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Anonymous wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Are priests allowed to give absolution and penance to people who are non-Catholics, like other Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc., even to people who are catechumens or candidates of the Church?


  { Are priests allowed to hear the Confession of non-Catholics or even candidates of the Church? }

Mike replied:

Hi Anonymous,

I can't think of any situation where a Catholic priest would be allowed to hear the Confession
of a non-Catholic, or even (catechumen or candidate) to the faith.

One of the main reasons is because they don't believe in the authority of the priest, nor the Church.

  • Why would someone want to have a priest hear [his/her] Confession if they didn't believe in the priest's divinely apostolically, transmitted authority to wipe the soul clean of all sins?

If any non-Catholic reading this answer does believe in his authority to forgive sins, [he/she] should become a Catholic!


Fr. Jonathan replied:

Dear Anonymous —

It is not as uncommon a question as you made it seem.

Canon 844 paragraph 4 states:

If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.

When the canon speaks of “these same sacraments” it is referring to Penance, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick.

Normally however, the Canons speak of being a “member of the Christian Faithful” as the prerequisite to receive the Sacrament of Penance.

Canon 987 reads:

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.

Taking all this together, your question concerning Jews and Muslims is a certain "No", but your questions about other Christians, Catechumens, and Candidates has to do with the definition of “Christian Faithful”. You can read those subtleties beginning with Canon 204.

Canon 204 §1. The Christian faithful are those who, inasmuch as they have been incorporated in Christ through baptism, have been constituted as the people of God. For this reason, made sharers in their own way in Christ's priestly, prophetic, and royal function, they are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world, in accord with the condition proper to each.

§2. This Church, constituted and organized in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church governed by the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him.

Canon 205 Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance.

Canon 206 §1. Catechumens, that is, those who ask by explicit choice under the influence of the Holy Spirit to be incorporated into the Church, are joined to it in a special way. By this same desire, just as by the life of faith, hope, and charity which they lead, they are united with the Church which already cherishes them as its own.

§2. The Church has a special care for catechumens; while it invites them to lead a life of the gospel and introduces them to the celebration of sacred rites, it already grants them various prerogatives which are proper to Christians.

Canon 207 §1. By divine institution, there are among the Christian faithful in the Church sacred ministers who in law are also called clerics; the other members of the Christian faithful are called lay persons.

§2. There are members of the Christian faithful from both these groups who, through the profession of the evangelical counsels by means of vows or other sacred bonds recognized and sanctioned by the Church, are consecrated to God in their own special way and contribute to the salvific mission of the Church; although their state does not belong to the hierarchical structure of the Church, it nevertheless belongs to its life and holiness.

Remember that Baptism wipes away sins so that should cover catechumens.

Fr. Jonathan

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