Unbelief or unwillingness to repent can prevent full communion in the CC?

In another thread, this was stated,

It’s a fundamental tenant of most or all forms of Protestantism that nothing but unbelief or unwillingness to repent can prevent a person from joining a church or being reconciled to it after an excommunication. For example, a person who committed burglary 5 years ago and was convicted of a felony for it might be asked if they repent of having committed the crime and wish to live a life free of theft with Jesus’ help, but the fact that they have this in their background does not and cannot serve as an automatic bar to baptism, confirmation (in those churches that practice this), or reception or re-reception into a church.

Is it the same in the CC? Is it possible to have sinned so much or be subject to so many legal restrictions due to bad prior behavior (e.g. currently in prison, currently on parole, registered sex offender, death row, ordered deported, outstanding warrant for arrest) that one cannot enter or reenter into communion with the CC even if they repent, ask God to help them live a good life, and are willing to own up to the temporal consequences of past behavior (e.g. report to parole officer, keep sex offender registration current, pay court ordered restitution, leave the country that they were ordered deported from, etc.)? My instinct as a Christian is to say of course not, such an idea flies in the very face of Jesus’ entire message. Is this actually the case?

It seems that the LDS (who are largely considered to be non-Christian by Protestants too) have a policy that forbids baptism of candidates subject to certain criminal sanctions without very high level permission. Does the CC have anything like that, for example requiring that the baptizing priest consult their bishop, archbishop, or the Pope for permission to baptize a convict on parole when they would otherwise be able to baptize a non-convict on their own?

Persisting in sin is an impediment, so staying in an unlawful marriage is unrepentance and disobedience to God. But simply being in prison or having done bad things in the past does not disqualify someone from entering the Church. One of the Church’s sacraments is confession where sins are removed by the authority Christ granted the apostles (John 20:23), or of course there is Baptism if the person has not been Baptized yet.

I have wondered about this issue, too. With the influx of Anglicans (sometimes whole congregations) into the Church, some of them are bound to be divorced and remarried. I sort of hope there is an expedited annulment process for them, so that they can be in communion quickly. Otherwise, where does that leave them?

Now, firstly, 1ke is correct. Persisting in mortal sin is as strong a sign as can be given that no repentance has occurred, because repentance (Gk metanoia) involves a literal “changing of mind”, which entails a “changing from [turning away from] sin”. If one persists in mortal sin, it is very likely that said person has not repented, and, therefore, as amongst Protestants, “refusal to repent” or “unbelief” prevent conversion. Now, living in persistent mortal sin is not an impediment to conversion: it is an impediment only to participation in the sacraments.

All criminals can convert to the Catholic Church at any time, even in prison itself, if they have repented. There is nothing analogous in Catholicism to the sanctions you mention in Mormonism. Mormonism, surprisingly for its early anti-government history, elevates, reverences, and venerates the law of the land to an almost-idolatrous degree (they believe the American Constitution to be inspired by God). Said individual, depending on his crime, often will be ineligible to join the ministerial priesthood (holy orders), but he is not barred from converting and living the sacramental life of the Church.

God will judge the sinner, who is aware of his sin (or, in some cases, is unaware of it, but should be according to the natural law) whether or not his denomination, church, or religion calls it a sin. A homosexual Episcopalian is still a sinner, even if his denomination calls his actions natural. A polygamous Muslim who believes in tawhid is still a sinner, even though he is righteous according to the man-made edicts of his religion.

Now, secondly, and more off-topic, as it has not to do with persisting in mortal sin.

Yes, I believe so. A justified yet untrue belief that the Catholic Church was not founded by Jesus Christ could cause someone to prevent himself from converting.

Say, a man is raised in an Independent Baptist church, or among Seventh-Day Adventists, or Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. He is inundated from an early age with the known fact that the Catholic Church is an apostate church/tool of the devil/Kingdom of Satan. Due to this, even if he reads Catholic materials, his worldview filters them in such a way that they are no threat to his existing (anti-Catholic) worldview, and he is able to answer any arguments that come his way with a surprising glibness.

You can draw an analogy between the hypothetical born-and-raised anti-Catholic to the hypothetical Evolutionist, who, after being presented with philosophical arguments and scientific evidence that casts Evolutionism in a near-impossible light, and which at the very least shifts the burden of proof to the Evolutionist, is able to dismiss all Theistic or Creationist arguments with a simple, “It’s not scientific consensus”, or “You’re ignorant, all educated individuals believe in evolution.”

In this case, said anti-Catholic, truly believing, however incorrectly, that the Catholic Church was apostate, is under no penalty for refusing to join: it is a textbook example of “invincible ignorance”.

To those who believe that all churches, or - God forbid! - all religions are equal, or equally valid paths to God, or even workable but inferior or superior paths to God, or those who believe that Christ did not found a Church, the problem is more complex.

There are others who are far more informed on this than I am…but I believe that in the cases you mention above, where people were never married in the Catholic Church there IS an accelerated process…Not int he sense that they go ahead of others…but in the sense that it is simply a more simple process. Basically (if I recall correctly) is is a “lack of form” process and these take less time that those involving Catholics married in the Church.



“Lack of form” refers to Catholics who did not follow the Catholic form of marriage. Non-Catholics aren’t required to get married in the Catholic Church so lack of form does not apply to them.

There may be some special form of dealing with marriage issues among Anglicans becoming Catholic but I haven’t heard about it.

A warning: this is not across the board by any means; certain situations are not considered in need of an annulment, but it’s tricky as to which ones and involves a lot of details. Many of the Anglican/Episcopal marriages would require an annulment.

See??? I said there were better informed folks here than me…:thumbsup::thumbsup:


1ke is absolutely correct.

i am in the exact situation and my husband refuses to have his previous marriages annulled so i am in a holding pattern to join the Catholic Church until something gives. my prayers to God always contain my desire to be in full communion with the Catholic Church before i die. Strangely, a few weeks ago, after i completed my prayers something said to me “Jesus’ ministry was three years long”…i dont know if something will change in three years or i may die in three years…freaky huh?:eek:

I shall pray for you.

You should talk to a priest so that if, God forbid, something were to happen to uou, your friends and family would know what you want and what to do about it.

i am under the impression that until i am in full communion with the CC, there is nothing that could be available if i were to “not make it”…Catholic funerals, last rites are only available for Catholics unless the diocese (Bishop Anthony) authorized otherwise. seems hopeless to even approach the priest with my issues at this point.