“Ask a Priest: May My Non-Catholic Friend Go to Confession?”

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Q: I have a close friend who has told me she slept with someone. Should I tell/recommend that she go to confession? This friend is a recent Muslim convert to non-denominational Christianity. However, she is still figuring out which church she wants to stick with. She once asked me if she could try out confession with me, and so I brought her to confession with me before any of this happened. She liked it and said she might try it again. I know she feels guilty about what she did because when she first brought it up she talked about hell, like she was going there. I’m worried for her soul. Is this reasonable? Am I being irresponsible for not offering to go to confession with her again or is it not my place to say anything to her at all? I worry so much for her because I remember my own experience with premarital sexual actions and how long that weighed on my conscience before I actually got around to confession. I eventually had to be told to go to confession; however, she’s such a new Christian, and I don’t want to cross boundaries. What should I do? – M.L.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s admirable that you are trying to help your friend. She obviously has a conscience and seems to be seeking the truth.

It would be good to remember, though, that since she isn’t Catholic, she really can’t take advantage of the sacrament of confession. (She could in an extreme case, but that’s another issue.)

She would first need to receive instruction in the faith. Later, if she decides to join the Church, she could go to confession, be confirmed, and receive Communion. But let’s not rush things for the moment.

First, you might encourage her to try to make a perfect act of contrition (sorrow for having offended God).

If she is attracted to confession, then you might encourage her to look into the Catholic faith. Depending on her age, she could enter an RCIA program at a local parish.

In the meantime, you might want to encourage her by reading the Youth Catechism (or YouCat) together. Along the way, the question of chastity and sexual ethics will likely come up. That would be a good time to answer her questions.

Helpful, too, would be for the both of you to watch together our Retreat Guide on confession: “From Sorrow to Joy.”

It sounds as though she already realizes the sinfulness of what she did. Maybe you and her and other friends could look to pursue activities that will help her avoid falling into the same sin again. As you deepen your friendship with her, it will be easier (we hope) to talk about moral issues.

So this could be a great opportunity for you to share your faith as well as to grow in it. That would be the mark of a true friend.

You might want to intensify your prayers for your friend, and ask the Blessed Virgin Mary for assistance. Count on my prayers.

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