Is it true that adultery cannot be absolved?

Here is Canon 977 of the Code of Canon Law.

Can. 977 The absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is invalid except in danger of death.

Does this piece of canon law mean that adultery is unforgiveable? Or does that mean ongoing adultery only?


It means a priest can’t absolve his own mistress of adultery. This canon’s application is very limited.

If a priest commits a sexual sin with someone, he cannot then absolve the same person from the sin. That is the basic meaning of canon 977. This prohibition applies to all priests. If the priest attempts to absolve the person, then the absolution is invalid. The only exception is danger of death.

For example, a priest has gone on a trip with a woman and they get sexually involved in the sin of fornication. She regrets doing this and attempts to go to confession to him. If he imparts absolution, it would be invalid. He would also incur an excommunication imposed by the law that can only be remitted by the Apostolic See (the Vatican).

However, if on the flight back, the plane is about to crash and she then is sorry and seeks absolution, then the absolution would be valid due to danger of death and the priest would not incur the excommunication.

The woman who the priest has sinned with sexually can go to another priest for valid absolution at any time. And hopefully the priest would go too.

Adultery can yes be repented of and *absolved *in confession.

Such is not referring per se to adultery - but to a sin against chastity committed with a Priest…the Priest cannot commit the sin and the absolve the person he committed it with!

That along with the canon about not being able to enter into a valid marriage with a person that you killed your spouse for (so you could marry them…) - is one of those canons that take into account rather extraordinary situations.

I agree; in general there is no sin that God cannot forgive.

Not even in general. There is NO sin that God cannot forgive. There are plenty of sins people won’t let God forgive, but there is no limit at all to God’s forgiveness. The “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” which is said to be unforgivable is final un-repentance, the decision to die without asking for forgiveness.

This is one of the things I love about the Church. It literally thinks of everything.

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