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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. What is the meaning of an anonymous confession?

A. 1. An anonymous confession means that while the person receiving the Sacrament of Confession is physically present by the priest, the confession is not done face to face. Usually the penitent kneels behind a privacy screen or a dividing curtain that separates him/her from the priest. The priest can hear the confession, but he cannot see the penitent.

Prior to 1960, the Sacrament of Confession was always administered anonymously. Since then, Catholics are given the option of a private (anonymous) confession behind a screen versus an open face to face confession. The priest cannot force a Catholic to participate in one or the other.

Many Churches have done away with the two room confessionals that separated the priest from the penitent by a small sliding wooden door over a screen. Instead, they have built a single larger room. When entering such a room, the penitent sees on one side a kneeler in front of a curtain, the priest being behind the curtain. On the other side of the room, he sees a chair. The penitent can go and sit on the chair where he will be face to face with the priest or he can kneel on the kneeler and have an anonymous confession.

According to Canon Law # 964, a penitent has a right to have his/her confession heard anonymously behind a fixed grate between the penitent and the confessor.

Canon Law # 964 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."

Therefore, having to telephone a priest to set an appointment to go to Confession opposes the Code of Canon Law that promises anonymity to the penitent. A priest should be available on a weekly basis on an appointed day and time.

It is the opinion of this writer that these opened one room confessional should be condemned. They facilitate the sexual abuse of the penitents, especially the children who are left at the mercy of the priest once they are alone in this kind of one room confessionals. The two room confessionals provided potential victims of sexual abuse with the opportunity to run away without having the fear of being grabbed by the person (the priest) who is sitting in front of him/her.

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