Can a person, fighting against their atheism and not Catholic, go to Confession?

Though I’ve been atheist most of my life, I am working for belief, and working very hard at it. I will be enrolling in RCIA for the purpose of converting to the Catholic faith and am working to prepare myself by eliminating my atheism by the time it starts.

Occasionally I feel a strong desire to confess my sins but, as I understand it, I can’t be absolved of them at the current state of my being.

Is that true? Can I go to Confession? I’ve read a lot about Penance and know what to do to make a proper confession.

Do it. Trust that it isn’t the priest you’re speaking to, but that it is actually Jesus. Even if the priest chooses not to give absolution, it will be a grace-filled encounter.

Please do not take this advice!

While I am sure neophyte is well-meaning, one cannot go to confession if one is not Catholic. Baptism is the gateway to all the other Sacraments. That being said, you can talk to a priest, but it would not be a sacramental confession and I would not just walk into Church during scheduled confessions and try to talk then. Best thing would be to call the parish that you plan to go through RCIA at and make an appointment to talk to a priest.

Peace be with you on your journey!

Thank you for your words. I’m not sure what it’s about, the need for me to confess my sins, and though I understand the idea that I’d be speaking to Jesus, I think of that more as a confession in the context of what Jesus taught, as opposed to the real body of Christ (I’m working on this, trust me), I would prefer receiving absolution and would wholeheartedly do any Penance required of me, with all my heart.

And, though I understand the rules and the whys of them, I have this irrational feeling that it’s unfair for me. :frowning:

What gets to me is knowing that Jesus accepted confessions and, note, there were no Catholics or Christians during that time. Of course, since then, the Catholic Church had clarified many ideas in the Catechism and, so, this idea about Confession must have been clarified. I just feel, at this time, left out. I realize I need to be patient.

Please talk to your priest about your desire to confess your sins. There are reasons one just can’t walk into a confessional and receive the sacrament of reconciliation. When speaking with your priest, he will hear you confess your sins and advise you on what to do.

If you were never baptized or have an invalid baptism, when you are baptized at the Easter Vigil all your sins will be washed away. Be at peace and speak to the priest.

Prayer also helps. Just talk to God.

Can you clarify what you mean by the last part? Is your feeling that it is unfair that you can’t receive sacramental confession, or that it would be unfair if you did?

The previous poster is correct that it would be a better idea to meet privately with a priest as opposed to just showing up during scheduled confession times. You should begin by explaining your situation, and follow whatever direction the priest gives you. But your desire to confess is certainly the movement of the Holy Spirit, and even if it doesn’t happen for another year, trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding you in exactly the right way.

Also, remember that when God sees your soul, He doesn’t identify you as “atheist” or “not Catholic”. You are His child. It’s important to clarify that, because when you hear someone say that you can’t go to confession because you’re not Catholic, it is easy to mistake that for a declaration that God isn’t going to forgive you or recognize you until you officially become Catholic. Yes, the sacraments are indescribable and irreplaceable gifts, but God knows you and loves you, and yes, forgives you in this very moment, no matter the condition of your soul.

That’s the Holy Spirit working in you

and though I understand the idea that I’d be speaking to Jesus, I think of that more as a confession in the context of what Jesus taught, as opposed to the real body of Christ (I’m working on this, trust me), I would prefer receiving absolution and would wholeheartedly do any Penance required of me, with all my heart.

And, though I understand the rules and the whys of them, I have this irrational feeling that it’s unfair for me. :frowning:

I’m not really sure what you mean by this, but in any case, I think you should make an appointment to speak about it with a priest. In the meantime, you can tell Jesus directly that you are sorry for your sins and you can ask his forgiveness. You will want to confess again if and when you enter the church - the sacrament of reconciliation is a beautiful gift for the human soul, but God does recognize a contrite heart. Please be assured of that. He loves you, and he wants to extend his mercy and grace to you.

Let the Holy Spirit do His work in you, pray that He leads you to the right priest to guide you, and trust that He will. And when he shows you that He has been listening, then that will help you build your faith. That’s how it works! :smiley: You say you are working at eliminating your disbelief - that’s very good, but you don’t have to rely entirely on yourself. God doesn’t expect that of us. He asks us to cooperate with him, but He gives us the graces to overcome our own lack of faith. Pray for an increase in faith and let him do his work in and around you.

Blessings, Harvey. I will say a prayer for you.

Thank you. I just sent my priest an email about this.

I meant unfair to not be able to go to Confession. I think being able to go and going regularly would more readily allow me to be more aware of avoiding things in a way that would help me in living a richer, more loving and meaningful life.I plan on converting, but even if I didn’t, I think opening up Confession to those not in the faith would help in building faith, or at least help in guiding those who value guidance.
I really appreciate your last paragraph; thank you for that.

I read the above several times. Except for my Catholic fiancee encouraging me to go to Mass with her (initially, now I love going though I feel a bit left out at the end as I can’t participate in Communion) I have been going alone in this. My priest has advised me in terms of reading Matthew and seeing the films “Son of God” and “Risen”, plus delving into the works of Robert Barron, so he’s been of help also. My prayers are, mostly, alone, etc.

Can you explain the graces that God gives to help overcome our lack of faith?

FWIW, my pastor says non-Catholics go to confession all the time.
Isn’t it odd how non-Catholics can see the value of this Sacrament for their spiritual health, but some Catholics won’t go for anything. :shrug:

A priest can’t yet canonically restore you into communion with Christ’s Church which is what (if I’m not confused) absolution does, but due to Christ’s and the Holy Spirit’s action in your life (and the priest’s, and anyone’s in the parish that is praying for future or potential enquirers), He will surely benefit you if you follow this course of action because He sees the degree of mutual acceptance between you & Christ, and the fruits that are being borne, beneath the surface of things.

In the past sometimes a penance took years to work off hence absolution was delayed. But all that was part of a fruitful process for many people whom we’ve probably never heard of.

It’s interesting you mention Confession as faith-building, something that’s not often said. I had exactly this thought the other day!

A priest can counsel. Even in the confessional. :wink:


Even if we’re already in a state of grace, my understanding is that we get even more sanctifying grace from confessing our venial sins. More sanctifying grace = more supernatural faith.

Incidentally, this is yet another reason Catholics should go to Confession far more often than we do. OK, maybe we didn’t kill anyone. But maybe a lot of the problems we have in terms of the depth of our prayer life or our ability to assent to certain teachings would vanish with some extra Confession times! :wink:


In Mathew 15:27 we see such faith expressed here by HarveyL. It would seem that even the Holy Spirit is anxious for HarveyL’s RCIA to be complete.

It is actually very fair. You see I am not a cradle Catholic, I converted from the church of the Nazerene. I had to go through RCIA and wait for my first confession, for my first communion, for everything until I understood what they were.

The issue is that until you learn what the sacraments are all about, what they mean, how to use them, how to honor God and allow God to send His Grace to you, it is not right to use them because you haven’t been taught how.

See and I had a hard time learning this, but the only thing holy about us humans, and there is only one thing, that is our “yes”. Our acceptance of God and His graces, His Blessings.

It’s nothing against you brother, it’s just wanting to make sure that we are respecting God and doing the right thing. Good luck, God Bless you…and by all means talk to your priest, he knows a lot more than me!

As did I.

Having said that, I do sometimes wonder about the whole RCIA process.

A lot of RCIA classes, in fact, are meeting already. Now, do I think a year’s worth of preparation is necessary just to be Baptized? Honestly, I’m not sure.

I will absolutely stand by whatever any particular Diocese happens to decide on this matter, but I suspect a lot of people would do just fine to receive at least Baptism and First Communion whenever a particular Priest thought they were ready. (In fact, I wonder if this was always the way the Church dealt with prospective converts. I’ve heard tell it was. Also, the first Priest I ever met was willing to Baptize me whenever I thought it was time, after some initial Catechesis. For years, I actually suspected he was some kind of liberal! But he’s about as traditional as a Priest can get without joining the FSSP. :p)

I think the problem with this might be more logistical than spiritual, but I’m not an expert on these things.

Anyway, this is kind of off-topic.

We are bound by the sacraments; God is not. Talk with your priest to gain a better understanding of what you need to do outwardly, and he will probably advise you about what you can do now.

I will give you my own, lay suggestions–your priest may give you different instructions, which come from a more knowledgeable point of view.

First, you can pray as much as possible. WRT your sins, make an Act of Contrition each evening after a *brief *examination of conscience. Do not dwell on your sins!!! Simply tell them to God and let them go. Of course, you will do a full exam. f conscience for you first Confession later on, but in the meantime, trust in God.

We make reparation for our sins by prayer, fasting, and alms giving. The penance given in Confession is generally a sort of token, so it does not fully repair. You can start these penetential practices now, but do *not *engage in extraordinary penance without the approval of a spiritual director.

You can find Catholic daily prayers online or in a book or pamphlet, pray those. The saints tell us that we should pray 15 minutes a day in justice–what we owe to God. When we pray more, that is in charity and very pleasing to God.

And pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory!

Forgot to add: obedience is a virtue too!

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