Mortal Sin and Communion

My understanding is that a Catholic shall not receive communion when they are under mortal sin. To do so knowingly is committing sacrilege. If this is incorrect, someone please correct me.

With that being said. How does this relate to a Priest? Are they allowed to say Mass and consecrate the Eucharist if under a mortal sin? Is it in fact a valid consecration as a result? And do they commit sacrilege by partaking in Communion during Mass if under mortal sin?

Is there some type of “pass” that is given to allow the Priest to perform Mass and receive Communion while in this state? If so, can someone enlighten me/us on the basis for this.


Hi Joebob,

Welcome to CAF! I hope you find good answers to your posts here.

Yes, you are correct in that receiving while in a state of sin (committed a mortal sin and have not been to confession yet) is a sacrilege and is also a mortal sin.

You may find the following thread useful:

Post #8 quotes the council of Trent, which stated a priest should confess beforehand, unless it is impossible to do so, in which case a priest may celebrate the mass and receive, but should confess at the first available opportunity.

I’ve read somewhere, I can’t quote it, that the status of the priest’s soul doesn’t invalidate the Mass as at that point, he is acting er persona Christi. In essence, it’s not the priest doing it, it’s Jesus; therefore the priest’s status doesn’t matter.

With that said, I do believe however it would be ideal for a priest to be in a state of grace before Mass.

Even if a priest is in a state of mortal sin he can still celebrate Mass and his state does not make the Consecration or any other part of the Mass invalid.

Ok, the consecration is still valid, I get that.

But does he commit sacrilege when he receives communion just as someone else would when they receive while under mortal sin?

The Code of Canon Law allows for exceptions to the rule:

Can. 916: “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or 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.”

Note that this exception applies to all Catholics who have grave reasons for receiving Eucharist without confession of mortal sin before. This is not specified further, other than in discussion/compendiums/etc, but there are certain scenarios that are presumed to be covered, such as risk of death, risk of scandal or undue embarrassment if one abstains, and in this case the need for a priest to offer the mass for his congregation.

The belief that a sinful minister cannot validly confect a sacrament is a heresy known as Donatism, and was notably refuted by St. Augustine of Hippo, and much later, St. Thomas Aquinas. The sacraments are known to work ex opere operato, by the power of Christ Himself, and not by the means of the minister alone.

“Undue embarrassment if one abstains” ? ? ?

Did you actually read that in an official document?

That depends on what you consider an “official document”. As I said, the Code of Canon Law itself does not elaborate further. So no. But then no official documents clarify what the criteria are here.

But, I have read opinions to this effect by good theologians. Apologist Jimmy Akin has discussed such a consideration. I’ll try to find that article.

Here is the article I was looking for:

I’ll note that Jimmy Akin is not advocating this approach lightly and emphasises that there are many steps and considerations before one gets to this point. But he does quote from the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (a.k.a. “the green commentary”), which states:

Grave reasons for going to Communion without confessing include danger of death and serious embarrassment if Communion is not taken [p. 1111].

Again, the green commentary is not an “official” document, and much like in other areas of Catholic teaching, the term “grave reason” will remain open to debate, but it does confirm that I’m not pulling this stuff out of thin air.

JoeBob I feel there may be a deeper reason you have such a concern re the state of soul of somebody else (esp a priest) rather than just worrying about your own soul which is prob the best approach to such matters? It sounds more personal than theoretical. Is there an unresolved history between you (or a friend) and the priest you speak of?

Fairly obviously it wouldn’t be very practical if the sacraments were invalidated for the community because of the priest’s sins (esp the hidden ones which may come out only years later).

Aren’t we ALL suppose to ask for God’s forgiveness for our sins BEFORE accepting the Eucharist?

And doesn’t God immediately forgive us and wipe our slate clean from those sins which we confess and repent for?

And after taking of the bread and wine, are we not in communion with God and in a prayerful and repentant state, cleansed from our sins?


I have no personal issues ect.

This is the moral theology section of this forum isn’t it? Questions regarding the leader of the flock in relation to the church and the flock seem appropriate.

We all get aggravated when we look at our government for instance, and the rules which they put on the populace, but seem to carve out niches for themselves as makers of those rules. Most times there aren’t clear reasons for government officials doing such.

It does seem that Church has in a sense done the same on certain issues. Trying to find the basis for such actions shouldn’t come as any surprise I wouldn’t think.

BTW, new to this forum, but there seems to be an awful lot of talk about masturbation, and pornography ect. on the part of Catholics in general. If there are that many members with issues on such matters, then it would only seem to be true that the clergy would have the same issues which would leave them in the state of sin I asked about originally. Not trying to derail the thread, just an observation.

Yes, yes and maybe in that order.

The requirement to confess before communiuon after having commited grave sin is basically a Church positive (“arbitrary”) law made for fairly sensible practical reasons.

It teaches us the importance and seriousness of being reconciled with God before approaching his table (yes some people need to be educated about this surprisingly).

Also, it suggests that notorious Christian public sinners think twice about their hypocrisy when pretending to be part of the Christian community.

Just to be clear, it’s not “bread and wine.” During the consecration, the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. The bread and wine no longer exist.

Anyway, it depends on whether or not the sin is mortal. If the sin was mortal then ordinarily the person must ask God for forgiveness through the sacrament of Confession before receiving the Eucharist. That is because the Eucharist is a “sacrament of the living” (i.e. only people in the state of grace can benefit from it). Confession is the ordinary way in which God restores people from the state of sin back to the state of grace.

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