Validity of a Sacrament?

I have a question about Confessions. I am a cradle Catholic, but I really haven’t understood the different Sacraments and their meaning until now. I recently learned that if the form of the Confession is wrong, it will make it invalid. For example if the priest uses his own absolution. This got me very worried about past Confessions I have made, especially because a friend recently told me about one of the priests in our parish, and how people say he doesn’t think that confession is necessary, so sometimes he leaves out the absolution part of the confession.
This seriously messed me up because about 10 months ago this priest was my confessor and I had several serious sins to confess because i was away from the Church for awhile. I had a hard time understanding what he said during confession, and to top that off he didn’t give me a Penance, he just said being in a wheelchair is Penance enough (Im in a wheelchair.) I wasn’t even sure if he said absolution at the end. I was a little worried about that Confession, but I just trusted the priest because i was unaware of how important the form of the Sacrament was. I went on to receive Communion. Now i realize what might have happened and I have read online that this happens often.
I don’t know what to do or what to confess now and need help, not sure which priest i can discuss it with either. What should i do? I probably won’t be recieving Communion until I figure this out.
Thanks!

put your mind at rest
what your friend said is basically gossip, you have no real reason to believe you were not absolved, and in any case, whenever you last confession was, all sins were absolved at that time. be in peace

:thumbsup::thumbsup:

skycloud,
The thing to remember here is what your intent is in going to confession. So long as it is intended to be a good confession and you do all that is necessary, you are in good shape.
If the priest does something incorrectly then any sin will be upon him and not on you.
God knows your heart.
As Puzzleannie said, Be at peace.

Peace
James

First,I am sorry that you are in a wheel chair,I can’t imagine what it must be. Then about the Confession. The forms variate from country to country,here in Finland we begin by saying “+ In the name of the Father,the Son and the holy Spirit” and the priest answers by saying “+May the Lord be with so that you confess your sins sincerely from your heart”. Back in Ireland where I am born it begins,or did when I was a lad and lived there,“Bless my Father for I have sinned”. In all cases the Confession is valid when a)you are a catholic,b)the priest is a catholic priest (I know that other churches has confession as well,but I am not familiar with them,maybe some non-catholic here could explain them some day) c)you are honest,if you forget one sin it is also forgiven,and a big sin you can’t forget,venial,yes,and d)you do the penance if the priest gives you one. He gives the penance as he sees fit and he don’t have to give one. My first penance was to read Jacobs letter,and I learn to love that letter. In a way,it is the foundation for my faith,if I dear use thees words in this matter. But don’t worry,it is valid,and for the future,I don’t know if this has ever happen but maybe it has,if the priest are not a priest,only someone who want to play around,with is stupid in issues like this,even then the Confession is valid cause you was sure he was a priest. God bless you,and why don’t read Jacobs letter,read it,it can’t hurt.:thumbsup:

I do not know that such “happens often”…

Buy…I am sorry to hear of this happening. If he* actually* does not use the words of absolution then one could report him to the bishop privately. But it may be not the case. He may in fact do so…since you do not know from personal experience for sure…it could be misunderstanding…or hearsay etc…

You could do a few things…one is perhaps ask the priest what form he used for absolution…but such could be a sticky thing to ask…it can depend on your relationship etc…

The fact that you say that this happened 10 months ago…would lead me to believe you likely went to confession to another Priest since them who did absolve you. IF your sins were not absolved by the Priest 10 months ago…they would have been absolved then indirectly in the last confession…for you were not intending to withhold them (so such would not keep you from Holy Communion) (such would be like “forgotten mortal sins” …for if one forgets a mortal sin…and were sorry etc…it was absolved indirectly…one is just obliged to confess it in the next confession…or what you forgot etc…it is different with withheld mortal sins…such is a new mortal sin etc)

This still leaves you though with the question of what to do the next time you go to Confession …now that you know this.

Since you do not know for sure if such was the case…I am not really sure what you need to do …

You can in your next confession…tell a priest that you think this happened (perhaps go to another parish somewhere else where they would not know the priest)…and ask him what you should do…

I would …go to another Priest and say in confession say “I went to another Priest months ago…and I just realized that I think he did not use the words of absolution …so I also accuse myself of such and such 2x, and such and such 3 x etc” Just get those mortal sins… and intend the venial ones here. (we are obliged to confess mortal sins in number and kind …murder 2x, adultery 3x…and circumstance that changes the sin…like the person you murdered was your brother)

We are bound by the Sacraments, but G-d is not. G-d can overcome any obstacles that might exist during a Sacrament. If the priest purposefully is leaving out or changing the absolution, and he knows that he is not supposed to do that, then the sin is upon him, not upon you. You are forgiven. If he is accidentally doing it, or not realizing it, then G-d still overcomes the shortcomings that man has brought to the sacrament.

So, rest easy.

But he was to give you a penance…and if he did not…as I recall…you can add one yourself…such as you have had for similar sins in the past…or perhaps a rosary or something…you can address this in confession as well…the priest can give you a penance…

No, a priest does not have to give a penance. Penance does not forgive the sin.

Yes a Priest is to give a penance in all ordinary circumstances…such is part of the Sacrament of confession. Such is an integral part.

If the priest did not give the penance…I would note what I stated above.

Have you noticed that Fr. Serpa has replied to this in AAA?

If you could provide the documentation that shows that a priest must give a penance, then I would happily apologize and admit my error.

Sure no problem

(we are in this together :)…)

Catechism:

(Regarding the Sacrament of Penance)

1450 "Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction."49


1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, "provided we suffer with him."63


Code of Canon Law

Can. 981 The confessor is to impose salutary and suitable penances in accord with the quality and number of sins, taking into account the condition of the penitent. The penitent is obliged to fulfill these personally.


And from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments “On the Administration of the Sacrament of Penance” June 1999

“Specifically, it is the Church’s solemn teaching that for an integral and complete pardon of sins, three acts are required of the penitent as parts of the sacrament: contrition, confession, and satisfaction.”

“Nor should the importance of the act of satisfaction be passed over. This final act of the penitent “crowns the sacramental sign of Penance” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 2 December 1984, n. 31 Acta Apostolicae Sedis 77 (1985) 263). Hence, the confessor** is** to impose salutary and appropriate penances, in proportion to the kind and number of sins confessed, taking into account, however, the condition of the penitent. The penitent, for his part, is bound personally to carry out these penances (cf. can. 981).”

(emph. mine)

(the state of each penitent of course is unique…as are the sins…often hopefully venial etc…so the penance will vary…but a penance is to be imposed…)

(though of course there can be situations like the person is dying and can’t do anything…and absolution is given…but then confession may not be able to happen…but if of course the person recovers…they will need to confess any mortal sins…in a normal confession and then receive the penance…)

This speaks about penance, not about whether a priest is supposed to impose a penance.

1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, "provided we suffer with him."63

This just speaks about any penance given, not whether it must be given or not.


Code of Canon Law

Can. 981 The confessor is to impose salutary and suitable penances in accord with the quality and number of sins, taking into account the condition of the penitent. The penitent is obliged to fulfill these personally.

I think the key is “taking into account the condition of the penitent.” So, the priest is to give a penance, keeping in mind that it is totally possible that there need not be a penance. This seems much different than must, and seems much different than “there are some rare cases in which it doesn’t have to occur.” Instead, at least from my reading of this, it appears that normally a priest is to give a penance, but that it is not obligatory to, nor does there have to be rare criteria for a penance not to be given. Normal, yes. Obligatory, no.

My basis for this is that for those cases in which something is the norm, but there are rare circumstances in which something does not have to be done, then the Code of Canon Law lists out what those criteria are. Instead, the CCL only says that a priest must " take into account the condition of the penitent".


And from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments “On the Administration of the Sacrament of Penance” June 1999

“Specifically, it is the Church’s solemn teaching that for an integral and complete pardon of sins, three acts are required of the penitent as parts of the sacrament: contrition, confession, and satisfaction.”

Nothing about penance, however. Satisfaction, of course, not being synonymous with penance given by the priest to the penitent.

“Nor should the importance of the act of satisfaction be passed over. This final act of the penitent “crowns the sacramental sign of Penance” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 2 December 1984, n. 31 Acta Apostolicae Sedis 77 (1985) 263). Hence, the confessor** is** to impose salutary and appropriate penances, in proportion to the kind and number of sins confessed, taking into account, however, the condition of the penitent. The penitent, for his part, is bound personally to carry out these penances (cf. can. 981).”

(emph. mine)
Again, taking into account the condition of the penitent, which seems that while giving penance is the norm, it is by no means obligatory.

(the state of each penitent of course is unique…as are the sins…often hopefully venial etc…so the penance will vary…but a penance is to be imposed…)

(though of course there can be situations like the person is dying and can’t do anything…and absolution is given…but then confession may not be able to happen…but if of course the person recovers…they will need to confess any mortal sins…in a normal confession and then receive the penance…)

Forgiveness is given at the time of absolution, with the authority of the Keys of St. Peter. The sin is not forgiven at the end of the penance. This is why a penance can last over a period of time, and the penitent still receive Communion.

All of this to say, I might just be reading the CCL incorrectly. Maybe if other people weigh into the discussion, I can see if I am misunderstanding the passages or not.

(P.S. thanks for giving the citations. A lot of times, people don’t bother, making things difficulat).

Again, taking into account the condition of the penitent, which seems that while giving penance is the norm, it is by no means obligatory.

Forgiveness is given at the time of absolution, with the authority of the Keys of St. Peter. The sin is not forgiven at the end of the penance. This is why a penance can last over a period of time, and the penitent still receive Communion.

All of this to say, I might just be reading the CCL incorrectly. Maybe if other people weigh into the discussion, I can see if I am misunderstanding the passages or not.

(P.S. thanks for giving the citations. A lot of times, people don’t bother, making things difficulat).

  1. First quote…it is summarizing the nature of the Sacrament of Penance.

  2. Granted. It presupposes such. This is from the CCC not CIC etc so it is speaking of it matter of fact…not necessarily giving he canonical aspects (though CCC often does in a way).

  3. In CIC it is states that the confessor IS TO IMPOSE a penance (it is an imperative) And that penance is to take in account the sins and the condition of the penitent. So even if the Priest judges he needs to make it an easy penance for the person…on is to be imposed! Imposing a penance is not an optional thing in the ordinary run of things. It is part of the the sacrament.

  4. Again in this context satisfaction ABSOLUTELY means here the penance given by the Priest…it is the term often used in these kinds of documents.

  5. The Document states that the Priest IS TO impose a penance…and that this penance should be one suited to fit the sins and the condition of the person…yes account of the condition of the penitent is to be taken account of …like for instance a person who is very scrupulous about their penances etc could be given a very very simple penance…one that they could do easily. But a penance IS to be imposed. It is part of the sacrament.

  6. As to forgiveness…yes the at the time of absolution…the sins are absolved …by the authority of the keys…and yes *absolutely *the person may if they had committed a mortal sin…and have confessed it and been absolved…may go right to Communion even if they have not completed the penance…for they have accepted the penance. Such is not in question here. But this being said the penance is part of the sacrament …and the Priest IS to impose a penance…in fact if say a person at the time of absolution rejects the penance (I am not going to do that!)…then the absolution will be invalid. (But if it is just the case where the person later decides not to do the penance…that becomes a new sin…) And yes…it is not the fault of the penitent if the Priest does not give them a penance…as I note above…I believe they can thus make a fitting one up and do it or ask for one etc.

Also it is important to note that the sacramental penance contributes to the healing of the person…to the removal of the temporal effects of the sins…in a very important way. Yes we need to do other penance that we impose upon ourselves…prayer, fasting, almsgiving etc (like during Lent) but that which is given in confession is of particular importance.

The Church is very insistent on this.

Your a mistaken here…You are taking the fact of the sins being absolved before the penance is done as meaning that it is not required to be given or received. I can though understand where the misconception thus enters in.

And as I noted there can be times of exception…like the person is dying right then an there…but in such cases they may not be even able to “confess their sins” …but yet can be absolved (at least conditionally) (though as I noted if they are thus absolved and they recover they would still be obliged to confess their mortal sin and thus receive a penance…which they would carry out).

(by the way I have a degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville…and know reasonably well the area of Sacramental Theology if that helps…)

  1. First quote…it is summarizing the nature of the Sacrament of Penance.

  2. Granted. But it presupposes such. This is from the CCC not CIC etc so it is speaking of it matter of fact…not necessarily giving he canonical aspects (though CCC often does in a way).

  3. In CIC it is states that the confessor IS TO IMPOSE a penance (it is an imperative) And that penance is to take in account the sins and the condition of the penitent. So even if the Priest judges he needs to make it an easy penance for the person…on is to be imposed! Imposing a penance is not an optional thing in the ordinary run of things. It is part of the the sacrament.

  4. Again in this context satisfaction ABSOLUTELY means here the penance given by the Priest…it is the term often used in these kinds of documents.

  5. The Document states that the Priest IS TO impose a penance…and that this penance should be one suited to fit the sins and the condition of the person…yes account of the condition of the penitent is to be taken account of …like for instance a person who is very scrupulous about their penances etc could be given a very very simple penance…one that they could do easily. But a penance IS to be imposed. It is part of the sacrament.

  6. As to forgiveness…yes the at the time of absolution…the sins are absolved …by the authority of the keys…and yes *absolutely *the person may if they had committed a mortal sin…and have confessed it and been absolved…may go right to Communion even if they have not completed the penance…for they have accepted the penance. Such is not in question here. But this being said the penance is part of the sacrament …and the Priest IS to impose a penance…

Also it is important to note that the sacramental penance contributes to the healing of the person…to the removal of the temporal effects of the sins…in a very important way. Yes we need to do other penance that we impose upon ourselves…prayer, fasting, almsgiving etc (like during Lent) but that which is given in confession is of particular importance.

The Church is very insistent on this.

Your a mistaken here…You are taking the fact of the sins being absolved before the penance is done as meaning that it is not required to be given or received. I can though understand where the misconception thus enters in.

And as I noted there can be times of exception…like the person is dying right then an there…but in such cases they may not be even able to “confess their sins” …but yet can be absolved (at least conditionally) (though as I noted if they are thus absolved and they recover they would still be obliged to confess their mortal sin and thus receive a penance…which they would carry out).

(by the way I have a degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville…and know reasonably well the area of Sacramental Theology if that helps…)

While I still don’t see the necessity of a priest giving a penance, I’ll take your word for it. Also, while I certainly respect your degree, it’s not the reason I’m taking your word for it. There are people with Ph.,D.s that speak heresy.

The “reason” is it is part of the Sacrament (as Trent etc notes as well…and various texts all over the place… )…it is make amends and help recover the spiritual health of the Christian…

Catechism (under the Sacrament of Penance…)

Satisfaction

1459 Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused.62 Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must “make satisfaction for” or “expiate” his sins. This satisfaction is also called “penance.”

1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, "provided we suffer with him."63

The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of “him who strengthens” us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ . . . in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth “fruits that befit repentance.” These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.64


as for the comment: Yes of course :slight_smile: But not at my Alma Mater :slight_smile:

I understand the importance of penance, and the reason it should be given. I wasn’t arguing with that. Rather, I was arguing with whether a priest must give a penance. Again, I don’t think that you have demonstrated that the validity of a confession rests in anyway on whether a penance is given or not.

Bookcat:

Rereading the posts, I think you and I are misunderstanding each other. I thought that we were arguing that a confession could be rendered invalid if a penance was not given, which I believe is different from what you thought we were arguing.

I never said that the validity of the confession rests on if a penance was given or not (read all my posts above).

But rather that a penance IS to be imposed and received.

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