I have a friend from another state who had a wonderful relationship with their local pastor. Several years ago, the priest ended up leaving the Catholic Church and going to another denomination. My friend continues to visit with the priest and says he is still their confessor. I don’t want to create a problem for my friend needlessly but it was my understanding that such a confession would not be valid. Am I right?
You are correct. I am sure your friend takes great comfort in the guidance of the former priest. Unfortunately, your friend’s experience is not uncommon as every diocese has such. While a priest is a priest forever, priests are given faculties (the capacity to function) by their local Catholic bishop. Without such faculties, your friend’s priest, or any priest who has had their faculties revoked when they walked away from their assigned ministry, may not function as a Catholic priest, with a rare exception. Given what you have said, I will presume his faculties were withdrawn and he was automatically excommunicated by accepting a ministerial position in another denomination. A priest without faculties cannot validly absolve sins in confessions (Canon Law 966) and cannot validly administer the Anointing of the Sick, both of which involves the forgiveness of sins. While any mass they say may be valid, they are illicit and would not fulfill one’s Sunday obligation to attend mass.