A penitential is a book or set of church rules concerning the Christian sacrament of penance, a "new manner of reconciliation with God"that was first developed by Celtic monks in Ireland in the sixth century AD. It consisted of a list of sins and the appropriate penances prescribed for them, and served as a type of manual for confessors.
In the Early Christian Church absolution for sin was granted after confession and absolution; reconciliation was followed by readmission to the Eucharist. Absolution was granted once in a lifetime, and at set seasons of the year. Public penance did not necessarily include a public avowal of sin, but was decided by the confessor, and was to some extent determined by whether or not the offense was sufficiently open or notorious to cause scandal to others.Oakley points out that recourse to public penance varied both in time and place, and was affected by the weaknesses of the secular law. The ancient praxis of penance relied on papal decrees and synods, which were translated and collected in early medieval collection. Little of those written rules, however, was retained in the later penitentials.
The earliest important penitentials were those by the Irish abbots Cummean (who based his work on a sixth-century Celtic monastic text known as the Paenitentiale Ambrosianum),Columbanus and Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus. Most later penitentials are based on theirs, rather than on earlier Roman texts. The number of Irish penitentials and their importance is cited as evidence of the particular strictness of the Irish spirituality of the seventh century. Walter J. Woods holds that "[o]ver time the penitential books helped suppress homicide, personal violence, theft, and other offenses that damaged the community and made the offender a target for revenge."
According to Thomas Pollock Oakley, the penitential guides first developed in Wales, probably at St. David's, and spread by missions to Ireland.They were brought to Britain with the Hiberno-Scottish mission and were introduced to the Continent by Irish and Anglo-Saxon missionaries.
As priests heard confessions, they began to compile unofficial handbooks that dealt with the most confessed sins and wrote down set penances for those sins. Penances would vary given both the severity of the offense and the status of the sinner; such that the penance imposed on a bishop would generally be more severe than that imposed on a deacon for the same offense.For stealing, Cummean prescribed that a layman shall do one year of penance; a cleric, two; a subdeacon three; a deacon, four; a priest, five; a bishop, six.
The list of various penitential acts imposed on the sinner to ensure reparation included more or less rigorous fasts, prostrations, deprivation of things otherwise allowable; also alms, prayers, and pilgrimages. The duration was specified in days, quarantines, or years.Gildas lists the penance for an inebriated monk, "If any one because of drunkenness is unable to sing the Psalms, being stupefied and without speech, he is deprived of dinner."
The penitentials advised the confessor to inquire into the sinner's state of mind and social condition. The priest was told to ask if the sinner before him was rich or poor; educated; ill; young or old; to ask if he or she had sinned voluntarily or involuntarily, and so forth. The spiritual and mental state of the sinner—as well as his or her social status was fundamental to the process. Moreover, some penitentials instructed the priest to ascertain the sinner's sincerity by observing posture and tone of voice.
Penitentials were soon compiled with the authorization of bishops concerned with enforcing uniform disciplinary standards within a given district.
The Penitential of Cummean counseled a priest to take into consideration in imposing a penance, the penitent's strengths and weaknesses.Those who could not fast were obliged instead to recite daily a certain number of psalms, to give alms, or perform some other penitential exercise as determined by the confessor.
Some penances could be commuted through payments or substitutions. While the sanctions in early penitentials, such as that of Gildas, were primarily acts of mortification or in some cases excommunication, the inclusion of fines in later compilations derive from secular law, and indicate a church becoming assimilated into the larger society.The connection with the principles embodied in law codes, which were largely composed of schedules of wergeld or compensation, are evident. "Recidivism was always possible, and the commutation of sentence by payment of cash perpetuated the notion that salvation could be bought".
Commutations and the intersection of ecclesiastical penance with secular law both differed from locality to locality. Nor were commutations restricted to financial payments: extreme fasts and recitation of large numbers of psalms could also commute penances; the system of commutation did not reinforce commonplace connections between poverty and sinfulness, even though it favored people of means and education over those without such advantages. But the idea that whole communities, from top to bottom, richest to poorest, submitted to the same form of ecclesiastical discipline is itself misleading. For example, meat was a rarity in the diet of the poor, with or without the imposition of ecclesiastical fasts. In addition, the system of public penance was not replaced by private penance; the penitentials themselves refer to public penitential ceremonies.
The Council of Paris of 829 condemned the penitentials and ordered all of them to be burnt. In practice, a penitential remained one of the few books that a country priest might have possessed. Some argue that the last penitential was composed by Alain de Lille, in 1180. The objections of the Council of Paris concerned penitentials of uncertain authorship or origin. Penitentials continued to be written, edited, adapted, and, in England, translated into the vernacular. They served an important role in the education of priests as well as in the disciplinary and devotional practices of the laity. Penitentials did not go out of existence in the late twelfth century. Robert of Flamborough wrote his Liber Poenitentialis in 1208.
Celtic Christianity is a form of Christianity that was common, or held to be common, across the Celtic-speaking world during the Early Middle Ages. Some writers have described a distinct Celtic Church uniting the Celtic peoples and distinguishing them from adherents of the Roman Church, while others classify Celtic Christianity as a set of distinctive practices occurring in those areas. Varying scholars reject the former notion, but note that there were certain traditions and practices present in both the Irish and British churches that were not seen in the wider Christian world.
Confession, in many religions, is the acknowledgment of one's sins (sinfulness) or wrongs.
Penance is repentance of sins as well as an alternate name for the Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. It also plays a part in confession among Anglicans and Methodists, in which it is a rite, as well as among other Protestants. The word penance derives from Old French and Latin paenitentia, both of which derive from the same root meaning repentance, the desire to be forgiven. Penance and repentance, similar in their derivation and original sense, have come to symbolize conflicting views of the essence of repentance, arising from the controversy as to the respective merits of "faith" and "good works". Word derivations occur in many languages.
In the teaching of the Catholic Church, an indulgence is "a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins". The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes an indulgence as "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and all of the saints".
In the canon law of the Catholic Church, a distinction is made between the internal forum, where an act of governance is made without publicity, and the external forum, where the act is public and verifiable. In canon law, internal forum, the realm of conscience, is contrasted with the external or outward forum; thus, a marriage might be null and void in the internal forum, but binding outwardly, i.e., in the external forum, for want of judicial proof to the contrary.
Absolution is a traditional theological term for the forgiveness imparted by ordained Christian priests and experienced by Christian penitents. It is a universal feature of the historic churches of Christendom, although the theology and the practice of absolution vary between denominations.
In the Catholic Church, the seal of confession is the absolute duty of priests or anyone who happens to hear a confession not to disclose anything that they learn from penitents during the course of the Sacrament of Penance (confession). Even where the seal of confession does not strictly apply – where there is no specific serious sin confessed for the purpose of receiving absolution – priests have a serious obligation not to cause scandal by the way they speak.
The Sacrament of Penance is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, in which the faithful are absolved from sins committed after baptism and they are reconciled with the Christian community. While in current practice reconciliation services may be used to bring out the communal nature of sacraments, mortal sins must be confessed and venial sins may be confessed for devotional reasons. According to the current doctrine and practice of the church, only those ordained as priests may grant absolution.
Penitential canons are religious rules laid down by councils or bishops concerning the penances to be done for various sins. These canons, collected, adapted to later practice, and completed by suitable directions formed the nucleus of the Penitential Books .
Soul and Body refers to two anonymous Old English poems: Soul and Body I, which is found in the Vercelli Book, and Soul and Body II, found in the Exeter Book. It is one of the oldest poems to have survived in two manuscripts of Old English, each version slightly different from the other. Despite their differences, the Soul and Body poems address similar themes. Both versions ask the committed and penitent Christian reader to call to mind his bodily actions on earth in relation to his soul’s afterlife. A sense of exigency is found in the poems, imploring the body to live according to the soul's fate and not the desires of the flesh.
Halitgar was a ninth-century bishop of Cambrai. He is known also as an apostle to the Danes, and the writer of a widely known penitential.
Handbook for a Confessor is a compilation of Old English and Latin penitential texts associated with – and possibly authored or adapted by – Wulfstan (II), Archbishop of York. The handbook was intended for the use of parish priests in hearing confession and determining penances. Its transmission in the manuscripts seems to bear witness to Wulfstan's profound concern with these sacraments and their regulation, an impression which is similarly borne out by his Canons of Edgar, a guide of ecclesiastical law also targeted at priests. The handbook is a derivative work, based largely on earlier vernacular representatives of the penitential genre such as the Scrifboc and the Old English Penitential. Nevertheless, a unique quality seems to lie in the more or less systematic way it seeks to integrate various points of concern, including the proper formulae for confession and instructions on the administration of confession, the prescription of penances and their commutation.
In the canon law of the Catholic Church, excommunication, the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society. Being a penalty, it presupposes guilt; and being the most serious penalty that the Catholic Church can inflict, it naturally supposes a very grave offense. The excommunicated person is basically considered as an exile from the Church and as non-existent, for a time at least, in the sight of ecclesiastical authority. The Church regards the excommunicated persons as having the status of that of a stranger.
The Collectio canonum quadripartita is an early medieval canon law collection, written around the year 850 in the ecclesiastical province of Reims. It consists of four books. The Quadripartita is an episcopal manual of canon and penitential law. It was a popular source for knowledge of penitential and canon law in France, England and Italy in the ninth and tenth centuries, notably influencing Regino's enormously important Libri duo de synodalibus causis. Even well into the thirteenth century the Quadripartita was being copied by scribes and quoted by canonists who were compiling their own collections of canon law.
The Excarpsus Cummeani, also called the Pseudo-Cummeani, is an eighth-century penitential, probably written in the north of the Frankish Empire in Corbie Abbey. Twenty-six copies of the manuscript survive; six of those were copied before 800 CE. It is possible that the penitential, which extends its scope beyond monasticism to include clerics and lay people, has a connection to Saint Boniface and his efforts to reform the Frankish church in the first half of the eighth century. Geographic spread by the end of the eighth century and continued copying of the manuscript into the 9th and 10th centuries have been interpreted to mean the work was considered "by the Christian authorities" a canonical text. It was used as late as the eleventh century, "as the main source of the P. Parisiense compositum".
The Penitential of Cummean is an Irish penitential, presumably composed c. 650 by an Irish monk named Cummean. It served as a type of handbook for confessors.
The Paenitentiale Ecgberhti is an early medieval penitential handbook composed around 740, possibly by Archbishop Ecgberht of York.
The Paenitentiale Bedae is an early medieval penitential handbook composed around 730, possibly by the Anglo-Saxon monk Bede.
The Paenitentiale Theodori is an early medieval penitential handbook based on the judgements of Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury. It exists in multiple versions, the fullest and historically most important of which is the U or Discipulus Umbrensium version, composed (probably) in Northumbria within approximately a decade or two after Theodore's death. Other early though far less popular versions are those known today as the Capitula Dacheriana, the Canones Gregorii, the Canones Basilienses, and the Canones Cottoniani, all of which were compiled before the Paenitentiale Umbrense probably in either Ireland and/or England during or shortly after Theodore's lifetime.
A censure, in the canon law of the Catholic Church, is a medicinal and spiritual punishment imposed by the church on a baptized, delinquent, and contumacious person, by which he is deprived, either wholly or in part, of the use of certain spiritual goods, until he recover from his contumacy.