The Sanctifying Function of the Church
» The Sacraments
» The Sacrament of Penance
» The minister of the sacrament of penance
Only a priest is the minister of the sacrament of penance.
§1 For the valid absolution of sins, it is required that, in addition to the power of order, the minister has the faculty to exercise that power in respect of the faithful to whom he gives absolution.
§2 A priest can be given this faculty either by the law itself, or by a concession issued by the competent authority in accordance with can. 969
§1 Besides the Roman Pontiff, Cardinals by virtue of the law itself have the faculty to hear the confessions of Christ’s faithful everywhere. Likewise, Bishops have this faculty, which they may lawfully use everywhere, unless in a particular case the diocesan Bishop has refused.
§2 Those who have the faculty habitually to hear confessions, whether by virtue of their office or by virtue of a concession by the Ordinary of either the place of incardination or that in which they have a domicile, can exercise that faculty everywhere, unless in a particular case the local Ordinary has refused, without prejudice to the provisions of cann. 974 §§2 and 3
§3 In respect of the members and of those others who live day and night in a house of an institute or society, this same faculty is by virtue of the law itself possessed everywhere by those who have the faculty to hear confessions, whether by virtue of their office or by virtue of a special concession of the competent Superior in accordance with cann. 968 §2 and 969
§2. They may lawfully use this faculty, unless in a particular case some major Superior has, in respect of his own subjects, refused.
§1 By virtue of his office, for each within the limits of his jurisdiction, the faculty to hear confessions belongs to the local Ordinary, to the canon penitentiary, to the parish priest, and to those others who are in the place of the parish priest.
§2 By virtue of their office, the faculty to hear the confessions of their own subjects and of those others who live day and night in the house, belongs to the Superiors of religious institutes or of societies of apostolic life, if they are clerical and of pontifical right, who in accordance with the constitutions have executive power of governance, without prejudice however to the provision of can. 630
§1 Only the local Ordinary is competent to give to any priests whomsoever the faculty to hear the confessions of any whomsoever of the faithful. Priests who are members of religious institutes may not, however, use this faculty without the permission, at least presumed, of their Superior.
§2 The Superior of a religious institute or of a society of apostolic life, mentioned in can. 968
§2, is competent to give to any priests whomsoever the faculty to hear the confessions of his own subjects and of those others who live day and night in the house.
The faculty to hear confessions is not to be given except to priests whose suitability has been established, either by examination or by some other means.
The local Ordinary is not to give the faculty habitually to hear confessions to a priest, even to one who has a domicile or quasi-domicile within his jurisdiction, without first, as far as possible, consulting that priest’s own Ordinary.
The faculty to hear confessions may be given by the competent authority mentioned in can. 969,
for either an indeterminate or a determinate period of time.
The faculty habitually to hear confessions is to be given in writing.
§1 Neither the local Ordinary nor the competent Superior may, except for a grave reason, revoke the grant of a faculty habitually to hear confessions.
§2 If the faculty to hear confessions granted by the local Ordinary mentioned in can.
967, §2, is revoked by that Ordinary, the priest loses the faculty everywhere. If the faculty is revoked by another local Ordinary, the priest loses it only in the territory of the Ordinary who revokes it.
§3 Any local Ordinary who has revoked a priest’s faculty to hear confessions is to notify the Ordinary who is proper to that priest by reason of incardination or, if the priest is a member of a religious institute, his competent Superior.
§4 If the faculty to hear confessions is revoked by his own major Superior, the priest loses everywhere the faculty to hear the confessions of the members of the institute.
But if the faculty is revoked by another competent Superior, the priest loses it only in respect of those subjects who are in that Superior’s jurisdiction.
Apart from revocation, the faculty mentioned in can. 967
§2 ceases by loss of office, by excardination, or by loss of domicile.
Any priest, even though he lacks the faculty to hear confessions, can validly and lawfully absolve any penitents who are in danger of death, from any censures and sins, even if an approved priest is present.
The absolution of a partner in a sin against the sixth commandment of the
Decalogue is invalid, except in danger of death.
§1 In hearing confessions the priest is to remember that he is at once both judge and healer, and that he is constituted by God as a minister of both divine justice and divine mercy, so that he may contribute to the honour of God and the salvation of souls.
§2 In administering the sacrament, the confessor, as a minister of the Church, is to adhere faithfully to the teaching of the magisterium and to the norms laid down by the competent authority.
In asking questions the priest is to act with prudence and discretion, taking into account the condition and the age of the penitent, and he is to refrain from enquiring the name of a partner in sin.
If the confessor is in no doubt about the penitent’s disposition and the penitent asks for absolution, it is not to be denied or delayed.
The confessor is to impose salutary and appropriate penances, in proportion to the kind and number of sins confessed, taking into account, however, the condition of the penitent. The penitent is bound personally to fulfil these penances.
A person who confesses to having falsely denounced to ecclesiastical authority a confessor innocent of the crime of solicitation to a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, is not to be absolved unless that person has first formally withdrawn the false denunciation and is prepared to make good whatever harm may have been done.
§1 The sacramental seal is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.
§2 An interpreter, if there is one, is also obliged to observe this secret, as are all others who in any way whatever have come to a knowledge of sins from a confession.
§1 The confessor is wholly forbidden to use knowledge acquired in confession to the detriment of the penitent, even when all danger of disclosure is excluded.
§2 A person who is in authority may not in any way, for the purpose of external governance, use knowledge about sins which has at any time come to him from the hearing of confession.
The director and assistant director of novices, and the rector of a seminary or of any other institute of education, are not to hear the sacramental confessions of their students resident in the same house, unless in individual instances the students of their own accord request it.
§1 All to whom by virtue of office the care of souls is committed, are bound to provide for the hearing of the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them, who reasonably request confession, and they are to provide these faithful with an opportunity to make individual confession on days and at times arranged to suit them.
§2 In an urgent necessity, every confessor is bound to hear the confessions of Christ’s faithful, and in danger of death every priest is so obliged.
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