As a general term, the word is an expression of warm approval, praise and recommendation.

As a technical term within ecclesiastical work, it is the formal judgment of a prelate that a priest is fit to hear confessions. It does not involve jurisdiction, i.e., a bishop does not necessarily give a priest power to hear confessions in his diocese, because he pronounces him fit to do so, though in fact a bishop always or almost always gives a secular priest jurisdiction at the time he approves him. This approbation by the bishop, or one who has quasi-episcopal jurisdiction, is needed for the validity of absolution given by a secular priest, unless the said priest has a parochial benefice. The bishop who approves must be the bishop of the place in which the confession is heard and this approbation may be limited as to time, place, and circumstances.

Regulars, in order to confess members of their own order, require the approval of their superiors; to confess seculars, that of the bishop of the diocese.

MLA Citation

  • Father James J McGovern. “approbation”. Catholic Pocket Dictionary, 1906. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 January 2020. Web. 2 March 2021. <>