Can non catholics recieve penance?


I was talking to a friend earlier this week about going to church when she asked if i went to confession. i told her i do, and it is great. she asked if she could go, and i said “i think you have to be catholic” thinking about it I may have been wrong. obviously, anyone is capable of walking into a confessional and asking for forgiveness. did i say the wrong thing? I certainly don’t want to push anyone away from the church.


What you said is fine. As noted, anyone can get advice from a priest, but only a Catholic or a candidate may receive sacramental absolution. (The first confession of a convert is made before he is formally received into the Church.)

If you wanted to, you could tell her that it’s alright to talk to the priest for advice, but that she should tell him at the beginning that she’s not a Catholic and just wants to confess her sins and get advice. Preferably she would do this by appointment, or when there’s not a long line.

You may or may not want to mention that much of what makes this sacrament so helpful to you is the grace that you receive from it, which she won’t be able to receive until she becomes a Catholic.


Excellent advice. Your friend’s desire to participate in confession could be an opportunity for a conversion. If she’s reluctant to set up an appintment with a priest, volunteer to do it for her. Then, when you call the priest to set up the appointment, give him a head’s up. Wouldn’t it be awesome if this led your friend into the Catholic church? I think you have an opportunity here to bring a soul to Jesus! Lucky you!


Most importantly, it’s an opportunity. An opening.

An important element to remember here is that absolution is a juridic act of the Church which reconciles the sinner to the Church. In order to be reconciled to the Church, one must first be a member of the Church. That’s one reason why non-Catholics cannot be absolved. They cannot be restored to a state that they never had in the first place.

The Church makes exceptions for very extreme circumstances (times of war, persecution, and natural disaster) and sets conditions which can never be dispensed (such as a belief in the full Catholic doctrine of Confession, including the necessity of a validly ordained priest to absolve). It does not seem that these apply.


THIS^. My pastor says non-Catholic approach him for Confession all the time. He is kind to them, and begins a dialog, which hopefully, brings them to the Faith. He says it a good sign of the Holy Spirit. He says he’ll counsel anyone truly remorseful, but that doesn’t mean they are absolved, as Father David said.


All due respect, you are not the dispenser of grace. In fact, the very presence of this person in Confession is a grace unto itself.

Also, since the Church is the body of Christ, sin wounds the whole Church (body), Absolution provides a way to restore one with the Church. This would be illogical for a non-member of the Church.


Your friend can also receive penance in another church that is non-Catholic.
Priests in other Christian religions do this, too.

I don’t know if agents in other religions do the confession/penance, though.

Does your friend “follow” a religion?



Please note I did not say the person in question could receive no grace at all.


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