EWTN Catholic Q&A
Family confession
Question from C.G. on 10-18-2012:

Someone at my church said that our previous pastor allowed families to go to confession all together. Each would take a turn. Presumably, this was to make accomodations for a terribly shy child. Is this permitted? I've never heard of this. Other parents are now asking the new pastor to offer such accomodations. It seems to me that this nullifies the seal of the confessional if you have to speak in front of others, especially your parents!

Answer by Catholic Answers on 10-18-2012:


It doesn't "nullify" the seal of the confessional; instead it binds anyone who hears the confession to the seal as surely as it binds the priest. So, for example, if a child sacramentally confessed in front of his parents that he'd lied to them, cheated them, stole from them, and kicked the dog on Sundays, the parents could not do anything about it and could not even mention the matter to the child at all because to take any action upon knowledge gained in sacramental confession is a violation of the sacramental seal.

I hope this demonstrates why the idea of "family confession" is a terrible idea and seriously jeopardizes the sacramental seal (because there is no way parents or other family members reasonably can be trusted not to act upon knowledge gained in such a manner). Not only should the new pastor absolutely refuse to allow "family confessions," but the fact that the prior pastor apparently allowed "family confessions" should be immediately reported to the bishop.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers