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Good morning father,

I have a simple question: I read in one of your answers on the website that one can be excommunicated for having absolved his accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment.

Could you explain to me in plain language what it means?

Thank you from Samuele

Answer from the priest

Dear Samuele,

1. the expression “accomplice against the sixth commandment” means a person who has committed impure acts with the confessor priest.

2. Canonists specify that this sin must be objectively and subjectively serious, it must be external and therefore carried out not only in the mind, it must be certain and not yet absolved.

3. The discipline of the Church in the Code of Canon Law regarding the accomplice establishes that “The absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is invalid except in danger of death” (Can. 977).

4. Not only that, but it also prescribes that anyone who absolves his accomplice against the sixth commandment “incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See” (Can. 1378 § 1).

By the expression latae sententiae excommunication it is intended that ipso facto, on the spot, the person is excommunicated. There is no need for a trial.

Only the priest incurs the excommunication, not the faithful.

5. This excommunication is very severe, because it is reserved to the Apostolic See.

This means that in order to have it removed, it is necessary to appeal to the Pope, and specifically to the Apostolic Penitentiary, which deputizes for the Pope.

6. One who has committed that sin before becoming a priest or entering the seminary is also considered an accomplice.

The Holy Apostolic Penitentiary by a decree issued on 22 January 1879 declared that “the confessor cannot absolve the accomplice, with whom as a boy he performed impure acts before the priesthood, unless morally certain that he has already been absolved from the sin of complicity by another confessor.”

7. Accomplice can mean both a man and a woman, both an adolescent and a pre-adolescent, as long as that person is capable of committing a mortal sin.

8. It is also specified that it is not necessary for sin to be an act of lust between the priest and the accomplice, but those who have planned acts performed with others can also be an accomplice.

Also in this case, therefore, the priest cannot absolve the person with whom he planned the illegal action, even if nothing happened between them.

9. As mentioned, if the priest absolves the accomplice, the absolution is invalid because the Church takes away from the accomplice priest the power to confess the one with whom he has committed a foul sin.

It is valid only when given in danger of death, because the Church desires only one thing: the eternal salvation of all, even of the worst sinners.

I wish you all the best, I bless you, and I remember you in prayer.

Father Angelo