ASK FATHER: If I’m aware of mortal sin, can I receive Communion if I intend to go to confession later?

From a reader…


My uncle wants to become Catholic and ive been taking him to RCIA classes. The priest is a great guy but said you can receive the Eucharist if you intend to confess after mass. I know this is bogus since you’re still in mortal sin. How and with what source(s) should I let the priest know?

Among other sources, look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church and can. 916 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Can. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.

Unless there is a GRAVE REASON.

“It’s Sunday, I’m here, and I want to receive!”, is NOT a GRAVE REASON.

People are not obliged to receive Communion at every Mass.   So many sacrilegious Communions could be avoided if people could get this into their heads.  Rather… if priests would do their jobs correctly?

Also, even though there are not many places now – sadly – where confessions are heard before and during Mass, they are nevertheless usually heard some place nearby in the days before Sunday or Holy Days of Obligation.  Since a person ought to be making a daily examination of conscience, this scenario can be avoided with relative ease.

Of course there are rare situations where circumstances are different.  That is why the canon is written as it is.

Bottom line: If a person is aware of mortal sin, and is sure about it, he must not receive until after he has made a good confession of all mortal sins in kind and number and has received absolution.

This is not hard.

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  1. redneckpride4ever says:

    What’s a valid example of a grave cause?

    The only one I can formulate in my head is you know for a fact that there’s only one host left and Joe Biden is behind you in line. Even that sounds like a lesser of 2 evils at best.

  2. Bthompson says:


    I could imagine a few scenarios, the prime one being a priest in sin who has no reasonable access to another priest for Confession before he has the duty to say Mass. I would think this would be especially so if the Mass is one of obligation for the congregation (and/or himself), or some other situation where his people would be deprived of something they have a right to in justice (Our host and his experts might know if this would apply to any scheduled public Mass, or if there were an intention with a stipend and it is unable or too late to be moved)

    For a layperson, maybe if there would not be another opportunity for Communion for a very long time? Or maybe if abstaining would mean missing the Easter Duty? (Again, our host might know more details than I)

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  5. redneckpride4ever says:


    Wouldn’t the Easter duty become a sacrilege in that case?

    You’re right: let’s let our host respond before we jump down a rabbit hole.

  6. JamesM says:

    I know of someone who was advised they should receive anyway so as not to give scandal by not receiving.

    We are truly living in the bizaro Church at times

  7. Nighthawk says:

    Even the Easter duty can be fulfilled outside of Paschaltide for a just cause, so I don’t think that would be reason enough.

    One scenario I can think of is for a dying person who asks for the last sacraments but is unable to get a priest for last rites but rather a deacon (or let’s be honest, likely a boomer laywoman EMHC) instead for whatever reason (pastor of your remote parish is away and no others can come in, boomer secretary trying to clericalize her boomer friends, whatever). In that case I’d think that it would be suitable to make an act of perfect contrition and receive Communion while still trying to get a priest to show up.

  8. APX says:

    The problem with perfect contrition is that it’s not like leaves. It doesn’t grow on trees. It takes graces that one would assume would preclude committing mortal sins. That’s not to say God can’t give someone in mortal sin the grace to make a perfect act of contrition when the need arises, but I don’t think under normal circumstances one can just make an act of contrition, assume it’s perfect contrition, and go up and receive communion each Sunday.

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  10. TRW says:

    Well said. It’s not as though one can just manufacture an act of perfect contrition on command. When everything was locked down in our area and confessions were only available if you were dying, the diocese released a statement from our bishop wherein he supposedly quoted Pope Francis saying “Make an act of contrition, and promise God “‘I will go to confession afterward, but forgive me now.’ And immediately you will return to the state of grace with God.”
    Kind of presumptuous, no ?

  11. Robert_H says:

    This homily on Perfect Contrition goes into some detail on how it might work.

    To speak to our host’s post, my impression is, aside from some parishes that are “all in,” most Catholics just don’t consider it necessary to go to Confession. How else does one explain a parish with 1,000+ families and only 45 minutes of Confession on Saturday afternoon?

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  13. TonyO says:

    How else does one explain a parish with 1,000+ families and only 45 minutes of Confession on Saturday afternoon?

    While I have lived in, and seen, parishes where there is only 45 minutes of confession once a week – and it’s not well attended even then – I have also lived in and near more than one parish that makes confession available multiple days each week, at various times. In three different dioceses, 2 of which were not great dioceses, frankly. So I have to suspect that the relative frequency of parishes where the priests “get it” is actually not vastly UNcommon, even if it is sadly lacking. My current pastor – at a seemingly hum-drum little parish in the outskirts of suburbs – has confession 5 days a week, and I just lucked into that (or the hand of Providence knew I needed that frequent confession, and inspired me to move here without my realizing why!)

    But yes, I have also seen parishes where confession was ONLY by appointment, or was in the pastor’s office, no opportunity to NOT go face-to-face. And priests telling sinners “come back when you have committed sins”. And so on. Not surprising that these priests don’t have people knocking down their doors for confession. Most faithful Catholics would go miles and miles out of their way to avoid such priests – and WELL THEY SHOULD! (As long as they do actually go to confession somewhere else, and not just skip it.) So these priests create self-fulfilling prophecies: “we don’t need more times for confession – we don’t even fill the 45 minutes made available.” Pernicious idiots.

  14. There are situations that align with canon 916, but they are rather unusual. One I can think of right away would be someone who for whatever reason cannot visit, nor be visited by, a priest for some time, and who may be in danger of death, yet has the opportunity to receive the Holy Eucharist, say by way of an extraordinary minister. Think of someone in prison, or a nursing home or hospital. Of course such a situation cries out for the priest to come; but it is not hard to think of reasons that doesn’t happen and can’t be addressed in a reasonable amount of time.

    Although this next scenario is not a justification for receiving communion while in mortal sin, it is perhaps also common: you go to Mass with your family, and everyone goes forward for Holy Communion; if you don’t receive the Eucharist, you get asked why. Not wanting to, or not knowing how to, answer that question, without embarrassing details, you receive the Eucharist.

    From this I take the lesson that parents should tread very lightly, and with extreme tact, when inquiring why their children didn’t go to communion. If you think your child is getting bound up with scrupulosity, you should be able to see signs of that without such inquisitiveness.

  15. Angelo Tan says:

    Father, my sister has a college professor (for Religious Education, and their focus is on Social Teachings) who allegedly said to them that the Sacrament of Penance is not really now important prior to Holy Communion. My sister challenged me with this idea, but I said that her teacher — if truly competent — wouldn’t ignore the basic fundamental teaching of the Scripture (1 Cor 11:29) and the Church’s law regarding Penance and the Eucharist. Furthermore, I simply said that the best Communion ever would be that you are wholly prepared and acknowledging Who we receive.

    please pray, Father, for the Filipino youth!

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