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Suppose a sinner confesses his sins to a priest, receives absolution, completes the penance, but the priest talks about his confessed sins with others. Is the absolution still valid?

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    ...yes? Why wouldn't it be?
    – Matthew
    Mar 28, 2023 at 17:48

2 Answers 2

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Is the absolution from priests still valid if the priest breaks the seal of confession?

The short answer is yes, the absolution received in confession remains valid.

The breaking of the seal of confession has no bearing on a valid confession, once absolution has been given by a priest.

The Church takes the seal of confession very seriously and administers harsh penalties to any priest who breaks the seal of confession.

The sacramental seal is inviolable. Quoting Canon 983.1 of the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism states, “…It is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason” (#2490). A priest, therefore, cannot 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, e.g. 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. A Decree from the Holy Office (November 18, 1682) mandated that confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in the confession that would “displease” the penitent or reveal his identity.

Therefore, from the time a person makes the sign of the cross and begins “Bless me father for I have sinned” to the last words of absolution, the information exchanged between the priest and the penitent is protected by the sacramental seal. Even if a confession is made in a less formal atmosphere or in a less formal way, if a priest imparts absolution, what he absolves is under the sacramental seal never to be revealed by him.

What happens if a priest violates the seal of confession? The Catechism (#1467) cites the Code of Canon Law (#1388.1) in addressing this issue, which states, “A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he does so only indirectly, he is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the offense.” From the severity of the punishment, we can clearly see how sacred the sacramental seal of confession is in the eyes of the Church.

A beautiful story (perhaps embellished with time) which captures the reality of this topic is the life of St. John Nepomucene (1340-93), the vicar general to the Archbishop of Prague. King Wenceslaus IV, described as a vicious, young man who easily succumbed to rage and caprice, was highly suspicious of his wife, the Queen. St. John happened to be the Queen’s confessor. Although the king himself was unfaithful, he became increasingly jealous and suspicious of his wife, who was irreproachable in her conduct. Although Wencelaus tortured St. John to force him to reveal the Queen’s confessions, he would not. In the end, St. John was thrown into the River Moldau and drowned on March 20, 1393. - Can the seal of confession be broken or the secrets ever be revealed by priests?

St. John Nepomucene was martyred defending the seal of confession in 1393 and is the Patron Saint of Confessors! His feast day is May 16.

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    How does your extended quote support that "The breaking of the seal of confession has no baring on a valid confession once absolution has been given by a priest."?
    – Geremia
    Mar 28, 2023 at 23:42
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All sacraments consist of matter and form.

For the sacrament of penance they are:

Matter: Acts of the Penitent: Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction for sins.

Form: Priest saying: God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

If the proper matter, form and intention are observed, the absolution is valid and nothing done afterwards can invalidate it.

Here are some examples of things that make a confession invalid:

  • The penitent isn't sufficiently sorry for his sins.

  • The penitent doesn't have a firm enough purpose of amendment.

  • The penitent conceals a mortal sin or otherwise makes a dishonest confession

Psalms 140:4 Incline not my heart to evil words; to make excuses in sins.

  • The priest wasn't validly ordained.

  • The priest doesn't say the proper form: "Ego te absolvo..."

  • The penitent wasn't validly baptized.

St. Teresa of Avila: “Bad confessions damn the majority of Christians.”

Although even most traditional priests don't follow them today, there are actually quite a number of guidelines priests should follow to determine whether to refuse absolution to a penitent precisely to prevent giving an invalid "absolution" and the penitent dying in their sins.

It is related that padre Pio refused absolution to two thirds of his penitents, often they would come back with a firm resolve never to sin again and then he would grant them absolution.

Blessed Anna Maria Taigi: “The greater number of Christians today are damned. The destiny of those dying on one day is that very few, not as many as 10, went straight to Heaven, many remain in Purgatory, and those that were cast into Hell were as numerous as snowflakes in midwinter.”

The fact that you are not aware of the basics about confession suggests you were sadly very poorly catechized, or not at all, and are in danger of perishing due to your ignorance.

I sincerely recommend reading the Penny catechism to learn the basics of the faith and also to check out Most Holy Family Monastery's website for essential information to save your soul.

<3

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    "The greater number of Christians today are damned." Compare this with John 5:24 and see that, if someone is damned it is precisely because they are not Christians. Mar 28, 2023 at 19:51
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    Most Holy Family Monastery is a sedevacantist sect. Avoid.
    – Fomalhaut
    Mar 28, 2023 at 20:06
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    @Amatsuki Actually one can and must have moral certainty about the validity of his confession if he has diligently examined his conscience, as St. Alphonsus says. If you are Catholic you have an obligation to confess all mortal sins as soon as possible. In charity I must say that it seems you have drifted far away from Catholic teaching by reading heretical sources, please do go back and read the penny catechism and pray the rosary each day.
    – Glorius
    Mar 28, 2023 at 21:54
  • @Glorius That sounds like judging yourself, which Paul said he would not do (1 Corinthians 4:3) and we are supposed to imitate Paul (I Corinthians 11:1-2)
    – Fomalhaut
    Mar 28, 2023 at 22:06
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    +1 for discussing sacramental matter and form.
    – Geremia
    Mar 28, 2023 at 23:43

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