Who does the Pope confess to? (Catholic Hierachy)

Must a person confess to another person that has a higher rank in church?

Major Orders
(Old) Minor Orders
Laity
Office Positions (Not exatly part of the Holy Orders, like Cardinals)

Are there ordinary and extraordinary ministers of Recociliation? Is there an obligation for confession if the person cannot physically go to confession?

Only a Priest or a Bishop can hear confessions…and give absolution.

The Pope could go to any Priest for confession…his choice…just like with us.

But there may be some custom etc where he has a regular confessor …

His confessor. :smiley:

Ok… Seriously now:

No, there is no requirement for the confessor to be of any rank, besides being an ordained priest in communion with the church. The pope may go to any priest or bishop that he would like for confession.

No, any priest who has the correct faculties can hear anyone’s confession. Having the faculty basically means that they haven’t been banned from hearing confessions by their own bishop/a local bishop/religious superior.

Are there ordinary and extraordinary ministers of Recociliation?

No. There is the priest only, there are no extraordinary ministers of Reconciliation. In danger of death, a priest who does not have the correct faculties can validly absolve sins, but this is the only sense in which there is an ‘extraordinary’ minister; the laity may never grant absolution.

Is there an obligation for confession if the person cannot physically go to confession?

There is only an obligation for confession in so far as one has committed a mortal sin. The physical capacities of an individual have no bearing on whether or not they must confess. If you mean a case where someone could not get to a church, then a priest could visit them at home (or wherever they were) to hear their confession. If you mean someone who e.g. could not speak, then special allowances could be made - an interpreter may be used if necessary, including a sign language interpreter, or they could use their usual method of communication e.g. writing things down, typing into a computer. They would still need to be physically present with the priest.

In terms of what Bookcat said, it is the custom for the Pope to choose a regular confessor, which is a useful thing for all penitents as it enables the priest to get to know us, our habitual sins and so on and so offer the best advice as to how to avoid sin in the future.

According to sources in the Vatican, the Pope’s confessor is a Franciscan priest. There are Franciscan priests serving as confessors in the major Basilicas in Rome. So the Pope just chooses a regular confessor from amongst one of them and confesses to him regularly.

I’ve spoken to one of them, and he told me that that is all what they are allowed to do as priests, hear confessions. No part of their schedule calls for them to say any Mass in public (only in private) or to offer any other sacraments. They receive their authorization to hear confessions in the basilicas directly from the Pope himself. When you confess to one of them, they are hearing your confession and offering you the absolution on the Pope’s behalf.

I hope this answers your question.

(and no, rank doesn’t matter at all when hearing confessions. As long as you have holy orders, then you are allowed to hear confession from anybody (provided you are geographically authorized, of course).

This story seems somehow appropriate…

That was very inspiring, thank you for posting it! :thumbsup:

Just to make sure no one else gets confused: this is correct only for Priests and Bishops. Deacons are in Holy Orders but cannot hear confessions.

I think that generally a superior would not hear the confession of one subject to him. That is to avoid any appearance of his using what was said in confession in his duties as supervisor.

No, you don’t need to confess to one of a higher rank.

There’s no such thing as extraordinary ministers of reconcilliation. The laity cannot forgive sins. EMHCs only distribute communion, they don’t consecrate them. The power of Christ works only through one who has received Holy Orders.

However, in danger of death or other cases of necessity, you can confess to anyone who has received valid Holy Orders. Laicized priests, schismatic priests, Orthodox priests, they are all given implied faculties by the Catholic Church by the nature of the circumstance. So if you are on a plane and all engines caught on fire and is sitting next to an Orthodox priest, confess away!

Also, since the Pope is the Pope, he can instantly give any priest faculties to hear his confession. I don’t know if this is true, but I heard of a story of Pope John Paul II called in a laicized priest. Forgot the exact story but part of it is he asked the priest to hear his confession and the priest said he can’t. The Pope said he’s the Pope and he has now the faculties to hear his confession. I guess if you’re stuck on an island with the Pope, he can ordain you and have you hear his confession, assuming you are not a woman.

Then again, the Pope also would want to confess to someone he trusts. Should be for the most part someone of his inner group. You don’t want to have someone tempted to break the seal and gossip about the Pope.

Actually there is an obligation to go to confession once a year, preferably during Lent, even if one is without mortal sin.

Just a comment on this whole rank thing…

When a priest or bishop hears a confession and grants absolution, they are doing so in persona christi. There is no rank - it is Christ himself who is granting the absolution. The authority to do this was explicitly given by Jesus to the Church (see John 20:21-23, Matthew 18:18 and more).

1457 According to the Church’s command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year."56 Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.57 Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.58

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Yes, and if you would read it you would see that the obligation is to confess “serious sins” once a year. Not just mortal sins, which it goes on to speak about.

Ok,ok… I know this isn’t the point of the example, but wouldn’t that be a better time for general absolution? :D:D:D

Good point :smiley:
Not sure though what the Orthodox practices are for that. But thats assuming everyone else on the plane are validly baptized Christians

By the way, on this matter just to continue from the OPs question, if I’m not mistaken you can still go for confession with an Orthodox priest for “lesser” cases of necessity if there is no Catholic priest within reasonable distance. For example you are in a remote, Orthodox-only town and will travel back to the city. But the highway is a dangerous one and you want to be sure you’re spiritually prepared for any eventuality.

I could be wrong and if someone knows the right answer come correct me. Its just that we view the Orthodox as a true Church with 7 valid sacraments, so in many special cases we can approach the Orthodox for most of the sacraments (definitely not for Ordination). The only other question is will the priest administer the sacrament to a Catholic. That is for another discussion.

I’m not 100% sure, but I believe you’re right.

Joe’s already posted the line from the Catechism, I was thinking of Canon 989:

After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.

I wasn’t aware that there is any obligation to confess when there is no mortal sin (although, of course, I believe it to be a good thing to do without obligation). Could you (anyone) please point me in the direction of where this teaching comes from?

Constantine & the Mc - if the plane’s engines were on fire but the priest had enough time to hear the individual confessions of those who wanted to make one, he would have to do that (a priest is obliged to hear the confession of someone in danger of death), if there weren’t enough time, he could grant a general absolution.

Thanks for adding the Canon Law.

Re confessing venial sins: I tell my classes that it is like going to the dentist. One only has to go when one has a rotten tooth that must be dug out. However, if one goes for regular checkups, one cures the little problems and doesn’t get a rotten tooth. Same with regular confession of little sins before the grow into big ones.

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.