III. Offices and Ministries in the Reconciliation of Penitents
ROLE OF THE COMMUNITY IN THE CELEBRATION OF PENANCE
8. The whole Church, as a priestly people, acts in different ways in the work
of reconciliation that has been entrusted to it by the Lord. Not only does the
Church call sinners to repentance by preaching the word of God, but it also
intercedes for them and helps penitents with a maternal care and solicitude to
acknowledge and confess their sins and to obtain the mercy of God, who alone can
forgive sins. Further, the Church becomes itself the instrument of the
conversion and absolution of the penitent through the ministry entrusted by
Christ to the apostles and their successors. 
MINISTER OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
9. a. The Church exercises the ministry of the sacrament of penance through
bishops and priests. By preaching God's word they call the faithful to
conversion; in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit they
declare and grant the forgiveness of sins.
In the exercise of this ministry priests act in communion with the bishop and
share in his power and office as the one who regulates the penitential
b. The competent minister of the sacrament of penance is a priest who has the
faculty to absolve in accordance with canon law. All priests, however, even
though not approved to hear confessions, absolve validly and lawfully any
penitents without exception who are in danger of death.
PASTORAL EXERCISE OF THIS MINISTRY
10. a. In order that he may fulfill his ministry properly and faithfully,
understand the disorders of souls and apply the appropriate remedies to them,
and act as a wise judge, the confessor must acquire the needed knowledge and
prudence by constant study under the guidance of the Church's magisterium and
especially by praying fervently to God. For the discernment of spirits is indeed
a deep knowledge of God's working in the human heart, a gift of the Spirit, and
an effect of charity. 
b. The confessor should always show himself to be ready and willing to hear
the confessions of the faithful whenever they reasonably request this.
c. By receiving repentant sinners and leading them to the light of the truth,
the confessor fulfills a paternal function: he reveals the heart of the Father
and reflects the image of Christ the Good Shepherd. He should keep in mind that
he has been entrusted with the ministry of Christ, who accomplished the saving
work of human redemption by mercy and by his power is present in the sacraments.
d. Conscious that he has come to know the secrets of another's conscience
only because he is God's minister, the confessor is bound by the obligation of
preserving the seal of confession absolutely unbroken.
11. The parts that penitents themselves have in the celebration of the
sacrament are of the greatest importance.
When with proper dispositions they approach this saving remedy instituted by
Christ and confess their sins, their own acts become part of the sacrament
itself, which is completed when the words of absolution are spoken by the
minister in the name of Christ.
In this way the faithful, even as they experience and proclaim the mercy of
God in their own life, are with the priest celebrating the liturgy of the
Church's continual self-renewal.