What IS Privacy of Confession?


#1

I understand that on the one hand, there can be no telling of the details of one’s confession on the part of the confessor… And especially, by way of gossip with parishoners… Yet how about between the priest and another priest [say in the interest of pastoral concern and consistency]?

And does privacy of confession mean no publically observable sanctions AGAINST the one confessing? For instance, if a person commits a serious mortal sin, say murder, and confesses it, and his penance involves being suspended from receiving Communion [for a period of time], then people will be able to SEE that he must have done something very wrong, for Communion is denied…

Does privacy of confession, in other words, mean ‘no publically observable consequences’ for sins confessed?

Arsenios


#2

This is what I can find:

Canon Law on Seal of Confession

Can. 983 §1 The sacramental seal is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.
§2 An interpreter, if there is one, is also obliged to observe this secret, as are all others who in any way whatever have come to a knowledge of sins from a confession.

Can. 984 §1 The confessor is wholly forbidden to use knowledge acquired in confession to the detriment of the penitent, even when all danger of disclosure is excluded.

§2 A person who is in authority may not in any way, for the purpose of external governance, use knowledge about sins which has at any time come to him from the hearing of confession.


#3

I have never ever heard of such a penance. Where did you get this from? :confused:


#4

And if someone doesn’t receive Communion? Firstly it doesn’t automatically mean they’re in a state of mortal sin, they simply may have broken the pre-Communion fast. Even converts or reverts who are preparing for First Communion or have some irregularity with their marriage that hasn’t yet been rectified may possibly not be going up for communion.

Secondly, even if they don’t receive for a time doesn’t mean it’s all related to the one sin. You may have been forgiven and yet have some fresh sin. Or simply not be able to get to confession for a number of weeks for different reasons.

Then again, the worst you could possibly deduce is that this person has committed A mortal sin, which covers things like masturbation or not performing a penitential act on Fridays (where this is required). And other similar sins that most people wouldn’t in the grand scheme of things consider terribly serious.

Finally - do you really think that there’s anyone in church with nothing better to do than notice who goes up for communion and who doesn’t? If there is, it’s a sad judgement on them.


#5

Thank-you for your response, Mother of Four…

I am beginning to understand, from the reading of another thread that is tangent to this one but a year ago, that being taken out of communion for a time is NOT a normal penance in the Roman Church… Does that mean that if one confesses a very serious sin, one can take Communion right afterward, provided one is sincere in the confession, but has not yet done any penance?

Now one ordinance states: “The confessor is wholly forbidden to use knowledge acquired in confession to the detriment of the penitent”… This would seem to beg the question of ‘detriment’… Unless it is narrowly interpreted to mean “against the penitent’s wishes” or something like that… So that if a rapist confesses total contrition and the inability to not rape again tonight, the confessor cannot use the knowledge to stop the next rape, and cannot require the penitent to turn himself in to, say, a psychiatric facility…

And this one requires interpretation as well:

§2 A person who is in authority may not in any way, for the purpose of external governance, use knowledge about sins which has at any time come to him from the hearing of confession.

What does this term “external governance” mean? If, for instance, a priest confesses a male parishoner who is molesting his 5 year old step-daughter, and that parishoner is up for an appointment as a pre-school teacher in the parish school, whose appointment the priest must OK, then is the priest required to OK his appointment barring other incriminating evidence against him? And if yes, then can the Priest even initiate a more intensive search of records to FIND more incriminating evidence?

Arsenios


#6

#7

A penance of some type will always be prescribed, and it’s often been considered that not to perform this penance is a sin in itself, but not to do so doesn’t invalidate the absolution of the sin confessed, and it’s not required to be done prior to receiving Communion. Absolution is effective from the moment the words of absolution are pronounced.

What can happen in such cases is that a priest can and will deny absolution itself. They can’t require someone to turn themselves in to police prior to absolution, but they can state that they’re not convinced of the seriousness of the person’s sorrow for their sins, or not convinced that they sincerely intend to atone for them or avoid committing them again.

And usually the penitent can figure out, for example if they’ve mentioned that they haven’t voluntarily gone to the police, that they need to do this to satisfy the priest. Alternatively, some arrangement may be worked out by which the penitent can make reparation to the victim anonymously - through the priest, for example - so that they atone for their sin without criminal punishment.

As for reporting crimes to the authorities - ordinarily this wouldn’t be possible for a priest. Mind you there are plenty of cases for lawyers, therapists, counsellors or doctors where the obligation for confidentiality is the same as for priests.

What would be done in such cases is either work on the person doing the crime, to try to convince them to report themselves, or perhaps try and find other means to protect the victims or avert the crime that don’t involve a breach of teh seal of confession.


#8

I think it does. An absolution is an absolution, regardless of the seriousness of the sin confessed.However, the person must have a will to do the required penance asap.

Now one ordinance states: “The confessor is wholly forbidden to use knowledge acquired in confession to the detriment of the penitent”… This would seem to beg the question of ‘detriment’… Unless it is narrowly interpreted to mean “against the penitent’s wishes” or something like that… So that if a rapist confesses total contrition and the inability to not rape again tonight, the confessor cannot use the knowledge to stop the next rape, and cannot require the penitent to turn himself in to, say, a psychiatric facility…

This touches on the issue of contrition and conversion hich is the goal of confession. The rapist has confessed, showed contrition, been absolved, given penance. However, his intention never to commit sin again AND to avoid the near occasion to sin is questionable if he does not know how to go about avoiding this sin. The priest can urge (strongly recommend) the penitent to get into treatment, since this would be the first step towards avoiding sin - however, it is up to the penitent’s free will and wholeness of intention whether he takes the priest’s advice or not.

However, the penitent must give satisfaction for sins committed against others. This means restoring stolen goods, for example. And in some cases it means giving oneself over to secular authorities (esp. if somebody else is suspected of the crime). Confession does not substitute the rightful punishment of the crime.

§2 A person who is in authority may not in any way, for the purpose of external governance, use knowledge about sins which has at any time come to him from the hearing of confession.

What does this term “external governance” mean? If, for instance, a priest confesses a male parishoner who is molesting his 5 year old step-daughter, and that parishoner is up for an appointment as a pre-school teacher in the parish school, whose appointment the priest must OK, then is the priest required to OK his appointment barring other incriminating evidence against him? And if yes, then can the Priest even initiate a more intensive search of records to FIND more incriminating evidence?

“External governance” means any kind of authority outside the confessional. So the priest, after giving the absolution (which he is entitled to withhold if he sees no sign of true contrition and true intention for avoiding sin in the penitent) must not let anybody know about the fact that there is something “fishy” about this person. In the case you mention, this would mean the priest has to OK the appointment. Knowledge from the confessional is practically nonexistent until the next confession (if this person goes to the same priest regularly), and nothing learnt in the confessional counts as information elsewhere. If initiating a search of records would be likely to awaken suspicion against the man, the priest should not initiate such a search.

Priests can answer with “I don’t know” in court to any question pertaining to the accused person’s sins which the accused had formerly confessed. Even under an oath.


#9

Thank-you again, Mother of Four…

This is my understanding.
[/quote]

Wow! So that a person can come straight out of a rape, with the smell of it still on him, confess, and receive Communion? That is stunning!

§2 A person who is in authority may not in any way, for the purpose of external governance, use knowledge about sins which has at any time come to him from the hearing of confession.

[quote=Arsenios]What does this term “external governance” mean? If, for instance, a priest confesses a male parishoner who is molesting his 5 year old step-daughter, and that parishoner is up for an appointment as a pre-school teacher in the parish school, whose appointment the priest must OK, then is the priest required to OK his appointment barring other incriminating evidence against him? And if yes, then can the Priest even initiate a more intensive search of records to FIND more incriminating evidence?

[quote=mommyof4]Again, I’m not sure what “external governance” means.
[/quote]

[/quote]

Then how about the example?

Arsenios


#10

The good thief still had the smell of his sin on him, did he not? How about the paralysed man? The woman caught in adultery? The smell of their sin was removed when Jesus pronounced the words of forgiveness. Same for us.


#11

It is - God’s mercy and the sacrament’s force are greater than our sense of guilt. An absolution is in force the moment it is given, not the moment you get rid of your guilty feeling.


#12

For the example, see other post.

Honestly, I think it is good to receive Communion right after absolution - it is truly humbling.


#13

[quote="Arsenios]If, for instance, a priest confesses a male parishoner who is molesting his 5 year old step-daughter, and that parishoner is up for an appointment as a pre-school teacher in the parish school, whose appointment the priest must OK, then is the priest required to OK his appointment barring other incriminating evidence against him? And if yes, then can the Priest even initiate a more intensive search of records to FIND more incriminating evidence?
[/quote]

The priest’s hands are really tied in the use of the confessional to run the parish, yes? I mean, if two applicants come before his desk for the job of pre-school teacher, he is forced by canon law to hire the one who is confessing the rape of a pre-schooler at home, if that one is otherwise better qualified to teach…

Priests can answer with “I don’t know” in court to any question pertaining to the accused person’s sins which the accused had formerly confessed. Even under an oath.

So it has gone from open confession in Church in Apostolic times and their becoming criers of penance in the Narthex asking the Communicants, of whom the penitent no longer IS any longer, for a long time, to forgive him for his sins, and to please pray for him, to the now post-modern protected secrecy of the confessional even to the molestation of children in Church schools??

Lord have mercy!

Is this really TRUE???

Can the Priest really not guide the parish flock through the confessional??

Arsenios


#14

Look, you cannot blame the confessional and honest, discrete priests for the sins penitents confess afterwards! And please do not try to provoke any answers just to come to the wrong conclusion.
The confessional is for the education of the penitent ONLY. Not the “flock” in general. It is not some sort of FBI-box, it is a SACRAMENT. The penitent-movements in the Middle Ages were not the same thing, and the sacrament of reconciliation, as it is today, has evolved in its FORM over the centuries - but its essence is the same as ever. Penitents acknowledge that as members of the mystical body of Christ, they have offended against the Church as a whole but there is no need to perform public penance, unless the sin is some grave scandal (in which case, a public penance would be a SATISFACTION for the scandal and as such, is mandatory.)

For further information, read this article by Fr. Saunders:

catholicherald.com/saunders/99ws/ws991118.htm

But if you really believe that sins and crimes committed by members of the Church are the fault of priests and the sacramental policy of the Church, and you want to use the answers here to prove your mistaken point, I cannot help you.


#15

On historical matters, see the Catholic Encyclopedia:

newadvent.org/cathen/13649b.htm


#16

Oh I think priests have all sorts of resources open to them that we don’t know about - and certainly he can guide his flock, just not force them. If a sinner can’t be forced to attend confession in the first place what good would be done forcing them to go to jail for their crime? A lot of people refused absolution on such grounds would certainly not darken the door of a confessional - or a church - again, and would keep sinning as well!

As for employing someone he knows to be a child molester - of course employment is never, in any situation, simply about qualifications on paper, and no employer is forced to hire anyone based on such. I have some experience in employment law, so I know this to be true.

And public confession - my understanding of the Orthodox is that you don’t practice confession in the way you’ve described either. If you can see the difficulties inherent in it, then so can we!


#17

He does not “know” it in the ordinary sense of the term. What he knows as confessor he does not know as employer. (At least that is my understanding from what I was taught)


#18

No, I don’t think so…

How about the paralysed man?

Nor him either…

The woman caught in adultery?

Her, yes, and what she received was no condemnation, and the instruction to go and sin no more - She did NOT receive Communion… And I THINK, but could be wrong, that she received exorcism, for was she not, according to Church tradition, the person known as Mary Magdeline? [Who became a saint…]

The smell of their sin was removed when Jesus pronounced the words of forgiveness. Same for us.

OK - Then what is the purpose of penance?

I mean, when Christ incarnate forgives, it is one thing, and when His ministers of the Church on earth forgive in his name, it is another, because in the first case, there is accompanying the forgiveness the visible healing of the soul wounded by sin, but in the second case, that healing is very visibly absent… Yes?

Arsenios


#19

Yep, it’s called the forgiveness of sins. It truly is stunning.:slight_smile:


#20

NO.

The power to bind or to losen has been given to the clergy. They absolve penitents by the power given to them by the Holy Spirit.

And why do you make a distinction between the thief, the paralysed man, and the adulterous woman? The only difference is, the thief was not simply “forgiven” but also promised to go to heaven which was not promised to the other two.

Exorcism is not the same as confession and cannot be compared to it either.

WHy do I have the feeling that you have a point to prove and your questions are formulated in a way to serve your purpose?

It would be friendlier to let us know what the game is.


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