Two Confession questions.

Is a confession still valid if the priest doesn’t ask you to make an act of contrition?

Does a priest have to wear a stole during confession? Would it be invalid if he didn’t?


No. He does not need you to recite the act of contrition for your confession to be valid.

No. His wearing a stole or not has nothing to do with the valid celebration of the sacrament.

My question to you would be: Why do you think a confessor, with faculties from his Ordinary, does not know what is required for the valid celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation?

I’m sure Don Ruggero answered your question, but I thought I’d mention a funny story about going to a parish in another state for confession and when the priest showed up he was just wearing dockers and a polo shirt. I was the only person there for confession and I got the impression that no one usually shows up. Anyway, he says “Here I am, let’s go.” And the whole time I’m hoping I’m confessing to a priest and not just some random guy. Anyway, during the process of the confession it became clear both from the fact that he knew all the right words and he gave great spiritual advice that he was a priest and I thought no more of it and of course at Mass later that day he was the celebrant. But I must admit feeling reassured by the person I’m confessing to at least having the white collar. :slight_smile:

My thought too.

Having seen quite a number of similar questions regarding administration of Sacraments by priests, I am wondering if we have too many priests today who do it unconventionally. I am not saying they are but just curious why the questions arise.

Perhaps they have been reading blogs etc from hardcore traditionalists.

Uniforms and convention exist for a reason. It isn’t that these are of an absolute necessity but they tend to make things run more smoothly and be comforting.

It’s disconcerting to make a confession to someone in a church claiming to be a priest only to find out later you confessed to the janitor.

Lack of an act of contrition and stole did not invalidate the sacrament.

Having the penitent say the act is mandatory but it does not invalidate the confession, the stole should be used unless one is not handy. These are not options.

For validity he must say “I absolve you”, you must have made a honest confession and possess at least imperfect contrition. Other things are a mandatory part of the rite but do not effect validity.

To those turning this back on the OP- priests out there in the world do weird things and dispense with things not optional all the time, it isn’t rare (unfortunately). The concerns of the OP are legitimate and the blame lies not with the OP but with the one abandoning the proper and mandatory form of the sacrament.

Most priests always ask me to make an act of contrition but one doesn’t and I wondered how much does it matter?

The stole I have had confessions with and without the priest wearing it, my last confession he was wearing one and as we sat down for confession he turned it around to show the purple.

I may have worded my question wrong but what changes when there are these slight differences?


I’ve had some who ask me to say the Act of Contrition, and some who don’t. I asked my pastor (who doesn’t) about it once, and he said that if people say it on their own he lets them, but he doesn’t prompt people who don’t start on their own. Personally, as a new Catholic, I haven’t yet been able to commit it to memory (and can’t remember when I’m supposed to say it anyway) and so find it less stressful to not have to stumble awkwardly through it.

Also, I may be misremembering this, but as I recall, the slight changes don’t really have any effect because it’s the intention of the priest that matters? Does that sound right? As long as the priest intends to absolve you, even if he was to make a mistake in the words, or whatever, it doesn’t matter - but I might be misremembering that.

First, the original poster did not in any way indicate that there was an issue with the form of the sacrament that was employed by the confessor.

Second, the act of contrition is not mandatory…contrition is. Omitting the act of contrition is within the confessor’s prerogative.

Third, the stole is prescribed but the confessor has latitude as to its actual employ.

The confessor is given a relatively broad latitude in the adaptation of the rite.

Well, the confessor does have to intend to absolve just as he has to intend, at least by a habitual intention, to confect any sacrament. On the other hand, I can’t imagine sitting in the confessional or standing at the baptismal font without intending to confer the sacrament that I am imparting in that moment, unless I had succumbed to dementia.

With regard to the sacrament of reconciliation, on the one hand, one must have a contrite penitent – who is baptised – having at least one sin, so that there is valid matter for absolution. On the other hand, one must have a validly ordained priest, who also has the necessary faculties, who pronounces at minimum the essential words from the formula of absolution, which of course constitutes this sacrament’s form. If those things are present, the sacrament is validly confected.

What matters is that the penitent is sorry for their sins. It will happen for various reasons that a confessor will choose not to ask for the act of contrition, having ascertained that the penitent is sorry.

The stole I have had confessions with and without the priest wearing it, my last confession he was wearing one and as we sat down for confession he turned it around to show the purple.

Normally, if I am in the confessional, I have on the stole. If I am asked to hear a confession impromptu, I won’t wear the stole. It has no impact on the conferral of the sacrament.

When I am distributing Communion at Mass, I am either in the vestments of the celebrant, the concelebrant, or I have come out in cassock and surplice. When I am distributing Communion to the sick, I am in my clerical shirt and pants. What I am wearing is not affecting the Eucharist I am distributing.

Recently, my husband and I spent a week on vacation in a certain area and visited some of the oldest churches in this historical city. My husband took the opportunity to go to confession before the Mass that we planned to attend. The same elderly priest who heard his confession presided at the “Mass”. It soon became apparent that the priest was having difficulty remembering things and he kept repeating some prayers over and over but never said the words of consecration. The sacristan, who also happened to be the reader at that service tried to tell Father that he did not consecrate the bread and wine. The priest went back to the altar and made another failed attempt then came back down to distribute the unconsecrated bread. The gentleman then sat down and did not receive, and neither did we go up but about 15 people remaining in the Church did go up to receive. It was sad and a reminder that we need to pray for our priests including our aging priests. It is obvious that no Mass took place, but if the confession went as it should have, I suppose that would be ok?

That is very sad. I would hope that someone would be in communication with the bishop or the vicar general about this, not least for the priest’s own sake and safety. Sometimes these things can arrive suddenly – or else so slowly that one does not appreciate how grave things have become – and if no one says anything, it can slip up on the chancery unaware.

It is not only a reminder to pray for the priests but also to be cognizant that the parishioners and office staff are going to be the ones to see this up close and need to advise his brother priests of the gravity of his plight.

Yes…if he said the words of absolution, you should be at peace.

Thank you, I appreciate your response. I was troubled over whether or not I should have written a letter or sent an email to the pastor or the bishop and tell him what we experienced. But it seemed that the middle aged man,the sacristan/reader, was on top of things and was keeping an eye on the priest. I would like to trust that he would pass on to the pastor or bishop what needs to be said.

Personally, I would communicate it to the chancery.

It can, unfortunately, happen that people will not say anything. Only after something tragic happens, diocesan officials learn of warning signs that people were seeing but were afraid to say. The warning signs were all there but no one communicates, out of a sense of sympathy, and a needed intervention that might have helped was thus not possible or comes very late in the chain of events.

If the priest is, for example, in residence and was having a bad day, you will not have told them anything that they do not know but you will have given them the insight of your observation. If, on the other hand, they are not aware of how gravely things have progressed, you have given them something which they need to know.

Imagine, for example, if Father’s profound confusion of what he has done or not done were to extend to his medication regimen. The consequence could be catastrophic for him.

Thank you for your response.

I’d worry less about how many unconventional priests we have hearing confessions, and more about how many unconventional Catholics we have not going to confession…:cool:

A while ago I was at the Sunday evening 8 PM Mass at the cathedral. The elderly retired priest had a mental lapse and attempted to consecrate the chalice by repeating the words for the Host (“this is my body”). From where I was sitting, it didn’t appear that anyone approached him. I can’t have been the only person who noticed. I wrote a brief email to the Rector immediately after Mass to which he promptly replied. The Father in question is a very dear man and I haven’t seen him “slip up” in any other way…but I think it is best to advise the pastor in such situations.

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