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Reconciliation FAQs

What is meant by the Seal of the Confessional?
Whatever a priest hears during Reconciliation by a penitent cannot be revealed outside the confessional.

A priest will not 'break the seal' to save his own life, to protect his good name, to refute a false accusation, to save the life of another, to aid the course of justice (like reporting a crime), or to avert a public calamity.
He cannot be compelled by law to disclose a person's confession or be bound by any oath he takes, eg. as a witness in a court trial.
A priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession either directly, by repeating the substance of what has been said, or indirectly, by some sign, suggestion, or action.
However, a priest may ask the penitent for a release from the sacramental seal to discuss the confession with the person himself or others.  For instance, if the penitent wants to discuss the subject matter of a previous confession a particular sin, fault, temptation, circumstance in a counseling session outside of the confessional, that priest will need the permission of the penitent to do so.
For instance, a penitent may say, "Father, remember that problem I spoke to you about in confession?".  The priest will have to say, "Do you give me permission to discuss this with you now?"


Text: Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide
(Permission granted)