ASK FATHER: Can a penitent “release” priest from Seal of Confession?

seal of confessionFrom a reader…


Father, as a follow up to your recent post on who is bound by the seal of confession, I have two more related questions:

1. Can the penitent release the priest from the seal? I would think not, so as to prevent the penitent from being pressured by authorities to release the priest. But I’d like to know, since there are legal cases in the U.S.A. currently making their way to the Supreme Court that may depend on this.

2. Can the priest refer to things confessed by a penitent to the penitent himself? For example, if the penitent also goes to the priest for spiritual direction, can the priest refer to things in spiritual direction that were discussed in the context of confession?

The strong opinion of most moral theologians and canonists is that the penitent cannot release the priest from the Seal.

It is not the penitent who imposes the Seal, but the Lord Himself.  The penitent can’t release what the Lord God has bound.

A penitent is free, of course, to mention to the priest, outside of sacramental confession, anything that he would like the priest to speak freely about. What is said to the priest during sacramental confess, though, is as if it were said to Christ Himself. It is not the just priest’s information to share as he wills: in a way, it belongs to Jesus.

The same goes with regards to a further conversation with the penitent. If the penitent, in spiritual direction, wants to talk with the priest about something previously confessed, he should feel free to bring the topic up again, but he should not expect the priest to bring it up, or even to have knowledge of the topic if the only time it’s been discussed is under the sacramental Seal.

Remember: Priests will just keep it buried or, as it happens time and time again, will have just forgotten what they heard. Priests keep the Seal.

Remember: These are “Ask Father” questions, not “ASK EVERYONE” questions.  I turn on the moderation queue or release or delete comments as I see fit, especially with “Ask Father” questions.  Comments from priests, of course, get high priority.

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ASK FATHER: The timing of announcments in the Novus Ordo

From a reader…


Our Pastor has recently decided not to make announcements after the final blessing because, he says, it isn’t part of the liturgy. I say that after the final blessing, the Liturgy is finished and can say what ever he wants. What do you say?

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal makes provision for announcements to be made during Mass. Article 90 states that announcements can be made as part of the concluding rites, after the Prayer after Communion and before the Final Blessing.

These announcements should be brief and necessary (e.g. “there will be a reception in the undercroft following this Mass so parishioners can greet the Archabbot and thank him personally for enshrining the relic of St. Perspicacity in our side chapel.”).

Keep announcements brief.

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New readers here may not know that The Internet Prayer, which I wrote in Latin a zillion years ago now, has been put into many languages. I have gathered all that I have found onto one page. Some translations have been given approval by bishops, and some have been offered by people of good will. For example, I haven’t yet been able to obtain ecclesiastical approval for the Klingon version. Check it out. HERE

I received separate emails with translations of The Internet Prayer into


Všemocný věčný Bože, který jsi nás stvořil k Svému obrazu a kážeš nám usilovat o vše dobré, pravdivé a krásné, jež je plně přítomno v božské osobě Tvého Jednorozeného Syna, našeho Pána Ježíše Krista, pokorně Tě prosíme: dej, abychom na přímluvu svatého Isidora, biskupa a doktora církve při putování internetem vztahovali své ruce, jakož i oči pouze po tom, co je milé Tobě, a abychom přijímali s láskou a trpělivostí každého, koho zde potkáme. Skrze našeho Pána, Ježíše Krista.


Молитва пре прикључивања на интернет

Свемогући вечни Боже, који си нас створио по твоме образу и заповедио нам да тражимо све шта је добро, истинито и лепо, особито у божанској особи Твога Јединорођенога Сина, Господа нашега Исуса Христа, молимо те да заступништвом Светога Исидора, епископа и учитеља, за време нашег путовања интернетом управимо своје руке и очи само оному шта је Теби угодно и искажемо љубав и стрпљивост свим душама које будемо сусретали. По Христу Господу нашем. Амин.

Very cool.

I welcome new translations. Please also send THE TITLE in the other language.

Also, if you are a native speaker, please record it too! I’m still waiting for the update to the Klingon version.

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ACTION ITEM! “Officer Down!”

Officer DownI am reposting this after learning of the death of a woman officer in Omaha who was scheduled to take maternity leave.  HERE  She was killed in a shootout with a fugitive.  She recently gave birth to a daughter, and was stepmother to two children ages 6 and 7.


From a priest friend comes something that I think quite good.

As you can see from, Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Andrews, NC, is spearheading a dinner at which the heads of all law enforcement agencies in the region will be present. The actual dispatcher will be reading out the “Last Call” and “End of Watch”. The point is to raise the level of due honor in our culture for our finest who have laid down their lives for us. The one blog post is meant as a paradigm for similar events that we hope will spring up around the nation. The names include all fallen officers since the end of Police Week last year. Believe me, the dispatchers and officers are very appreciative of this honor being given to their friends and ours. The dispatcher said she would cry though the whole thing. The Chief of Police said that that was the point, as it is like a funeral.

If you would encourage your readers to reblog and retweet @officerdownmd and FB this event in an effort to have it catch on elsewhere, our law officers of the judicial and executive branches of government would be most appreciative. It is supremely easy to put on this kind of event as everyone immediately wants to help to make it work. Basically, you just have to mention it, and it takes off.

I would rather be anonymous as this is about our officers who have given their all. Thanks!

Done and done.

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ASK FATHER: Getting waxen “Agnus Dei” from schismatics

Agnus DeiFrom a reader…


I recently obtained several Agnus Dei from Sisters in a traditional, cloistered order here in the U.S. They supposedly procure a smaller amount of the blessed wax from an original Agnus Dei from the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII. The items were purchased, with money exchanging hands for the item holding the Agnus Dei as well as work involved by the Sisters, but the blessed wax is a gift (to avoid simony and maintain the original blessing?).

I recently discovered that the Sisters are part of a schismatic group that are under the direction of a local bishop. Would this invalidate the blessings and graces associated with the pious wearing of an Agnus Dei? Is it wrong or sinful to support such a group through the purchase of their religious items?

Since they are gifts there no problem at all.  Furthermore, it is not wrong to obtain (some would say “rescue” objects such as this from schismatic groups or others, the nefarious people who traffic in relics on Ebay, etc.

Some of you might not know what an Agnus Dei is.

These objects are discs, round or oval, of bees wax impressed with the figure of a lamb, usually with the flag, and saints on the reverse.  They were blessed by the Pope. Sometimes they were worn around the neck.  They are sacramentals. In history they go back to at least the 9th c.


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ASK FATHER: The proper way for women to wear a chapel veil?

From a reader…


I have noticed at the Traditional Latin Mass I attend that the women cover their heads with their veils once their sit down in their pews. [?!?] I was told by a friend that the norm years ago was that women veiled their heads before their entered the church and took off their veils once they stepped out of church, not once they sat down in their pews. [!] Which is the proper way for women who veil their heads? Are the women who veil once they enter their pews doing anything wrong? Should the priest(s) address this?

Ahhhh…. such an important question!

Boy are you onto something!

Yes, there is an exact way for the veil to be worn and when it should be put on.

As far as the act of veiling is concerned, it should be done no farther than 20 meters from the lowest step of the church’s door.

Moving on, the edge of the veil should be drawn precisely 4.25cm from the critical angle of the hairdo’s forward arc. Centimeters, mind you.

I suggest that you keep records on this. Using a clipboard, start tracking stats for the actual veiling, changing doors each week. Then, perhaps after Mass and after women have had a chance to say their thanksgiving prayers, using a discreet measuring device… perhaps some sort of caliper… measure the width of the “draw”.

You would do a real service for the pastor were you able to chart this out, perhaps with graphs (priests can be a bit flummoxed by tables of numbers and such). That way Father can intervene with stern admonitions when veils are being improperly deployed.

You have your mission!

And remember, there are no longer any canonical penalties for veiling in the wrong place or with the incorrect draw.  Okay?  That’s key! We aren’t judgmental about these things anymore.  For a couple years now we are being more merciful.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Lighter fare, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 | Tagged | 82 Comments

ASK FATHER: Latin deacons in Eastern Divine Liturgy

From a reader…


When Latin priests concelebrate at a Divine Liturgy, they are are to wear Latin Vestments (cf. Instruction for Applying The Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, #68).

The Deacon in the Divine Liturgy uses his Orarion for certain
actions, which are difficult or impossible to do with the Latin Deacon’s stole (Such as crossing the orarion over one’s shoulders).

Thus, what should occur when a Latin Deacon assists at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy?

I don’t think this has been answered by any official body.  If it has, I haven’t see it.

The law says that a minister assisting at the liturgy of a different ritual church wear the vestments of his own proper ritual church.  Thus, all things being equal, a Latin deacon should wear Latin diaconal vesture. Any ritual action which he is unable to do, such as crossing his orarion, he would simply omit, using the principle that no one is bound to the impossible (Regulae Iuris, #6).

I suppose if there is not any Latin vesture available for the Latin deacon, he could vest in the other rites vestments, but … it seems to me that with proper planning that wouldn’t be necessary.


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ASK FATHER: Can’t find a confirmed godparent within the family

From a reader…


My wife and I are going to have our third child in November. We are having a hard time finding someone in the family to be our child’s Godparents when we baptize him/her.


Our main problem is basically that since the Church sets out that Godparents must have been Confirmed to be able to serve as a child’s baptismal Godparent, we have no close relatives to turn to.

Each of our first two boys had only one Confirmed relative as Godparent and the second one had to serve/sign as a mere witness – because they were not Confirmed.

What we are facing now is that all of our remaining closest relatives (brothers, sisters, cousins) – are not Confirmed.

(And both of us have large families (20 plus), almost all educated in Catholic schools!)



1. Opting FOR having someone

Question A: if we choose the relatives we are closest to (who are NOT Confirmed) ¿how bad is it for our child to have mere Baptismal witnesses and no Godparents?

(Complicated) Question B: ¿how bad is it for us parents and child if we “fish” for a priest (and there are many where we live in Portugal) who – against Church teachings – does not consider prior Confirmation a necessary requisit for someone to be Godparent?

1. Opting AGAINST having anyone

– Question A: is this really an option?

– Question B: if it is – how bad is it for a child not to have witnesses or Godparents?

Complicated way to place the question.  I think I got that.

Having a godparent is important for baptism, not for validity, but for liceity.

Why not have the same relatives who served as godparents for the first two serve as godparents for the third (fourth, fifth, six, and seventh when they come along, too!)?

There’s nothing that limits the number of times one can serve as a godparent.

Additionally, godparents need not come from one’s blood relations. Friends, fellow parishioners, and so forth all can serve as godparents.

If it’s the custom that sponsors come from your family and family members question why neighbor Paolo is godfather this time instead of a relative, consider the reply:

“Because, apparently, no one in the family considers the Faith important enough to get confirmed.”

Blood may be thicker than water, but faith in Our Lord and the Church He founded is thicker than both.

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My View For Awhile: Jiggity Jig Edition

I completed all my tasks except one and I am on my way home.  

Zipping to the airport we had a couple last sights.

The church in which I was ordained a deacon.

This is also where we had the Pontifical Mass at the faldstool with Card. Burke last January.

And just for nice…


This classic has been translated into Romanesco.


I topped my Italian phone, found my friends for a last coffee (they are off to a different city) and …





Back on the ground.  Customs was really fast and the bag came right away.  

Now for the next leg.


Posted in On the road, What Fr. Z is up to | 5 Comments

Rome – Day 5: Galleries and Lessons

This morning I started in the Galleries of the Palace of the Doria Pamphilij. It has been years since my last visit.

I got the audio guide, which was sprinkled through with charming accounts of family history by one of the members of the family who still live in the palace.

It’s quite a treat.  Don’t miss it.  You can get a photo pass.


One of my favorite renditions of a popular theme in it’s era.


When you go to the Gallery, don’t miss learning about this one.  Donna Olimpia.  She must have been a fright to live with.  At one point she talked Innocent X, her brother in law, out of the licenses for the brothels in Rome, arguing that it wasn’t right for the Holy See to have them.  She immediately took the income and put the family crest over the doors.  At one point she locked the Pope in his room.  Interesting.


I told you the other day that my cincture disintegrated.  So… thanks to anyone who made a donation.  I had to buy some new things.

A wall near St. Andrea della Valle where you can still see traces of the graffiti left by invaders from the Sack of Rome.


At Ss. Trinità for Mass, I found Father Vicarius teaching a deacon from the NAC how to say the Extraordinary Form.



On my way back from errands in the evening.   The statues on the “Angel Bridge” are amazing.  You never get tired of them.

The view after supper.  Alas the Jesuits have this one.   For now.

Posted in On the road, Seminarians and Seminaries, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, What Fr. Z is up to | 9 Comments