Why priests refuse to break the seal of confession

In this week's In Focus, Russel Shaw writes, Regardless of his personality or character, his virtue or personal courage, virtually any Catholic priest would rather go to jail than betray a penitent who comes to him for confession. Here's an explanation why.

Purpose of penance

Question: When we go to confession, the priest usually gives a penance of saying prayers such as the Our Father or Hail Mary. Why should saying such beautiful and moving prayers be a penance? We should be thrilled to say these prayers

Sacred Tradition

Question: Is there a list of Catholic traditions that are equal to sacred Scripture? I was told the Bible is not the only authority, but also sacred Tradition. — Julie Robinson, via email Answer: Paragraphs 75-100 of the Catechism of the Catholic

The Sacraments of Healing today

Scott Weeman’s trouble with alcohol began as a junior in high school. In college, this habit became destructive. He started drinking and doing drugs every day. He lost his college scholarship and was forced to return home. After treatment when he was

Valid absolution

Question: If a person commits a capital crime, isn’t absolution dependent upon the penitent turning themselves in to the police? Referring to the clergy who committed abuse over the years, would not absolution be dependent upon turning himself in to the police?

Seal of confession

Question: If a priest would consistently violate his vow of celibacy, even to the extent of abusing others, why should a penitent feel assured that a priest will not break the seal of confession? — Ed Siering, Muscatine, Iowa Answer: Absolute assurance

‘Bless me, Father’

Question: In confession recently the priest told me I should not say, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned”; instead I should say, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” Is he right? — Name, location withheld Answer: The opening of confession

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