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Code of Canon Law
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CHAPTER II. The Minister of the Sacrament of Penance
Can. 965 A priest alone is the minister of the sacrament of penance.
Can. 966 §1. The valid absolution of sins requires that the minister have, in addition to the power of orders, the
faculty of exercising it for the faithful to whom he imparts absolution.
§2. A priest can be given this faculty either by the law itself or by a grant made by the competent authority
according to the norm of can. 969.
Can. 967 §1. In addition to the Roman Pontiff, cardinals have the faculty of hearing the confessions of the Christian
faithful everywhere in the world by the law itself. Bishops likewise have this faculty and use it licitly everywhere
unless the diocesan bishop has denied it in a particular case.
§2. Those who possess the faculty of hearing confessions habitually whether by virtue of office or by virtue of
the grant of an ordinary of the place of incardination or of the place in which they have a domicile can exercise that
faculty everywhere unless the local ordinary has denied it in a particular case, without prejudice to the prescripts
of can. 974, §§2 and 3.
§3. Those who are provided with the faculty of hearing confessions by reason of office or grant of a competent
superior according to the norm of cann. 968, §2 and 969, §2 possess the same faculty everywhere by the law itself
as regards members and others living day and night in the house of the institute or society; they also use the faculty
licitly unless some major superior has denied it in a particular case as regards his own subjects.
Can. 968 §1. In virtue of office, a local ordinary, canon penitentiary, a pastor, and those who take the place of a
pastor possess the faculty of hearing confessions, each within his jurisdiction.
§2. In virtue of their office, superiors of religious institutes or societies of apostolic life that are clerical and of
pontifical right, who have executive power of governance according to the norm of their constitutions, possess the
faculty of hearing the confessions of their subjects and of others living day and night in the house, without prejudice
to the prescript of can. 630, §4.
Can. 969 §1. The local ordinary alone is competent to confer upon any presbyters whatsoever the faculty to hear
the confessions of any of the faithful. Presbyters who are members of religious institutes, however, are not to use the
faculty without at least the presumed permission of their superior.
§2. The superior of a religious institute or society of apostolic life mentioned in can. 968, §2 is competent to
confer upon any presbyters whatsoever the faculty to hear the confessions of their subjects and of others living day
and night in the house.
Can. 970 The faculty to hear confessions is not to be granted except to presbyters who are found to be suitable
through an examination or whose suitability is otherwise evident.
Can. 971 The local ordinary is not to grant the faculty of hearing confessions habitually to a presbyter, even one
having a domicile or quasi-domicile in his jurisdiction, unless he has first heard the ordinary of the same presbyter
insofar as possible.
Can. 972 The competent authority mentioned in can. 969 can grant the faculty to hear confessions for either an
indefinite or a definite period of time.
Can. 973 The faculty to hear confessions habitually is to be granted in writing.
Can. 974 §1. The local ordinary and the competent superior are not to revoke the faculty to hear confessions
habitually except for a grave cause.
§2. When the faculty to hear confessions has been revoked by the local ordinary who granted it as mentioned
in can. 967, §2, a presbyter loses the faculty everywhere. If some other local ordinary has revoked the faculty, the
presbyter loses it only in the territory of the one who revokes it.
§3. Any local ordinary who has revoked the faculty of some presbyter to hear confessions is to inform the
proper ordinary of incardination of the presbyter or, if he is a member of a religious institute, his competent superior.
§4. If the proper major superior of a presbyter has revoked the faculty to hear confessions, the presbyter loses
the faulty to hear the confessions of members of the institute everywhere. If some other competent superior has
revoked the faculty, however, the presbyter loses it only with regard to the subjects in the jurisdiction of that
Can. 975 Besides by revocation, the faculty mentioned in can. 967, §2 ceases by loss of office, excardination, or loss
Can. 976 Even though a priest lacks the faculty to hear confessions, he absolves validly and licitly any penitents
whatsoever in danger of death from any censures and sins, even if an approved priest is present.
Can. 977 The absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is invalid
except in danger of death.
Can. 978 §1. In hearing confessions the priest is to remember that he is equally a judge and a physician and has been
established by God as a minister of divine justice and mercy, so that he has regard for the divine honor and the
salvation of souls.
§2. In administering the sacrament, the confessor as a minister of the Church is to adhere faithfully to the
doctrine of the magisterium and the norms issued by competent authority.
Can. 979 In posing questions, the priest is to proceed with prudence and discretion, attentive to the condition and
age of the penitent, and is to refrain from asking the name of an accomplice.
Can. 980 If the confessor has no doubt about the disposition of the penitent, and the penitent seeks absolution,
absolution is to be neither refused nor deferred.
Can. 981 The confessor is to impose salutary and suitable penances in accord with the quality and number of sins,
taking into account the condition of the penitent. The penitent is obliged to fulfill these personally.
Can. 982 Whoever confesses to have denounced falsely an innocent confessor to ecclesiastical authority concerning
the crime of solicitation to sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is not to be absolved unless the
person has first formally retracted the false denunciation and is prepared to repair damages if there are any.
Can. 983 §1. The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any
way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.
§2. The interpreter, if there is one, and all others who in any way have knowledge of sins from confession are
also obliged to observe secrecy.
Can. 984 §1. A confessor is prohibited completely from using knowledge acquired from confession to the detriment
of the penitent even when any danger of revelation is excluded.
§2. A person who has been placed in authority cannot use in any manner for external governance the
knowledge about sins which he has received in confession at any time.
Can. 985 The director of novices and his associate and the rector of a seminary or other institute of education are
not to hear the sacramental confessions of their students residing in the same house unless the students freely
request it in particular cases.
Can. 986 §1. All to whom the care of souls has been entrusted in virtue of some function are obliged to make
provision so that the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them are heard when they reasonably seek to be heard
and that they have the opportunity to approach individual confession on days and at times established for their
§2. In urgent necessity, any confessor is obliged to hear the confessions of the Christian faithful, and in danger
of death, any priest is so obliged.