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368

Part Two

1463

Certain particularly grave sins incur excommunication, the most

severe ecclesiastical penalty, which impedes the reception of the sacra-

ments and the exercise of certain ecclesiastical acts, and for which absolu-

tion consequently cannot be granted, according to canon law, except by

the Pope, the bishop of the place or priests authorized by them.

68

In danger

of death any priest, even if deprived of faculties for hearing confessions,

can absolve from every sin and excommunication.

69

1464

Priests must encourage the faithful to come to the sacra-

ment of Penance and must make themselves available to celebrate

this sacrament each time Christians reasonably ask for it.

70

1465

When he celebrates the sacrament of Penance, the priest is

fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost

sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds up wounds, of the Father

who awaits the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and

of the just and impartial judge whose judgment is both just and

merciful. The priest is the sign and the instrument of God’s merci-

ful love for the sinner.

1466

The confessor is not the master of God’s forgiveness, but

its servant. The minister of this sacrament should unite himself to

the intention and charity of Christ.

71

He should have a proven

knowledge of Christian behavior, experience of human affairs,

respect and sensitivity toward the one who has fallen; he must love

the truth, be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and lead

the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity. He

must pray and do penance for his penitent, entrusting him to the

Lord’s mercy.

1467

Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the

respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who

hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep

absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have con-

fessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession

gives him about penitents’ lives.

72

This secret, which admits of no

exceptions, is called the “sacramental seal,” because what the

penitent has made known to the priest remains “sealed” by the

sacrament.

68 Cf. CIC, cann. 1331; 1354-1357; CCEO, can. 1431; 1434; 1420.

69 Cf. CIC, can. 976; CCEO, can. 725.

70 Cf. CIC, can. 986; CCEO, can. 735;

PO

13.

71 Cf.

PO

13.

72 Cf. CIC, can. 1388 § 1; CCEO, can. 1456.

982

983

1551

2690

2490