From a reader about something I raised HERE.
In a recent post you wrote, “bishops and priests have Christ’s own power to forgive sins and they do so validly with the Church’s permission, indicated by a ‘faculty.’” Does this mean that a priest who lacked the faculty to hear confessions could not validly absolve, or would such an absolution be valid but illicit?
The 1983 Code of Canon Law says that:
Can. 966 §1 For the valid absolution of sins, it is required that, in addition to the power of order, the minister has the faculty to exercise that power in respect of the faithful to whom he gives absolution.
§2 A priest can be given this faculty either by the law itself, or by a concession issued by the competent authority in accordance with can. 969.
From this we see that priests must have permission of the Church to absolve sins. The Church, by the way, gets to determine how the sacraments are administered.
The business about “the law itself” giving the faculty to absolve validly pertains, for example, to situations of danger of death. Consider the situation in which a priest who has, for any reason at all, no longer in active ministry and, therefore, no longer has any faculties to function as a priest. If a person is in danger of dying, that ex-priest would in those circumstances have the faculty to absolve validly, even if there were another, active priest in good standing there present also.
But in normal circumstances, if a priest does not have the faculty to receive sacramental confessions, for whatever reason, the absolution is invalid.