Do the faithful have the right to anonymous confession? If anonymous confession is not available, are they excused from confession until they can get to an anonymous confession? Do priests have a right to anonymous confession?
Can 964 § 2 of the 1983 CIC states:
Ad sedem confessionalem quod attinet, normae ab Episcoporum conferentia statuantur, cauto tamen ut semper habeantur in loco patenti sedes confessionales crate fixa inter paenitentem et confessarium instructae, quibus libere uti possint fideles, qui id desiderent.
Insofar as the confessional is concerned, norms are to be laid down by the conferences of bishops, though with the caveat that they, furnished with a fixed grate between penitent and confessor, which the faithful who desire it can use according to his own will (libere), always be located in an open place.
This canon doesn’t use the language of “rights” – which rings oddly when speaking of the Church and the sacraments, even though this sort of language crops up here and there.
Nevertheless, the canon clearly states that a confessional with a fixed grate is to be available so that the faithful, the fideles (fideles includes deacons, priests and bishops, by the way) who desire to may use them.
That said, were parish priest and local bishop not adhering to the universal law and not providing a confessional with a grate for the faithful, the faithful would not be dispensed from the obligation to make a confession annually. Moreover, the lack of obedience on the part of the parish priest or bishop in this matter would not dispense the faithful from the requirement to confess all mortal sins in kind and number before the reception of the Blessed Sacrament.
Bottom line: the lack of a fixed grille or grate does not let anyone off the hook.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you non-clerical fideles are saying by now, “What’s a sinner to do? What if we want to preserve our anonymity but the arrangement the priest provides doesn’t allow it?”
First, notify your local bishop with a brief, firm and polite letter and send a copy of same to the Apostolic Nuncio.
Also, perhaps the faithful who are denied the option of confessing behind a grate, after writing to the bishop, could borrow a Muslim neighbor’s burqa, or use a large hand fan.
In addition, the pastor is adamant about not installing a fixed grate, perhaps a note might be added to one’s weekly offering,
“Dear Father, I am sorry that our offering has gone down from $100 per week to $50 per week, but we’ve had to made budgetary provisions for gas for our weekly visit to the Shrine of St. Winwaloe in order to go to confession anonymously behind a fixed grate. We’re also making a large annual donation to the good monks there for their kindness in allowing us to confess anonymously.”