The Seal of Confession Remains Absolute

by blackspanielgallery

The seal of Confession has been under attack from governments. It must not be challenged by irresponsibility in laws.

Recently Pope Francis declared that the Seal of Confession must remain absolute. This action followed several assaults on the Seal of Confession, some by nations, others by states of the United States.

What is the Seal of Confession? It is a strict prohibition against a priest revealing anything heard in confession. The reason for this is the priest is sitting in for God, and what a person and God share is not for others. So, no matter how serious a sin confessed, the penitent must have complete assurance that it will remain secret in order to ask for God’s forgiveness with comfort.

The Assaults

Several states have passed laws requiring a priest to reveal certain contents of confessions.  If a priest does so it is a grave sin, so compliance is impossible.  It also happens that Ireland and Australia have national laws of the same nature.  This attacks a fundamental Sacrament of the Catholic Church.  Hence it was compelling that Pope Francis addressed the situation.


In the case of the United States there are strict laws that prohibit a lawyer from revealing anything a client says.  Even if a client admits committing a crime to a lawyer, the lawyer would be in serious trouble for revealing it.  This is considered privileged information.


In addition to lawyers some professionals also have such prohibitions against releasing information, such as psychologists.


It is illogical to place such a burden on a priest when secular professions enjoy the privilege of secrecy.

The Seal of Confession Extends to Others

If a person is standing too close to a confessional, and the penitent is too loud, the person might overhear the conversation.  It is required that anyone inadvertently overhearing a confession is bound to the same seal of silence as the priest. 


This could soon be more troubling if a government uses electronic listening devices in a confessional.

A Refreshing Reassurance

Pope Francis has now made it clear that under no circumstances is the Seal of Confession to be violated. 

Possible Solutions

In older churches there usually is a screen between the priest and the penitent.  This distorts the view.  The priest generally looks straight ahead, with one ear aimed at the obscuring screen.  A sliding door opens after the corresponding door to the other side of the confessional closes.


If this practice is used the priest could easily testify that he does not know what a person has said.  As for voice recognition, one could go to confession in a parish one does not frequent, and thereby remain completely anonymous.


Modern churches often have face to face confessional.  These are problematic.  In face to face confessionals a person and a priest are able to see each other clearly.  Of course the anonymous version should also be an option.

Group Penance

Another option, albeit not often used, is confession in which the penitent does not even reveal sins to the priest.  This is, for example, sometimes used for soldiers about to go into battle where individual confessions are impractical.  There has been some discussion concerning such a Penance rite being used.  This would require a change in Canon Law.  Canon Law does not allow this except in grave situations.  But Canon Law is changeable. 


The problem with this is that the priest often gives advice to help a person improve.  Another problem is the impediment to the priest ascertaining that the person understands change is necessary for sins that have become a way of life for the person.  Such advice is unavailable for general absolution rites.  It would deprive the penitent of a valuable source of spiritual advice.  Yet, if governments force the issue it may have to be given further consideration. 

Canon Law

Code of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition

the codes which define the official laws of the Catholic church

View on Amazon

Not Unique

Apparently, at least the Anglican Church also has a Seal of Confession.  This is understandable since it formed with Catholic clergy, The reason Henry VIII broke with Rome had to do with his personal situation, so changes to Confession in form would not be likely.  Perhaps other religions also have such a seal.

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Updated: 07/17/2019, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 07/19/2019

I have avoided the liberal term because it may have different connotations in different countries, and thus be misleading to some readers. Writing with an international audience has its challenges in term selection. Thanks for adding, and pointing out the fine line of distinction to clarify how the term applies.
It is fortunate we can discuss religion on the site, some might not allow such discourse.

frankbeswick on 07/19/2019

I call these people pseudo-liberals as true liberals respect freedom, but the pseudo-liberals demand it for themselves, but deny it to those who disagree with them. The politically correct are a mixture of left wingers and pseudo-liberals. They sure hate true religion!

frankbeswick on 07/19/2019

The attack on religion began with the temptations of Christ in the desert and it has continued until our time. It will continue until Christ comes again.There are various agents of the fight, at the moment secularists, humanists, "liberals" [pseudo-liberals, I call them] are the malefactors,but behind them all is the source of evil in the word, whom we call Satan, the Devil.

All Christians must unite to resist this attack.

blackspanielgallery on 07/18/2019

There a[[ears tp be an attack on religion going on, and we cannot allow it to continue.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/18/2019

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for the back- and front-stories and product lines. There's an article by Chaz Muth July 15, 2019, for the Arkansas Catholic in which the author indicates that such legislation occurs in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia and outside the United States in Australia, Chile, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The author says that no one has been charged or punished for refusing to release such information.
But unless we as a nation and as a world of nations outright state that we're atheists, why would we suddenly tell priests how to do what they have been doing -- and, after all, their adherents have been increasing geographically and temporally -- for over 2,000 years now?

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