How Can Mortal Sins Be Forgiven?


St. John says in his first letter that you should not pray for mortal sins.

“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that” (1 John 5.16).

If you should not pray for a person who has committed mortal sin, how can the priest forgive this person? Doesn’t the priest have to pray in some way for the person?

“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5.15-16).

Unless praying for one another in James refers more to the healing of the physical sickness.


Since John was writing to Christians in general, and not clergy, then our prayers for a person’s pardon from mortal sin is not recommended because that is the job of a priest and that individual. But venial sins do not require a priest. We can pray for people who are living in mortal sin, but its only for their hearts to be changed, not for their pardon.


Best confess Mortal Sins (and any other in mind) to a priest. Why a priest?
Where does he get his authority? From the Apostles, who got it from Christ,
but where does it say that the Apostles could “forgive” sins?"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples
were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with
you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were
glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has
sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to
them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the
sins of any, they are retained.’ "
-John 20:19-23


No the priest is acting as the person of Christ. During confession Jesus acts through the priest and when the person ask forgiveness through the priest Jesus himself fit gives those sins


Look who he is directing this teaching to. Anyone. The mention in James is specific to the priesthood.

James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord


My simplistic view is like this…

One who commits mortal sin becomes like one who was never baptized.
He is outside of salvation.
Through repentance such a one can be restored - through reconciliation - just as an initial convert is brought into the fold through baptism.

We can pray for those in mortal sin just as we can pray for those who have not yet converted.

As for a priest forgiving a person in mortal sin…No forgiveness can be given unless the person first repents.

Just some thoughts…



Those are helpful points, thanks for all your replies.

Loving disciple’s response has spiked a new question in my mind. So I am on to create a new thread!


Not necessarily - if it’s related to this topic you can go ahead and ask here but you might get a wider input from a new thread. It’s up to you.



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