Hypothetical Sin and Confession Scenario

Let me begin by stating that this scenario is hypothetical.

The scenario is this. Let’s say that a Catholic goes to confession on a Friday night to a different confessor than his normal confessor, as he is out of town and wants to make a confession. He makes a valid confession and is absolved of all his sins. He goes home that night and does not commit any mortal sins, or any other venial sins. The next morning, he believes, based on his understanding and knowledge of mortal sins and the CCC, that he committed a mortal sin that morning. He immediately calls his regular confessor and that Saturday morning and is agreed to be seen right away for a confession. The confessor hears his confession and tells him that he did not commit a mortal sin and asks if the person has anything else he would like to confess, and he says no, I confessed last night, and all of my sins have been absolved and after examining my conscience I cannot recall any other sins to confess. The confessor at that time does not absolve him of any sins because he has nothing to confess. The person goes back home.

Now, let’s stipulate that the person actually did commit a mortal sin, but for whatever reason, the priest did not believe it to be so, and the confessor did his best to explain what had happened. Therefore, it was a valid confession, and nothing on the part of the confessor was done wrong.

Would this person still have the stain of mortal sin on his soul?
Would it be absolved in his next confession if he did not mention it thinking that it was not a mortal sin based on the priest’s interpretation?


PS: Sometimes my mind just creates these scenarios and they make me wonder, because I am sure that there is a concrete answer to these questions.

Well, God doesn’t stand there with a checklist waiting for the slightest mistake so he can say “Aha! I don’t have to forgive you!”. He knows the intentions of everyone involved.

Also, I would find it strange if a priest didn’t give absolution for venial sins. Most if not almost all of my confessions are for only venial sins - I have never had a priest not absolve me.

A more realistic example might be something like this:

There is a priest in a parish near mine that gives illicit confessions. Like, not valid. AT ALL. Knowing this, if I accidentally went to him for confession, I would go again at the next available opportunity to another priest.

But if a person didn’t know the confession was invalid, would their sin not be forgiven? I am sure it would be, they did everything they were required to do and didn’t know that the priest didn’t follow the correct form, so they would have no way of knowing that they were not forgiven.

Yes, he would still have the mortal sin on his soul because the priest did not say the absolution. It would be absolved at his next Confession even if he does not confess it due to the situation with his regular confessor.

how would that work in regards to receiving communion then?

So then through no fault of his own, if he were to die in this state thinking he was forgiven…?

So, in your hypothetical, the priests have no clue what they are doing???

I would top inventing problems where there are none.

How do we know which priests give illicit confessions?

How do we know which priests give illicit confessions?

For one, of the priest does not give absolution in the approved form: “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (or equivalent in Latin “Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii,+ et Spiritus Sancti.”) then it is an illicit confession.

First of all, there is an enormous difference between the terms illicit and invalid.

Second, all that is absolutely required for valid absolution is for the priest to say “I absolve you” or the equivalent in another language.

False. If a priest hears your confession and says that nothing mentioned is serious sin, then you are not guilty of serious sin.

The person would probably receive thinking he is in the state of grace, so he would not be culpable for making sacrilegious Communions.

He would go to Hell because he wasn’t forgiven but retained the sin on his soul due to the priest withholding absolution. I am sure that God would get him a priest to absolve him prior to his death considering the strange circumstances though.

In the original poster’s situation, the priest was mistaken and the penitent was indeed guilty of mortal sin.

No I really don’t think the Op was casting aspersions against priests - that they ‘have no clue’
Where do you get that from? It’s very clearly presented as just a hypothetical scenario.
And there is no insinuation of wrong doing on the part of the priest.

It’s OK JoeFreedom :thumbsup:

If the hypothetical penitent is truly remorseful and asks for forgiveness in the sight of God - Whose Holy Spirit can be assumed to be present at the time of the sacrament - could it be that forgiveness is granted notwithstanding that the hypothetical priest mis-heard or misunderstood what the penitent was actually confessing?

No I really don’t think the Op was casting aspersions against priests - that they ‘have no clue’
Where do you get that from? It’s very clearly presented as just a hypothetical scenario.
And there is no insinuation of wrong doing on the part of the priest.

It’s OK JoeFreedom :thumbsup:

No I really don’t think the Op was casting aspersions against priests - that they ‘have no clue’

Lion, that is indeed what I meant. In no way was this meant to mean that priest in question had no clue. The scenario is simply to say that based on what was said, the priest determined that it wasn’t a mortal sin from what he had heard. After all, both people in the scenario are human and are fallible. I sort of assumed into the scenario that there was no bad intent on the part of the priest, it was just that he heard one thing and interpreted it one way based on the best efforts of the confessee to use his words to describe the situation. It was simply a misunderstanding.

So far, there have been responses 180 degrees opposite of each other. Some saying, yes indeed this person still has the stain of mortal sin while others suggest he does not.

Again, this is a hypothetical situation and I know God doesn’t say “A-ha, gotcha, now you’re going to hell!” I know there is a true answer to this question, and somehow, a little bug just nipped me and I sort of have to know! :wink:

It would be interested to put the question to Fr Vincent Serpa.
(In a shorter form.)

If a sincere penitent confesses a real sin and the priest mis-hears or misunderstands and doesn’t feel absolution is needed would God still accept and grant the forgiveness originally being sought?

God’s divinity is not bound by the Church’s humanity. Ask yourself what a good and loving God would do. That is the most logical and reasonable answer. Disregard those that would seem to think God must only act/re-act based on a Pharasaical interpretation of our laws and disciplines.

A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to . . . receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession **unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; **in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible. (CIC 916)

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131

I would say the priest error covers the first

And the believing you are absolved covers the second

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