Sacrament of Penance

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The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (commonly called Penance, Reconciliation, or Confession) is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church (called sacred mysteries in the Eastern Catholic Churches), in which the faithful obtain absolution for the sins committed against God and neighbour and are reconciled with the community of the Church. [lower-alpha 1] By this sacrament Catholics believe they are freed from all sins committed after baptism. [1] The sacrament of Penance is considered the normal way to be absolved from mortal sin.

Sacraments of the Catholic Church seven visible rituals that Catholics see as signs of Gods presence, consisting of those of initiation (baptism, confirmation, eucharist), of healing (reconciliation, anointing of the sick), and of service (holy orders, matrimony)

There are seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, which according to Catholic theology were instituted by Jesus and entrusted to the Church. Sacraments are visible rites seen as signs and efficacious channels of the grace of God to all those who receive them with the proper disposition. The sevenfold list of sacraments is often organized into three categories: the sacraments of initiation, consisting of baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist; the sacraments of healing, consisting of reconciliation and anointing of the sick; and the sacraments of service: holy orders and matrimony.

Sacred mysteries

Sacred mysteries are the areas of supernatural phenomena associated with a divinity or a religious ideology. Sacred mysteries may be either:

  1. Religious beliefs, rituals or practices which are kept secret from non-believers, or lower levels of believers, who have not had an initiation into the higher levels of belief.
  2. Beliefs of the religion which are public knowledge but cannot be easily explained by normal rational or scientific means.
Eastern Catholic Churches Autonomous, self-governing particular Churches in full communion with the Pope

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. Headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops, the Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, although each church also has its own canons and laws on top of this, and the preservation of their own traditions is explicitly encouraged. The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 18 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio, thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.3 billion members belonging to the Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church.

Contents

However, while every mortal sin is a grave sin, not every grave sin is a mortal sin; Either lack of the full consent of the will, or the lack of full knowledge of the seriousness of the sin is enough to prevent the grave sin from being mortal. Thus, mortal sin requires one to make a premeditated choice to choose grave sin, knowing that it will separate one's self from the grace bestowed at justification.

Furthermore, while the priest acts as Christ in forgiving the lost sinner and is the ordinary means of forgiveness, the priest does not act in lieu of Christ, but by his power. Those who repent with full [perfect] contrition are forgiven in cases where formal reconciliation is not possible before death provided they would have desired to make a timely confession.

Because it is not always obvious when a serious sin is mortal, due to mitigating circumstances like coercion, mental illness, lack of knowledge, and perfect contrition, it is not always possible to deduce a person's state of grace. Thus, Christ ultimately judges us at our death as only He can see our heart and soul objectively.

While persons with unconfessed grave sins might not be allowed a Catholic Funeral Mass and burial rites, and while Catholics who believe they may be in a state of mortal sin (because of unconfessed grave sin) must exclude themselves from Communion (except under very specific circumstances), these matters, though related, are not the same as whether an individual with unconfessed grave sins is condemned to Hell because the determination on whether or not a grave sin is truly mortal is presumed to be up to God alone.

Finally, while even one mortal sin will condemn a soul to hell upon death, speculation exists on whether Christ offers each soul a final opportunity to repent at the penultimate moment prior to [spiritual] death. Additionally, because Catholic theology defines death as the moment after the soul leaves the body, this may or may not coincide with medical death. Catholic theology allows for the possibility of a temporal separation between the death of the body and the 'death' (separation) of the soul from the body, in the same way that losing the ability to breathe will correlate strongly with asphyxiation but will allow a person to temporarily linger on. For this reason, last rites are sometimes conditionally administered to the very recently medically deceased (before rigor mortis) because of the possibility that they may be still spiritually alive (although inevitably dying).

Last rites

The last rites, in Roman Catholicism, are the last prayers and ministrations given to an individual of the faith, when possible, shortly before death. The last rites go by various names. They may be administered to those awaiting execution, mortally injured, or terminally ill.

Rigor mortis, or postmortem rigidity, is the third stage of death. It is one of the recognizable signs of death, characterized by stiffening of the limbs of the corpse caused by chemical changes in the muscles postmortem. In humans, rigor mortis can occur as soon as four hours after death.

As Scriptural basis for this sacrament, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back" (1445; John 20:23 ).

A Catholic Bible includes the whole 73-book canon recognized by the Catholic Church, including the deuterocanonical books.

<i>Catechism of the Catholic Church</i> book by Congregatie voor de Geloofsleer

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a catechism promulgated for the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II in 1992. It sums up, in book form, the beliefs of the Catholic faithful.

The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is also known as "Penance", "Reconciliation", and "Confession". [2]

The sacrament has four elements: three on the part of the penitent (contrition, confession, and satisfaction) and one on the part of the minister of the sacrament (absolution). [3] [4]

Contrition

In Christianity, contrition or contriteness is repentance for sins one has committed. The remorseful person is said to be contrite.

Confession (religion) acknowledgment of ones sins

Confession, in many religions, is the acknowledgment of one's sins (sinfulness) or wrongs.

Accord and satisfaction is a contract law concept about the purchase of the release from a debt obligation. It is one of the methods by which parties to a contract may terminate their agreement. The release is completed by the transfer of valuable consideration that must not be the actual performance of the obligation itself. The accord is the agreement to discharge the obligation and the satisfaction is the legal "consideration" which binds the parties to the agreement. A valid accord does not discharge the prior contract; instead it suspends the right to enforce it in accordance with the terms of the accord contract, in which satisfaction, or performance of the contract will discharge both contracts. If the creditor breaches the accord, then the debtor will be able to bring up the existence of the accord in order to enjoin any action against him.

Catholics distinguish between two types of sin. [5] Mortal sins are a "grave violation of God's law" that "turns man away from God". [6] Someone who is aware of having committed mortal sins must repent of having done so and then confess them in order to benefit from the sacrament. Venial sins, the kind that "does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God", [7] can be remitted by contrition and reception of other sacraments [3] but they too, "constituting a moral disorder", [8] "are rightly and usefully declared in confession". [9]

Mortal sin

This article relies more on references

According to Roman Catholicism, a venial sin is a lesser sin that does not result in a complete separation from God and eternal damnation in Hell as an unrepented mortal sin would. A venial sin consists in acting as one should not, without the actual incompatibility with the state of grace that a mortal sin implies; they do not break one's friendship with God, but injure it.

Every sin involves "an unhealthy attachment to creatures", purification from which is called the temporal punishment for sin (as opposed to the eternal punishment merited by mortal sin). The satisfaction required of the penitent is not an essential part of the sacrament, because the primary effect of remission of guilt and eternal punishment is obtained without it; but it is an integral part, because it is required for obtaining the secondary effect of this purification or remission of temporal punishment. [3]

The 1983 Code of Canon Law states: "A priest alone is the minister of the sacrament of penance." [10] While in the English language, the term priest usually means someone received into the second of the three Holy Orders (also called the presbyterate) but not into the highest, that of bishop, the Latin text underlying this statement uses the Latin term sacerdos, which comprises both bishops and, in the common English sense, priests. To refer exclusively to priests in the more common English sense, Latin uses the word presbyter. [11] In order to be able to be absolved validly from sin, the priest (sacerdos) must have the faculty to do so granted to him either by canon law or by the competent Church authority. [12] (In the ordinary course, most penitents assume that the confessor purporting to exercise this faculty is entitled to do so. In an instance where that belief is legitimately misplaced, the Church supplies that jurisdiction under canon 144 "to protect the 'innocent' faithful". [13] )

History

The history of the sacrament of Penance dates back to the New Testament and the time of Jesus. [3] [14]

There are three major periods in the historical development of the sacrament:

Early Christian penance

There are three major phases in the early Christian practice of penance:

From the beginning of the Church till the mid-2nd century

Practically all writings of that period, for instance The Shepherd of Hermas , Didache or Letters of St. Ignace of Antioch , show that grave sins were not rare among Christians. Cyrille Vogel collected a list of twelve major sins named in the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers' writings. They are all various transgressions of the Ten Commandments:

  • Murder
  • Idolatry
  • Sorcery, magic
  • Avarice
  • Theft
  • Envies: jealousy, greed, love of vain glory, hatred
  • Lies: false witness, perjury, hypocrisy, slander
  • Spite: anger, rebellion, argument, perverseness, bad temper, gossips, insults, injustice, deceitfulness.
  • Pride: boastfulness, vanity, arrogance.
  • Fickleness and insanity
  • Drunkenness and intemperance. [16]
  • Impurity: adultery, homosexual sex, fornication (pre- or extramarital sex), pederasty, concupiscence, impure language, use of pornographic materials

Christians in the early communities of the Church obtained forgiveness for those sins by practising prayer, good deeds, fasting and alms-giving. This early way of penitential discipline received in modern times the name of public penance, mistakenly confused with public announcement of the excommunication because of a public and grave sin. Sometimes sinners did publicly speak about their sins, but testimonies of the early Church show that in most cases offences were known to the priest alone. When a penitent did publicly confess his/her sins, this was always at the initiative of the penitent, a free act of Christian faith for spiritual motives. The public character of early penance should be understood as prayerful participation and support given by the community to a sinner,and not as public humiliation. [16]

3rd century canonical penance

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Multiple discussions began in the 3rd century, a time of many persecutions, on how the Church should respond to grave sinners, e.g. lapsed Catholics, idolaters, adulterers, murderers. A controversy first resulted over Montanism, whose main supporter was Tertullian. There were arguments between Novatian and Pope Cornelius, and between St. Cyprian and Pope Stephen I.[ clarification needed ]

Hippolytus of Rome criticised the popes, condemning them for being too ready to accept grave sinners back to the communion of the Church. [17]

Canonical penance between 4th and 6th centuries

The primary sources of information on canonical penance in this period are sermons of Augustine of Hippo and of Caesarius of Arles. Special canons were issued by regional, local Church Councils on how to deal with the public penance. Because of that this is called canonical penance.

Acts of Councils of this period show that no one who belonged to the order of penitents had access to Eucharistic communion until the bishop reconciled him with the community of the Church. Canon 29 of the Council of Epaone (517) in Gaul says, that from among penitents only apostates had to leave Sunday assembly together with catechumens, before the Eucharistic part commenced. Other penitents were present until the end but were denied communion at the table of the Lord. [18]

Tariff penance

A new approach to the practice of penance first became evident in the 7th century in the acts of the Council of Chalon-sur-Saône (644–655). Bishops gathered in that council were convinced that it was useful for the salvation of the faithful when the diocesan bishop prescribed penance to a sinner as many times as he or she would fall into sin (canon 8). The practice of so-called tariff penance was brought to continental Europe from the British Isles by Hiberno-Scottish and Anglo-Saxon monks. [19] Because of its isolation the Celtic Church for centuries remained fixed with its forms of worship and penitential discipline which differed from the rest of the Church. It had no knowledge of the institution of a public penance in the community of the church which could not be repeated, and which involved canonical obligations. Celtic penitential practices consisted of confession, acceptance of satisfaction fixed by the priest, and finally in reconciliation. They date back to 6th century. Penitential books native to the islands provided precisely determined penances for all offences, small and great (an approach reminiscent of early Celtic civil and criminal law). That kind of penance is called tariff penance. [20]

Individual confessions

Functional 19th century confessionals in St Pancras Church, Ipswich. Note the veiled crucifix, indicating that it is Passiontide. Confessionals Ipswich.jpg
Functional 19th century confessionals in St Pancras Church, Ipswich. Note the veiled crucifix, indicating that it is Passiontide.

Beginnings of practising the sacrament of penance in the form of individual confession as we know it now, i.e. bringing confession of sins and reconciliation together, can be traced back to 11th century. [21]

In 1215, the Fourth Council of the Lateran canon 21 required that every Christian who has reached the age of discretion must confess all their sins at least once a year to their own priest. [22] Canon 21 confirmed earlier legislation and custom, but has been misattributed as the first time sacramental confession was required. [22] The specification to a person's own parish priest was later dropped. [22] [23]

In 1907 the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in "condemned and proscribed" as heretical the proposition that:

The words of the Lord, "Receive the holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" ( John 20:22-23 ), in no way refer to the Sacrament of Penance, no matter what the Fathers of Trent were pleased to assert.

In the early Church, publicly known sins were often confessed openly or publicly in church. However, private confession was still used for private sins. [25] Also, penance was often done before absolution rather than after absolution. [25] Penances, also known as satisfaction, are assigned to expiate what is called the temporal punishment that remains due to sins even when the sins are forgiven, namely "an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory". [26] In the early Church, the assigned penances were much more arduous. For example, it would not have been unusual for someone to receive a 10-year penance [25] for committing the sin of abortion, which the Catholic Church considers to be a grave or mortal sin. [27] With more of an emphasis later placed on the Church's ability to expiate temporal effects of sin (by prayer, sacramentals, indulgences, and most especially by the sacrifice of the Mass), penances began to be lessened or mitigated.

During the Counter-Reformation of the 16th century, confession became less of a public declaration of loyalty to the Church and more of a private affair. Since the Council of Trent, compulsory annual confession was required only of those conscious of mortal sin. [28] The confession has since taken place in the privacy of a confessional. It was a change in emphasis from reconciliation with the Church to reconciliation directly with God; and from emphasis on social sins of hostility to private sins, called the "secret sins of the heart". [29] Especially in the West, the penitent may choose to confess in a specially constructed confessional, with an opaque grille separating the priest from the penitent, whose anonymity is thus preserved and physical contact is prevented. The provision of a fixed grille is required by the Code of Canon Law. [30] The penitent may also confess face to face, and this is the tradition in some Eastern Catholic Churches.

Although spiritual direction is not necessarily connected with the sacrament, the sacrament of penance has throughout the centuries been one of its main settings, enabling the Christian to become sensitive to God's presence, deepen the personal relationship with Christ, and attend to the action of the Spirit in one's life. [31] In the 20th century, during the Second Vatican Council, new approaches were taken in the presentation of this sacrament, taking into account the concern of scrupulosity, or the exaggerated obsessive concern for detail. This further distinguished the role of penance from forms of psychotherapy. [32]

Also in the 20th century, Pope John Paul II began a program of fostering and renewing the focus on this sacrament. [33] In 1984 he issued Reconciliatio et paenitentia which cited the Gospel of Mark 1:15 where Jesus said: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel." [34] In 2002 he cited the Gospel of Matthew 1:21 in Misericordia Dei which said that Jesus was born to "save his people from their sins" and the teachings of Saint John the Baptist which called for repentance. Quoting the Epistle to the Romans 8:21 , he stated that "Salvation is therefore and above all redemption from sin, which hinders friendship with God."

Minister of the sacrament

A penitent confessing his sins in the formerly Latin Church Catholic, now Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Greek-Catholic church of the Bernhardines in Lviv, Ukraine. Ispoved' bern sobor.jpg
A penitent confessing his sins in the formerly Latin Church Catholic, now Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Greek-Catholic church of the Bernhardines in Lviv, Ukraine.

Catholics believe that no priest, however pious or learned, has of himself the power to forgive sins apart from God. However, through the absolution that the priest imparts God grants forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Church. [35] In this way, God can and does accomplish the forgiveness of sins through the Catholic priesthood in the sacrament of Penance, which is validly administered by any validly-ordained priest or bishop who has jurisdiction to absolve the penitent. A local ordinary may grant any priest, either permanently or for a limited time, the faculty to hear confessions, but is obliged to make sure by an examination or some other adequate means that the priest has the knowledge and character to do so. If the priest belongs to a religious institute, he is not to exercise this faculty without the at least presumed permission of his religious superior. The superior of a religious institute can give to any priest the faculty to hear confessions of the religious superior's subjects and of others who live day and night in the religious house or institution. [36] Any priest, even if laicised or without faculties to hear confessions, may both licitly and validly absolve from all censures and sins anyone who is in danger of death. [37]

Any bishop ordinarily has the authority to hear confessions worldwide, unless the local bishop where the confession takes place or the penitent's own bishop has made an objection. The Pope, as the supreme earthly Catholic judge, and all cardinals have the right to hear confessions of any Catholic anywhere in the world by virtue of canon law. A Catholic of one rite may have a confessor of another rite in communion with Rome. Major superiors, rectors of seminaries and heads of houses of formation, and heads of novitiates should not ordinarily be the ones to hear the confessions of those they supervise unless the person freely requests it of them (they may not make use of any information learned in confession when they are disciplining their charges because of the seal of confession). [38]

Rite of the sacrament

Sacrament of Reconciliation, Prayers before & after Confession (Our Lady of Manaoag) Confession2jf.JPG
Sacrament of Reconciliation, Prayers before & after Confession (Our Lady of Manaoag)

The rite of the sacrament has been fairly uniform since the Council of Trent. The role of the priest is as a minister of Christ's mercy. He acts in persona Christi .

In the Roman Rite, celebration of the sacrament may begin with a greeting or blessing by the priest, who invites the penitent to have trust in God. [39] The priest may read a short passage from the Bible that proclaims God's mercy and calls to conversion. [40] The penitent begins by saying, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been (state a time) since my last confession," or using more informal language. The mention of time is to establish whether there is a habit of serious sin that may not be repented. It may be omitted if there are no mortal sins. Mortal sins must be confessed within at most a year and always before receiving Holy Communion, while confession of venial sins also is recommended. This yearly confession is necessitated for performing one's "Easter duty," the reception of Communion at least once between Ash Wednesday and Trinity Sunday. [41]

The priest may offer counsel, and proposes an act of penance which the penitent accepts and then recites an act of contrition. [42] An essential for forgiveness from serious sin is a sincere resolve to try to avoid the sin in the future. The Council of Trent (Session Fourteen, Chapter I) quoted John 20:22-23 as the primary Scriptural proof for the doctrine concerning this sacrament. The priest imparts absolution. Since the Council of Trent, the essential words of absolution have been: "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." [43] In the renewal of the sacrament the more ample form is

"God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace. And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." [44] [43] [lower-alpha 2]

Finally, the priest invites the penitent to "give thanks to the Lord, for he is good", to which the penitent responds, "His mercy endures forever." ( Psalms 136:1 )

The priest might then say "Go in peace," or use a longer formula like:

May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of all the saints,
whatever good you do and suffering you endure,
heal your sins,
help you to grow in holiness,
and reward you with eternal life. [45]

Before the absolution, the penitent makes an act of contrition, a prayer declaring sorrow for sin. The older form stressed: "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you...." Renewed forms would also mention being sorry for the harm done to one's neighbor.

The Catholic Church teaches that the individual and integral confession and absolution (as opposed to collective absolution) is the only ordinary way in which a person conscious of mortal sins committed after baptism can be reconciled with God and the Church. [46] Perfect contrition (a sorrow motivated by love of God rather than of fear of punishment) removes the guilt of mortal sin even before confession or, if there is no opportunity of confessing to a priest, without confession, but with the intention of confessing when and if the opportunity arrives.

Receiving the sacrament of penance from a priest is distinct from receiving pastoral counseling or psychotherapy (without confession of absolution) from a priest – even if that priest is one's spiritual director or a member of the pastoral team of one's parish. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church have insisted on this point in order to avoid confusion, as both confidential processes have distinct roles in church life.

A confessional in the Bohemian style, in Jaromer, Czech Republic. Jaromer Mikulas zpovednice.jpg
A confessional in the Bohemian style, in Jaroměř, Czech Republic.

The current rite of the sacrament of Reconciliation was given to the Church by Pope Paul VI on December 2, 1973. The 1973 rite presents the sacrament in three different ritual forms:

Frequency of reception

A modern confessional in a Latin Catholic Church. The penitent may kneel on the kneeler or sit in a chair (not shown), facing the priest. Confessional Modern.jpg
A modern confessional in a Latin Catholic Church. The penitent may kneel on the kneeler or sit in a chair (not shown), facing the priest.

Canon 989 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states: "After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year." The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses this as "You shall confess your sins at least once a year," terming it the second precept of the Church and explaining that it "ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness". [49] Anyone who has the possibility of going to confession and is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion without first receiving sacramental absolution. [50]

What is of strict obligation is confession of mortal sins. There is never a strict obligation to confess venial sins, or to go to Confession if one has no mortal sins to confess. [41] But the Church "strongly recommends" confession of even venial sins [51] and encourages frequent confession. This was recommended by Pius XII [52] and Pope John XXIII [53] as a pious practice which the Church has introduced under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as a means of swifter daily progress along the road of virtue.

The sacrament of Penance is also known as the sacrament of peace. [54] "The act of sin may pass and yet the guilt remains," according to Thomas Aquinas. [54] John Hardon wrote that the sacrament "is a divinely instituted means of giving us peace of soul" and that modern popes identified benefits of frequent reception of the sacrament, for example, the penitent can increase self-knowledge, purify conscience, strengthen the will, master impulses, correct bad habits, submit to the Holy Spirit and "make more perfect the justification we first received in Baptism." [54]

Paul VI said that frequent confession is "of great value," and John Paul II, who went to confession weekly and who stressed the universal call to holiness as a characteristic mark of Vatican II, enumerated three advantages of frequent confession: the penitent is renewed in fervor, strengthened in resolutions, and supported by divine encouragement. Because of what he considered misinformation about this sacrament, John Paul II recommended this practice and warned that those who discourage frequent reception of the sacrament "are lying." [54] According to the study of Sal Ferigle of Church law and teachings, "whenever possible, frequent confession will ordinarily mean between once a month and once a week." [55] The importance of a twice-daily examination of consciousness was emphasized by St. Ignatius of Loyola, patron of spiritual exercises in the Church. Ignatius called this examen the most essential spiritual practice for Jesuits. [56]

Sacramental seal

The priest is bound under the severest penalties to maintain the "seal of confession", absolute secrecy about any sins revealed to him in confession. [57] This strict confidentiality is known as the Seal of the Confessional. According to 983 §1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law , "The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason." Priests, and anyone who witnesses or overhears the confession (say, an interpreter, caregiver, or aide of a person with a disability) may not reveal what they have learned during confession to anyone, even under the threat of their own death or that of others. This is unique to the Seal of the Confessional. Many other forms of confidentiality, including in most states attorney-client privilege, allow ethical breaches of the confidence to save the life of another. But a priest, or anyone else who witnesses or overhears any part of the confession, who breaks that confidentiality incurs latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Holy See. [58] In a criminal matter, a priest may encourage the penitent to surrender to authorities, however, this is the extent of the leverage he wields: he cannot make this a condition of the absolution and he may not directly or indirectly disclose the matter to civil authorities himself.

Simple Confession box, Our Lady of Manaoag. Confessionjf.JPG
Simple Confession box, Our Lady of Manaoag.
Traditional confessional (St. Elisabeth church in Grave, The Netherlands). Elisabeth biechtstoel.jpg
Traditional confessional (St. Elisabeth church in Grave, The Netherlands).

There are limited cases where portions of a confession may be revealed to others, but always with the penitent's permission and always without actually revealing the penitent's identity. This is the case, for example, with unusually serious offenses, as some excommunicable offenses are reserved to the bishop or even to the Holy See, and their permission to grant absolution would first have to be obtained.

The sacramental seal can bring penalties if misuse is attempted. "With due regard for c.1388, whoever by any technical instrument records or publishes in the mass media what was said in the sacramental confession by the confessor or the penitent, real or feigned, by him/herself or another person, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication. This decree goes into effect the day of promulgation." [59] Confession is the best known example of theology's internal forum, dealing with individual issues of conscience. A violation of the privacy of the forum is a serious matter.

Civil authorities in the United States are usually respectful of this confidentiality, but in Eugene, Oregon, in 1996, jail authorities with the approval of the local District Attorney, clandestinely recorded the sacramental confession of a jailed suspect without the knowledge of the priest or the penitent. Following official protests by then local Archbishop Francis George and the Holy See, the tape was sealed but has never been destroyed. The 9th Circuit Court ruled that the taping was in violation of the First and Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and issued an injunction against any further tapings.

Necessity of confession

A Major Penitentiary, Cardinal James Stafford, pointed out "that we are saved by faith and the sacraments of faith." [43] According to Catholic theology, the sacrament of Penance is the only ordinary way for the forgiveness of mortal sins committed after Baptism. [60] [lower-alpha 3] Nevertheless, mortal sins are already forgiven by contrition (not attrition, hence also called perfect contrition), as the Church teaches. [63] The difference between perfect contrition and attrition is that the former is grounded in charity and filial fear, while attrition (which does suffice for Confession) is grounded in fear only. A customary prayer is invoked that is equivalent to an act of contrition. [lower-alpha 4]

Contrition by necessity includes, for Catholics, the desire for receiving the sacrament of Penance, that is the (at least implicit) will to subject one's sins to the sacrament instituted as the ordinary way of forgiveness, because one cannot on the one hand love God and desire His forgiveness, and on the other hand reject the ordinary means of the said forgiveness. At the hour of death any priest, even an excommunicated or laicized one, has power to validly and licitly hear Confessions. [64]

There is always hope for the salvation of a deceased person for, in spite of the circumstances of their death, we can never judge that the knowledge and freedom necessary for a mortal sin were present. Also, an act of perfect contrition is always a possibility.

We read in James 5:16 : "Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved." Admitting sins to a layman in case of necessity was a High Middle Ages practice which never received the sanction of the Catholic Church. [3] [lower-alpha 5] While theological opinions during the High Middle Ages about the practice differed, the general opinion was that those confessions must be repeated to a priest. [3] Theological opinion developed during the Late Middle Ages against the practice and the practice was condemned in 1418 by Pope Martin V in Inter Cunctas, [65] in 1520 by Pope Leo X in Exsurge Domine , [66] and in 1551 by the Council of Trent. [3] [67]

Admitting sins to a deacon in case of necessity was a Middle Ages practice which received some sanction of the Catholic Church. The phrase " presbytero vel diacono " is found in the Decretum Gratiani and in many documents from the High Middle Ages, but by 1280 it was called an erroneous development through ignorance and it probably disappeared in the 14th or 15th century, according to Hanna. The practice was implicitly rejected in 1551 by the Council of Trent. [3] [67]

Later theologians, however, clarified that in the absence of a priest with faculties, there is no obligation to confess, not even at the hour of death; there is only the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition. [3] The Council of Trent acknowledged the possibility of obtaining forgiveness of sin by perfect contrition of charity and by the desire for receiving the sacrament of Penance. [68] [69]

Since the Reformation, some Protestants have denied the church's authority to absolve sins. [70] [71]

Manuals of confession

Beginning in the Middle Ages, manuals of confession emerged as a literary genre. These manuals were guidebooks on how to obtain the maximum benefits from the sacrament. There were two kinds of manuals: those addressed to the faithful, so that they could prepare a good confession, and those addressed to the priests, who had to make sure that no sins were left unmentioned and the confession was as thorough as possible. The priest had to ask questions, while being careful not to suggest sins that perhaps the faithful had not thought of and give them ideas. Manuals were written in Latin and in the vernacular. [72]

Such manuals grew more popular as the printed word spread, and in 2011 had made a transition to electronic form as well. The first such app on the iPhone to receive a nihil obstat and imprimatur was mistakenly reported as an app for the sacrament itself; in reality the app in question was an electronic version of this long-standing tradition of material to be used in preparing oneself to make a good confession. [73] [74]

Eastern Orthodox Christianity

In general practice, after one confesses to one's spiritual father (priest - pnevmatikos), the priest covers the head of the person with his Epitrachelion (stole) and reads the prayers of repentance, asking God to forgive the transgressions of the individual.

In some Eastern Orthodox Churches, clergy take confessions in the nave, in public view but quietly (almost silently), removed from close contact with others.

See also

Notes

  1. Cf. Vatican II, Lumen gentium 11 § 2; "CCC, 1422". Vatican.va.
  2. Prior to 1973, the formula of absolution contained in the 1614 Ordo ministrandi sacramentum poenitentiae was, in English: "May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you: and I by his authority absolve you from every bond of excommunication, suspension and interdict, insofar as I am able and you need it. And finally, I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." Stafford pointed out that the first part "was legal and canonical in its inspiration and wording" while the 1973 formula "is more explicitly biblical, ecclesial, Christocentric, and Trinitarian." [43]
  3. "The necessity [of the sacrament of penance] is like that of baptism: in an emergency, desire for the sacrament," according to Karl Rahner, "can replace it." [61] Council of Trent, Session 6, decreed that repentance includes "sacramental confession or at least the desire to confess them when a suitable occasion will be found" while "eternal punishment [and] guilt, is remitted by the reception of the sacrament or the desire of the sacrament." [62]
  4. For an example formula, see version in "Act of contrition". Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. vatican.va. 2005. § Common Prayers in Appendix.
  5. Hanna explained in 1911 that the practice showed that people realized "the obligation of confessing their sins not to God alone but to some human listener, even though the latter possessed no power to absolve." [3]

Related Research Articles

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Anointing of the sick, known also by other names, is a form of religious anointing or "unction" for the benefit of a sick person. It is practiced by many Christian churches and denominations.

Penance repentance of sins

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.

An Act of Contrition is a Christian prayer genre that expresses sorrow for sins. It may be used in a liturgical service or be used privately, especially in connection with an examination of conscience. Special formulae for acts of contrition are in use in the Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed Churches.

Indulgence A way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins

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Absolution is a traditional theological term for the forgiveness experienced by Christians in the life of the Church. 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 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.

Eucharistic discipline

Eucharistic discipline is the term applied to the regulations and practices associated with an individual preparing for the reception of the Eucharist. Different Christian traditions require varying degrees of preparation, which may include a period of fasting, prayer, repentance, and confession.

Anointing of the Sick in the Catholic Church one of the sacraments in the Catholic Church

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Frequent confession

Frequent confession is the spiritual practice among some Roman Catholics of going to the sacrament of reconciliation often and regularly in order to grow in holiness. It is a practice that has been recommended by Catholic leaders and saints as a powerful means of growing in love with God, in humility, and having sorrow for sins, since it is considered a personal encounter with Jesus who is the source of God's grace, help, and forgiveness.

Catholic theology is the understanding of Roman Catholic doctrine or teachings, and results from the studies of theologians. It is based on canonical scripture, and sacred tradition, as interpreted authoritatively by the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. This article serves as an introduction to various topics in Catholic theology, with links to where fuller coverage is found.

Lay confession is confession in the religious sense, made to a lay person.

Confession (Lutheran Church)

In the Lutheran Church, Confession is the method given by Christ to the Church by which individual men and women may receive the forgiveness of sins; according to the Large Catechism, the "third sacrament" of Holy Absolution is properly viewed as an extension of Holy Baptism.

Lutheran sacraments

The Lutheran sacraments are "sacred acts of divine institution". Lutherans believe that, whenever they are properly administered by the use of the physical component commanded by God along with the divine words of institution, God is, in a way specific to each sacrament, present with the Word and physical component. They teach that God earnestly offers to all who receive the sacrament forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. They teach that God also works in the recipients to get them to accept these blessings and to increase the assurance of their possession.

Misericordia Dei is the title of an apostolic letter by Pope John Paul II to foster and reemphasize the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The letter is subtitled "On Certain Aspects of the Sacrament of Penance" and was promulgated on 7 April 2002 in Rome, issued as Motu proprio and was signed by him.

References

  1. "CCC, 1446". Vatican.va. Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace".
  2. "A Guide to the Sacrament of Penance", Pennsylvania Catholic Conference of Bishops, 2002
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Wikisource-logo.svg  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Hanna, Edward (1911). "The Sacrament of Penance"  . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . 11. New York: Robert Appleton.
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  5. "CCC, 1854". Vatican.va.
  6. "CCC, 1855". Vatican.va.
  7. "CCC, 1863". Vatican.va.
  8. "CCC, 1875". Vatican.va.
  9. Council of Trent, Session XIV, Chapter V
  10. CIC 1983, c. 965.
  11. Dennis Chester Smolarski, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 1969–2002: A Commentary (Liturgical Press 2003 ISBN   978-0-8146-2936-9), p. 24
  12. CIC 1983, c. 966.
  13. Donovan, Colin B., "The Society of St. Pius X - Penance", November 28, 2005
  14. Poschmann 1964, pp. 2–3.
  15. Cf. Vogel, Cyrille (1982). Le pécheur et la pénitence dans l'Église ancienne. pp. 9–10.
  16. 1 2 Cf. Vogel, Cyrille (1982). Le pécheur et la pénitence dans l'Église ancienne. pp. 14–15.
  17. Cf. Vogel, Cyrille (1982). Le pécheur et la pénitence dans l'Église ancienne. pp. 19–26.
  18. Cf. Vogel, Cyrille (1982). Le pécheur et la pénitence dans l'Église ancienne. p. 36.
  19. Cf. Vogel, Cyrille (1982). Le pécheur et la pénitence au moyen-age. pp. 15–24.
  20. Poschmann 1964, pp. 124–125.
  21. Poschmann 1964, p. 156.
  22. 1 2 3 Wikisource-logo.svg  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Leclercq, Henri (1910). "Fourth Lateran Council (1215)"  . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . 9. New York: Robert Appleton.
  23. Denzinger 2012, n. 812.
  24. Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (2002). "Decree condemning certain errors of the modernists: Lamentabili sane". In Bechard, Dean P. (ed.). The Scripture documents: an anthology of official Catholic teachings. Translated by Bechard, Dean P. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. p. 186. ISBN   0-8146-2591-6.
  25. 1 2 3 "Confession". catholic.com. El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers. Archived from the original on 2011-09-03.
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  27. "Abortion". catholic.com. El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers. Archived from the original on 2011-09-03.
  28. "PENANCE, SACRAMENT OF", New Catholic Encyclopedia (2nd ed.), 2003
  29. Bossy, John (1975). "The social history of Confession in the Age of the Reformation". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. London: Royal Historical Society. 25: 21–38. ISSN   0080-4401. JSTOR   3679084.
  30. CIC, Can. 964 §2
  31. Gary W. Moon, ''Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls'' (InterVarsity Press 2004 ISBN 978-0-8308-2777-0), p. 64. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  32. Wise, R. Todd (1995). An empirical phenomenological analysis of the Rite of Reconciliation from the perspective of the penitent (Ph.D.). Ann Arbor, MI: Union Institute Graduate School. OCLC   43313162.
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  35. CIC 1983, c. 959.
  36. Code of Canon Law, canons 969-970
  37. CIC 1983, c. 976.
  38. Code of Canon Law, canons 984-985
  39. Rite of Penance, 42
  40. Rite of Penance, 43
  41. 1 2 canonlawmadeeasy (2009-04-02). "Is Confession Still an Easter Duty?". Canon Law Made Easy. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  42. Rite of Penance, 44
  43. 1 2 3 4 Stafford, James F. (2006-09-21). "Address of his Eminence Card. James Francis Stafford on the occasion of the annual general conference of the 'Society For Catholic Liturgy'". vatican.va. Vatican City. Archived from the original on 2007-02-25. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
  44. Rite of Penance, 46
  45. Rite of Penance, 47
  46. CIC 1983, c. 960.
  47. Richstatter, Thomas. "Ten tips for better confessions". americancatholic.org. St. Anthony Messenger Press. Archived from the original on 2001-04-21.
  48. Rite of Penance, n. 66
  49. "CCC, 2042". Vatican.va.
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  54. 1 2 3 4 Hardon, John (1998). "The spiritual and psychological value of frequent confession". therealpresence.org. Chicago, IL: The Real Presence Association. Archived from the original on 2005-02-05.
  55. Ferigle, S. M. (December 1975). "Frequent confession". Homiletic & Pastoral Review. New York: 15–24. ISSN   0018-4268. Archived from the original on 2014-03-10 via catholicculture.org.
  56. "The Daily Examen - IgnatianSpirituality.com". Ignatian Spirituality. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  57. "Celebration of the Christian Mystery Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 309". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  58. Canon 1388 §1, 1983 Code of Canon Law
  59. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Decree, Congregatio pro Doctina Fidei in AAS 80 (1988) p 1367, quoted in Sacraments: Initiation, Penance, Anointing of the Sick Woestman, WM, Ottawa 2004, pg 277
  60. "CCC, 1484". Vatican.va., CIC can 960
  61. Trent, Council of (session 6, 1547-01-13) (2012, ch. 14), cited in Rahner (1969, p. 387).
  62. Trent, Council of (session 6, 1547-01-13) 2012, ch. 14.
  63. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma IV/III/II/IV § 10 no. 2a, sententia fidei proxima with a quote of the Council of Trent[ clarify ]
  64. CIC 1983, c. 967.
  65. Denzinger 2012, n. 1260.
  66. Denzinger 2012, n. 1463.
  67. 1 2 Denzinger 2012, n. 1684.
  68. Denzinger 2012, n. 1677.
  69. "CCC, 1452". Vatican.va.
  70. Bouyer, Louis (1963). The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism. pp. 134ff.
  71. Bouyer, Louis (2004) [©1961]. The Word, Church and Sacraments in Protestantism and Catholicism. Translated by Arthur Littledale. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. pp. 73–76. ISBN   978-1-58617-023-3.
  72. See http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/projects/arroyo/manuels.htm (in French) about manuals of confession in medieval Spain.
  73. Hornby, Catherine (2011-02-10). Written at Vatican City. "Catholics cannot confess via iPhone: Vatican". reuters.com. New York: Thomson Reuters. Archived from the original on 2015-10-18. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
  74. Little i Apps (2011-01-27). "Confession: a Roman Catholic app". itunes.apple.com. Cupertino, CA: Apple. Archived from the original on 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2015-10-18.

Bibliography

Further reading