I have a friend who is being drawn to Catholicism. She has an incredible urge to confess to a priest and also to just talk with him regarding her desires to become Catholic. What should I advise her? Can a non-Catholic go to confession and get absolved? It is a sacrament, so one has to be a member of the faith, right?
If your friend is a member of a church that has valid confession, the Code of Canon Law does provide that your friend can go to confession with a Catholic priest:
§3 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to members of the Eastern churches not in full communion with the catholic Church, if they spontaneously ask for them and are properly disposed. The same applies to members of other churches which the Apostolic See judges to be in the same position as the aforesaid Eastern churches so far as the sacraments are concerned (canon 844).
If your friend is a member of a church that does not have valid confession, she can only go to confession to a Catholic priest as part of being received into the Catholic Church; or upon her deathbed, so long as she cannot approach a minister of her own tradition, she asks for confession, and the priest establishes that she demonstrates that she is properly disposed and believes what the Church teaches about the sacrament:
§4 If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgement of the diocesan bishop or of the episcopal conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, Catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the Catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed (canon 844).
Your friend is certainly welcome to make an appointment with a priest to discuss her desire to become Catholic. If she wishes, she can also speak to him about her personal troubles. She can request the protection of the seal of the confessional, but as a non-Catholic she ordinarily cannot receive absolution.
If your friend is a non-Christian, she must receive baptism before receiving confession because baptism is the gateway to the other sacraments:
§1 A person who has not received baptism cannot validly be admitted to the other sacraments (canon 842).
Once baptized, all prior sins and all punishment due those sins is wiped away. A person baptized as an adult or as a child over the age of reason only confesses sins committed after baptism.