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My catholic friend has asked me if I would get a confession before Easter. I was wondering: Is it appropriate for a non-Catholic to go to confession, and if not, then why not?
-- Anonymous, April 10, 1998
Good question, Diana .... here what I turned up:
Yes, under specified conditions. Confession is one of three sacraments which canon 844 allows non-Catholics to receive in specified circumstances:
"844:3 Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to members of the oriental churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church if they ask on their own for the sacraments are properly disposed. This holds also for members of other churches which, in the judgment of the Apostolic See, are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned.
"844:4 If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the national conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community, and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed."
The first paragraph applies principally to Eastern Christians (those in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Coptic Church, the Abyssinian Church, the Armenian Church, etc.) and states that they can receive confession, anointing, and the Eucharist if they ask for them and have the proper dispositions (which is also required of Catholics). Other communions may also share this if they are judged by the Vatican to have the same status concerning these sacraments as the Eastern churches.
The second paragraph applies principally to Protestants and adds several additional conditions because these churches do not have the same sacramental status as the Eastern ones. Most notably, "they [must] manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments," meaning they must believe about them what Catholics do -- e.g., that they are sacraments, that confession forgives sins, that anointing conveys spiritual and (if it is conducive to salvation) physical grace to the recipient, that Christ is Really Present in the Eucharist, etc.
A point has to be made about this because most Protestant denominations (virtually all, in fact) do not teach these things, whereas the Eastern Churches do and so belief in these things can be presumed for Eastern Christians (though, of course, if an Eastern Christian denied any of these things to a Catholic priest, the priest would need to refuse the sacrament to prevent them from profaning it).
Regarding the sacrament of confession, a Protestant who believes in it could receive it in a grave situation since virtually none of the Protestant churches have the sacrament of confession, making it impossible for him to approach one of his own ministers for it.
There is also another situation (in the United States, at least) in which a non-Catholic Christian can go to confession, and that is when he or she is in the process of converting to the Catholic faith. The National Statutes for Catechumenate (passed by the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops November 11, 1986) states:
"36. The celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation with candidates for reception into full communion is to be carried out at a time prior to and distinct from the celebration of the rite of reception."
Non-Christians and those who share the Christian faith but who have not been baptized cannot receive confession since baptism is the door to the rest of the sacraments. In fact, the function of confession is to restore the grace which was originally conferred on a person in baptism but which has sense been lost through (mortal or venial) sin. The early Church Fathers thus called confession "the second plank after the shipwreck," the shipwreck being the sin in which we are born, baptism being the first plank which we may grab hold, and confession being the second plank we may grab hold if we let go of the grace of the first. Thus only baptized people can go to confession. If a person isn't baptized, his first job is to get that sacrament.
-- Anonymous, April 10, 1998
Diana, I agree your question is a good one. The above answer is also a good answer. I will try to add a little more. I you understand canon Law governs HOW we do things in the Catholic Church.
Canon 842--1. A person who has not received Baptism cannot validly be admitted to the other Sacraments.
Canon 843--1. Sacred ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.
Canon 991-- All Christ's faithful are free to confess their sins to lawfully approved confessors of their own choice, even to one of another rite.
By asking for this Sacrament one is saying that they believe all that the Church teaches about the Sacrament and Sacraments in General. This Sacrament is a gift from God and should not be abused in any way.
-- Anonymous, April 22, 1998
I would like to say that both answers are very good, I would like to make the point that if the Church allowed anybody to recieve the sacraments the question comes up "Why be Catholic?"
There is a movement afoot in many denominations and within the Catholic Church laity that Church Membership doesn't matter. Well as a convert to the faith I can say it matters.
When one takes communion, Confession, annoiting of the sick, and the other sacraments, one is making a statement that one believes the teaching of the Church. This shouldn't be taken lightly.
If someone believes that the Church has the truth about confession, then they owe it to themselves to research the Church and look at what it teaches. Upon doing that, if they find they agree with what the Church teaches, then they should submit their will to the Church and join her. Only at that point then should they share in the sacraments.
To participate in a sacrament where one doesn't believe the teachings of the Church, to me, is being hypocritical.
Your Brother in Christ
-- Anonymous, April 25, 1998
I tried to say what you said in too few a words. One should be or intend to be fully united to the Church when seeking the Sacraments.
I also agree that Irenicism is trying to make a come back!
Rich Pohlman S.F.O.
-- Anonymous, April 25, 1998
Below is an exchange that was sent to me about my letter above.
At 11:42 PM 4/26/98 -0500, you wrote: >Dear John Gibson: > >As a life-long Catholic, I disagree with your view. You should answer >the question that you asked of my friend... "why be Catholic?" > >I have responded in piecemeal, so please read below > > >> Subject: Response to Confession >> >> Rich, >> >> I would like to say that both answers are very good, I would like to >> make the point that if the Church allowed anybody to recieve the >> sacraments the question comes up "Why be Catholic?" >Being Catholic itself is not a privilage. Being a Christian is. I >think you are forgeting what the sacraments are all about: Sacrifice.
I got your letter and had to format it out to tell our comments apart.
>> There is a movement afoot in many denominations and within the >> Catholic Church laity that Church Membership doesn't matter. Well as >> a convert to the faith I can say it matters.
>>I do not see the >> importance of the "membership" per se, but I do believe the substance >> of our beliefs do matter. I see plenty of Catholics who take >> communion without getting a confession. I see plenty of Catholics do >> not go to Church except for the Holidays. How important is membership >> to them? As you put it later,
Personally I do see the importance. I disdane ANY catholic or NON catholic who participates in a sacrament who isn't properly disposed. The comments that I was working from was the fact of Non-catholics wanting to participate in Sacraments. I have written before on Catholics who pick and choose beliefs, and Catholics who show up on Christmas and Easter. And I will not hesitate to do it again but it is two differnt issues. Those Catholics who make a mockery of the sacraments either through ignorance or direct defiance to Church law are placing themselves in Judgement by our Lord. Ignorance of the Law does not allow one to break it. > To participate in a sacrament where one doesn't believe the >teachings of the Church, to me, is being hypocritical. >It makes no sense to exort elitist attitudes and discriminate based on >membership (after all, I was born into being Catholic, as many of us >Catholic were ) Who is being hypocritical here? >
No I am not being elitist, Christ founded ONE church he gave the authority to Peter to bind and loose, the Church says that Non-Catholics cannot partake of the sacraments. The same way that in orthodox Jews will not allow a non-Jew to participate in the Passover meal, because the Law (torah) mandates that they not do it. > >> When one takes communion, Confession, annoiting of the sick, and the >> other sacraments, one is making a statement that one believes the >> teaching of the Church. This shouldn't be taken lightly. >Your argument assumes that non-Catholics are taking the sacraments >lightly. I disagree. Matter of fact, I think non-Catholics who want to >learn more about the Catholic faith are the ones who seek a confession. >You, as a convert, should know that.
No. Non-Catholics who want to know more about the faith need to submit to the teaching of the Church. They should enroll in RCIA and learn what the Church teaches, then make a decision if they are going to follow the teachings or not. The Catholic Church is not a cafeteria, one does not get to pick and choose what one will believe while being catholic. One gets the full course. Just like a person becomes a citizen of the United States he is subject to all laws of this land, not just the ones that they wish to follow.
>> If someone believes that the Church has the truth about confession, >> then they owe it to themselves to research the Church and look at what >> it teaches. Upon doing that, if they find they agree with what the >> Church teaches, then they should submit their will to the Church and >> join her.
>>This statment is badly flawed. We do not submit to the >> will of the Church! the Church is merely an establishment. If the >> establishment burnt down, and if the state outlawed established >> religion.... are you still Catholic? (of course you are!!) Only at >> that point then should they share in the sacraments.
Wrong, if Italy were to invade Vatican city today and burn her to the ground and kill the pope, the remaining cardnials would meet and elect a successor. The Church would continue. There is much history of this during the early persucutions. You confusing the building with the Church, it is not. There is a wonderful example of how Christ protectes his Church in the witness of Vigilius. He helped murder a sitting pontiff, got himself elected anti-pope, and then after denoucing the sitting pope that was elected as successor to the one he helped kill, had him starved to death. Not a nice guy. While acting as Anti-pope he was teaching all sorts of herasy, but primarly that Christ only had one will, the divine. Once he was elected Pope, something happened, he wrote the empress of the Eastern Roman Empire and told her he could not teach the herasy that she wanted him to teach i.e. Christ had one will, the divine. She took him and imprisoned him and he died 18 months later without recanting and teaching this herasy. This man, who wanted to be Vicar of Christ, who was teaching herasy, who was a murderer, upon becomoing pope refused to do the same thing he did when he was anti-pope.
continued next message
-- Anonymous, April 27, 1998
The Church is a divine establishment. She has seen governments rise, governments fall, if it were just the work of human hands she would have dissolved many years ago. You and I have fundamental disagreements on what the Church is. I see her as a divine institution that is continually headed by the Holy Spirit working through the Bishop of Rome. You see her as just a human institution. The reason why she can't be only a human institution is the fact that Christ built her. Matthew 16:17-19
17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
The Revised Standard Version, (New York: The National Council of Churches) 1997, c1994.
The keys of the Kingdom can be found in Isaiah 20:20 where God removes the Prime Minister of Israel and gives the keys to another. The keys are a symbol of a continuing office. Later the other apostles are given the power to bind and loose, but only Peter is given the keys. The word Peter means Rock, the meaning of the passage comes to life "you are rock and upon this rock I will build my Church. Christ builds his Church, single, He didn't build differing denominations. Mankind did that. In 1054 almost 1000 years after the foundation of the Church the first split happened. It was political, the Eastern Churches didn't want to submit to the authority of the Primacy of Peter, they split. Notice that they didn't remain one body, orthodoxy has splintered and separated itself to many different denominations. The Catholic Church remains one. In 1517 the Great Protestant Schism happened. Since then those denominations have split and reformed split and reformed to now they constitute over 30,000 different sects and denominations. Each and every one claims to be headed by the Holy Spirit and claims to be preaching the truth. They can't all be right. Only the Catholic Church stands alone and continues to stand on issues of morality that the other denominations have caved in on.
Such an example is Birth Control. The early Church fathers (the first 800 years of the writings of the Church) are in a chorus of harmony on the fact that it is sinful. matter of fact all Christian denominations before 1930 claimed the same thing. At conference in 1930 the Anglican Church caved into social pressure and allowed it. Every other Denomination has followed in her footsteps. They are out of step with the teachings of the Early Church that was handed down from the beginning.
Another example is the fact that marriage is a permanent institution. This is not politically correct to say in our age of divorce and do what you want if you feel like it. Christ disallowed divorce in his teaching.
31 'It has also been said, Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. 32 But I say this to you, everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of an illicit marriage, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader's Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.
The reason why I am using the New Jerusalem here is that it's translation is actually clearer and more to the core of the greek than the RSVCE. the NJB translates the word Pornoria (greek) as Illicit, The word is much stronger than that, it is the root where we get the word Pornography from. I would have rather translated it as obscene. The type of marriage that Christ was talking about was a marriage that was allowed in Israel by Roman law (they were occupied at the time) but not by Jewish Law. an example of marriage allowed by Roman law was A mother and Son marrying. In the eyes of the Jews, and in Christians this is a sham, it is not marriage it is a sin. Therefore a writ of divorce to break the marriage would be ok, because it wasn't a marriage in God's eyes.
There are few denominations out there who oppose divorce and remarriage. The Catholic Church is only one of them that has a process that is installed to investigate if a sacramental bond occurred at the time of the wedding. A majority of the Protestant, including Orthodox allow divorce and remarriage in direct contradiction to Scripture, and the teachings of early Christianity. >> To participate in a sacrament where one doesn't believe the teachings >> of the Church, to me, is being hypocritical. >See my argument, supra. I say if the non-Catholic wants to become >catholic, and wants a confession. I say amen. > >> Your Brother in Christ >> >> John Gibson >> >> >Sincerely, >BJay Pak >Attorney at Law.
Finally Mr/ms. Pak,
I will also let you in on a few things, when I joined the Church I lost a great many friends. My family does not understand why I joined. It was through a major conversion experience, and study of scripture and history of the Church that I came to find that the Church is the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth (1tim 3:15). I finally submitted myself to the Church which is the Bishop of Rome in unbroken succession from Peter, and the Teaching Magistiurm made up of the Bishops that are in UNION with him.
While in RCIA I refused to take the sacraments (except confession) until the Easter Vigil because that is when I was brought into the Church as a full member. I have gladly submitted my will on those issues that the Church has taught on. I have no problem with a non-member partaking in the sacraments when it is allowed by Church law i.e. in danger of death and they cannot get to a minister of their own church (except in cases of marriage where a non-Catholic can marry a Catholic at any time when permission is granted.)
I do have a problem with Catholics and Non-Catholics alike who become their own authorities and believe that they can dispense with Canon law at any time and think they have a right to the sacraments when they are not properly disposed to having them. The perfect example of this is C&E Catholics who show up on Christmas and Easter.
The Church teaches with the authority of Christ, because he gave her the power to. They teach that non-Catholics cannot regularly receive the sacraments. This is the Law of our Church. It doesn't matter if there are some out there who are trying to say it doesn't matter, they do not have the authority to teach this, for it was invested in the Church by Christ.
We must realize that Christ calls all to be Catholic, I know it sounds elitist but Christ founded the One true Church, other denominations are just cheap imitations, smoke and mirrors, false brides. I hope and pray that full unity will become a reality, but until that happens we must make clear that the Church that Christ founded teaches various things, about non-Catholics and Catholics who aren't properly disposed, on proper reception of the sacraments.
We are bound by the teachings of the Church because Christ founded her and he guides her through his earthly vicar.
Your Brother in Christ
-- Anonymous, April 27, 1998