Ask a Franciscan

Holy Communion without Confession

Q. I am a 79-year-old Catholic who doesn’t believe in the Sacrament of Penance. I notice that most people don’t go to Confession these days, and yet the great majority of Catholics receive holy Communion whenever they attend Mass. To me, that is a mortal sin. Why do they do that?

A. The Catholic Church teaches that a person conscious of having committed a mortal sin must confess it before he or she receives Holy Communion (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1457).

How can you be sure that most Catholics who receive Holy Communion regularly are guilty of mortal sins that they have not confessed? The Catechism also teaches: “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ, and progress in the life of the Spirit” (1458).

According to Mark Twain, there is nothing quite so enjoyable as examining the consciences of other people. But there is also nothing more futile than that. Jesus’ command to recognize the beam in one’s own eye before worrying about the splinter in someone else’s is addressed to each of us (Mt 7:3).

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