Valid confession/absolution


#1

I hope you may be able to assist me in answering a question about the validity of a confession made / absolution received.

Until recently, I lapsed from the Catholic faith for over 10 years. Over the past few months I have begun to re-examine my faith, at first through private prayer, and then more recently by attending Mass (though without receiving communion).

Last Sunday, I felt ready to seek the sacrament of reconcilliation. Before Mass, I went for confession, having over the days prior repeatedly rehearsed in my mind how I would tackle confessing over a decade of sins. Even waiting for my turn, I was running through all the things I needed to say.

However, as I knelt down in the confessional, I was overcome with emotion. I barely got out that it had been over ten years since my last confession. As I tried to compose myself, the priest (probably sensing distress, even though I wouldn’t describe my emotions as distress), just said 'Don’t be afraid, the Lord is here and he welcomes you home." That did it … I could not stop crying. The priest went on to ask “What does your soul want to say to the Lord? Speak from your heart, what do you most want to say to Him?” Through my sniffles I said that I needed His forgiveness and mercy. The priest replied that Christ has already forgiven me and stands with open arms ready to welcome me home.

He went on to recommend that I try to spend more time with the Lord to rediscover my faith. He told me about Mass times and other opportunities for prayer in the parish and said that priests were always available if I needed guidance and support. He prescribed no penance and just repeated that Christ welcomes me home a few times before he asked me to pray the act of contrition and gave me absolution, after which he asked me to take as long as I needed to compose myself before leaving the confessional.

I would like to ask you if I have made a valid confession and if the absolution I received is valid. In the more sober light of day, it occurred to me that I had not confessed a single sin and surely the priest’s absolution must therefore be invalid. After this confession, I went on to attend Mass and received communion but now I’m not sure if I was supposed/allowed to or not.

I truly appreciate your guidance.


#2

Yes. The most important part is that your heart desired to confess. You were not intentionally withholding sins. As to the penance, that is the call of the priest.

Welcome home!


#3

I think that priest was spot-on. I think he could well hear and sense your regrets, relief and honesty in your tears. He sensed what you were feeling and going through, and your longing to come home.

Welcome home!! :thumbsup:


#4

I would consult a priest on this.


#5

Thank you hockeyfan and Netty1.

In my over-analysis of my confession, I have been so worried that when the priest asked me to speak from the heart, that he was promoting me to accuse myself of specific sins and that I gave the wrong response and messed everything up.

I don’t know what came over me when I knelt down there but I do know that I entered the confessional determined to make a full confession and ask the Lord’s mercy.

It’s good to be home. Please spare a prayer for my perseverance in faith.


#6

Unfortunately, I don’t know which priest heard my confession, as there are a few serving the parish church I attended.

Would it be inappropriate to ask the parish office which priest was hearing confessions at that time and making an appointment to see him?


#7

You could, but you don’t need to find that specific priest. Any regular confessor would be good. Just tell him what you wrote here.


#8

You went to Confession. The priest absolved you.

There is no reason to go back and explain what happened. No reason to question the actions of the first priest.


#9

At a wild guess…the Holy Spirit paid a visit, and your heart and soul moved. :heaven:

In my opinion you have no need to find another priest. The one you had was gentle, compassionate, welcoming and forthright in granting absolution.

He sounds like he was an embodiment of the principle "Whosoever shall receive one such child as this in my name, receiveth me. And whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but Him that sent me. "

You found the courage to go into the confessional with a penitent heart and Christ was there ready and waiting. The priest heard your words to the Lord, he heard the tears and the wrenching of a heart longing for home. The priest opened the door by giving you succour.

And don’t worry about not getting a penance. I sometimes don’t get a penance, just a gentle bidding to spend more time with the Lord and embrace Him. I know of others who say they have received the same.


#10

I am sure the priest had very good intentions at heart and was doing his best to respond kindly and mercifully, but in my opinion it was a shame that he put you in this awkward position. I’ve had similar experiences on a lesser scale, in which a priest trying to be pastorally sensitive in fact leads the penitent into a situation where the validity of the absolution comes into question.

Since the priest clearly intended to absolve you and you don’t seem to have realized until afterwards that you had not confessed what you needed to, I personally imagine that the absolution would have been valid, but this does not mean you don’t still have the obligation to confess the absolved sins. That after all would be the ordinary procedure for a forgotten mortal sin, to know that you are forgiven but that you still must confess the forgotten sin the next time you go to confession.

Ultimately I’m afraid the best answer is, or ought to be, to go to another priest and explain what happened, and maybe confess to him what you would have confessed to the first priest. The problem is you can’t always tell whether the second priest will actually give you the correct answer as to what the Church actually requires. Perhaps if you made it clear to the second priest that your personal need is to be sure you have done exactly what the Catholic Church itself requires, the second priest will be more sure not to fudge the rules in the name of pastoral sensitivity (though you might also have to endure a false accusation of scrupulosity).


#11

And here is the problem.

You don’t trust the first priest, so do you trust the second priest? What about the third priest? How many do you go to, to make sure you are covered? :shrug:

How about this? Unless the first priest says something totally outrageous, does something sinful or screams and yells at you, you go with that he says?


#12

:thumbsup: Yes…and I welcome you back as well!~
Peace of Christ that transcends all understanding be with you…
Mary.


#13

Totally agree.


#14

Saturday, EWTN’s Web of Faith had a caller with a situation somewhat similar to yours, OP.
Fathers Trigilio and Brighenti both responded to the penitent’s question and confirmed that once the absolution is given, the priest is NOT absolving you in HIS name, but in the name and person of Christ Himself. They mentioned that even if you have forgotten a sin due to many years of absence from confession, it is still forgiven. They added that if you happen to remember something later and feel a need to mention it in a new confession, you may do so, but it is not required, since ALL sins are forgiven provided the person is repentant. Obviously, YOU WERE!

Another point was made regarding penance. Sometimes a person will forget what the priest gave them, for one reason or another. Since Father knew you were sooooo nervous, it is likely you wouldn’t remember either. In the future, if you forget, or forget to do it, he said to mention to a priest in your next confession that you couldn’t remember your penance or forgot to do it, and ask him to give you one to replace it. Simple. But not having a penance never voids the absolution or confession!

When I was in the hospital facing serious surgery, a priest/chaplain of the hospital came to my room the evening of the surgery and asked if I would like to go to confession. I had not gone in so many, many years. He simply asked me if I was sorry for my sins, and gave me absolution. I did not mention a single thing, and of course, he KNEW there would be difficulty in remembering the kind and the frequency.

Be at peace dear friend, and rejoice that Our Blessed Lord has called you home to Himself. I think the scripture of the woman who shed tears and wiped Jesus’ feet with them, could repeat the same words to you that she heard from Jesus, “MANY sins are forgiven her, since she has LOVED MUCH.”


#15

The rule it to confess with at least imperfect contrition, in kind and number and any modifying circumstances, all mortal sins remembered, that have not been told in individual confession. The forgotten sins are also absolved. If you forgot, or through emotion were not able to express, a mortal sin, then you tell it in a later confession, even though it was absolved. The reason is that there are three parts: conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

I think the eastern Catholic canon law has the best summary, CCEO:Canon 718 - In the sacrament of penance, the Christian faithful who committed sins after baptism, internally led by the Holy Spirit, turn back to God, moved by the pain of sin, intent on entering a new life through the ministry of the priest, having themselves made a confession and accepted an appropriate penance, obtain forgiveness from God and at the same time are reconciled with the Church which they injured by sinning; by this sacrament they are brought to a greater fostering of the Christian life and are thus disposed for receiving the Divine Eucharist.

Canon 720 – §1. Individual and integral confession and absolution constitute the ordinary way by which the Christian faithful who is aware of a serious sin is reconciled with God and the Church; only physical or moral impossibility excuses one from confession of this type, in which case reconciliation can take place in other ways.


#16

This is the most well stated post I have ever seen on this issue of valid confession and absolution.
Mary.


#17

Thank you, Mary. I find that very often that the Divine Shepherd “goes ahead of the sheep.” Providentially, this topic was covered in depth by those two priests Saturday, and proved to be of much assistance and blessing to some folks here. I’m glad I watched it.


#18

This is exactly how my first confession after over 10 years went. I cried and cried, but couldn’t get only get a few details out. It certainly wasn’t a comprehensive and complete confession. The priest welcomed me home, absolved me, and I continued forward in my walk with our Lord, completely at peace about my confession. .

Years later, I discovered Catholic Answers, and a bunch of people who told me that, even though I had been absolved, I need to confess those sins at my next confession. I struggled with this for years, because I had been completely healed of my past and been absolved. I finally asked an Opus Dei priest about it in Confession because I was so bothered by this. He reminded me of the story of the Prodigal Son: the son had a speech he was going to give his father - “I have sinned against you and against God…” The father didn’t even allow him to get the words out, but embraced him and forgave him. The priest assured me that there was no need for me to continually bring up the past, but that I could confess those sins if it were helpful to me. I have been, once again, at peace. If you have doubts, by all means, talk to another priest. You will probably find yourself less emotional this time. If you don’t really want to bring it up again, I see no reason to do so.


#19

Thank you Sirach2. I am moved, and humbled by your words to accept that our Lord’s love and compassion is never found wanting.

And thank you all for your responses. I am truly blessed.


#20

Thank you babochka for sharing your personal experience in the exact same situation.

I can honestly say that I felt reconciled with my Lord and a sense of great peace and also joy at being able to receive my first Holy Communion in over 10 years.

I have never had a good grasp of the technical/legal aspects of the faith and my greatest fear was that I was receiving communion while still having an impediment and therefore damning myself further.

Thank you again for your guidance.


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