Why can't a priest break the seal of confession in defense of another?

I know that under no circumstances can a priest break the secrecy of confession. I also know that according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church it is permissible to kill in self defense and especially in defense of others.

Take the purely hypothetical situation where someone tells the priest that he is going to poison the city’s water supply and kill the entire city. Should the priest break the secrecy of confession at that time and alter the authorities or not? If we have a grave responsibility
to protecting the lives of others including killing someone if necessary would this not fall under that category? To me it seems that it is the lesser sin to alert authorities in
defense of others than to kill someone in defense of others.

Thank you.


You are only thinking in human terms. It would be a far greater evil if people refained from confessing to a priest because they were afraid that he was allowed to break the seal of Confession for reasons he could decide.

A priest must himself be willing to die, rather than break the seal of Confession–and that’s how it ought to remain!

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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