Today I went to confession during Sunday Mass at my parish (Novus Ordo, run by a religious order) [Why do I smell trouble?], and even though the priest (not the parish priest) said “I absolve you”, I also know (for many months now) that there’s a high possibility that he denies the existence of hell.
So I have two questions Father:
- Is the absolution given by priests who are heretics or possible heretics valid?
- Since I received Holy Communion during Mass, not knowing for sure the answer to the first question, did I commit Eucharistic desecration and/or sacrilege?
Thank you Father, and always have the courage to fight for God and thank you too for your blog.
Ad primum. The absolution given by heretical priests is more than likely valid, just as is the consecration during Mass by heretics. Provided that they say, do and intend what the Church intends by those acts, without a real act of will within themselves to deny what the Church intends – that is, saying to themselves “I intend to pretend to doing this”, then the absolution is valid. The old phrase is that “the minister must have the intention at least of doing what the Church does”. It could be that the minister has some faulty notions about the Church, but if he intends to make his own the Church’s own intention, the sacrament is validly administered. Hence, in the case of emergency baptism, even an atheist can validly baptize, so long as she, when she pours the water and says the proper words, has the intention of doing for that person what the Church intends, whether she believes in what the Church teaches or not.
Remember that validity of sacraments depends not on the holiness of the priest, or his knowledge, or the accuracy of his notions. Christ is the true administrator of the Sacrament of Penance and absolution through His agent the priest, alter Christus by reason of Holy Orders.
So, if Father Heretic gets into a confessional and hears confessions and gives absolution, he more than likely has at least an internal intention to administer a sacrament. The absolution is, therefore, valid (provided he uses at least the minimal form).
Ad secundum: You more than likely did not commit a sacrilege by going to Communion. Even if you had a measure of doubt about the validity of the absolution at the time, you were not at the time of Communion sure that you were in the state of mortal sin. You might have had a doubt or two, but you were not convinced that you were in the state of mortal sin.
If a person is sure that she is in the state of mortal sin, she cannot, must not, may not go to Holy Communion. She is obliged not to receive, because she knows that she is in the state of sin and that Communion would be a sacrilege, compounding sin with sin.
If a person is in sincere doubt about her state, truly doesn’t know if she is in the state of grace, she can go to Communion. Of course she should make a good act of contrition and resolve to go to confession, or to seek clarity about her state. However, if she says, “I could be in the state of grace” or “I could be in the state of sin”, it is still permissible to go. Mind you, that is not the optimal way to communicate, but remember the Lord’s mercy and the intention of one who cries, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” and as well, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Of course nobody is obliged to receive Communion at this or that Mass! If a person has doubts about her state, really doesn’t know, it is also perfectly acceptable not to receive. As a matter of fact, if receiving would increase anxiety rather than bring comfort and peace, then by all means stay in the pew and pray.
The point is this. If you know that you are not in the state of grace, don’t receive Communion. That would be quite wicked and a real mistake. If you are not sure, you think you are in the state of grace, but you are not quite sure, you can still go to Communion, even though it is perfectly okay not to go.
GO TO CONFESSION!
You won’t have to worry about these things.
And pray for your priest confessors. Pray for them. If they are heretics, do what you can to help them out. Some of these poor guys were cheated in seminary and even in basic catechism. That means that, before you approach them or make judgments about them, you really have to know your stuff. The problem is, these days, a lot of lay people don’t know that they don’t know things and they don’t know what they don’t know.