Can automatically excommunicated people still receive the sacraments of reconciliation validly ???

Hi ,

Can people who are automatically excommunicated , lets say for heresy , still receive the sacrament of reconciliation validly but illicitly? Obviously if they were withholding the mortal sin of heresy they committed then that confession would not be valid anyway for the reason of withholding the mortal sin . Lets say they have forgotten about the excommunication years down the line . Would there confessions still be valid but ilicit ?

I know I am not automatically excommunicated for heresy or anything else but I am just worrying about a situation where I might ever be excommunicated , not know about it/forget about it then my future confessions may not be valid which would obviously mean my soul would not be in a state of grace .

Thank you for your time reading this ! Any replies will be greatly appreciated !

Relax, Christ and His Church are not trying to trick you. One cannot be excommunicated without knowledge.

Of course! If one is excommunicated latae sententiae, their path back to full communion begins with prayer and the sacrament of reconciliation. If you were ever excommunicated latae sententiae, you’d be aware of it. Above all, take this question to your confessor or spiritual advisor.

While I don’t think it is common that people are ex-communicated without knowledge, I would gather their are quite a few Roman Catholics who have gone online and become “an ordained minister” in order to witness or officiate a friends wedding.

This act, being ordained into another church, would in fact self excommunicate the person. Other than that, I think it is much more frequent people just turn away from the church themselves.

Sacramental Confession as a requirement requires [1] TRUE repentance [2] and a FIRM commitment NOT to commit that sin again WITH God’s help to be valid as the NORM.

For ANY sin to be a MORTAL sin one MUST know before committing it that the act WILL be a Mortal sin. If one finds out later that an act WAS [would have been] a Mortal sin by definition; discuss it with your priest in Confession

Would it though? I mean if you’re not actually being ordained into a church (because lets face it, obtaining a piece of paper from a website is not any kind of true ordination). Indeed the largest of those online “ordination” sites, Universal Life Church, even states that they’re not standing in place of a person’s religious beliefs or affiliations. So you’re not actually renouncing you’re religion by obtaining an “ordination” license with them.

Please don’t shout. Not necessary; most of us can read.

Few Catholics are excommunicated. One of the excommunications is for procuring an abortion, which now can be reversed through Reconciliation, although it was not always thus.

PJM’s not shouting… he’s just PJM.

I think that’s the thing. The person is still being ordained as a minister into a different spiritual organization. I guess the Unitarian Universalists would say something similar to the ULF, but it wouldn’t be possible to be a real member of both.

Well, unless you’re Episcopalian and a Buddhist Monk at the same time. I think they are ok with that :D.

Sort of…I would argue, and most canonists would agree, that a woman who procures an abortion, almost never, as in NEVER also incurs an excommunication with that action. Can’t get into it right now. But, it’s often said that abortion incurs an excommunication, and while objectively true, it’s virtually zero percent of the time where it subjectively applies.

As for the comment about Reconciliation, it’s a reserved sin, meaning normally priests don’t have faculties to absolve it. However, in the Dioceses of the United States, our bishops have given every priest blanket faculties to absolve the sin of abortion. The Holy Father extended those faculties to every priest in the world, regardless of location.

I’ll have to ask my bishop about that last one :wink:

In all seriousness though, the UUA is a plethora of organization and even doctrine compared to the Universal Life Church. I mean I wouldn’t even hazard to call them a “spiritual organization” as they don’t even have the minuscule beliefs and structure that Unitarians have. They’re more an online workaround for marriage officiating then anything else. The process to become a “minister” in their “church” involves entering your name online and hitting enter, and printing a certificate. Nothing more. I’ve had many friends do so to legally officiate other friends weddings in a fashion states will allow, obstensibly to save a few bucks hiring a judge or other “real” minister. I would be interested to hear a Catholic clergyman or bishops POV on this though.

Most teenage females do not procure an abortion (I phrased what I said for a reason), but many women beyond their teenage years to procure an abortion, and while there may be circumstances which may act to mitigate guilt, “almost never, as in never” does not apply.

And not all adult women who have an abortion fit within the term “procures”. None? Nope. There are too many who openly admit to using abortion as their means of birth control. And one does not have to be Catholic to have committed the sin of abortion.

We did not have over 900,000 abortions in the last year of counting because subjectively, every one of them really had no intention of aborting.

Sacramental confession is the way back from a situation of excommunication. Depending on what actually occurred would depend on what comes next. Of course if there is danger of death, any priest could reconcile you to God if the penitent is truly sorry.

With respect, I believe you are misinterpreting the canon. But, perhaps Don Ruggero could opine? I believe he has been a professor of Canon Law. My eight credit hours give me a sufficient background in the field, but hardly qualify me as an expert, and I generally refrain from getting into complex discussions of the nuances of Canon Law, both here and elsewhere.

I will say this, there is much more involved here, like the person has to know abortion incurs an excommunication (and that means knowing what one is in the first place), not be suffering from any fear from parents, a boyfriend, costs associated with raising a child, etcetera, not be coerced from someone outside, and these are just a few.

But, like I said, I’m more than open to correction by an expert in the field.

For reference on the Buddhist monk thing…

I think your point is intriguing and somewhat rational. But at the end of the day, the person is joining a professed denomination in order to perform duties, which in the RCC, only ordained clergy are allowed to perform. So they would be joining another denomination which has very different spiritual beliefs in order to act in capacity as a public representative of that denomination.

While I understand their intention might not be to leave the Catholic Church, their actions would support a case that they have. I would think once notified of this, most would choose not to “be ordained”, or if they already have just go to confession, make a profession of faith and return.

Thanks for the dialogue.

Some people do it as a novelty, so take even that with a grain of salt. Western Catholics must married by a representative of the Church, Eastern Catholics by a priest or bishop. However, no such restriction applies for non-catholics, so if a Catholic ‘laymen’ were to procure this documentation to marry their non-Catholic friends acceptable to the secular law, this is not excommunicable unless they are simulating the Sacrament, which they need not do.

Yeah the Buddhist thing seems much ado about nothing. Looks like it was more a conservative group’s smear campaign predicated on a bishop’s single statement about one of his priests who practices Zen Buddhist Meditation techniques. Don’t see how Zen Buddhist meditation would impinge on his ability to perform his priestly Christian duties. Heck it might actually enhance his ability to focus on prayer and communion with Christ.

And I agree that with regard to the Universal Life Church and similar organizations the big issue from a Catholic POV could be that IF the “ordination” is being performed for the primary reason most such online ordinations are performed, namely so the person could officiate a friend or loved one’s wedding, THAT would be a primary concern. Seeing as Catholics believe only a Catholic priest can perform a wedding.

Totally understand that, and to a large degree agree with it.

I think if the states offered a “one time wedding witness permit”, there would be no issue as long as the person was not blessing the wedding or trying to give any sacramental grace associated with their presence. My last post makes the point though, that even by standing up their as an “ordained person” it is signifying something and sending a message.

Thanks for the comment.

May I suggest, “NEVER” might be too strong? Not every abortion involves ignorance, or aggressive behavior towards the woman, lacked reason etc etc

RE: Canons 1323-1325

Can. 1323
The following are not subject to a penalty when they have violated a law or precept:
1/ a person who has not yet completed the sixteenth year of age;
2/ a person who without negligence was ignorant that he or she violated a law or precept; inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance;
3/ a person who acted due to physical force or a chance occurrence which the person could not foresee or, if foreseen, avoid;
4/ a person who acted coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or due to necessity or grave inconvenience unless the act is intrinsically evil or tends to the harm of souls;
5/ a person who acted with due moderation against an unjust aggressor for the sake of legitimate self defense or defense of another;
6/ a person who lacked the use of reason, without prejudice to the prescripts of cann. ⇒ 1324, §1, n. 2 and ⇒ 1325;
7/ a person who without negligence thought that one of the circumstances mentioned in nn. 4 or 5 was present.

Can. 1324 §1.
The perpetrator of a violation is not exempt from a penalty, but the penalty established by law or precept must be tempered or a penance employed in its place if the delict was committed:
1/ by a person who had only the imperfect use of reason;
2/ by a person who lacked the use of reason because of drunkenness or another similar culpable disturbance of mind;
3/ from grave heat of passion which did not precede and hinder all deliberation of mind and consent of will and provided that the passion itself had not been stimulated or fostered voluntarily;
4/ by a minor who has completed the age of sixteen years;
5/ by a person who was coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or due to necessity or grave inconvenience if the delict is intrinsically evil or tends to the harm of souls;
6/ by a person who acted without due moderation against an unjust aggressor for the sake of legitimate self defense or defense of another;
7/ against someone who gravely and unjustly provokes the person;
8/ by a person who thought in culpable error that one of the circumstances mentioned in ⇒ can. 1323, nn. 4 or 5 was present;
9/ by a person who without negligence did not know that a penalty was attached to a law or precept;
10/ by a person who acted without full imputability provided that the imputability was grave.
§2. A judge can act in the same manner if another circumstance is present which diminishes the gravity of a delict.
§3. In the circumstances mentioned in §1, the accused is not bound by a latae sententiae penalty.

Can. 1325
Crass, supine, or affected ignorance can never be considered in applying the prescripts of cann. ⇒ 1323 and ⇒ 1324; likewise drunkenness or other disturbances of mind cannot be considered if they are sought deliberately in order to commit or excuse a delict, nor can passion which is voluntarily stimulated or fostered.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit