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Kelly S. wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a question pertaining to the Church's teaching on the circumstances under which someone needs to go to the sacrament of Penance before they can receive Holy Communion in good standing.

I was taught that Catholics ought to go Reconciliation at least once a year and that if you've committed a mortal sin, you cannot receive Communion until you've received Reconciliation however I've read some materials that make it sound as though Catholics need to go to Confession more often than that, at least if they want to receive Holy Communion.

  • Can you please clear up what the Church teaches on this?

Thank you,

Kelly S.

  { Why does the precept of the Church on Confession differ from other Catholic material I have read? }

Paul replied:

Dear Kelly,

The Church teaches that in order to maintain a minimal relationship with God one must receive our Lord in the Sacrament of Communion at least once a year, within the Easter season. It would henceforth make sense that the Church also teaches it is necessary to go to Confession at least once a year, if one has mortal sin, since one cannot receive Communion in mortal sin.

Check out Numbers 2041 - 2043 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

On the other hand, the Church has traditionally taught that it is spiritually healthy to frequent the sacrament of Penance (also known as Confession or Reconciliation) every few weeks, or more, depending on one's conscience.

One large problem today is that many have lost the sense of sin. Many sins of the sexual realm, for example, are the matter of mortal sin, but because of cultural conditioning many have been blinded.

We need to form our consciences according to:

  • the sacred sources of truth — Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium
  • not the sources of evil — i.e. the world, the flesh, and the devil



Mike replied:

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for the very good question.

Paul's answer is right on the nose. In my opinion, this has always been one of those areas where the Church could probably clarify the second precept a bit.

The bishops of the United States have always recommended family Confessions on a monthly basis, at minimum. If someone is more involved in the Church, they should consider going to Confession every 2-3 weeks.

Pope St. John Paul II went to Confession weekly. If you follow his lead, just make sure you are not too scrupulous.

Finally, if you have been struggling with sexual sins, don't do dumb things like receiving Holy Communion without first going to Confession. Just say a Spiritual Communionin the pew.

I hope this helps,


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