Confession.... can a non catholic go?


I’ve got a few friends and relatives who been open minded to Catholic ideas (i’m Catholic, they are not) and one of the ideas they found interesting was Confession. I was thrilled that such a powerful sacrament was being understood recently by one of my relatives, and then the question came up that I was unable to answer:

Can a non-catholic go to confession (of course they could…just like a non-catholic can go to communion even though they’re not suppose to) but is that sacarment available to non catholics?

Thanks everyone… your answers are always so helpful!


A Byzantine Catholic priest once told me that a non-Catholic can go to confession but will not receive absolution because they are not in communion with the Church. However, confession is a powerful sacrament that involves spiritual and psychological healing. I believe that the non-Catholic would benefit from confession even without absolution—and it may be the spark that begins a wonderful journey! :slight_smile: Talk to your priest about it.



Hi jmo,

From The Catechism of the Catholic Church :

When, in the Ordinary’s judgment, a grave necessity arises, Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who ask for them of their own will, provided they give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and possess the required dispositions.

The short answer would be no. But there are extraordinary circumstances where it could happen, and this has to be determined by the bishop of the diocese


FWIW, Fr. B. Groeschel says he has practicing Jews and others coming to confession. He can’t give absolution but he gives them a blessing. I don’t know if this is unique to NY or not. You’re probably going to have to check with your pastor/confessor to find out for sure.


We have non-Catholics participate in a “Reconciliation Service” in our Parish, but as previously indicated, they do not receive sacramental absolution from the priest (though I have hoped that God accepts the penitential act and gives it His blessing.)



A non-Catholic baptized Christian may go to confession and receive absolution just prior to joining the Church at Easter Vigil. One of the Rites is probably required (Election) but I forget which


I’m not surprised that Confession attracts non-Catholics. We just had our First Reconciliation meeting last night for my second grader. Our priest mentioned that non-Catholic Christians confess directly to God, so one of the dads said “so they have it easier.” Fr. Lappe’s response was a resounding “no!” He said he has received confessions from converts who have been confessing the same sin (one-time sin) to God for 30 years, because they never felt sure that they were forgiven until they received absolution. He also said that non-Catholics are starting to institute methods of confession - one-on-one with a spiritual advisor and in small groups. This matches my pre-Catholic experience. I remember a minister (John Maxwell, I think) mentioning confession to a spiritual advisor.

When Christ gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the upper room, He gave us a great gift.


Confession definitely does attract all kinds of people. If it didn’t, why would Jerry Springer and Maury be so popular.

Did you read this:
"Confession Comeback"

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal article explained that interest in confession is rising among some Protestant denominations. This summer, a North American branch of the Lutherans passed a resolution at a meeting supporting the rite of confession, after more than a century of neglect


Some of the Protestant versions of confession being popularized are, however, notably different from the Catholic sacrament. The Wall Street Journal mentioned practices such as individuals coming clean in videos that are even posted on sites such as YouTube, for all to see.

Other initiatives include a confession Web site, set up by an evangelical congregation in Cooper City, Florida, which according to the Wall Street Journal has postings from 7,700 people who list their faults.

The revival in confession, particularly of the public kind, can take all sorts of forms, as is evidenced in a Reuters article from Sept. 27. The agency reported on a new Web site set up by a major publisher of romantic fiction, Harlequin Enterprises. People will be able to confess, anonymously, their sins online, with others being able to read their postings.

More news on varieties of confession came in a major feature article, published Aug. 31 by the Los Angeles Times. The paper gave details about a number of Web sites where confessions can be made. One of the sites even allows other persons to comment on and give advice to those who confess.


I recently went to a Evangelical Lutheran service (my nephew’s infant baptism) and the woman pastor there gave general absolution to the congregation. She told everybody to prayerfully offer their sins to God, then said something to the effect of “As a validly ordained pastor of Christ’s Church I absolve you of your sins.” and made the sign of the cross (another shock to the system). This all happened at the appropriate place where the kyrie eleison would have been in mass.

I felt like this church was a stones throw away from coming home to Rome. It was powerful to think about it.

…if only…


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