How to go to Confession?
- In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
- It is ———— months/years since my last Confession.
- These are my sins……
- The priest suggests a penance which may be a prayer or an act of charity (the purpose of this penance is to underline the seriousness of our Confession and our resolve – with God’s grace – not to sin again.
- Act of Sorrow: Two suggested Forms:
First Form: O my God, I am sorry for all my sins because they offend you who are so good and, with your help, I will not sin again. Amen
Second Form: O my God, I thank you for loving me I am sorry for all my sins, for not loving others and not loving you. Help me to live like Jesus and not to sin again. Amen
- Priest gives the absolution and says: ‘Go in peace’. The response is: ‘Thanks be to God’
The Seal of Confession
According to Roman Catholic Canon Law, “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.” (983 §1)
Priests may not reveal what they have learned during confession to anyone, even under the threat of their own death or that of others. For a priest to break confidentiality would lead to automatic excommunication, the lifting of which is reserved to the Holy See —in fact, to the Pope himself (Code of Canon Law, 1388 §1). It is presumed such a breach could be forgiven only with the lifting of the authority of that priest to ever hear confessions again, and a requirement that the priest undertake an extended period of penance, perhaps in a monastery.
Recognition by civil authorities
In a criminal matter, a priest may encourage the penitent to surrender to authorities. However, this is the extent of the leverage they wield. They may not directly or indirectly disclose the matter to civil authorities themselves. The doctrine of priest-penitent privilege is respected to varying degrees by the laws of different nations.