Is Confession Necessary for Salvation?

We mourn the death of our loved ones and naturally, we hope and pray that their souls have been welcomed into Heaven with God. It can be a source of worry for some Catholics when they wonder where their loved one’s soul resides.

Richard called Relevant Radio®, explaining that his mother was Catholic and his dad was Protestant. His dad helped raise their eight kids in the Catholic faith and went to Mass with them on Sundays, but he never converted or received the sacraments. “He always told us, well go to your room and close the door and kneel down and tell God your sins. And as a Catholic, I know I have to go to Confession and go to the priest in order to be forgiven for my sins. So my dad just passed away last year and I’m wondering, is he … in hell because of no Confession?” asked Richard.

“I’m sorry for your loss, having lost my dad several years ago I know being just one year that you’re still raw in hurting in losing your dad,” said Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM on Relevant Radio and convert to the Catholic Faith.

“We hope that your father is even now enjoying union with Christ or is on his way to union with Christ if he’s going through final purgation in Purgatory. Now the Second Vatican Council in its explanation of the relationship between other Christians and Catholics say that we hold out hope for them like we hold out hope for everyone. But in particular we recognize that they have been validly baptized and they have the other graces available to them as baptized Christians,” explained Msgr. Swetland.

The normal means by which serious post-baptismal sins are forgiven is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so if you’re Catholic, it’s important to make frequent use of Confession. But if one is not Catholic or has not frequented the sacrament, hope is not lost.

“We have the privilege, as Catholics, to get to go to Confession because we know when we hear the priest absolve that Christ through the priest is absolving us. I know with absolute certainty that my sins are being absolved at that moment,” said Msgr. Swetland. “As a convert to the Catholic faith I can say that this is a big difference between Catholics and our Protestant brothers and sisters. I hoped that my sins were forgiven as a Protestant, I know that they are forgiven as a Catholic because I hear the priest say the words, ‘I absolve you.’ The priest is acting In persona Christi.”

When our loved ones pass away, we don’t know whether or not they are in heaven (unless they are a canonized saint). But we have hope and we pray for the repose of their soul and God’s mercy to be showered on them.

Monsignor told Robert, “We hope that your dad has been saved; we believe that God’s grace works outside the sacrament but the ordinary way is through the sacrament.”


If you have been away from the Sacrament of Confession for a while, there’s no time like the present to return! God is waiting with open arms. Download the free Relevant Radio mobile app for a Confession Helper and Examination of Conscience.

Tune in to Go Ask Your FatherTM weekdays at 1-2pm ET / 10-11am PT only on Relevant Radio®.