Why do priests need faculties to be granted to hear Confession?


As a priest is a priest as a result of ordination by a valid bishop with apostolic succession and therefore can consecrate the Eucharist without the need to have permission granted to do so, why then must a priest need faculties granted by a diocesan bishop or head of order in order to administer a valid Confession?

Did Christ not give his priests the authority to do so in John 20:22-23? And if this authority was only given to the apostles in their role as bishops (to devolve to priests) then why does the same not apply to the Eucharist? Can anyone explain the theological explanation for this?


As Fr. Z says, because absolution is both sacramental and juridical, and the two aspects can’t be separated.

See: wdtprs.com/blog/2014/02/ask-father-valid-absolution-from-orthodox-priest-valid-but-not-from-sspx/



IIRC, it does apply. I don’t think a priest can say mass in another diocese without permission. I could be wrong, tho.



In essence, it’s based on the notion that the diocesan bishop is the competent authority in his diocese, and therefore, the governance of the administration of the sacraments belongs to him. Moreover, it’s important to note that no priest exists in a vacuum – a priest always belongs to a hierarchy, and takes a share in the ministry of his superior (e.g., diocesan bishop, religious superior). So, the bishop is the one who has the governance of the sacrament of reconciliation; therefore, while his priests have the capacity to absolve sins by virtue of their ordination, they require his grant in order to exercise that capacity.

(Think about it in terms of confirmation, if that helps: the bishop is the one who confirms. Yet, the bishop gives permission for his priests to confirm on Easter vigil in their parishes. (That particular grant is made for one night only, of course.) It’s not that the priests do not have the ability to confirm; just that they only have the authority to do so when and where they are given it by their ordinary.)

Perhaps another example might help: when you got your driver’s permit, you began to learn how to drive. At some point, your parents decided that you had the requisite skills and knowledge to drive safely – that is, they ‘ordained’ (so to speak ;)) that you could drive. Yet, that declaration didn’t mean that you had the right to do so. Rather, you had to go before the competent authority in your location (i.e., your state DOT) and demonstrate that it would be appropriate to license you as a driver. Having done that, you had both the ability and the blessing of the competent authority to undertake those actions. (To further the analogy: having done so, and being properly licensed in your home state, you now had the ability to drive in any state (unless an authority in another state took that right away from you there).)

Does that help?


An ordained priest can say Mass anywhere. Even if a bishop didn’t give him permission to do so the Mass would still be valid. Permission from a bishop is not needed in order for a Mass to be valid.


Confession has 2 primary biblical sources. John 20 is one. The other is Matthew 16 when Christ gives Peter (alone) the Keys; i.e. the power to both bind and loose. Confession is both forgiveness (John 20) and absolution (Matt 16). Absolution is a juridic act of the Church which reconciles the sinner to the Church. This power to bind and loose was given only to Peter, not to the others. Peter (and his successors) extend that to others, namely the priests (bishops and presbyters).

In order to absolve, to juridically reconcile the sinner to the Church, the priest (bishop or presbyter) must have the delegation/authority from the Church to do this—that’s what we call faculties. Unless he is a representative of the Church, he cannot act on behalf of the Church to reconcile the sinner.

That’s why, in order to validly absolve a sinner, the priest must have faculties. Otherwise, absolution simply does not happen.


It certainly does help, many thanks for that. And thanks as well to you too Iron Donkey, the articles from those two links you posted are very helpful.


I’ve always wondered about the priests who accompany groups to Medugorje. How can they hear confessions there, unless perhaps the diocesan bishop gives them faculties even though he does not approve of the alleged apparitions?


Insofar as I understand, a priest who has faculties in his own diocese automatically has them elsewhere unless the local bishop explicitly denies them.


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