Conditional absolution


#1

Posted by Michelle Arnold: A priest cannot require of a penitent any action that would reveal the contents of the sacramental confession to outsiders, including those who have been injured. So, if a person confessed cheating on his “significant other” to a priest in the confessional, the priest cannot condition absolution upon confession of the deed to the “significant other.”

I went to an all-boys Catholic high school run by priests. We were required to take a second language. I was never good at that and I use to cheat on my tests all of the time. During confession the priests ALWAYS told me that I was absolved of my sins on the condition that I first told the instructor what I did.

Were they wrong in doing this? I barely passed that class with a D average and came close to being expelled for cheating because I admitted my wrong doings several times.


#2

[quote=Sir Knight]I went to an all-boys Catholic high school run by priests. We were required to take a second language. I was never good at that and I use to cheat on my tests all of the time. During confession the priests ALWAYS told me that I was absolved of my sins on the condition that I first told the instructor what I did.

Were they wrong in doing this? I barely passed that class with a D average and came close to being expelled for cheating because I admitted my wrong doings several times.
[/quote]

A confessor can suggest that you reveal your wrong doing. Somehow you must not continue to benefit fro your wrong doing.

If you steal from a business you must return the money to the business or if that is not possible it must be donated so that you do not benefit from it.

How else could you not continue to benefit from the passed tests that were passed by cheating? Except by asking the instructor not to count them.


#3

The confessor may assign such an act as penance, but never as a condition of absolution. What if you were to die prior to telling your instructor? The fact that you have made an act of contrition is supposed to be sufficient for absolution.


#4

[quote=Dr. Colossus]The confessor may assign such an act as penance, but never as a condition of absolution. What if you were to die prior to telling your instructor? The fact that you have made an act of contrition is supposed to be sufficient for absolution.
[/quote]

So then is not fulfilling the act of penance assigned a sin?

If so, mortal or venial?

If mortal then you must confess it at your next confession and not recieve the Eucharist until you to.

If venial then it is easy to get out of it as you confess, get the penance, not do the penance, get forgiven during the penitential rite of the Mass and never have to confess that you did not do your penance.


#5

According to the Catechism:

Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused.62 Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must “make satisfaction for” or “expiate” his sins.

Deliberate refusal to do the penance assigned would be an act of disobedience toward the Church, thus it would be sinful the degree of sinfulness would depend on whether it was done out of contempt of the Church’s authority. If so, then it would be mortal.

A penitent may, however, ask his or her confessor for an alternate penance. To my understanding a confessor cannot force a person to “turn themselves in” for something they have done, as it treads dangerously close to violating the Seal of Confession.


#6

Just a couple of clarifications here since there seems to be some confusion. The seal of confession binds the priest and anyone who overhears the confession. It does not bind the penitent! Thus, asking a penitent to “turn himself in” does not violate the seal of confession. At the same time, such a request would be highly unusual – especially as a condition to absolution.

Although I am not a priest, this issue did come up for me as a sign language interpreter who assisted deaf children in going to confession to hearing priests. It has also arisen in context with being a police chaplain and dealing with privileged situations.

In taking graduate courses in theology, this issue also came up – and was addressed pretty much as I’ve noted above.

What the priest may do, however, if he notices a pattern of the same sin (such as cheating on exams) is to then make the admission of the sin an aspect of forgiveness since the whole purpose of reconcilliation is to forgive sin and then for the penitent to avoid sin. If no attempt is made to avoid the sin, it follows that absolution cannot be given. Therefore, by asking the penitent to deal with the sin in this fashion it helps to avoid the sin in the future. That’s part of the function of the priest – pastoral counseling.

Deacon Ed


#7

[quote=Deacon Ed]Just a couple of clarifications here since there seems to be some confusion. The seal of confession binds the priest and anyone who overhears the confession. It does not bind the penitent! Thus, asking a penitent to “turn himself in” does not violate the seal of confession. At the same time, such a request would be highly unusual – especially as a condition to absolution.
[/quote]

I said that it come “dangerously close” to violating it. I may very well be wrong, but it seems to me that an immutable requirement for the penitent to confess to someone else would be little different than the priest taking the initiative on his own.

What the priest may do, however, if he notices a pattern of the same sin (such as cheating on exams) is to then make the admission of the sin an aspect of forgiveness since the whole purpose of reconcilliation is to forgive sin and then for the penitent to avoid sin. If no attempt is made to avoid the sin, it follows that absolution cannot be given. Therefore, by asking the penitent to deal with the sin in this fashion it helps to avoid the sin in the future. That’s part of the function of the priest – pastoral counseling.

It is my understanding that the priest can choose not to grant absolution if he does not feel the penitent is truly sorry. But he can’t say the words of absolution and then attach a condition to them, like what Sir Knight experienced.


#8

A priest cannot require, as a condition of absolution, that a penitent confess his wrongdoing to outsiders. He can encourage the penitent to do so but he cannot require it. Even making outside confession the penitent’s assigned penance would be problematic because of the necessity of completing the assigned penance. And, in any case, if a penitent justly feels that he cannot complete an assigned penance, he can explain that to the priest and request another assignment.

Here is a Q-and-A that ran in the May/June 2004 issue of Catholic Answers’ magazine This Rock:

Q: Can absolution be withheld from a murderer until he agrees to give himself up to authorities?

A: Absolutely not. A priest may withhold absolution from a murderer if he has reason to believe that the penitent is insincere. He also may assign the penitent to atone for his sin by helping those he has harmed, anonymously if necessary. For example, if the victim was a husband and father, the priest may direct the penitent to contribute to the support of the widow and children. In order to avoid revealing the murderer’s identity, the support may be given through the mediation of the parish’s charitable funds. The priest also may encourage the penitent to turn himself in to authorities. But he may not condition absolution upon the murderer’s confession to civil authorities. No one—not even the priest—can require an action that would reveal to outsiders the contents of his sacramental confession and thus violate the seal of the confessional (source).


#9

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