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I'm a baptized Catholic but I have not been confirmed. I've gone to mass on and off for a couple of years but I have not compled RCIA or any instruction. I fall under the category of baptized uncatecized.

I went to confession and the priest said that he cannot grant me absolution because I've not done RCIA. I thought that this was odd because baptized persons are allowed to do the sacraments.

I did the confession anyways and at the end he gave me a penance. 5 hail Mary's was all.

Does this mean that the confession did not count? Why give a penance if it didn't count? I'm really confused. When I do RCIA will I have to basically repeat the confession?

  • Is your question: "Can a baptized non-Catholic receive absolution from a Catholic priest?" – Geremia Oct 1 '16 at 17:35
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    If I remember correctly, a certain minimum knowledge of Catholic teaching is required as a prerequisite for the sacrament of penance. I think that minimum is quite small, perhaps just the doctrines of the Trinity, incarnation, redemption, and resurrection) but the priest might have thought (correctly or not) that you don't have this minimum knowledge. In that case, you;ll need to confess those sins again to a priest who is willing to give you absolution. Meanwhile, saying the 5 Hail Mary's will probably be good for you. – Andreas Blass Oct 1 '16 at 17:44
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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. I also invite you to register an account here so that you can take full advantage of the site. For more on what this site is all about, see: How we are different than other sites. Meanwhile, I hope you'll get some good answers to your question. – Lee Woofenden Oct 1 '16 at 18:18
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    A Catholic who has lapsed from the practice of the faith for a long time can regard himself almost as a convert in the preparation for the first Confession after his return to God. Confirmation is not required for one to go to confession. I would recommend taking a RCIA program , but your confession seems to be valid . If you still feel unsure about your confession , please go to another priest for some instructions in the faith and then to confession afterwards. – Ken Graham Oct 1 '16 at 20:38
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    The question, in my opinion, is a good one: it touches on the issue of whether a “lapsed” or “uncatechized” Catholic has all of the rights and responsibilities of the faithful. (Basically, yes he does.) – AthanasiusOfAlex Oct 2 '16 at 8:08
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The answer is simple: no, a priest cannot deny absolution simply because one is an “uncatechized” Catholic. The Code of Canon Law says,

Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments* to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them (Can. 843 §1).

“Uncatechized” Catholic is simply not a Canonical category, and so, on principle, such Baptized Catholics cannot be denied Confession or absolution.

Of course, to receive absolution, a person needs to be truly repentant and have a firm purpose of amendment (i.e., make the decision not to commit the sins confessed anymore), but that is the requirement for everyone.

As far as the validity of the sacrament, if the priest did not give absolution, then, unfortunately, there was no sacrament.

My suggestion would be to go to a different priest, and explain the situation. It would also be necessary to confess to him at least any mortal sins (those that one can remember since the last valid confession), in number and kind.

(As a side point, I would encourage those Catholics who have not received confirmation to look into receiving it. Confirmation completes the initiation that was begun in Baptism and gives them the strength of the Holy Spirit.)


* In this context, the law is referring to the Sacraments that the baptized faithful need in order to be right with God: confession, anointing of the sick, matrimony, confirmation, and especially the Eucharist. Holy Orders is a bit different, since it is never necessary for one’s personal salvation or friendship with God. The Church is never under an obligation to ordain someone, and, indeed, is gravely obliged to ordained only those persons that, in her judgment, really have a vocation to the priesthood or diaconate.

  • I would have thought that Matrimony fell in the same category as Holy Orders as far as necessity for personal salvation? Come to think of that, don't answer that, it's a decent question in its own right. – Matt Gutting Oct 2 '16 at 18:42
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    @MattGutting I though about that as I wrote it, so I can at least say why I included it in the list. From a pastoral perspective, the Sacrament of Matrimony is often celebrated, in part, in order to heal objectively problematic situations (like co-habitation). Moreover, unlike Holy Orders, a man and a woman who are free to marry have a strict right to be married. (If I, as a priest, see a potential problem, I can advise them not to marry, and I can oblige them to take Pre-Cana courses, but at the end of they day, I can’t deny their right to celebrate the sacrament.) – AthanasiusOfAlex Oct 2 '16 at 19:09

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