The ministry of reconciliation, which has been committed by Christ to his
Church, is exercised through the care each Christian has for others,
through the common prayer of Christians assembled for public worship,
and through the priesthood of Christ and his ministers declaring
The Reconciliation of a Penitent is available for all who desire it. It is not
restricted to times of sickness. Confessions may be heard anytime and
Two equivalent forms of service are provided here to meet the needs of
penitents. The absolution in these services may be pronounced only by a
bishop or priest. Another Christian may be asked to hear a confession,
but it must be made clear to the penitent that absolution will not be
pronounced; instead, a declaration of forgiveness is provided.
When a confession is heard in a church building, the confessor may sit
inside the altar rails or in a place set aside to give greater privacy, and the
penitent kneels nearby. If preferred, the confessor and penitent may sit
face to face for a spiritual conference leading to absolution or a
declaration of forgiveness.
When the penitent has confessed all serious sins troubling the conscience
and has given evidence of due contrition, the priest gives such counsel
and encouragement as are needed and pronounces the absolution. Before
giving absolution, the priest may assign to the penitent a psalm, prayer,
or hymn to be said, or something to be done, as a sign of penitence and
act of thanksgiving.
The content of a confession is not normally a matter of subsequent
discussion. The secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the
confessor, and must under no circumstances be broken.