A few more confession questions

Does the priest have the ability to choose when you say the act of contrition? Sometimes priests say to do it before you even enter the confessional, one has told me to do it after I had already received absolution, etc. I’ve always felt like it’s best to do it right before you receive absolution, right after you confess your sins.

So can any of this render the sacrament illicit, or even worse, invalid?

And is the priest required to be wearing his vestments, or can he do it in regular clothes?


I don’t know? :shrug:

My experience has always been right after he gives me my penance–before absolution. And he has always been wearing his vestments.

I recommend saying it before you enter the confessional. It help to rehearse not only the words, but also the thoughts and motivations that the words are supposed to drum up in you. I suggest saying it slowly while you are waiting, meditating briefly on what it *really *means to be sorry *because *“they offend thee my God”, or what is *really *involved in firmly resolving something.

The act of contrition in the confessional immediately before absolution is mandatory, because you can’t be absolved unless you manifest contrition anyway. Hence the absolution would be invalid and illicit without your act.

There is an exception: if you are physically unable to express it, like if you are in a coma and about to die, then the assumption is made that you would if you could.

Who told you to say it *after *absolution? That doesn’t make sense.

The priest’s clothes don’t matter, but the usual equipment is a purple stole that signifies the penitential work he is doing. In face-to-face confessions, sometimes he has a crucifix in his hands that he presents to you to kiss out of sorrow for your sins.

(By the way, “vestments” technically refers to the robes and so on that he wears for mass; the collar and the other black clothes he wears in everyday life are usually called “clericals”. And a priest can administer any sacrament regardless of how he may be dressed at the moment - e.g. military chaplains hear battlefield confessions in fatigues; and I have heard one story of some bishops, wearing lay clothing, consecrating another bishop, at a house party, secretly in the kitchen, for fear of the communist authorities!)

Yes I have heard this; and has happened a couple of times. Usually because there was a long line and to save time the priest will ask that you say it after. I 've never heard that it is illicit; except from the poster above.

The necessary elements of the Sacrament are that you confess your sins, and that you receive the Absolution. The placement of the Act of Contrition is a matter of custom, and some priests do it differently than others. As long as you say it at some point, don’t worry too much about it. :slight_smile:

Any quotes/sources for the whole “it’s not valid unless you say act of contrition before absolution” idea?

And aren’t there a whole lot of different ways to say the act of contrition? Isn’t it sufficient for you to make an act of contrition, in the sense that you tell God that you are sorry and that you have a firm resolve to stop doing the sinful things you are confessing?

Exactly - it doesn’t impact the validity or liceity of the sacrament if the Act of Contrition is not said in the confessional. It is good for a penitent to say it before or afterwards, especially if the priest tells you to do so, but ordinarily a formal Act of Contrition isn’t even required.

The FACT of contrition, rather than the utterance of a formal prayer expressing same, is what is the essential requirement for valid absolution.


And aren’t there a whole lot of different ways to say the act of contrition? Isn’t it sufficient for you to make an act of contrition, in the sense that you tell God that you are sorry and that you have a firm resolve to stop doing the sinful things you are confessing?


Can you please cut and paste the precise paragraph that you are referring to?

I guess that everybody agrees on the necessity of contrition for a valid confession. However, I do not see any specific reference to the Act of Contrition, where it is defined as the standard prayer taught by the Church.

“The Council of Trent, mindful of the tradition of the ages, defined (Sess. XIV. ch. iv de Contritione) that “contrition has always been necessary for obtaining forgiveness of sin”.”

How would a priest know whether you are contrite unless you manifest it by an outward act?

Contrition is a movement of the heart and of the mind, and it looks like that we all agree that it is necessary for the validity of confession. However, just because someone says the act of contrition it does not mean that he has contrition. That could be because a person lies about it or because a person is clueless about contrition and confession and a priest might not be aware of it.

So it seems like the answer is that there doesn’t need to be a “said out loud” act of contrition in order for the sacrament to be valid?

Unless I see something that formally says it’s required, I’d say not.

That doesn’t mean that you can say “No” if the priest asks for it - obviously if he’s asking for it, you have to say it - but if he forgets to ask for it, or if he’s trying to save time and is asking people to say it either afterwards or ahead of time, it doesn’t affect the validity of the Sacrament, that I know of.

The act of voluntarily presenting yourself to the priest and voluntarily telling him your sins is pretty strong evidence of contrition in itself. It’s not like anyone’s forcing you to be there or admit to any of your sins, after all.

And certainly too many Catholics take advantage of the voluntary nature of the sacrament and rarely or never darken the door of a confessional. There’d be small reason for someone (apart perhaps from a child whose parents can make them go) who ISN’T genuinely contrite to put themselves through the process.

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