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Dear Father Angelo,

I would like to ask you about  those who die in mortal sin, especially those who are eager to confess their mortal  sins but unfortunately die without being  able to do so. Or, about those who repent on their deathbed, or even at the very last moments of their life, without a sacramental Confession. What does the Church say about this?

I’m asking because I am stuck on this point. Although I am trying to take the right steps towards a Christian life, I often fall into mortal sins, and therefore I am worried I might not  survive the next day in order to be able to confess. I understand that all this may sound weird, but I want to know what the Church teaches  regarding this matter. Thank you.


The priest’s answer

Dear Lorenzo,

1. The condition for entering Heaven is not Confession, but a state of Grace.

The state of Grace is represented by that wedding garment the Lord speaks of in an evangelical parable: “The king entered to see the diners and there he saw a man who was not wearing the wedding garment. He said to him: “Friend, why did you come here without your wedding dress?”. That one fell silent. Then the king ordered the servants: ‘Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth “” (Mt 22: 11-13).

For St. Hilary, “wedding dress is also the Grace of the Holy Spirit and the whiteness of the celestial habit which, once received with the confession of faith, must be kept clean and intact until the kingdom of heaven is reached” (Commentary in Matthew).

St. Gregory the Great: “What should we mean by wedding dress if not charity?” (Homilies on the Gospels).

Charity is the life-giving principle of Grace, because it is through the presence of charity that one is in the Grace of God, that is, one enjoys His presence in us.

St. John says it clearly: “God is love (charity); whoever remains in love (charity) remains in God and God remains in him” (1 Jn 4:16).

2. If one remains deprived of charity because of a grave sin, repentance and Confession are necessary to recover.

A true repentance  implicitly includes, at least, the decision to do whatever the Lord has set out to be reconciled to Him.

Furthermore,  to obtain reconciliation the Lord requires from us  to attend a sacramental Confession.

In fact, on the evening of the day of His resurrection he said to the Apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit. To those whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven; to those to whom you will not forgive, they will not be forgiven” (Jn 20, 22-23).

3. The Church teaches that when one sincerely repents and experiences a complete disgust for sin together with the firm intention to avoid it , begins  a new life and has the purpose to approach the Sacrament of Confession, the same person  is already reached by God’s Grace.

So that true repentance, also called perfect contrition, “reconciles man with God even before this sacrament is actually received. However, this reconciliation is not to be attributed to contrition itself without the intention, included in it, to receive the sacrament ”(Council of Trent, DS 1677).

4. With these truths of our faith all the cases you mentioned are easily resolved.

Therefore if,  after committing a grave sin, a person sincerely regrets and includes – at least implicitly – the purpose of confessing it, he ceases to be in mortal sin and regains a state of Grace even before the Sacrament of Confession.

5. But if he dies in mortal sin, that is, without repentance, he sanctions by himself the will to remain separated from God.

He could also confess, but if the Confession is not accompanied by repentance it is of no use.

For this reason, at the beginning of my answer I wrote: “the condition for entering Heaven is not Confession, but a state of Grace”.

And yet the state of Grace is inseparable from the at least implicit purpose of confessing it, if one had previously fallen into grave sin.

Hoping you  will find yourself in the Grace of God at least by virtue of  a true repentance at the end of your life, I assure you my remembrance in prayer and I bless you.

Father Angelo