Kids In Catechism Class Allegedly Required to Make Face-to-Face Confessions

confessionfinalenh

Q: The children attending our Catholic religious education classes made their pre-Christmas confessions recently, which is typically a very good thing.

Several priests were available, and our priests do much good and holy work, but there was only one actual confessional booth in use, so the children were arbitrarily lined up and directed to go wherever they were assigned, even though no privacy screens were provided at the other “stations”.

A number of the children were upset about this, and frankly, I don’t blame them.

I thought every Catholic (no matter what their age) had a right to make a private, anonymous confession, without exception. Why was this done without the sufficient number of confessional booths or screens? Is such a thing allowed?

A: Unless the local bishop approved that particular setup (which isn’t likely) it would appear that somebody was making up their own local rules … and that’s something which isn’t supposed to happen … especially regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

Every Catholic does indeed have the right to have a screen available, generally without exception. Face-to-face confession is optional, at the sole discretion of the penitent … NOT the priest. This has been the standard routine for generations, except perhaps  in times of war, or  other very serious emergencies.

I suggest that you have a discussion about this matter with your pastor and with the director of the catechism program.  Show them this post, if necessary. You might also consider sending the bishop a note, as well.

Here’s the official USCCB regulations for the United States, regarding the “norms” for the Sacrament of Reconciliation:


Canon 964§2 – Place of the Celebration
of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

On November 17, 1999, the Latin Rite de iure members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved complementary legislation for canon 964§2 of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States.

The action was granted recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops in accord with article 82 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus and issued by decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Excellency Most Reverend Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect, and His Excellency Most Reverend Franciscus Monterisi, Secretary, and dated September 30, 2000.

Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 964§2, hereby decrees the following norms governing the place for sacramental confessions:

Provision must be made in each church or oratory for a sufficient number of places for sacramental confessions which are clearly visible, truly accessible, and which provide a fixed grille between the penitent and the confessor. Provision should also be made for penitents who wish to confess face-to-face, with due regard for the Authentic Interpretation of canon 964§2 by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, 7 July 1998 (AAS 90 [1998] 711). 

(Can.  964 §1. The proper place to hear sacramental confessions is a church or oratory.

§2. The conference of bishops is to establish norms regarding the confessional; it is to take care, however, that there are always confessionals with a fixed grate between the penitent and the confessor in an open place so that the faithful who wish to can use them freely.

§3. Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause.)

As President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I hereby decree that the effective date of this decree for all the Latin Rite dioceses in the United States will be December 1, 2000.

Given at the offices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC, on October 20, 2000.

Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
President, NCCB

Reverend Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr
General Secretary

Leave a comment

No comments yet.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s