In the church, we are taught that going to confession is an important part of having your sins forgiven. It’s especially important if you have a mortal or otherwise severe sin hanging over your conscience. But what if a Catholic wants to repent for his sins but is unable to reach a Priest?
I came to this question by thinking about exploration expeditions made during The Age of Discovery. Catholics from Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy were at the forefront of these explorations. They often risked their lives, and would be separated from civilization for years or even decades. While some trips brought along Priests, some of those Priests died too. If a Catholic wants to repent for his mortal sins, but is thousands of miles from the closest Priest and in a place where every day might be his last, is he spiritually out of luck?
If someone is guilty of a mortal sin and does not have the opportunity to be absolved by a priest, then he can make an act of perfect contrition. From the Baltimore Catechism:
Q. 765. What is perfect contrition?
A. Perfect contrition is that which fills us with sorrow and hatred for sin, because it offends God, who is infinitely good in Himself and worthy of all love.
Q. 766. When will perfect contrition obtain pardon for mortal sin without the Sacrament of Penance?
A. Perfect contrition will obtain pardon for mortal sin without the Sacrament of Penance when we cannot go to confession, but with the perfect contrition we must have the intention of going to confession as soon as possible, if we again have the opportunity.
However, it is difficult to have perfect contrition, so a lot of prayer and penance should be done by the sinner to obtain it.
My situation is this. I have contacted my local Church and spoke to the good Father about getting into the RCIA program. I am unable to drive and have issues that make sitting in anything except a specially modified chair with extra spine support extremely difficult; it can take me three days to recover from sitting in a waiting room chair at a doctor for a couple of hours. It is not that I am not willing to endure pain, it’s just that the pain feeds other issues which I have mostly dealt with as in I have ways to watch for the signs and methods to mitigate the problems but it is best to try and keep it at a level where my normal medications and rest areas can ease problems.
The good Father is more than willing to work with me to do the RCIA program in a way where he or his fellow Priest will visit to work with me to complete the program. I have tremendous motivation as my heart, my mind and my soul tell me that I have found what I have looked for all my life and I will not give up because of mere physical issues.
This has been an extremely busy time for the local Church as they built a new building for their growth and are working hard to pay off the cost and continue their work with so many in need. His Superior from Rome also visited which has also taken his time which has to be so full already that I fear he does not sleep.
In the meantime, I read the Scripture (Catholic Bible) and I pray a lot because I have much to Confess, Repent and ask Forgiveness. It is a long story but suffice to say I kind of awoke from a thirty year nightmare to finally find the real person inside me. No, I have not lost my mind, it has just been a rough four decades plus in more than a few ways. Yes, I see a psychologist and a psychiatrist and because Almighty God and Christ Jesus brought them into my life, I now have a second chance, in effect a new life.
The problem is that I yearn to be in the presence of a true Priest of the Church. I want so badly to be able to go to Mass one day, though they stream it for people with issues like mine, and to receive Communion. I need to be Baptized.
As I said, until we can put together the program for conversion, I pray. I do not know if I am committing a sin by doing this but I ask Christ Jesus to hear my confession since I am unable to Confess to one of his Priests. I Confess, I Repent and I beg Forgiveness for the sins of my life. I know I was ill for many of those years but I do not believe in excuses. Almighty God gave us free will and those sins are mine, not some issues going on in my mind and body. In my heart I feel that if I could get down onto my knees and spend the rest of whatever time Almighty God allots me before he calls me for Final Judgement that it would not be enough to mitigate what I have done in my life. I have blood on my hands and on my soul, not murder and not from combat but real all the same.
If I were to pass tonight, would I have a chance at Redemption and Forgiveness? I know I am not worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven but I would be lying if I said my heart and soul hope that I might somehow be near enough to hear the voice of my wife of 35 years when her time comes as she worships Almighty God and Christ Jesus and to feel her presence and that she might feel mine. We have been like one soul ever since the first time she turned around and smiled at me. I can only hope that somehow we might be together even if there is spiritual distance between us.
I apologize if this has been a rambling post. Again, no excuses, but it was a long night and I did not have much sleep; but once I read the original post, I felt compelled to post myself.
May Almighty God and Christ Jesus Bless you and Keep you Always
If you truly love God and neighbor, then perfect contrition is easy to obtain. It is not “perfect” in the sense of flawless, as if only Saints could attain it. It is called perfect because the motivation is perfect: love of God.
You should contact the bishop of your diocese, explain your situation, and ask to be baptized prior to RCIA. Baptism forgives all sins and all punishment due for past sins.
Yes, if you were to perish before Baptism you would still have a chance of attaining Heaven. You would have a Baptism of desire should you die before being baptized. Here is what the Baltimore Catechism says about this:
Q. 157. How many kinds of Baptism are there?
A. There are three kinds of Baptism: Baptism of water, Baptism of desire, and of blood.
Q. 159. What is Baptism of desire?
A. Baptism of desire is an ardent wish to receive Baptism, and to do all that God has ordained for our salvation.
“Ardent wish” by one who has no opportunity of being baptized - for no one can baptize himself. He must be sorry for his sins and have the desire of receiving Baptism of water as soon as he can; just as a person in mortal sin and without a priest to absolve him may, when in danger of death, save his soul from Hell by an act of perfect contrition and the firm resolution of going to Confession as soon as possible.
Q. 161. Is Baptism of desire or blood sufficient to produce the effects of Baptism of water? **
A. Baptism of desire or of blood is sufficient to produce the effects of the Baptism of water, if it is impossible to receive the Baptism of water.
Since you evidently have a desire to be baptized and you are sorry for your sins, you would receive the graces of Baptism should you die unexpectedly prior to a Baptism of water and would enter Heaven. If you are currently in danger of death, you should bring this up with the priest and I’m sure he can baptize you much quicker. Also, once you are baptized, all of your sins and the temporal punishment due to them are absolved, so there is no need to confess after Baptism.
Once you are baptized, you can ask for Holy Communion to be brought to your home if you cannot make it to Mass. I hope you are baptized soon and can receive the comfort of the Sacraments.
I know I have a copy of Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft and maybe I have another book of his. In one or the other he says Catholics get into the front door of heaven because they have the sacraments, but Protestants get into heaven through the back door without sacraments.
The destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD created an enormous crisis for Judaism. They had to migrate from a literal adherence to laws of purification and atonement with animal sacrifices to something more “spiritual” which was prayer with true repentence and their “penance” was reconciliation with whomever they had injured.
I’m the only one who seems to think so, but there seems to have been a form of “confession” in Judaism, discussed in the book of Leviticus. If you had committed a sin, you had to take such and such animal as a sin offering and there was a ceremony of sacrifice where you had to put your hand on the head of the animal while it was sacrificed by the priest. Of course, you had to tell the priest what this was all about so that the ritual could be done properly.
Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN has answered this question and said that the sacrament is the only way that we know about or have been given, but he seems to admit that God’s mercy is not bounded by that means alone.
Our intention to confess our sins and our true repentance must sustain in us all the hope of divine forgiveness, in case we never make it alive to our next regular confession.
When you think of all the people who die suddenly in various ways, we must all live in hope of divine forgiveness. In the case of a homebound person, I think the priest has a duty to make the rounds for just this purpose, of making the sacrament of reconciliation available.
1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.
God’s not looking for ways to screw us over, just like the father of the prodigal son stood outside anxiously waiting for him to return. The previous posts are right about perfect contrition… which is something to manifest every time one commits a mortal sin, for exactly that reason of not having the chance to make it to reconciliation. When I get into a bout of scrupulosity, I will make a “conditional act of perfect contrition,” basically saying, “If I have committed a mortal sin, please forgive me, etc., please let me not die before my next confession,” without the intention to get to confession as soon as possible, since I can’t think of something that would (reasonably) be a mortal sin that I have committed. (For the record, I have never come across this in the spiritual heritage of the Church, but it seems to make sense to me.)