Partial absolution


Is it acceptable for a lapsed Catholic living in a state of latae excommunication to seek Confession for the sins they are repentant about? Assume they are of knowledge that they will still not be suitable for Eucharist.


I am not an expert on cannon law or anything and my stituaion is probably different but I am currently not able to receive communion. I was divorced and living with my fiance. I got an annulment but am abstaining from communion until we are married. I’ve gone to confession a bunch of times and have never been told not to go. In fact they have absolved me completely. I usually make it known one way or another that I don’t present myself from communion.

Basically just go to confession and talk to the priest. I’ve never felt anything but welcome.


Can. 959 In the sacrament of penance the faithful who confess their sins to a legitimate minister, are sorry for them, and intend to reform themselves obtain from God through the absolution imparted by the same minister forgiveness for the sins they have committed after baptism and, at the same, time are reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by sinning.

Can. 987 To receive the salvific remedy of the sacrament of penance, a member of the Christian faithful must be disposed in such a way that, rejecting sins committed and having a purpose of amendment, the person is turned back to God.
Can. 988 §1. A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all grave sins committed after baptism and not yet remitted directly through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which the person has knowledge after diligent examination of conscience.
§2. It is recommended to the Christian faithful that they also confess venial sins.


Wouldn’t that would be like coming before Jesus and saying, “Gee, sorry about almost all the things that put you there on the cross but I’m not sorry about X”?


I would encourage such a Catholic to go talk to the priest about their situation. It would not be okay for such a person to – of their own volition – decide they are going to go to Confession and just leave out the part about the excommunication. Intentionally withholding something like that would invalidate the sacrament. But any priest would be more than happy to help the person sort through whatever needs to be sorted through.


By saying this Catholic is “living in a state of latae sententiae excommunication”, you are implying that they are not willing to seek remediation of the problem and would rather stay in that state. If that is the case, then the excommunication has not achieved its goal: a call to return to the faith and renounce the serious evil in their life. They cannot renounce part of their sins and leave the rest. Christ is not fooled. He wants all of the sinner, not just the parts that the sinner is willing to give up. That’s what love is: a gift of self. Christ gave himself to us, and we respond in kind (with his grace).

If the person simply feels “trapped” in this state and doesn’t want to deal with the formalities of lifting the penalty, then they should talk to their priest about it because it is easier than they think to take care of this aspect. The big factor is the genuine repentance and reformation of their life. The rest is details.


I’m not certain if I fully understand the OP. What I get from the post is that he/she is asking if it is OK to confess everything except the sin for which he/she is under excommunication. I also get the impression that the person concerned is not repentant for that sin.

IF my impression is correct, it would absolutely not be right to do this.

Not only would any absolution given be invalid (the sins confessed would not have been absolved), but, because a mortal sin had deliberately not been confessed, the confession would be a bad confession, thus the person would have committed yet another mortal sin!

It is impossible to go to confession and obtain absolution if any mortal sin is deliberately not confessed. Presumably the priest to whom the sins were confessed has no idea that a mortal sin has been withheld, so he would, in good conscience, give absolution. God, however, knows, and there would have been no absolution.

This person needs to pray for the grace of repentance and for the courage to do whatever is necessary to have the excommunication lifted. It is a very serious situation.

I sincerely hope that I have misunderstood what the OP asked. I do not like to think of anyone in that situation - what if they get hit by a bus and have to appear before the Lord for their particular judgement???


This seems equivalent to asking: If I have cancer, is it okay to have only half of it removed?


What I hope I am hearing is that for someone lapsed and in disagreement with certain Church teachings, if they are repentant for what they agree with the Church on and they have been deficient in, it is Ok to seek discourse with a priest, perhaps asking for a conversation under the seal, but they should not attempt a regular Confession, as the priest would need to know more details than such an encounter usually reveals. Further, a priest either may or can not grant absolution for only some things, but should be able to assist with healing one’s limited relationship with God that has been further strained due to sin that one is repentant for.

What I hope I am not hearing is that until someone lapsed is willing to return completely without any reservations whatsoever, they should just stay away from the Church.


I think you are hearing correctly. :slight_smile: No, you are not hearing that they should just stay away. I think everyone would agree that such a person would definitely benefit from talking to a priest, and we should encourage them to do so. I would also encourage them to be honest with the priest and not try to hide the stuff they might disagree with or – for whatever reason – might feel the priest could not help them with. Lay all the cards on the table. The priest will help the person sort through them. That’s what he’s there for.


NO. It is not acceptable. There is no such thing as partial absolution. If you are not truly sorry for ALL mortal sins committed then you cannot be absolved.


I’m not sure that’s correct. If you’re not truly sorry for all mortal sins confessed, you cannot be absolved. Mortal sins that are not confessed, are of course not covered in the absolution (under normal circumstances, anyway).


This is totally incorrect. It is required that all mortal sins committed since the last good confession are confessed. If, of course, one or more mortal sins committed have been forgotten (really forgotten), then all are forgiven. However, if even one mortal sin committed is deliberately not confessed, then none of the sins confessed are forgive, and another mortal sin is committed - that of a bad confession.

We simply cannot go to confession and confess some mortal sins and (deliberately) not others and receive absolution of those confessed. That’s just not how it works. And, as for contrition - we do not need to have perfect contrition for absolution. We only need attrition - such as being sorry because we would go to hell if we died without having confessed the sins.

There is no such thing as “partial absolution”. It is all or nothing!


Re-read my post. That’s what I said.

The other point is that there is no such thing as a partial absolution. I already checked with two priests on this. For example, if a person has committed two mortal sins but deliberately does not confess one of them because the person is not sorry for that sin but the priest does not know one sin was held back and gives absolution that absolution is invalid.

Of course it is a different story if a sin has been genuinely forgotten but in such a case absolution is complete (not partial) because forgotten sins are forgiven.


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