At the Sunday Angelus, January 31st of this year, Pope Francis announced the institution of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly to take place each year on the 4th Sunday in July, close to the July 26 feast of Sts Joachim and Anne, the parents of Our Blessed Mother and grandparents of Jesus.

Francis said he wanted a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly because “grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on what the elderly have received.” He said it is important for grandparents and grandchildren to get to know one another, because “as the prophet Joel says, grandparents see their grandchildren dream, … while young people, drawing strength from their grandparents, will go forward and prophesy.”

That day is now just over a month away and the Vatican this morning, in a press conference, presented a papal video about this new Church celebration and plans for the celebration in Rome and in dioceses throughout the world.

The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, prepared by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, will take place on Sunday, July 25 on the theme “I am with you always” (cf. Mt 28:20). Pope Francis will preside at a Mass together with the elderly in St Peter’s Basilica at 10am.

When I posted the news of the papal announcement on February 1st, I thought immediately of two people, now very dear friends, who were in no small way behind the idea for such a day – Catherine Wiley who founded the Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA) in the UK and Marilyn Henry who founded the American branch of this association.

We spoke (and I interviewed them for Vatican Insider) when they were in Rome for the January 29-31, 2020 “The Richness of Many Years of Life” conference organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life that brought together 550 participants from 60 countries. Catherine told us how she came to found this Association and both women spoke about the work of CGA and how grandparents can join this unique, lively and loving association.

When the Holy Father held an audience for this group, Catherine was able to personally greet him and, taking advantage of that brief time with Pope Francis, asked him if he might consider the idea of a World Day for Grandparents!

It seems he listened to that proposal!

Here is a link to Pope Francis’ video message, made public today by the Vatican: Pope to the elderly: God sends his angels to console your loneliness – Vatican News

Lots of info and suggestions and good ideas here: Pastoral resources and other information: World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly (

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the dicastery for Laity, Family and Life said at tofay’s press conference, “The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is a celebration. We really needed it: after such a difficult year we truly need to celebrate, grandparents and grandchildren, young and old. We should celebrate and rejoice.” (vatican media)

Noting that tenderness is a key word of Pope Francis’ message, the cardinal said, “Tenderness towards the elderly is needed because, as the Holy Father recalls in the message we present to you today, the Virus ‘has been much harsher with them’. For this reason, the Pope hopes that an angel will visit, and will come down to console them in their solitude, and he imagines that this angel looks like a young person who visits an elderly person.2

“On the other hand,” he added, “the Day also speaks to us of the tenderness that grandparents show towards their grandchildren, of the solid guide that the elderly can be for many disoriented children, especially in a time like the one we are living in, in which personal interaction has become rare. Tenderness is not just a private feeling, one that soothes wounds, but a way of relating to others, which should also be experienced in public. We have become accustomed to living alone, to not hugging each other, to considering the other as a threat to our health.

Cardinal Farrell explained that, “In a frayed and hardened society emerging from the pandemic, not only is there a need for vaccines and economic recovery (albeit fundamental), but also for relearning the art of relationships. In this, grandparents and the elderly can be our teachers. This is also why they are so important.” (CNS photo)

Princess Leonore, held by Sweden’s Queen Silvia, gives a papal key chain to Pope Francis during her grandmother’s private audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican in this April 27, 2015, file photo. The pope has chosen the theme, “I am with you always,” for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which will be celebrated July 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I would like to focus on a theme dear to the Holy Father: the wisdom of the elderly,” said the cardinal. “Insisting on wisdom does not stem from the idea that elderly people are endowed with greater wisdom than others, rather they have an experiential wisdom – the wisdom of many years of life. The elderly are a great resource for getting out of a crisis, better and not worse. This is above all to help us understand that what we are experiencing is not the first crisis, nor will it be the last, and that the story of mankind is placed in a history that transcends them.”

He concluded: “I hope that the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly helps us to grow in our love for the elderly and to discover them as teachers of tenderness, guardians over our roots and dispensers of wisdom. For our part, the whole Church repeats to every grandparent and to every elder: “we will be with you always”, until the end of time. (vatican media)

The Apostolic Penitentiary grants a Plenary Indulgence for this day, “under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to grandparents, the elderly and all the faithful who, motivated by a true spirit of penance and charity, will participate on 25 July 2021, on the occasion of the First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, in the solemn celebration that the Most Holy Father Francis will preside over in the Vatican Papal Basilica or at the various functions that will be held throughout the world, who may also apply it as suffrage for the souls in Purgatory.”

“This Court of Mercy also grants the Plenary Indulgence on this same day to the faithful who devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty (such as the sick, the abandoned, the disabled and other similar cases).

“The Plenary Indulgence may also be granted to, provided that they detach themselves from any sins and intend to fulfill the three usual conditions as soon as possible, the elderly sick and all those who, unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, will unite themselves spiritually to the sacred functions of the World Day, offering to the Merciful God their prayers, pains or sufferings of their lives, especially during the transmission, through the means of television and radio, but also through the new means of social communication the words of the Supreme Pontiff and the celebrations.”

The Penitentiary requested “priests, equipped with the appropriate faculties to hear confessions, to make themselves available, in a ready and generous spirit, for the celebration of Penance.”


Below are two quick translations of decrees received today from the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican tribunal that deals with, among other things, indulgences and the Sacrament of Confession (Reonciliation).


Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary on the granting of special Indulgences to the faithful in the current pandemic situation

Special indulgences are granted to the faithful affected by the Covid-19 disease, commonly known as Coronavirus, as well as to health workers, family members and all those who in any capacity, even with prayer, take care of them.

“Be glad in hope, constant in tribulation, persevering in prayer” (Rom 12,12). The words written by Saint Paul to the Church of Rome resonate throughout the history of the Church and guide the judgment of the faithful in the face of every suffering, disease and calamity.

The present moment in which all of humanity is threatened by an invisible and insidious disease, which for some time now has entered powerfully into everyone’s life, is marked day after day by distressing fears, new uncertainties and above all widespread physical and moral suffering.

The Church, following the example of her Divine Master, has always had assistance to the sick at her heart. As indicated by Saint John Paul II, the value of human suffering is twofold: «It is supernatural, because it is rooted in the divine mystery of the redemption of the world, and it is also deeply human, because in it man finds himself, the their humanity, their dignity, their mission “(Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, 31).

Pope Francis too, in recent days, has expressed his paternal closeness and renewed the invitation to pray incessantly for the Coronavirus patients.

So that all those who suffer because of Covid-19, precisely in the mystery of this suffering, might rediscover “the same redemptive suffering of Christ” (ibid., 30), this Apostolic Penitentiary, ex auctoritate Summi Pontificis . on the authority of the Holy Father – trusting in the word of Christ the Lord and considering with a spirit of faith the epidemic currently underway to be lived in terms of personal conversion, grants the gift of Indulgences under the following conditions

A Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful affected by Coronavirus, subjected to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a soul detached from any sin, they spiritually join via the media the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, the pious practice of the Via Crucis or other forms of devotion, or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Our Father and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this proof in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards our brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfill the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the intentions of the Holy Father), as soon as it is possible for them.

Health care workers, family members and those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, assist Coronavirus patients according to the words of the divine Redeemer: «Nobody has a love greater than this: giving life for their own friends »(Jn 15:13), will obtain the same gift of plenary indulgence on the same conditions.

Furthermore, this Apostolic Penitentiary willingly grants Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions on the occasion of the current world epidemic, also to those faithful who offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament or Eucharistic adoration or the reading of the Holy Scriptures for at least a half hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary or the pious exercise of the Via Crucis or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the cessation of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation of those whom the Lord has called to himself.

The Church prays for those who find it impossible to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum, entrusting each and every one to Divine Mercy by virtue of the communion of saints and grants the faithful Plenary Indulgence at the point of death, provided that be duly disposed and habitually recited some prayers during life (in this case the Church makes up for the three usual conditions required). For the attainment of this indulgence, the use of the crucifix or the cross is recommended (cf. Enchiridion indulgentiarum, n.12).

This Decree is valid despite any contrary provision.

Given in Rome, from the Apostolic Penitentiary, on March 19, 2020.
Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Major Penitentiary


Note from the Apostolic Penitentiary on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the current pandemic situation

“I am with you every day” (Mt 28,20)

The seriousness of the current circumstances requires reflection on the urgency and centrality of the sacrament of Reconciliation, together with some necessary clarifications, both for the lay faithful and for the ministers called to celebrate the sacrament.

Even in the time of Covid-19, the sacrament of Reconciliation is administered in accordance with universal canon law and in accordance with the provisions of the Ordo Paenitentiae.

Individual confession represents the ordinary way of celebrating this sacrament (cf. can. 960 CIC), while collective absolution, without prior individual confession, cannot be imparted unless where the imminent danger of death occurs. enough time to listen to the confessions of individual penitents (cf. can. 961, 1 CIC), or a serious need (cf. can. 961, § 1, 2 CIC), the consideration of which belongs to the diocesan bishop, held account of the criteria agreed with the other members of the Episcopal Conference (cf. can. 455, § 2 CIC) and without prejudice to the need for valid acquittal of the votum sacraments by the individual penitent, that is, the intention to confess to due time the individual serious sins, which at the moment it was not possible to confess (cf. can. 962, § 1 CIC).

This Apostolic Penitentiary believes that, especially in the places most affected by the pandemic contagion and until the phenomenon recurs, the cases of grave need recur, mentioned in the aforementioned can. 961, § 2 CIC.

Any further specification is delegated by right to diocesan bishops, always taking into account the supreme good of the salvation of souls (cf. can. 1752 CIC).

If the sudden need arises to impart sacramental absolution to several faithful together, the priest is obliged to warn the diocesan bishop as far as possible or, if he cannot, to inform him as soon as possible (cf. Ordo Paenitentiae, n . 32).

In the present pandemic emergency, it is therefore up to the diocesan bishop to indicate to priests and penitents the prudent considerations to be adopted in the individual celebration of sacramental reconciliation, such as the celebration in a ventilated place outside the confessional, the adoption of a convenient distance, the use of protective masks without prejudice to the absolute attention paid to safeguarding the sacramental seal and to the necessary discretion.

Furthermore, it is always up to the diocesan bishop to determine, in the territory of his ecclesiastical circumscription and in relation to the level of pandemic contagion, the cases of serious need in which it is permissible to impart collective absolution: for example at the entrance of hospital wards, where the faithful infected in danger of death are located, using the means of amplification of the voice as far as possible and with appropriate precautions, so that absolution may be heard.

To be evaluated are the need and the opportunity to set up, where necessary, in agreement with the health authorities, groups of “extraordinary hospital chaplains”, also on a voluntary basis and in compliance with the rules of protection from contagion, to guarantee the necessary spiritual assistance to sick and dying.

Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it is recalled that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God loved above all else, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is currently in able to express) and accompanied by the votum confessionis, i.e. the firm resolution to resort to sacramental confession as soon as possible, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal (cf. CCC, n. 1452).

Never as in this time has the Church experienced the power of the communion of saints, raising vows and prayers to her Crucified and Risen Lord, in particular the Sacrifice of Holy Mass, celebrated daily, even without people, by priests.

As a good mother, the Church implores the Lord for humanity to be freed from such a scourge, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick, and of her Spouse St. Joseph, under whose patronage the Church has always walked the world.

May Mary Most Holy and Saint Joseph obtain abundant graces of reconciliation and salvation, attentively listening to the Word of the Lord, which repeats to humanity today: “Stop and know that I am God” (Ps 46.11), “I am with you every day »(Mt 28,20).

Given in Rome, from the Apostolic Penitentiary, on March 19, 2020, Solemnity of St. Joseph, Bridegroom of the B.V. Mary, patron of the Universal Church.
Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Major Penitentiary



As California Catholics and American bishops surely know, at the end of last May, California’s state senators voted 30-2 in favor of a law that requires priests to violate the seal of confession. Senate Bill 360, notes a CNA story on the law, “requires priests to report any knowledge or suspicion of child abuse gained while hearing the confession of another priest or colleague.”

In speaking about today’s document from the Vatican (see below) on this matter, a friend asked me if the California law included, doctors and lawyers, etc. who normally have client privacy privileges. I did not know so I researched the law and some media reports on it.

As ANGELUS news (archdiocese of Los Angeles) reported (in part): “At issue is the serious matter of child sexual abuse. Seven states right now require priests to violate the seal to report child abuse based on legislation passed in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.

“While many states have tried since 2002 to pass laws resembling California’s Senate Bill 360, none have been successful. Instead, lawmakers around the country have concluded similar bills would not protect children and would be an egregious violation of religious liberty.”

“In California, priests, along with teachers, social workers, doctors, and other professionals, are ‘mandated reporters’. That means they are required by law to report any case of suspected abuse to authorities. But currently, there is an exemption in the law for any clergy member ‘who acquires knowledge or a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a penitential communication’.

“SB 360’s sponsor, Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said his bill is necessary because of evidence that the confession privilege hurts children.” (

The news today from the Vatican comes from the Apostolic Penitentiary – the Vatican tribunal that deals with the sacrament of confession. It issued a 3,100-word document on the seal of confession, affirming that, in the face of recent civil rulings, it, the tribunal, considered it appropriate to intervene.

The Penitentiary re-affirmed that under no circumstances may a priest reveal the contents of a confession, even if the penitent says he may do so. The court reaffirmed the sacramental seal, the confidentiality inherent in the internal extra-sacramental forum, the professional secrecy, the criteria and the limits proper to any other communication.

“The inviolable secrecy of the Confession,” says the lengthy document, “comes directly from the revealed divine right and is rooted in the very nature of the sacrament, to the point of not admitting any exception in the ecclesial context, nor, even less, in the civil sphere.”

The following is my Google-assisted translation of the document released today by the Apostolic Penitentiary. I carefully re-read each paragraph to see if it corresponded to the original Italian. There were a few instances when the grammar was a bit overdone, almost dramatic, and I made it understandable. I basically tweaked it where necessary to make it both correct and as readable as possible.

I realize I could have translated just a few key paragraphs of the document or furnished my own brief summary of the salient points, but I have so many friends who are priests and many others who work in tribunals that I felt this would be helpful. Perhaps I have saved them precious time. I do realize they will check this against the original Italian – as well they should!

PS: the document speaks of the “pontifical secret”: this was something I remember having to swear to when I was hired to work at the Vatican Information Service. I also had to recite the Creed in Latin.


“With the Incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in a certain way with every man” [1]; with his gestures and his words, he illuminated his highest and inviolable dignity; in himself, dead and risen, he restored fallen humanity, overcoming the darkness of sin and death; to those who believe in him he opened the relationship with his Father; with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he consecrated the Church, a community of believers, as his true body and participated in his own prophetic, royal and priestly power, so that he would be in the world as the extension of his own presence and mission, announcing to the men of all times the truth, guiding them to the splendor of its light, allowing their life to be truly touched and transfigured.

In this time of human history that is so troubled, the growing techno-scientific progress does not seem to correspond to an adequate ethical and social development, but rather a real cultural and moral “involution” that, forgetting about God – if not outright hostility – becomes incapable to recognize and respect, in every sphere and at every level, the essential coordinates of human existence and, with them, of the very life of the Church.

“If progress in the ethical formation of man, in the growth of the inner man […],does not correspond to technical progress, then it is not progress but a threat to man and the world” [2]. Also in the field of private and mass-media communications, the “technical possibilities” grow out of proportion, but not the love for the truth, the commitment to research, the sense of responsibility before God and men; in fact, a worrisome disproportion between means and ethics is outlined. Communicative hypertrophy seems to turn against the truth and, consequently, against God and against man; against Jesus Christ, God made man, and the Church, its historical and real presence.

A certain “craving” for information has spread in recent decades, almost regardless of their real reliability and opportunity, to the point that the “world of communication” seems to want to “replace” reality, both by conditioning perception and by manipulating the understanding of it . From this tendency, which can take on the disturbing traits of morbidness. Unfortunately the very ecclesial structure, which lives in the world and sometimes takes on its criteria, is not immune. Even among believers, frequently, precious energies are employed in the search for “news” – or real “scandals” – suited to the sensitivity of certain public opinion, with goals and objectives that certainly do not belong to the theandric nature (JFL: of or relating to the divine and human or their union or joint operation) of the Church. All this to the grave detriment of the proclamation of the Gospel to every creature and the needs of the mission. We must humbly recognize that sometimes even the ranks of the clergy, up to the highest hierarchies, are exempt from this tendency.

In fact, invoking the judgment of public opinion as the last tribunal, information of all kinds is made known too often, also concerning the most private and confidential spheres, which inevitably touch the life of the Church, (and which) induce – or at least favor – rash judgments and unlawfully and irreparably damage the good reputation of others, as well as the right of every person to defend their intimacy (cf. can. 220 CIC). In this scenario, the words of Saint Paul to the Galatians sound particularly current: “For you, brothers, have been called to freedom. Provided that this freedom does not become a pretext for living according to the flesh […]. But if you bite and devour each other, look at least not to destroy each other completely “(Gal 5,13-15).

In this context, a certain worrisome “negative prejudice” seems to assert itself towards the Catholic Church, whose existence is culturally presented and socially re-understood, on the one hand, in the light of the tensions that can occur within the same hierarchy and, on the other, starting from the recent scandals of abuse, horribly perpetrated by some members of the clergy. This prejudice, oblivious to the true nature of the Church, to its authentic history and to the real, beneficial incidence that it has always had and has in human life, sometimes translates into the unjustifiable “claim” that the Church herself, in certain matters, come to conform its own legal order to the civil systems of the states in which it finds itself living, as the only possible “guarantee of correctness and rectitude”.

In the face of all this, the Apostolic Penitentiary considered it appropriate to intervene, with this Note, to reaffirm the importance of and promote a better understanding of those concepts, typical of ecclesial and social communication, that today seem to have become more foreign to public opinion and sometimes to the same civil legal systems: the sacramental seal, the confidentiality inherent in the internal extra-sacramental forum, the professional secrecy, the criteria and the limits proper to any other communication.

Sacramental seal
Recently, speaking of the sacrament of Reconciliation, the Holy Father Francis wished to reaffirm the indispensability and the unavailability of the sacramental seal: “Reconciliation itself is a good that the wisdom of the Church has always safeguarded with all its moral and juridical strength with the sacramental seal. Although not always understood by the modern mentality, it s indispensable for the sanctity of the sacrament and for the penitent’s freedom of conscience; which must be certain, at any time, that the sacramental conversation will remain in the secret of confession, between one’s own conscience that opens to the grace of God, and the necessary mediation of the priest. The sacramental seal is indispensable and no human power has jurisdiction, nor can it claim it, on it “[3].

The inviolable secrecy of Confession comes directly from the revealed divine right and is rooted in the very nature of the sacrament, to the point of not admitting any exception in the ecclesial context nor, even less, in the civil sphere. In fact, in the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation the very essence of Christianity and the Church is enclosed: the Son of God became man to save us and decided to involve, as a “necessary tool” in this work of salvation, the Church and, in it, those whom he has chosen, called and constituted as his ministers.

To express this truth, the Church has always taught that priests, in the celebration of the sacraments, act “in persona Christi capitis”, that is, in the very person of Christ the head: “Christ allows us to use his” I “, we speak in the “I” of Christ, Christ “pulls into himself” and allows us to unite, unites us with his “I”. […] It is this union with his “I” that is realized in the words of consecration. Also in the “I absolve you” – because none of us could absolve from sins – it is the “I” of Christ, of God, who alone can absolve “[4]. Every penitent who humbly goes to the priest to confess his sins, bears witness to the great mystery of the Incarnation and the supernatural essence of the Church and of the ministerial priesthood, through which the Risen Christ comes to meet men, touches sacramentally – that is, really – their life and saves them. For this reason, the defense of the sacramental seal by the confessor, if necessary usque ad sanguinis effusionem (JFL: up to the shedding of blood), represents not only an act of dutiful “loyalty” towards the penitent, but much more: a necessary testimony – a “martyrdom” – given directly to the uniqueness and salvific universality of Christ and the Church [5].

The matter of the seal is currently exposed (explained) and regulated by Canons 983-984 and 1388, § 1 of the CIC (Code of Canon Law) from can. 1456 of the CCEO (canon law of the Eastern Churches), as well as from n. 1467 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where significantly we read that the Church “establishes”, by virtue of its own authority, rather than that it “declares” – that is, recognizes as an irreducible datum, which derives precisely from the sanctity of the sacrament instituted by Christ – “that every priest who hears confessions is obliged, under very severe penalties, to keep an absolute secret concerning the sins that his penitents confessed to him”.

The confessor is never allowed, for any reason whatsoever, “to betray the penitent with words or in any other way” (can. 983, § 1 CIC), as well as “it is in fact forbidden for the confessor to make use of the knowledge acquired from confession with burden of the penitent, even excluding any danger of revelation “(can. 984, § 1 CIC). The doctrine also helped to further specify the content of the sacramental seal, which includes “all the sins of both the penitent and others known from the penitent’s confession, both mortal and venial, both occult and public, as manifested in order to absolution and therefore known to the confessor by virtue of sacramental science “[6]. The sacramental seal, therefore, regards everything the penitent has listed (confessed), even in the event that the confessor does not grant absolution: if the confession is invalid or for some reason the absolution is not given, however the seal must be maintained.

The priest, in fact, becomes aware of the sins of the penitent “non ut homo, sed ut Deus – not as a man, but as God” [7], so much so that he simply “does not know” what he was told in seat of confession, because he did not listen to him as a man but, precisely, in the name of God. The confessor could, therefore, also “swear”, without any prejudice to his conscience, to “not know” what he knows only as a minister of God. Because of its peculiar nature, the sacramental seal also binds the confessor ” inwardly “, to the point that he is forbidden to voluntarily remember the confession and he is obliged to suppress any involuntary recollection of it. The secret deriving from the seal is also held by those who, in any way, have come to know the sins of confession: “The interpreter, if any, and all others to whom in whatever way the news of the sins of confession has come “(can. 983, § 2 CIC).

The absolute prohibition imposed by the sacramental seal is such as to prevent the priest from making word of the content of the confession with the same penitent, outside the sacrament, “except explicit, and all the better if not required, consent from the penitent” [8]. The seal therefore goes beyond the availability of the penitent, who, once the sacrament is celebrated, does not have the power to relieve the confessor of the obligation of secrecy, because this duty comes directly from God.

The defense of the sacramental seal and the sanctity of confession may never constitute some form of partnership with evil, on the contrary they represent the only true antidote to evil that threatens man and the whole world; they are the real possibility of surrendering to the love of God, of letting oneself be converted and transformed by this love, learning to correspond concretely in one’s life. In the presence of sins that integrate types of offenses, it is never permissible to place on the penitent, as a condition for acquittal, the obligation to turn himself over to civil justice, by virtue of the natural principle, incorporated in every order, according to which «nemo tenetur se detegere » (JFL: “No one is obliged to disclose”). At the same time, however, it belongs to the very “structure” of the sacrament of Reconciliation, as a condition for its validity, sincere repentance, together with the firm intention to amend and not to reiterate the evil committed. If a penitent is present who has been a victim of the evil of others, it will be the concern of the confessor to instruct him regarding his rights, as well as about the concrete juridical instruments to use to denounce the fact in civil and / or ecclesiastical forum and invoke justice.

2. Internal extra-sacramental forum and spiritual direction
The so-called “extra-sacramental internal forum”, always hidden, but external to the sacrament of Penance belongs to the juridical-moral sphere of the internal forum. In it too the Church exercises her mission and saving power: not by forgiving sins, but by granting graces, breaking legal constraints (such as censorships) and taking care of everything concerning the sanctification of souls and, therefore, the proper sphere, intimate and personal of each believer.
To the internal extra-sacramental forum belongs in a particular way spiritual direction, in which the individual believer entrusts his own path of conversion and sanctification to a specific priest, or consecrated person or member of the laity.

The priest exercises this ministry by virtue of his mission of representing Christ, conferred upon him by the sacrament of Orders and exercised in the hierarchical communion of the Church, through the so-called triple munus: the task of teaching, sanctifying and governing the laity in virtue of the baptismal priesthood and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In spiritual direction, the believer freely opens the secret of his conscience to the spiritual director or person who accompanies him to be oriented and supported in listening to and fulfilling the will of God.

As evidence of the special confidentiality accorded to spiritual direction, consider the prohibition, sanctioned by law, of asking not only the opinion of the confessor, but also that of the spiritual director, on the occasion of admission to sacred Orders or, vice versa, for dismissal from the seminary of candidates to the priesthood (cf. can. 240, § 2 CIC; can. 339, § 2 CCEO). In the same way, the 2007 Sanctorum Mater instruction, concerning the carrying out of diocesan or eparchial inquiries in the Causes of Saints, forbids admitting not only confessors to protect the sacramental seal but also the spiritual directors of the Servant of God, also for all that they have learned in the forum of conscience, outside of sacramental confession [9].

This necessary confidentiality will be all the more “natural” for the spiritual director, the more he will learn to recognize and “be moved” before the mystery of the freedom of the faithful who, through him, turn to Christ. The spiritual director must conceive his own mission and his own life exclusively before God, in the service of his glory, for the good of the person, of the Church and for the salvation of the whole world.

3. Secrets and other limits of communication
Of another nature than the sphere of the internal forum, sacramental and extra-sacramental, are the confidences made under the seal of secrecy, as well as the so-called “professional secrets”, of which particular categories of persons are in possession, both in civil society and in the ecclesial structure, by virtue of a special office performed by them for individuals or for the community.

Such secrets, in virtue of natural law, must always be preserved, “except – the Catechism of the Catholic Church states at n. 2491 – the exceptional cases in which the custody of the secret would cause to those who confide them, to those who are set apart, or to third parties, very serious and avoidable damages only through the disclosure of the truth ».

A particular case of secrecy is that of the “pontifical secret”, which binds under the oath connected with the exercise of certain offices in the service of the Apostolic See. If the oath of secrecy always binds coram Deo who issued it, the oath connected to the “pontifical secret” has as its ultimate rationale the public good of the Church and the salus animarum (JFL: the health or salvation of the sould). It presupposes that this good and the very needs of the salus animarum, including therefore the use of information that does not fall under the seal, can and must be correctly interpreted by the Apostolic See alone, in the person of the Roman Pontiff, whom Christ the Lord constituted and placed as a visible principle and foundation of the unity of faith and communion of the whole Church [10].

As regards the other areas of communication, both public and private, in all its forms and expressions, the wisdom of the Church has always indicated as a fundamental criterion the “golden rule” pronounced by the Lord and reported in the Gospel of Luke: “What you want men to do to you, you also do it to them “(Lk 6:31). In this way, in the communication of truth as in silence with regard to it, when the questioner had no right to know it, it is always necessary to conform his life to the precept of fraternal love, having the good and safety of others before his eyes respect for private life and the common good [11].

As a particular duty of communicating the truth, dictated by fraternal charity, one cannot fail to mention the “fraternal correction”, in its various degrees, taught by the Lord. It remains the reference horizon, where necessary and according to what the concrete circumstances allow and require: “If your brother commits a fault against you, go and admonish him between you and him alone; if he listens to you, you will have earned your brother; if you don’t listen, take one or two more people with you, because everything is solved by the word of two or three witnesses. If he does not listen to them, tell the community “(Mt 18,15-17).

In a time of mass communication, in which all information is “burned” and with it, unfortunately, also a part of people’s lives, it is necessary to re-learn the power of speech, its constructive power, but also its destructive potential; we must be vigilant so that the sacramental seal is never violated by anyone and the necessary confidentiality connected with the exercise of the ecclesial ministry is always jealously guarded, having as its sole horizon the truth and the integral good of persons.

Let us invoke from the Holy Spirit, for the whole Church, a burning love for the truth in every area and circumstance of life; the ability to guard it integrally in the proclamation of the Gospel to every creature, the willingness for martyrdom in order to defend the inviolability of the sacramental seal, as well as the prudence and wisdom necessary to avoid any instrumental and erroneous use of that information proper to private, social life and ecclesial, which can turn into an offense against the dignity of the person and the Truth itself, which is always Christ, Lord and Head of the Church.

In the jealous custody (guardianship) of the sacramental seal and the necessary discretion linked to the internal extra-sacramental forum and to the other acts of ministry, a particular synthesis shines forth between the Petrine and Marian dimensions in the Church.

With Peter, the bride of Christ guards,until the end of history the institutional ministry of the “power of the keys”; like Mary Most Holy, the Church preserves “all these things in her heart” (Lk 2,51b), knowing that in them the light that illuminates every man is reverberated and that, in the sacred space between personal conscience and God, must be preserved, defended and guarded.

The Supreme Pontiff Francesco, on 21 June 2019, approved the present Note, and ordered its publication.

Given in Rome, from the seat of the Apostolic Penitentiary, June 29, year of the Lord 2019, on the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Mauro Card. Piacenza Major Penitentiary
Mons. Krzysztof Nykiel Regent


Here’s a really wonderful web page about St. Patrick’s Day! I hope you enjoy every word, statistic and photo!

Pope Francis tweeted today: Fasting means not only abstaining from food, but also from any unhealthy attachment, and especially sin.


My guest this weekend on “Vatican Insider” is Fr. Jan Machniak, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Krakow, author of “Apostles of Divine Mercy” and a professor at the John Paul II University in Krakow. He has a web page with his lectures in English for students –

We met when I was recently in Krakow. I had asked Fr. Jan to share some stories about Pope John Paul for my book on Poland’s newest saint. He also has a great tidbit about John Paul II and Mother Angelica. In any case, this is a conversation rather than a typical interview where I might jump in to clarify a name or give some background information. I’ll do that now – here – and, as you’ll hear when you listen to Vatican Insider, I also explain at the start of the interview.

For example, you will hear the name Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz: In 1966 he was named secretary to Archbishop, later Cardinal Karol Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul. Cardinal Dziwisz later succeeded him as archbishop of Krakow and just months ago retired.

At the end of our conversation, I mention Fr. Dariusz Ras. He’s a good friend who was a former secretary to Cardinal Dziwisz and is now the archpriest of St. Mary’s Basilica on Market Square in Krakow.

At one point, Father Jan also talks about oplatki, an unleavened Christmas wafer, about the size of a postcard that is embossed with Christmas-related images. At Christmas time every person or guest in a family or other setting gets an oplatki: you exchange greetings with other people by breaking off a piece of their oplatki and they break off a piece of yours.

In his story about a monstrance that Pope John Paul gave to Mother Angelica, Fr. Jan mentions Nowa Huta, a neighborhood on the periphery of Krakow where, until the 70s, there was no Catholic Church. It took many years but then Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow finally persuaded the communist authorities to allow the building of a church that they called the Ark. (Father asked me, how to translate the Italian “arco di Noe) and I said Noah’s Ark. I thought that was the name of the church but the Nowa Huta church is Ark of the Lord).

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library:   For VI archives:


This morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father received the participants in the 28th annual course on the Internal Forum that was organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. They have just ended three days of meetings.

Francis said, “I am pleased to meet you in this first audience after the Jubilee of Mercy, on the occasion of the annual course on the Internal Forum. I address warm greetings to the Cardinal Major Penitentiary, and thank him for his kind remarks. I greet the Regent, the Prelates, the Officials and the staff of the Penitentiary, the Colleges of the ordinary and extraordinary penitentiaries of the papal basilicas in Rome, and all of you, participants in this course.

”In reality,” the Pope went on, “I admit this Penitentiary is the type of tribunal I truly like! It is a ‘tribunal of mercy’, to which we turn to obtain that indispensable medicine that is divine mercy. Your course on the internal forum, which contributes to the formation of good confessors, is more useful than ever, and I would say even necessary in our times. Certainly, one does not become a good confessor thanks to a course, no: that of the confessional is a long education, that lasts a lifetime. But who is a ‘good confessor’? How does one become a good confessor?

Francis said he “would like to indicate, in this respect, three aspects.

1. The “good confessor” is, first of all, a true friend of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

2. The good confessor is, in second place, a man of the Spirit , a man of discernment

3. Finally, the confessional is also a true place of evangelization

For the full address, click here:


Following the enthusiasm of past years, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization again proposes “24 hours for the Lord” for Lent 2017 on March 24-25.

Tonight, March 17, as a precursor to that event, Pope Francis will preside at a penitential celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica in order to place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center of the Church’s mission of the new evangelization.

The theme that will guide the reflection in 2017 is: I desire mercy (Mt 09:13).


I saw this truly stunning video a few days ago and wanted to share it with you! Rome, then and now! Enjoy it over the weekend!


My guest this weekend on Vatican Insider is Alan Holdren, a real Vatican insider who produces “Vaticano” for EWTN and also is the bureau chief for News Nightly. You saw him on the news during the days he was in Mexico with Pope Francis and that is exactly what he will tell us about this week on VI, in Part II of our conversation about the papal trip. We look at highlights of the trip, some special moments for both the Pope and Alan, and talk about a lot of behind the scenes – or on the scene! – stories.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives:


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Friday addressed the participants of a course on the internal forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, calling them to become ‘channels of mercy’.

The yearly week-long course prepares new priests and seminarians for the correct administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and traditionally concludes in an audience with the Holy Father.

In remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis reminded the priests and seminarians of the importance of “an adequate and updated preparation” for confessors, “so that all who come to confess their sins may ‘touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands, the source of true inner peace’ (Bull, Misericordiae Vultus, 17)”.

“Mercy,” the Holy Father said, “before being an attitude or human virtue, is a unfailing choice by God in favor of every human being for their eternal salvation, a choice sealed with the blood of the Son of God.”

Pope Francis went on to remind the young priests and seminarians that the door of divine mercy are always wide open. “The mercy of the Father can reach every person in many ways: through the openness of a sincere conscience; by reading the Word of God which converts hearts; through an encounter with a merciful sister or brother; in the experiences of a life lived with wounds, sins, forgiveness, and mercy.”

Of these ways which God’s mercy can reach us, the Pope said the most certain of all is Jesus himself, “who has the power on earth to forgive sins (Luke 5,24) and has entrusted this mission to the Church (John 20,21-23). The Sacrament of Reconciliation is therefore the privileged place to experience the mercy of God.”

For this reason, the Holy Father said, “it is important that the confessor also be a ‘channel of joy’ and that the penitent faithful, after having received absolution, not feel the weight of his or her sins. They need to taste the work of God which freed them, live in thanksgiving, and be ready to repair the damage of their sins, going out to their brothers and sisters with an open and welcoming heart.”


Yesterday, in my reflections on Justice Antonin Scalia and my comments on the Supreme Court, I wrote: Because SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) now has 8 members and they are equally divided into liberal (4) and conservative camps (4) the extremely important decisions facing the justices this year on religious freedom could end up in a tie, a “hung jury,” so to speak.

To clarify: Under Supreme Court practice, a 4-4 tie means the ruling from the lower-instance court stands.

Speaking of law, the Church’s Code of Canon Law is quite clear about the sins whose pardon is “reserved” to the Holy See. I received an email from a reader who asked what the “reserved sins” were, other than abortion, that incurred excommunication and could only be absolved by the Holy See. Reserved sins came up last week, as you may remember, when Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday gave the mandate to over 1100 Missionaries of Mercy, that is, confessors to whom the special privilege was given of absolving sins normally reserved to the Holy See through the Apostolic Penitentiary.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is one of three tribunals of the Roman Curia. It is considered a tribunal of mercy, as it is responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins, such as the absolution of excommunications latæ sententiæ reserved to the Holy See. See my third story today about this issue.


(Vatican Radio)  On Monday evening Pope Francis flew to the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of the Mexican southeast state of Chiapas, where he met with families in the city’s stadium.

What a great photo!


Before addressing the gathering, he listened to testimonies by people from different family situations who included a civilly-married couple of divorced parents who are actively involved with charitable work, a disabled adolescent who found joy in being accepted by the church and is now active in the evangelization of other youth, a single mother who was rejected by society but welcomed with love in the Church, and a catholic family of the diocese of Tapachula.

In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis noted that the testimonies he had heard represented the joys, hopes, and determination by which many families confront sadness, disillusion and failings. He observed that “living in a family is not always easy, and can often be painful and stressful”. He added that he would prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play to a society that is afraid of love.

Here’s a Rome Reports video on that meeting:

In his third papal tweet of February 15, Pope Francis wrote: I prefer a family with a tired face from sacrifices made rather than a pretty one which is unfamiliar with tenderness and compassion.


Veronica Scarisbrick, my colleague on my weekly Vatican Radio program, “Joan Knows,” has been in Mexico to report on the Holy Father’s apostolic journey and she offers us this report about the Mexican state that Framcis will visit today, Michoacán.

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday begins the 4th day of his Apostolic Journey to Mexico with a trip to one of the country’s most drug-ridden states. Veronica Scarisbrick is with the Holy Father and sent us this report, entitled “Horror and Hope in Michoacán”.

Pope Francis on Tuesday travels to Morelia, capital of Michoacán, the Mexican state most identified with the drug trade. A place where there are performances of stupefying violence. Although I’ve been told there are worse places still in terms of the drug scene across Mexico.

Francis who comes to Mexico as ‘messenger of peace’ has called drugs ‘messengers of death’. The scenario related to drugs here is complex and multi- faceted. To set a strategy that might break the organized crime model is not an easy task, the law is one thing and implementation is another. Also government anti-corruption cartels are not sufficiently powerful to counter the power of narco billions.

It’s not that the problem has been ignored, the military and federal police have been called in on various occasions and in turn accused of the same crimes they were out to crush. And the result was so weak that the local communities decided to set up their own militias, the vigilantes’ with the result that you have lemon and avocado pickers turned gunmen.

There are contradictions as well. Traditional crime groups are often deeply tied to religion.  Furthermore they offer benefits people find hard to refuse and are often obliged to accept.

Among the consequences of this situation are economic and social disintegration and a connection with the escalating number of ‘desaparecidos’ in the area.

Overall in Mexico there are more than 20.000 people who have disappeared in ten years. Although UN sources have stepped up that number to over 26.000.  But these numbers don’t relate exclusively to Michoacán.

But significantly it’s in the capital of Michoacán, Morelia that Pope Francis has chosen to meet with young people in an effort to bring a much needed message of hope.

He’ll be meeting with them in the afternoon at the stadium ‘José Maria Morelos y Pavòn’. It promises to be a moving moment, one they will treasure. Let’s recall how Pope Francis said in his first speech to the nation. ‘One of Mexico’s greatest treasures is that it has a youthful face”.

It’s in Morelia too that earlier in the day Pope Francis will go to the heart of this stunning colonial city, to the Cathedral in the characteristic pink stone of the area which dominates the city. There he will meet with fourteen deans of Mexican Universities and six leaders of other Christian religions.

But he will start the day by celebrating Holy Mass in the local stadium with priests, men and women religious, consecrated people and seminarians.

All in the presence of the man he created Cardinal a year ago,  the Archbishop of Morelia Alberto Suarez Inda.


The sins whose absolution, as I mentioned earlier, is reserved to the Holy See are those that incur automatic excommunication. The email author wanted to know what sins, other than abortion, incur automatic excommnication: I felt the following Q&A from Catholic Answers was complete and answered the question concisely.

Question: Having an abortion means automatic excommunication from the Church. Are there other sins that carry this penalty?

Answer:  Yes. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) eight other sins carry the penalty of automatic excommunication: apostasy, heresy, schism (CIC 1364:1), violating the sacred species (CIC 1367), physically attacking the pope (CIC 1370:1), sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin (CIC 1378:1), consecrating a bishop without authorization (CIC 1382), and directly violating the seal of confession (1388:1).

Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith. Heresy is the obstinate doubt or denial, after baptism, of a defined Catholic doctrine. Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or the refusal to be in communion with members of the Church who are in communion with him (CIC 751).

Violation of the sacred species is the throwing away the consecrated species of Christ’s body or blood or the taking or retaining of them for a sacrilegious purpose (CIC 1367).

Physically attacking the pope is self-explanatory, as are absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin and consecrating a bishop without authorization from the Vatican.

A direct violation of the seal of confession is one in which both the penitent and the penitent’s sin can easily be determined by the confessor’s words or behavior. Again, the penalty of automatic excommunication does not apply if no one perceives the disclosure (CIC 1330).

Automatic excommunication for abortion (CIC 1398) applies not only to the woman who has the abortion, but to “all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and [this] includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed” (Evangelium Vitae 62).

No one is automatically excommunicated for any offense if, without any fault of his own, he was unaware that he was violating a law (CIC 1323:2) or that a penalty was attached to the law (CIC 1324:1:9). The same applies if one was a minor, had the imperfect use of reason, was forced through grave or relatively grave fear, was forced through serious inconvenience, or in certain other circumstances (CIC 1324). (Answered by: Catholic Answers Staff )