The Origins of Mandatory Private Confession in the Catholic Church

In the “Stats” for this blog, I can review the search strings typed into engines like Google or Bing that bring visitors here. One such search string recently caught my eye, which surprised me because I’ve never written about the topic before:

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“when did mandatory private confession start in the catholic church?”

When I repeated the search myself, the question was left somewhat unanswered. So, to the person who was looking for an answer to this question, this is for you:

Private Penance is quite old in the Catholic Church; It is an Ancient Practice

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Primary documents are cited from this excellent compendium; click the picture of the cover for more information

In 1551, the Council of Trent, in its Doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance, stated that “…Peter, prince of the apostles, recommended penance to sinners who were about to receive baptism with the words: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you. [Acts 2:38f.]”

The Church teaches that Confession, or Penance (also Reconciliation) is one of the seven sacraments of the Church instituted by Christ. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “During his public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: he reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the People of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them.” (CCC 1443).

According to the Church, the sacrament of Penance is for baptized members who “…have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion… The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as ‘the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.'” (CCC 1446, citing Tertullian, De Paenit. 4, 2: PL 1, 1343; and Trent).

Regardless of whether penance of a particular time was private or public, “Beneath the changes in discipline and celebration that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned.” (CCC 1447, 1448). That is, whether public or private (or some other potential form), sacramental penance has always comprised “two equally essential elements: …conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit… [and] God’s action through the intervention of the Church.” (CCC 1448).

The Council of Trent in Doctrine stated:

“…the Lord instituted the sacrament of penance, principally when after his Resurrection he breathed upon his disciples and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’ [Jn 20:22f.]. The universal consensus of the Fathers has always acknowledged that by so sublime an action and such clear words the power of forgiving and retaining sins was given to the apostles and their lawful successors for reconciling the faithful who have fallen after baptism…” (Chapter 5).

Confessional at Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Confessional at Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

In addition, the Council of Trent noted that “secret” [private] sacramental confession, was used by the Church “from her beginning” and “has always been commended by the most venerable and most ancient Fathers with great and unanimous agreement…” (Ibid., Chapter 5).

That was 1551. We faithful Catholics should trust the Council Fathers at Trent that there were private confessions in the Church “from her beginning.” You can stop reading now, unless you happen to like history.

For those who might not take the Council Fathers at their word, we can look for further proof of the assertion regarding the practice of private confession in the Church “from her beginning”. A handful of centuries to 1551 isn’t very long (unless you’re Protestant. Ooh, burn.). The Council refers to private confession from the “beginning” of the Church, but what is its basis for this claim?

First, we can follow the Council Fathers at Trent back a few hundred more years to 1215 and the [Fourth] Lateran Council [can. 8]: “…for the Church did not establish through the Lateran Council that Christ’s faithful should confess, which she had understood to be a necessary institution of divine law, but that the precept of confession should be discharged by one and all at least once a year on their reaching the age of discretion.” Trent is referring to the declaration of the Fourth Lateran Council which instituted “mandatory” private confession when it stated that “All the faithful… should individually confess all their sins in a faithful manner to their own priest at least once a year…” (Ibid., Chapter 21).

Trent noted that while “mandatory” private confession became the norm from the time of the Fourth Lateran, the general “non-mandatory” practice of private confession was a practice in the Church “from her beginning” by virtue of the Fourth Lateran dealing with confession in such a regulatory way.

The sequence would have been backwards to prescribe a specific action (i.e., mandatory annual, private confession during the season of Lent) if the custom (i.e., private confession) were not already embedded in the Christian life. It’s possible that non-private confession was also in use in some places, but as we’ll see below, it’s not likely, apart from isolated examples. And, these other forms of penance would not have been prescribed as “mandatory” while private confession remained only optional.

Although we can now see that the mandatory practice of privately confessing one’s sins to a priest is documented back to 1215, this is less than half the age of the Church. Does it go back any further? It does, according to James Hitchcock’s History of the Catholic Church (page 136): 

Martyrdom of St. John Nepomuk by Szymon Czechowicz, National Museum in Warsaw

Martyrdom of St. John Nepomuk by Szymon Czechowicz, National Museum in Warsaw

By the ninth century, private confession for lay people was required at least once a year, along with a whole new penitential discipline, including the silence of the confessor (the “seal of confession”) so absolute that if, for example, he learned from a penitent of a plot on his own life, he could do nothing to thwart it. (St. John Nepomucen [d. 1393], confessor to the queen of Bohemia, was drowned by order of the king, for refusing to divulge the contents of her confession.)”

Hitchcock’s summary is factually consistent with the Catechism, which states that “During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the ‘private’ practice of penance”. (CCC 1447).

Thus, we can see that private confession was practiced in one form or another, and that it was mandatory in many places in Europe back to the 600s, inspired by an even more ancient practice in the “Eastern monastic tradition”. Having gone this far, we might as well push to the origins of the Church to see if we can find any earlier references to private confession.

20131030-003114.jpgPrivate confession is implied in Canon 13 of the First Council of Nicaea (325). In addition, in the Letter Consulenti tibi to Bishop Exsuperius of Toulouse (405), Pope Innocent I referred to penance being granted for those who need it. In 459, Pope St. Leo I the Great wrote a letter Magna indignatione to All the Bishops of Campania, etc., stating:

With regard to penance, what is demanded of the faithful is clearly not that an acknowledgement of the nature of individual sins written in a little book be read publicly, since it suffices that the states of consciences be made known to the priests alone in secret confession.

Saint Leo Magnus by Francisco Herrera the Younger, in the Prado Museum, Madrid

Saint Leo Magnus by Francisco Herrera the Younger, in the Prado Museum, Madrid

Private confession was a practice in the Church “from her beginning” but may not have been the exclusive practice from the beginning; what has varied over the centuries is the “concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power.” (CCC 1447):

During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism (for example, idolatry, murder, or adultery) was tied to very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation.

According to this article, there is reference to confession in the ancient first-century apostolic writings known as the Didache (Did-uh-kay), which was “lost to history” and only rediscovered in 1873. In Chapter 14, the Didache commands Christians to gather on Sundays for the celebration of the Eucharist, “…after having confessed your transgressions” and establishes that from the very origins of the early Church, the tradition was that confession was a requirement for the worthy reception of Communion.

Tradition developed private confession as a mercy (rather than penalty) to penitents: instead of publicly confessing — which was the norm in the very early centuries of the Church, and where the penances assigned were oftentimes harsh and severe — the Church developed a mechanism for private and anonymous reception of the sacrament, and total secrecy regarding the contents of the confession. Holy priests choose martyrdom over revealing what penitents confess.

Therefore, it is historically myopic when Protestants accuse the Church of creating private confession for some nefarious purpose. Luther correctly noted the prevalence of human abuses with regard to the sacrament at the time of the Reformation, but his failure was in attributing these entirely human abuses to the holiness of the Church, which is an error that has taken a great many earnest Christians away from a source of priceless grace and mercy.

Finally, private confession is regarded as somewhat uncomfortable, particularly for non-Catholics seeking to convert to Catholicism but who are unfamiliar with the practice. The point is that it is the Protestant approach to sin and forgiveness that is without precedent or basis. Penance was a sacrament of the Church from the first centuries. The fact that it developed over the centuries into a “mandatory” private practice was and is a mercy for sinners (i.e., all of us), if you take the historical view.

So, go to confession! Give thanks that our Lord gave penance to us as a sacrament, and give thanks that our Church has seen fit to pour out God’s mercy by giving us the means by which to receive the sacrament privately and confidentially!


40 thoughts on “The Origins of Mandatory Private Confession in the Catholic Church

  1. From Matthew Chapter 9 vs 6-8We see that confession came from Christ Himself even before His rising from the dead! Here in the Bible it says clearly that He give the power to forgive sins to His Apostles and when He did that the crowds were in awe!
    “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
    He rose and went home.
    * When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.”

    • In AD 1215 confession once in year was made mandatory.That means many catholics lived and died without going to confession before that.This is not to say that they did not sin or that their sins were not fogiven.
      In some oriental churches there was no private confession for a long time even after 1215.
      All this show that private confession is not indispensable for salvation.
      In fact it was made compulsory only during the times when popes weilded great power.So to add to those powers Private confession was made mandatory.
      One must also remember that there are non catholis who lead virtuous lives but never go to confession. Do they all go to hell? I cant believe it.
      I feel that this is a man made arrangement and there is nothing divine about it.
      Even otherwise when God is so close to each one of us and He undetstands us better thsn any one else why should we approach a deputee to confess our sins?

      • I understand that in earlier times, the Catholic Church was the only religion to offer the sacrament of confession and it attracted people to the Catholic faith. It gave people hope and an opportunity to experience firsthand God’s endless mercy. Please read Bob Allard’s response, which reflects the teachings of Saint Faustina Kowalska. There is an entire book in which God’s unfathomable mercy is described. If Catholics are not using confession as recommended (no one can demand that a person receive the sacrament of confession), then it is the personal choice of that person as to whether to avail themselves of God’s special grace. No one said that private confession with a priest is required for salvation, but one loses out on the graces poured out in their earthly life during this beautiful sacrament. It is a mystery which I believe in. The Bible does state to “confess your sins to one another”. Since I’ve had only 100% positive responses from priests to my confessions, and since Christ authorized His disciples (priests) to stand in for Him to forgive sins, I am indebted to Christ for this beautiful sacrament and I will happily confess my sins to a priest. Easier done now than all at once at the pearly gates. am a happy convert from the Protestant church, of which my immediate family still holds membership. Confession helps me.

      • Obviously, it is not a man-made arrangement, there are scriptures which validate it.

        The real claim you make is, is confession required to be forgiven by God. Strictly, No.

        The Catholic Church states that if you make a perfect confession, with perfect contrition to God you are forgiven. But it also warns you that this is not so easy for a human being to be assured of as we have our faults in even forgiving ourselves and others do we not?

        So then why confession? It is a sacrament. It is a sacred action. It is a gift of grace to you even if your contrition is imperfect. Your sin is forgiven by the action you took to ask for the Sacrament (provided by Jesus to you through His Church) and you receiving it as the Priest says the Absolutin.

        So here is the main reason for it,..there are benefits to your spiritand to your human nature by confessing.
        1. As a sacrament you are guaranteed your sin is forgiven even if your contrition is imperfect, such as your only motivation is that you fear you will die with this grave sin and go to Hell.
        2. Confessing honestly to a Priest requires a certain amount of humility on your part which in turn helps you to be truly contrite. When you are involved in your Church, you know your Parish Priests personally, as say a fundamentalist Christian generally knows their church’s pastor. It is not easy when you are struggling with sin to go to confession to your parish priest over and over with the same failure. Even though you know your confession is confidential and that your priest will, as many have, endure torture and death, to never divulge a confession, it is not easy to be prideful in your sin when you are going to your confessor over and over for your struggle. Think how difficult it would be for you to go to your non-denominational pastor every three or four days and say, I’m back, sinned again. After a while you are going to feel very compelled to rectify this problem and your preacher is goingtofeel compelled to somehow help you. This is the most common underlying reason that non-catholics oppose cofession to “a man” as they fear having to be so humbled. It is a problem even for Catholics, we are all stuck in repetition of our sin, usually it is one same one that is a thorn to us through our life, be it substance abuse, greed, sexual impurity, anger, issues with forgiveness, etc. and it is not easy to bear our souls to one another because we are prideful beings…and that pride is often the first stumbling block we must overcome.
        3. While it is not always the case, it can be the case that a person is honestly confused as to what is the sin and why is it a sin? Or they may be struggling with it so often that they are becoming disheartened and do not know what to do anymore. A good Priest can answer chatechesis questions, can offer you more in depth understanding of the harm the sin causes and in the case of habitual sin, offer you advice, or refer you to seek out Cathoilic counceling and assure you that God forgives you and not to become despondent.

  2. Jesus told Saint Faustina that whenever we approach the confessional, that He, Himself is waiting there for us, that the priest is only a screen for Him, and to never analyze the priest He is using.

  3. The post is good but Jesus nevere ordered confession as a sacrament to be private—the fact that it was not private in the early church shows that –but as a dsicipline it can change or change back –obviously Catholics are not using confession as they should…why not? Calling it reconciliation is the same as saying Jesus used a chalice at the last supper (new translation of the Mass). People are not dumb…..something has to change to make it a real celebration –individual confession seems in the minds of many to miss the mark of celebration…the church needs to do something or confession as a sacrament will go the way of the reformation.

      • The point is: the part of the sacrament that is a discipline (private confession and/or public) can and has changed. Perhaps it is time to restudy the sacrament and the “disciplinary’ options and go on from there. We need to find the reason why people are neglecing the sacrament as well and then adapt. Once Rome speaks, then we can move on again, and Rome must do something in this era of evangelization since Catholics need evangelization as well.

      • at mass all say act of confession, then priest offers absolution. is this not absolution?

      • At mass all say an Act of *Contrition*, then the priest, on behalf of himself and the congregation, asks for God’s mercy, which, arguably, takes care of *venial* sins. But, it is not the same as sacramental confession or receiving absolution in the sacrament of confession. For *mortal* sins, the Church has always taught that sacramental confession is necessary before receiving the Eucharist.

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  6. What we don’t see in Scripture is someone confessing to a priest, the priest giving a penance of some kind and then being absolved of their sins. This kind of thing is an invention of men and denies the direct access we have to God through Christ. I john 1:9

    • Confession is a sacrament instituted by Christ Himself. “Whatever you bind on earth…” (Matthew 18:18). Inadequate “direct access” to God isn’t a Catholic problem: every church has a tabernacle and every Catholic can receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior.

      What’s an invention of man is reliance upon Scripture as the sole source of Christian teaching. Jesus taught against that.

      • Jesus never instituted a sacrament of confession. Its in none of His teachings nor do we see the apostles teaching it or demonstrating it either.
        Our access to God has nothing to do with a tabernacle or your Eucharist.

        The sacrament of confession is not an apostolic teaching nor practice. It is a doctrine of men.

      • Ralph, sorry, but you’re simply incorrect.

        John 20:19-23: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. [Jesus] said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

        Jesus gave the apostles the authority to forgive, and not to forgive. Jesus conferred this power upon the apostles by breathing on them, and He did it on Easter Sunday. There is only one other reference in Scripture to God breathing on anyone: in Genesis 2:7, God breathed life into the first human being. If God breathed life the first time….

        Also, compare 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, where St. Paul says that “God reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation” and that the apostles “are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.”

        Finally, note James 5, beginning at verse 13. James makes clear that a sick or suffering person “should summon the presbyters of the church” [i.e., priests] who will pray and anoint the person, and “If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” He goes on to say that we should confess our sins – not directly to God, but to “one another”, “…that you may be healed.” (Verse 16).

        We can see from John 20 that since the Father sent Jesus to redeem humanity by the forgiveness of sins, Jesus likewise sends His apostles to continue that same mission.

        Jesus knows who we are. We are human. We sin. We all fall short. Sacramental Confession is Providential Medicine.

        Study the early Church Fathers, and you will see that the claim that the “sacrament of confession is not an apostolic teaching nor practice” is entirely without basis or merit.

        Oh, and the Eucharist isn’t my or your anything. It is Jesus.

    • I am Catholic and I agree with you.Peter said,”Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38)He did not said confess your sins.Repenting and confessing are two totally different things!

      • Jesus’ first instruction to His Apostles, after His resurrection, is exactly confession to a priest, the first Apostles. Read Gospel of John 20: 19-23. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. Surely this wasn’t meant for just the Apostles.

    • I do agree with qmbarque. It seems to me implicit and simple logic that the apostles and priests must know the type and number of sins in order to be able to decide to forgive ‘or’ retain the sins, as Jesus said : “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” [Jn 20:22f.]. Otherwise, how can Jesus could have asked to “retain the sins” ? If the priests retain any sin without knowing what is retained, it should be accused of arbitrariness and injustice (maybe the same can be said if he forgives blindly in the name of God). So for me, it is implicit in the very words of Jesus: the priest must know in advance the sins to be able to give or retain forgiveness in the name of God. As the priest doesn’t have divine knowledge or a supernatural gift of perspicacity like Jesus has, the sinner has to confess his sins. Don’t forget that Catholics say that the sinner has always the right to confess anonymously, as it is not necessary for the priest to know who is the sinner, to be able to implement what Jesus said. Furthermore, this is the only way Jesus has given humans and the Church to get God’s forgiveness and know it for sure, even if He Himself forgives directly using all other means He wants. The danger is also for us to use and abuse God’s Mercy or Goodness. Jesus never said: ‘when you sin, ask me directly to forgive you and I will do it’, or worse, ‘when you sin, I will automatically forgive you’. Who dares to say that he ‘is’ forgiven and puts conditions to God. Remember the difference Jesus made between sinners: most pharisees were not forgiven, contrary to those who sincerely repent, even with terrible sins.

      Besides, this confession way of forgiving seems to me very pedagogical, and helps us to improve in goodness and virtue, and refine our moral knowledge, as confession is also (in)formative.

  7. The passage in John 20:19-23 is not about a sacrament or a priest hearing confession of sins and giving a penance or absolution.

    Where do we see in Scripture the apostles practicing the sacrament of penance i..e forgiving someone their specific sins and then giving penance and absolution? If the apostles did teach this kind of thing we should see examples of it and instructions how to do it. Book, Chapter and verse please that shows this.

    The reconciliation that we have in Christ is not about some sacrament of confession but on the preaching of the gospel. When a man believes in the gospel, he is reconciled to God and his sins are forgiven. This is why we don’t see any apostle hearing a confession and then giving a penance and absolution. It is the gospel that the apostles are preaching and not a sacrament of confession.

    James 5 does not help you either since that is not a description of the sacrament of confession. Notice that the confessing of sins to one another does not entail that their sins are forgiven. by another person.

    • Ralph:

      In John 20, Jesus clearly gives the apostles the power to forgive sins. Your argument that the passage is “not about a sacrament or a priest hearing confession” is disingenuous. The apostles did teach “this kind of thing”, both in Scripture and in early Church writings:

      2 Cor. 2:10: “Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ.”

      2 Cor. 5:17-21 (which you disregarded in my prior response).

      Acts 19:18: “Many of those who had become believers came forward and openly acknowledged their former practices. 19 Moreover, a large number of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in public.”

      1 Tim. 6:12 discusses confessing both faith and sins in the presence of witnesses. (See also Matt. 3:6, Mark 1:5).

      Do not come to prayer with a guilty conscience.” Epistle of Barnabas, 19:12 (A.D. 74).

      “In church confess your sins, and do not come to your prayer with a guilt conscience. Such is the Way of Life…On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure.” Didache, 4:14,14:1 (c. A.D. 90).

      “Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness[of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop.” Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyraeans, 9 (c. A.D. 110).

      “Moreover, that this Marcus compounds philters and love-potions, in order to insult the persons of some of these women, if not of all, those of them who have returned to the Church of God–a thing which frequently occurs–have acknowledged, confessing, too, that they have been defiled by him, and that they were filled with a burning passion towards him. A sad example of this occurred in the case of a certain Asiatic, one of our deacons, who had received him (Marcus) into his house. His wife, a woman of remarkable beauty, fell a victim both in mind and body to this magician, and, for a long time, travelled about with him. At last, when, with no small difficulty, the brethren had converted her, she spent her whole time in the exercise of public confession, weeping over and lamenting the defilement which she had received from this magician.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1:13 (A.D. 180).

      “Such are the words and deeds by which, in our own district of the Rhone, they have deluded many women, who have their consciences seared as with a hot iron. Some of them, indeed, make a public confession of their sins; but others of them are ashamed to do this, and in a tacit kind of way, despairing of [attaining to] the life of God, have, some of them, apostatized altogether; while others hesitate between the two courses, and incur that which is implied in the proverb, ‘neither without nor within;’ possessing this as the fruit from the seed of the children of knowledge.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1:13 (A.D. 180).

      “Father who knowest the hearts of all grant upon this Thy servant whom Thou hast chosen for the episcopate to feed Thy holy flock and serve as Thine high priest, that he may minister blamelessly by night and day, that he may unceasingly behold and appropriate Thy countenance and offer to Thee the gifts of Thy holy Church. And that by the high priestly Spirit he may have authority to forgive sins…” Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 3 (A.D. 215).

      “The Pontifex Maximus–that is, the bishop of bishops–issues an edict: ‘I remit, to such as have discharged (the requirements of) repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication.'” Tertullian, Modesty, 1 (A.D. 220).

      “In addition to these there is also a seventh, albeit hard and laborious: the remission of sins through penance…when he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord.” Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, 2:4 (A.D. 248).

      Sins are not forgiven “by another person” – they are forgiven by God. During the sacrament, the priest uses the following formula:

      “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.”

      • I’m late to the party, but whatever…
        Your quotes at the beginning all refer to confession as something said either to the community at large or directly to God/Jesus. As far as the disciples go, yes Jesus told THEM to hear confessions, but he said nothing about thousands of years worth of priests hearing confessions privately. I feel like too many Christians confuse directions given to a specific person or group with directions everyone should follow forever. Just because the disciples were commanded to do this, that doesn’t mean priests were being commanded to do likewise. And for your last few quotes, to me they seem to prove Ralph’s point that the rules of private confession were instituted by people, not God, about 200 years (by your dates) after Jesus died.

        And honestly, as a Protestant, the Priest’s ‘formula’ concerns me: regular people go to school, are accepted by the church, and then gain the power to speak God’s Truth and Will in regards to forgiveness and appropriate amends to be made. I know people disagree, and that’s fine, but I think it’s untrue to say that today’s confession was practised by Jesus or was directly ordered by God.

      • Sarah: I invite you to provide some actual support for any of the assertions in your comment. I’ll respond to your points when they are supported by something other than your feelings or opinions.

        It’s peculiar how you make the Sacrament of Confession into a negative or punitive thing, rather than the gift that it is. And it’s even more peculiar that you’d think it reasonable that the apostles would be able to forgive sin but then somehow between then and now people stopped sinning having need of Confession, which is simply an outpouring of God’s mercy.

        I for one need every Gift that Christ gave us, including Confession and Himself in the Eucharist.

      • 1.Confess your sins to one another… (Jms 5.16) means we are to admit the fault committed against our brother (and, for that matter, whomever we sin against), and tell that to the very person we have wronged, not say it to a third party. The problem is solved only when I confess it to the person I offended.
        2. “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (Jn 20.23) Here is common sense: We are to forgive always; not forgiving is injustice on our part (“Forgive is in the same way we forgive others”).
        3. People who heard John the Baptist´s and the apostles’ preaching, and came confessing their sins, were aware of the instructions in the Law like Lev 5:5: ‘So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned. Yet, the whole Levitical Priesthood Law never instructs the person(s) confessions of sins to be channeled through the priest. Confession has always been contemplated by the bible as something between the offender and God or between the offender and the offended.
        4. In this forum, qmbarque quoted 1Tim 6.12 adding words not found in the actual bible text; the words added are: (confessing) BOTH FAITH AND SINS to cunningly back up his or her argument.
        5. The only appointed high priest of our confession is Jesus (Heb 3:1) Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; (Heb 7:23-25) The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
        6. So, when we sin against someone, we have to go to him and admit our wrongdoing, male restitution when necessary, and be in peace. If our sin is directly against God, we also confess it to Him right away so we get back to fellowship in the Spirit of Jesus. (1Jo 1:9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Once we admit or confess that in which we have trespassed, He mercifully cleanses us and restores our fellowship with Him.

      • 1. You don’t confess to a third party, unless you mean Jesus (God). It is Him who we wrong when we sin.
        2. No. This passage is about the Authority given the Apostles.
        3. Exactly. Confession is about the offender and God.
        4. I did not quote 1 Tim 6:12.
        5. See 1, 2 and 3 above.
        6. See 1, 2, 3, and 5 above. And He does it Sacramentally.

  8. Pingback: Good Stuff on the Catholic Heritage of Confession | Quartermaster of the Barque

  9. Taking the bible literally is disturbing – a person kmows in his own heart his sins and if it is true reconciliation with god.. no box is needed or threat of hell to repent. I was raised catholic and lived in fear. Now god is love and my soul more alive without a god and church to fear.

  10. For a simple question like..’ who started confession’ you should have a direct and more reliable answer.. because the above does not make sense

  11. The origins of confession brought me here as well (most popular post currently!), though I attend a C of E church currently. Another bugbear for me is ‘creatio ex nihilo’, I have seen one explanation for it’s introduction to be so that the Perfection of God is not sullied by the vileness of happenings in the material world. However Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi purports that God created the Universe out of Himself (He veiled Himself in order to be known), no ‘creatio ex nihilo’. For me, that makes much more sense, but I would love to see your take on it. Visited St Thomas More’s tomb once as well, was moved to kneel in front of it (on the kneelers so thoughtfully provided).

  12. I avoided and eluded The Holy Confession for many decades by spurnig , ridiculing and under estimating this supreme gift and value of this sacrament which is next only to the Holy Equerist gifted by Jesus to the mankind who passed on His power to the mankind by empowering him by proclaiming and decreeing by promulgating”whome ever’s sins you forgive will be forgiven in heaven”. The most powerful power He bestowed to the ordained and anointed priest-Who is His representative.As the priest sits in the chair of Moses as Jesus Himself declaredand recognised them with special power to forgive our sins on His behalf.
    The holy confession, though seemed to be easier,it s not that easy.First of all ,we are gong to open the devil deeds of our past to our priest from whome we crave to be our name on his good books.What a great risk of loosing our good angel like image from the priest to whome we meet daily as an innocent man.What he will think about me. What about my reputation as a pure and honest person,such devilish thougts prevents us to step towards the confession sacramental box
    In my case the oposission happend.
    I hated one priest in our parish for long and once observing his good deeds, I felt sorry and dared to confess him without any shame and fear about what I did against him in his absence (when we feel sorry for our sins, our shame,fear,reluctance to confess the sins disappears wituot any reservation.).
    He solaced me by blessing by saying that I made a good confession.His behaviour with me was more consoling than before.The priests adher with the seal of confessional secresy without any bias or prejudice.The case of Maria Kitty of Karela priest who spent the life sentence in prison and the real culprit accepting his cult is the living example.Mahathma Ganthi once confessed his own sick father about his shameful act with his wife.Thus the real penitence over takes all the fear and shame without any room for excuse and propeles to the confession.It makes our face more charming and contented heart.The real glorius experience after confession is unexplainable I plead all to enjoy such marvelous experience. Amen.

  13. Pingback: Navigator- 16 July 2017- Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Vol. 4, Issue 34 | The CatholicNavigator

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