I read somewhere, but wasn’t sure if it’s true, that a person can make their final confession (i.e. before death) to anyone if no priest is available - kind of like how anyone can perform a baptism, if no priest is available and the circumstances are exceptional (danger of death).
Is this true? How does it work? Does the person listening absolve the person confessing in so many words or is that left up to God? I know you can make a perfect act of contrition under these circumstances but I had never heard about making confession to a lay person.
I think his point was that it would be just as useful for the dying to confess to a ‘non-priest’ as it is for those people who confess to Jerry Springer on TV: Not useful at all.
Even in the scenario you depict, the lay person could do nothing except listen. As acadian said, the person who is in danger of dying is better off making a sincere Act of Contrition (asking God’s forgiveness) than wasting his/her breath confessing to a lay person who can do nothing.
Since a priest is required for it to be confession…your last confession is always to a priest. Whether it be on your death bed or 15 years before you die…which is why we always say its been X number of Days/months/years since my LAST confession.
Of course if you have never validly confessed to a priest there would be no “last” confession…only the current one if one is confessing on their death bed.
In short it is impossible to recieve sacramental absolution without a priest doing it. Confessing to a layperson would be the same as confessing to a cat…neither can do anyting.
One can offer perfect contrition and trust in the Lord’s mercy.
If a lay person or religious is at the bedside of a dying person and no priest is available or has arrived yet, that person can express their sorrow and the layperson could assist the person in prayer, to examine their conscience and to make an Act of Perfect Contrition. The layperson could not in any circumstances offer absolution to the person.
Perhaps you’re thinking of the case of a laicized priest or one who is for whatever reason not functioning as a priest. Such a man would not be permitted to say Mass, for example. But he could hear the confession of a dying person.
From canon law:
Can. 292 A cleric who loses the clerical state according to the norm of law loses with it the rights proper to the clerical state and is no longer bound by any obligations of the clerical state, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 291. He is prohibited from exercising the power of orders, without prejudice to the prescript of** ⇒ can. 976**. By the loss of the clerical state, he is deprived of all offices, functions, and any delegated power.
Can. 976 Even though a priest lacks the faculty to hear confessions, he absolves validly and licitly any penitents whatsoever in danger of death from any censures and sins, even if an approved priest is present.
I think that you are realizing that the statement given to you is really bogus.
A lay person cannot absolve you; however, he can be a Christian that helps you in your final moments and he can enable you to understand your wrongs and to express your utmost sorrow to God. As Christians we are member of one Church and sharing our faith through joy or sorrow is a way to be the bride of Christ. The sacrament of reconciliation is based on sorrow, confession, and absolution. If you are dying and you can honestly go through the first two steps without the third being possible I think that you made your final choice between good and evil. Leave the rest to God’s mercy.