Q. 1. Does the Catholic Church have any rules regarding where a priest can hear confessions? For example, can he hear confession in a private home, in the hospital or while taking a walk in a field?
A. 1. According to Canon Law # 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."
A just cause to hear confession outside of a Church or Oratory would be:
- a bed-ridden hospital patient,
- an elderly parishioner who cannot get to the Church,
- in prison segregation, and/or
- in a field during war.
The following do not qualify for confession outside of a Church or Oratory:
- private homes prior to the celebration of an approved and/or non-approved Holy Mass,
- while taking a walk with a parishioner who wants to confess his/her sins at the moment,
- during a Church event, outside of the Church or Oratory,
In the case where a priest is administering the Last Rite (Sacrament of the Sick), which includes the Sacrament of Confession, when a person is dying, such as in a car accident, the priest can administer the Sacrament of Confession anywhere. There are no restrictions.