Condition on Confession


I’m not sure how to create a poll in this forum. The poll I wanted to raise is should the Church create a condition on the sacrament of reconciliation, that the penitent must be willing to confess to the police a serious crime e.g. sex abuse, murder etc. upon receiving absolution?.

After all the Church promotes justice in this life also not just the next…


You should research the Seal of Confession. Placing conditions on receiving Absolution would undermine the Sacrament.

This debate has appeared numerous times concerning Confessions by Pedophiles and Murderers. The Priest can withhold Absolution if the Penitent isn’t contrite. He can offer counsel concerning the next appropriate course of action. However, Absolution CANNOT be Conditional.


No. A priest may not require a person to report his confession – outside the confessional – in order for the sacrament to be valid.

Reconciliation is about reconciliation with God, not with civil authorities.

A priest might counsel such a person to seek civil justice, however. Nevertheless, it is not a requirement that the person do so in order to receive absolution.


So where do you find this in the Bible?


Thanks everyone for your answers. My thoughts are how can a person be contrite yet refuse the consequences from civil authority? That is not just for the offence against the abused or the murdered person…


Well, civil authorities aren’t God… The person can still be contrite and be forgiven. The matter of appropriate restitution after Absolution is between the Priest and the Penitent.


With all respect the penance these days prescribed by the priest seems to be very mild…


It seems awfully convenient the Catholic can pick and choose when civil laws apply to him and when they don’t…


I think that you should continue this conversation with a Priest.


Would love to but I only have one priest friend whom I see only a few times a year. I’m interested what priests and laymen alike have to say


Depending on where he lives, and who he murdered, a murderer might be terrified of punishment.
He might have a family who depends on him and he doesn’t feel he can just walk away.
He may have murdered someone decades ago in some situation on a different continent and fled to USA and at this point the world has changed to where it would be very difficult to go back. Is an immigrant going to go back to Communist China or to Iraq and confess an old murder to the civil authorities?
There are a million other reasons why a murderer might not wish to go to authorities, yet would like to make things right with God regarding the sin.

As for sex abusers, it’s highly unlikely they confess at all unless they are making some sort of admission outside the confessional as well. For example, I’m aware of priests who self-reported an abuse incident from the past to their bishop, even though a victim hadn’t come forward. Those types of priests would likely confess as well. A whole lot of other abusers are in complete denial that they are committing abuse or doing anything wrong. A person in denial that they’re committing a bad act is not going to confess it to a priest either. They’re in denial about the whole thing.


You don’t understand the legal purpose of the confidentiality privilege, which is generally given not only to priests hearing confession, but to clergy of other faiths providing pastoral counseling, to doctors, and to lawyers.

The reason for the privilege is so people can seek pastoral counseling, medical advice, and legal advice and be honest in their conversations to obtain advice, without worrying that they might be turned in to the law for that and without the clergy person/ doctor/ lawyer worrying that he needs to report the person or face consequences himself.

It’s a reasonable and longstanding legal principle. Do away with it and next thing you know we’ll have the Feds bugging confessionals. And not just for child abuse crimes either, for everything.


No, absolutely not. This condition cannot be attached to receiving absolution.

Catholics do not get to make this choice. We are bound by the laws of the place where we live. The only exceptions are laws contrary to natural law or divine law. However, a priest cannot say he will only grant you absolution of your sins if you confess a crime to the police.

For example, if you stole an expensive item from a shop because you wanted it you commit theft and being a Catholic does not excuse you from the laws on theft. If you are caught you could be charged, tried, convicted and imprisoned. But, if you confess your sin to a priest he cannot say I will only grant you absolution if you return the item to the shop or pay for it, and hand yourself in to the police. Of course, making restitution would be the right thing to do, but it is not a condition for absolution.


Guess that means that the folks alive today will be doing some serious purging in Purgatory… :wink:

(Incidentally, you know that you can do more penance than your confessor prescribes, don’t you?)

That’s not it, at all. However, a person in the U.S. is not required by law to implicate himself in an accusation in civil jurisprudence. Are you suggesting that Catholics must have fewer civil rights than others?


Because being sorry for what you did does not mean wanting to cause additional issues for yourself, like jail time or fines.

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