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Catholic Dictionary

Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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CONFESSIONAL

The place where the sacrament of penance is administered. In the early Church it was any kind of seat and was generally before the altar in the Middle Ages. In the sixteenth century it took the form of a separate compartment for the kneeling penitent and for the priest, furnished with a grille. This form became prescriptive until after the Second Vatican Council. The new Order of Penance does not specify for the Latin Rite what the confessional should be. It merely says: "The sacrament of penance is celebrated in the place and location [in loco et sede] prescribed by law" (Ordo Paenitentiae, IV, 12).