“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1–2)
In life there are episodes of failure and guilt that can burden the mind: issues that lead to the destruction and breaking of relationships with loved ones and with God. As Jesus promises, that guilt and failure are wiped away when we confess our sins and receive forgiveness.
Sin may be acknowledged in corporate worship, in silent prayer or in a personal confession. Confession may be made to a pastor, some other parish worker or another parishioner. The person hearing the confession is bound by a duty of confidentiality at all times. Clergy are bound by Church law to observe absolute confidentiality in all confessional and pastoral matters.
Confession may also be made in the context of a pastoral conversation in which the parties may discuss the confessor’s life situation and seek solutions to a wide range of problems. Such confidential conversations may often take place without a formal confession.
The seal of the confessional and the duty to observe confidentiality in all matters pertaining to a confession is binding. Pastors have an absolute duty of confidentiality and may disclose neither anything divulged in a confession or a pastoral conversation nor the identity of any person whose confession they have heard. Other parish workers also have an absolute duty of confidentiality unless released by the consent of a client or if legally required to disclose information, for example under the Child Welfare Act. If a parishioner hears a confession, he or she is bound by common morality to observe the duty of confidentiality.