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Sacramental Seal

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by January 18, 2018 Canonical Teaching

Question 2:
Can someone who forget his/her penance seek for clarification afterwards through phone call or a text message? Does the seal of confession cover only the sins confessed or does it cover both the sins and penance? Can you reveal the penance you give to a teenager to the Mom or Dad because he/she may need his/her Dad/Mom’s help to carry it out?

Answer 2:
Penance is not punishment. The essence of Penance is an invitation to consolidate God’s Grace of Pardon already received by the absolution of the confessor. His/her sins are already forgiven. It’s not the penance that takes away the sins but the absolution. From all indications the penance the teenager was given is either cumbersome or impossible to fulfill, if not he/she wouldn’t be needing the help of the father or mother. Can. 981 says: “The confessor is to impose salutary and suitable penances in accord with the quality and number of sins, taking into account the condition of the penitent. The penitent is obliged to fulfill these personally”.
Yes, the penitent has the right to say the penance is excruciating and the confessor must review the penance. Nothing regarding the Sacrament of Penance should be handled by telephone. Can. 983 §1 states that “the sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason”. In addition, Can. 1388 §1 provides remedy for the violation of the sacramental seal: “A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; one who does so only indirectly is to be punished according to the gravity of the delict”.


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