Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal

Started by TheReturnofLive, September 05, 2020, 05:03:11 PM

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Quote from: Daniel on September 07, 2020, 06:34:29 AM
If by "justice" you mean taking reasonable steps to correct the damage when possible and practical, then I agree. However, turning yourself in to the police usually doesn't accomplish this. All that does is destroy your livelihood, which is completely unnecessary here. (Even worse if, unlike Mr. Crane, you are the head of a large Catholic family.) Probably also cuts you off from the sacraments for quite some time (unless the prison chaplain happens to be a traditionalist priest).

Ok, I retract this. I may have been wrong.

Anyway, a new question came to me: Is the seal altogether unbreakable? Because what about all those anecdotes we hear about stuff that was said in confession? e.g. The story about the gossip and the feathers. Are we to think of these as fictions? Or are there certain cases in which the priest is allowed to speak about what people have confessed in confession?


The penalty for a priest breaking the seal of Confession is latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication.  This is one of only eight offences with this penalty.  This gives a pretty good idea of how seriously it is taken.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.


Quote from: TheReturnofLive on September 07, 2020, 05:40:10 PM
Guys, doesn't the seal applies regardless if the Priest grants absolution?

If I went to a Priest and confessed the murder of my inlaws, and he told me I had to turn myself in to receive absolution, and I said "no, I hated my inlaws," and the priest shoos me away, the priest can't then report me to the cops, right?

A priest may not make absolution contingent upon secular law (turning oneself into the authorities) because he is not there to adjudicate crimes against people and the State, but crimes against God.  The confessional is a divine tribunal, not an earthly one. 

The priest is instructed to be the judge of three things:

1.The gravity of the matter confessed, given the sin described and its circumstances.

2. The sorrow of the penitent, to at least a minimum degree. (We can always advance in sorrow for our sins, but there should be some indication of sorrow by the penitent.)

3. Amendment of life. This is mainly shown by the absence of it:  For example, someone in habitual mortal sin telling the priest that he or she "can't stop" committing x, y, or z.  (Adultery, for example -- such as having no intention to physically separate from the situation or claiming that such a separation is "impossible.")  With such recalcitrance, the sincere priest has no choice but to deny absolution until the amendment has been announced.

The confessor is allowed to suggest or recommend that a person who has committed a crime turn himself in to face earthly justice, but he may not imply that the penitent will not be forgiven by God or granted absolution until he does so.  Therefore, any such suggestion would have to be done delicately and skillfully.