Can ONLY priests forgive sins?

This is a “technical” question, so please bear with me.

It has been discussed on this forum that if somebody unknowingly confessed their sins to someone who was not really priest, and therefore did not have the authority to forgive sins; God, in His mercy, would forgive those sins anyway and not hold those sins against the person who unknowingly confessed their sins to someone who was not really priest.

God forgives us our sins in confession THROUGH the priest. If God would also forgive us our sins if we unknowingly confessed our sins to someone who was not really priest, TECHNICALLY speaking, didn’t God also forgive us our sins THROUGH this person?

If we confess our sins to a person who turns out to not be a priest and we never discovered this and are totally unaware of this, God will not hold that against us and would most likely not hold those sins against us, if we die in this state. If we were to go to Confession again this time validly, those sins would also be forgiven and we would be absolved of them at that Confession. If we learn of this and had not been back to Confession since, we would be required to return to Confession and seek valid absolution.

If someone confessed to someone who they thought was a priest and he wasn’t really a priest, any forgiveness that had taken place wouldn’t be because of the “absolution” of the imposter. (The imposter did not have the power of Holy Orders to forgive sins in persona Christi.)

If any forgiveness had taken place, it would have been due to the direct action of God outside of the sacrament…similar to when a contrite Protestant asks God for forgiveness.

So, to answer your question, no, God did not give forgiveness through the imposter; and yes, ONLY a priest can give absolution for sins.

No, God would have forgiven our sins DESPITE this person who obviously has so little regard for the sacrament and the faithful that he would try to deceive the penitents.

Good cannot be sought through evil means. So, if a man commits this sacrilege against the Church and Her sacraments, any good that is caused is not because of him, but in spite of him.

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