The Sacrament of Penance Without
a Priest Available
What Any Catholic
Must Know (and Do!) When Faced
With the Dilemma of Being in Mortal Sin and
No Licit Priest Available to Absolve Him
A NOTE TO THE READER:
This short article is an excerpt from Chapters 11 to 13 of the longer article, This Is the Great Apostasy... Now, How Do We Make Sure Our Souls Survive It?, also found in the Books & Articles section of The Epistemologic Works website. The text is unchanged, apart from a reference to earlier chapters changed to be accurate in Chapter 2, and one tweak near the end of Chapter 3 to speak in the third person to the reader. It solves the following dilemma:
With no truly Catholic priests available to whom those, who are real Catholics, may, of a good and fully aware conscience, go to when they have fallen into the state of mortal sin, what are we to do?
The Roman Catholic Church gives us the answer, especially in Her greatest of all infallible councils thus far, the Holy Synod of Trent. Please read on to see the evidence and logic. Indeed, to find assurance of salvation whilst trying to obey God during the Great Apostasy.
+++ 1. The Sacrament of Penance +++
A real Catholic knows he needs a priest in order to have his mortal sins absolved. A well-informed Catholic also knows he can’t go to a non-Catholic priest to get this absolution. After all, in doing so --- and even if, religiously speaking, a non-Catholic priest could actually absolve those mortal sins that are confessed to him --- such a Catholic then incurs, as he confesses to a non-Catholic priest, the new mortal sin of going to a non-Catholic priest whilst knowing better, which puts him right back into the state of mortal sin that he (supposedly) was getting out of by confessing his mortal sins to this non-Catholic priest!
Yet what if there’s no other option?
What if there are no Catholic priests available for him?
The Council of Trent gives us the clear and infallible solution. For the Tridentine Fathers via the Solemn Magisterium assure us regarding the Sacrament of Penance:
“Whence it is to be taught [therefore,
given that what the Council of Trent has just said is infallibly true, it is to
be taught] that the penitence of a Christian after his fall [into sin] is very
different from that [penitence that he experienced and practiced] at [the time
of] (his) baptism; and that therein are included not only cessation from sins
[that is, the Catholic no longer does these sins] and a detestation thereof
[that is, he now hates these sins that he no longer does], or a contrite and
humble heart [that is, his heart is sorrowful for these sins that he did and he
is humble before God because of this sinfulness], but also the sacramental
confession of the said sins [but such a Catholic, too, confesses his sins to a
priest] --- at least in desire and to be made in its season [yet
if there is no priest he can go to for the time being, he at least wants to
confess these sins to a priest and
plans to do so just as soon as a priest is available to whom he may go]
--- and sacerdotal absolution [the priest to whom he confesses then
absolves him of the sins confessed]…” (Translated from the
original Latin into English by Canon Waterworth as of
1848, from Chapter 14 of the Decree on Justification, Session 6. Published by Devin-Adair Company in 1912 in
“If anyone saith [says] that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let him be anathema [if anyone claims that just being Catholic is enough to make him worthy to receive the Eucharist without having to confess his mortal sins and be absolved from them, let him be excommunicated from the Catholic Church and cursed and damned forever if he does not change from this heretical opinion and reconcile himself to God’s Church]. And for fear lest so great a sacrament may be received unworthily [out of concern that no Catholic takes the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin], and so unto death and condemnation [and thus this Catholic in mortal sin ends up in hell tormented even more horribly due to taking the Eucharist unworthily], this holy synod ordains and declares [the Council of Trent infallibly teaches us] that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made beforehand, by those whose conscience is burdened with mortal sin [when a priest is available, then a Catholic who is in mortal sin must confess to him this mortal sin before he dares to receive the Eucharist], how contrite even soever they may think themselves [and this crucial rule of confession of mortal sins before getting the Eucharist is binding no matter how perfectly contrite the Catholic is, when a priest is available, to whom he may make a confession].” (Ibid., p.84. From Canon 11 of the Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, Session 13.)
“Contrition, which holds the first place amongst the aforesaid acts of the penitent [contrition for sins is the most important thing a sinful Catholic does in getting these sins forgiven], is a sorrow of mind and a detestation for sin committed, with the purpose of not sinning for the future [the sinful Catholic, who is good despite the sin, is sorry for these sins and hates them, not wanting to do the sins again]. This movement of contrition was at all times necessary for obtaining the pardon of sins [contrition for sins has always been necessary for these sins to be absolved and forgiven]; and, in one who has fallen [into sin] after baptism, it then at length prepares for the remission of sins, when it is united with confidence in the divine mercy, and with the desire of performing the other things which are required for rightly receiving this sacrament… The synod teaches [the Council of Trent infallibly teaches us], moreover, that although it sometimes happen that this contrition is perfect through charity, and reconciles man with God before this sacrament be actually received [sometimes a Catholic may be perfectly sorry for his sins out of a love for God as the best reason of all, which perfect sorrow makes him at peace with God even before he is absolved by a priest], the said reconciliation, nevertheless, is not to be ascribed to that contrition, independently of the desire of the sacrament which is included therein [nevertheless, even though perfect sorrow and contrition for sin may make a sinful Catholic at peace with God, we cannot believe that this happens without this Catholic actually wanting to get the Sacrament of Penance from a priest and intending to do so when the opportunity arises].” (Ibid., pp.92-94. From Chapter 4 of the Doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance, Session 14.)
+++ 2. Perfect Contrition and the Intention to Confess +++
What does this all mean?
My dear soul, it means a Catholic person can have perfect contrition for his mortal sin and seriously intend to confess this mortal sin to a Catholic priest as soon as such a man is available for him to do so, while, in the meantime… God forgives this mortal sin and counts it as if it were already absolved by one of His priests.
And we have the infallible and adequately
clear assurance of
Nevertheless, we are not alone.
Because our shepherds at
The forgiveness of our mortal sins without a priest to whom we may turn.
And, again, how is this accomplished?
Via perfect contrition and an intent to confess.
Yet what is perfect contrition?
Sorrow for your sin not merely because the sin is so ugly or you’re afraid of going to hell for it, but because you love God above all things and you are sorry to have offended him by your commission of this ugly & hellish sin.
And what is an intent to confess?
It means you seriously and honestly intend to confess your mortal sins to a truly Catholic priest as soon as such a man is reasonably available for you to go to --- and even though you have already confessed them privately to God in the Sight of Heaven. Without this serious intent to confess later on to a priest, no amount of perfect contrition in the world will suffice in God’s Sight to forgive you your mortal sins in the meantime. It also means all mortal sins forgiven in this way will go back to being unforgiven if a Catholic priest becomes reasonably available and yet you, while knowing this to be true, nonetheless refuse to take advantage of the opportunity available and remain as you are, without sacramental confession and thrown back into the state of mortal sin due to rebellion.
So how does a Catholic confess privately to God without a priest?
The same way you confess with a priest… you simply accuse yourself in prayer of all of your sins, naming them and describing them so as to adequately take responsibility for them, adding ameliorating circumstances that may lessen or increase your guilt.
Is there any convenient guideline to assist in doing this?
Any Catholic, who understands how to make a good confession to a priest, can make a good confession privately to God without a priest available. The exact same process is followed. Certainly, one should make an Act of Contrition when doing so. But if one desires further help, there is a long Contrition Prayer to assist a Catholic in covering everything necessary to assure one’s self of forgiveness in God’s Sight. Both the Act of Contrition (a holy prayer of ancient origin) and the long Contrition Prayer (a much more thorough prayer of recent origin) can be found on The Epistemologic Works website in the Prayers section. Scroll down this section to the subsection entitled Prayers of Contrition & Penance. There you will find links for both An Act of Contrition and A Thorough Contritional Prayer.
But how can a good Catholic be sure he has a contrition that is perfect?
+++ 3. Contrition Is an Act of Intellect & Will +++
As stated above, perfect contrition is sorrow for the best reason of all:
Because you love God above all things, and you have offended him with your sin.
This is better than being sorry because sin is so hideous and ugly. Or because you’re going to wind up in hell forever if you die with a mortal sin upon your soul, unforgiven. Both of these latter types of sorrow are an imperfect contrition, called attrition.
Imperfect contrition --- attrition --- is not bad. It’s better than nothing.
It’s only imperfect since it’s not perfect… and not because it’s not pleasing in and of itself in God’s Sight, as a good and holy remorse for the sin that you’ve done.
Indeed, imperfect contrition --- attrition --- is so satisfactory to God that He forgives one’s mortal sin with attrition when you confess to a priest. That is to say, when you’re imperfectly sorry for your mortal sin, nevertheless, because this contrition is so pleasing to God, He forgives you when you confess the sin sincerely and adequately to a priest, who acts in God’s Stead and absolves you from the deadly transgression.
How wonderful is that?
That God is so charitable as to spare us from hell with only attrition for our sin!
Yet without a priest, how do we make sure our contrition is perfect?
This is where so many people go wrong.
Those who are proud, ignorant and impatient assume that it’s impossible to have mortal sin forgiven without a priest to confess to. Or they assume it’s the next thing to being impossible --- that God wouldn’t ever allow us to get into this type of predicament, and even though they might admit, if only in theory, that the Church does indeed guarantee us a way to be forgiven without a priest to whom we may confess.
Meanwhile, those who are afraid, ignorant and timid assume that it’s practically impossible to have mortal sin forgiven without a priest, due to perfect contrition being --- so they assume --- too difficult to have. After all, isn’t it only saints who can come up with the kind of sorrow and tears and remorse necessary to be perfectly contrite?
The proud, ignorant and impatient we’ve already shown are fallible and wrong about forgiveness without a priest. The Solemn Magisterium infallibly assures us of this.
It’s up to them to be humble enough and patient enough to listen.
The afraid, ignorant and timid, though, we answer now:
Yes, it is more difficult to be perfectly contrite than it is to be imperfectly contrite. Notwithstanding, no, ‘more difficult’ doesn’t mean impossible or practically impossible!
It just means it’s harder than attrition.
Nor do we need to be saints in order to have it. That is to say, copious tears and heartrending feelings of sorrow and remorse are tremendous, helpful and precious… but they are not at the heart of what it means to be perfectly contrite.
Rather, contrition is --- at the bottom of everything --- an act of the intellect and the will. Tears and feelings of sorrow are spiritually beautiful and immeasurably helpful… but they are not what makes contrition into contrition, nor contrition something perfect!
To the contrary, we simply need an intelligent mind to know that we ought to be contrite, and for the best reason of all --- that we should love God above all things and that we are sorry for having offended Him with our hellish trespass. Then, knowing this, we exercise our free will to tell Him that we love Him above all things --- and that we are supremely sorrowful for offending God with our eternally deadly crime against His Law.
This is what perfect contrition is.
Tears and remorseful feelings can flow out of this. The tears and feelings are not, however, to be mistaken for the act of the intellect and the will that contrition really is at the core of everything. To think otherwise is to be subject to our ignorance and to be misled by the devil into potentially damning our souls, if only by falling into despair.
My dear person, your immortal soul is very precious. The immortal souls of other human beings are also very precious. We are made in the Image of the Triune Catholic God.
This is why, in spite of my incompetence, the words above are worth reading.
It is the duty of any real Catholic to heed the words above that you have just read.
Not because I, the author, have any religious authority or jurisdiction over you, the reader.
I do not.
Rather, because it is the truth, it is logical, it is factual, and every human being with an adequate mind has the duty to save his or her soul, using one’s God-given intelligence to do so --- and no matter what the opposition we face from a venomous hell, a rebellious world, or wicked leaders.
If proud and ignorant, then you will refuse, lacking humility, patience and curiosity. Only miraculous graces from Heaven will be capable of smashing through your wall of arrogance.
If timid and ignorant, then you will hesitate.
It is to these poor souls that I appeal.
My dear reader, if one of the timid, first make certain you are Catholic. A simple test for Catholicity during our time of confusion is to answer this question:
Can a person of sound mind, who is not Catholic, die as he or she is --- sincerely believing in his or her non-Catholic beliefs or practicing his or her non-Catholic religion --- and have any hope at all of entering Heaven?
Did you say yes?
Then, dear soul, you aren’t really Catholic. You hold some form of salvation heresy.
That is to say, you buy into the claim of the Religion of Modernism that it doesn’t matter what a person believes when it comes to religion, either because God doesn’t exist and there is no heaven or hell, or because God doesn’t punish anyone since there is hardly anything worth punishing, or because God is happy to take anyone into Heaven as long as he or she is ‘sincere’ in their non-Catholic convictions and doesn’t really know that there is ‘no Salvation outside the Church’.
If humble enough to admit that you aren’t all-knowing, then you need to read For Those Who Consider Themselves Catholic , as well as This Is the Great Apostasy... Now, How Do We Make Sure Our Souls Survive It?, and follow all links posted within these articles till you understand fully why I dare to say salvation heresy is a religious lie that will damn your soul if you die believing in it. The first link is in the First Things First section of The Epistemologic Works, the latter link is in the Books & Articles section.
But did you say no?
Then, dear soul, you just might be truly Catholic.
Yet do you think that you can’t live without most of the sacraments?
Do you think that notoriously & pertinaciously non-Catholic priests are, nevertheless, somehow actually Catholic, or that it’s okay to go to priests that you know for a fact are not Catholic, just so long as you get the sacraments, or as long as the Church’s Hierarchy hasn’t formally excommunicated these notoriously & pertinaciously non-Catholic priests?
If humble enough to admit that you aren’t all-knowing, then you need to read Should You Go to a CMRI Mass or Take Part in the Worship of Other Traditionalists?, as well as This Is the Great Apostasy... Now, How Do We Make Sure Our Souls Survive It?, and follow all links posted within these articles till you understand fully why I dare to say religious unity with those who are notoriously & pertinaciously non-Catholic is absolutely forbidden in every case --- disobedience of which, whilst having the ability to know better, puts one in danger of everlasting hellfire --- for all real Catholics who are aware, or who ought to be aware, that such people are not actually Roman Catholic. Both articles are in the Books & Articles section of The Epistemologic Works.
In either case, dear reader, I beg you to have the humility, patience and curiosity to find out what God & His Catholic Church have to say about these things, commanding our obedience.
Today as I write is an era of horrible darkness, confusion, sin and rebellion.
Notwithstanding, we are not off the hook just because of that.
As noted above, we are given intelligent minds for a reason. That reason is to know and understand what God, through His One & Only Roman Catholic Church, has taught and commanded us in order to have the chance of saving our immortal souls.
Hence, we are obligated to use our intelligent minds to do so.
I’m doing my job, dear reader.
I’m using my God-given intelligence to help both you & I know what to do in order to remain good Catholics during the terrible blindness of the Great Apostasy.
Your job, when aware of what someone like me has done --- and given the terrible threat to our souls due to the Great Apostasy --- is to pay attention, and to humbly and patiently think it over carefully with me, as you read what I’ve written, so as to clearly see if I’m right.
In other words, to use your God-given intelligence to save your soul!
The process is simple.
May the Eternally Divine King and Incarnate God, Jesus, through His Blessed Ever-Virgin Mother, the Immaculate Queen of Highest Heaven, Mary, grant you the graces necessary to have the humility and patience and curiosity to do this.
+ + +
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