We see Jesus authorizing St. Peter in Mtt 18:18:

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

But, we also see Jesus telling in Mtt 12: 31-32:

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Catholics look at the confessional as a place where they can seek and get forgiveness for their sins. But there are situations in which the priest at the confessional can deny to stand as a mediator for absolution to the person confessing before him. My question therefore is: According to Catholic Church, which are the situations in which the priest at the confessional can refuse to stand as a mediator of absolution?

3 Answers 3


According to Catholic Church , which are the situations in which the priest at the confessional can refuse to stand as a mediator of absolution?

A priest can refuse to absolve a penitent if he has no intention of changing his life of sin.

Many years ago, my parish priest admitted, during a homily, that he had actually denied to absolve someone from their sins, because he refused to amend his life of sin.

Now that is sad!

31. Can a priest ever rightly deny me absolution?

A priest will normally try to do everything he can never to have to deny someone absolution.

But on some rare occasions he will find himself in a situation where he has no choice.

This occurs when the penitent lacks one of the three elements that make for a good confession:

  • either the penitent confesses no sins even after the priest assists in examining the conscience;

  • or the penitent does not even have imperfect contrition for the sins committed;

  • or, most frequently, the penitent lacks a firm purpose of amendment to address a situation of serious sin, like a living arrangement incompatible with the Gospel.

In such cases, the priest will normally pray with the penitent so that he or she may receive God’s help to remedy a situation from which the person may presently see no way out.

  • 2
    +1 it is worth noting for non-Catholic readers that even if the priest does not know that the penitent is not intending to amend his life and offers absolution, the penitent is not forgiven unless he is actually willing to amend his life.
    – jaredad7
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 15:43

A priest can refuse absolution when he knows that the absolution would be invalid. The most likely situation of this sort would be the one that Ken Graham already mentioned, refusal to amend one's life. A few other theoretical possibilities would be if the priest knew that the penitent was deliberately omitting some grave sins, or that the penitent had not done a reasonable examination of conscience, or that the penitent had not been baptized. (I refer to these as "theoretical" because it's hard to see how a priest would come to know such things. But if he did, he couldn't absolve.)

  • As for the baptism, a priest may suspect and then ask. He could also ask the penitent if he had done an examination of conscience.
    – jaredad7
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 15:41

1983 Code of Canon Law

Canon 980 If the confessor has no doubt about the disposition of the penitent, and the penitent seeks absolution, absolution is to be neither refused nor deferred.

cf. 1917 Code of Canon Law can. 886

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