrow for the sin(s), guide you for a complete confession, give you penance, then absolve you and send you off in God's Peace."...and then smiled saying..."I will die for you, but I won't go to hell for you"! Great guys...all of them...what great men and priests they were for us...never ever let us down...both in peace time and especially in combat!

Pax Christi


#7

It would only be a violation if the priest knew it was something that had been discussed during Confession and did not ask you for permission to discuss it with you outside of Confession. It can hardly be a violation if the priest forgot or genuinely thought it was previously discussed outside Confession. You cannot commit a mortal sin/be excommunicated by accident.


#8

[quote="hopeful3542, post:1, topic:336983"]
I recently was having a very serious phone conversation with my confessor and during the conversation he brought up something I had previously confessed. I had not given him permission to talk about this particular sin/confession prior to him bringing it up and I immediately stopped him and made him aware that he just broken the seal of Confession and told him I didn't want to talk about it. I am 110% sure Father did not intentionally break the seal; I think he thought that I had mentioned this particular sin outside of confession and therefore it was okay to talk about during our conversation and he immediately stopped talking about it when I made him aware that was not the case. Is my confessor in trouble in this instance? I know that breaking the seal of confession leads to automatic excommunication and I would HATE to think that this has happened to my confessor.:( Again, I'm 110% sure he didn't mean to do this. And apart from posting on here, I am not going to mention it again to anyone.

[/quote]

  1. I'm not sure if he broke the seal. Let the canon lawyers discuss the niceties of that.
  2. Not everything we do is automatically sinful by its very actions. Most often intent is required. This was a slip, an error, accidental. There seems to be no intent.

Please be at peace over this and let it go.


#9

[quote="Bergon, post:8, topic:336983"]
1. I'm not sure if he broke the seal. Let the canon lawyers discuss the niceties of that.
...
Please be at peace over this and let it go.

[/quote]

Hello,

I don't see a violation of the seal. There has to be a third party involved for the seal to be violated. As the canon says (c. 983.1), the violation of the seal is a "betrayal" of the penitent. The confessor cannot betray the penitent to the penitent. It, at most, was an unintentional use of information gained from confession (cf. c. 984).

I agree with your concluding remark.

Dan


#10

I think everyone else has answered your question, but on a more personal note:

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was when my priest asked me to discuss something from confession. And I told him "No". It took me 20 years to learn what a mistake that was. Just some advice from someone who's been there.


#11

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