Auricular Confession


#1

Allrightey,

In asking this, I’m asking it with the basic understanding that the early Fathers and such taught and understood that those priests who had received the Sacrament of Holy Orders were used by God as a vehicle of His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession/Penance.

So, I read, for instance, in “Catholicism for Dummies” some months ago, that (p. 352) the Catholic monks in the British Isles (a couple centuries after St. Patrick) were primarily responsible for the practice of private auricular confession. That is, before, it was more of a public matter, but with the growing recognition of mortal/venial sin differences, and probably other things, it was deemed more efficient or proper to have it be systematized more, and private auricular confession was the result.

Any thoughts or help on this. I’m not saying “Confessing your sins to a priest for absolution was new in the 7th centuries.” I know Fr. Ambrose and Fr. Augustine and others, like Jesus and Fr. Paul the Apostle speak of the Sacrament of Confession. I’m asking more about the way it was done. If there’s any substance to the British Isle’s claim above.


#2

I can’t give you substantial sources, but I’ve heard it pretty readily recognized that private confession was a development, and is a matter of discipline and not doctrine. Previously the confessions, absolutions, and penances were done publically, but they still followed the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s only the private way of doing it that grew later, and I for one am thankful for that development.

Keep in mind that it was public specific confession, not general. You listed your sins, all of them, big and small, and got absolved. None of this “I’m a sinner, absolve me” stuff.

:blessyou:


#3

Rob,

A friend of mine (a devout Catholic and a philosophy professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston) says that Chrysostom speaks of private confession. I haven’t read these passages in their original context, but I know that Chrysostom was attacked in his own day for teaching a form of “cheap grace” by telling people, “If you sin again, repent again,” and offering to forgive people’s sins repeatedly (which had been a no-no traditionally, at least unless there was a serious, lifetime penance). So there’s some indication that the move toward a less rigorous, more private model of penance started earlier than the Irish.

Edwin


#4

[quote=Contarini]…says that Chrysostom speaks of private confession. I haven’t read these passages in their original context…
[/quote]

The passage of Chrysostom that he mentioned is probably this:

“Be not ashamed to approach (the priest) because you have sinned, nay rather, for this very reason approach. No one says: Because I have an ulcer, I will not go near a physician or take medicine; on the contrary, it is just this that makes it needful to call in physicians and apply remedies. We (priests) know well how to pardon, because we ourselves are liable to sin. This is why God did not give us angels to be our doctors, nor send down Gabriel to rule the flock, but from the fold itself he chooses the shepherds, from among the sheep He appoints the leader, in order that he may be inclined to pardon his followers and, keeping in mind his own fault, may not set himself in hardness against the members of the flock” (Hom. “On Frequent Assembly” in P.G., LXIII, 463).

It strongly implies private confession, but does not strictly preclude the possibility that the confession was to be made in public.

You may be interested in this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Scroll down about 2/3 of the way to the section on “Public Penance.”


#5

Going back through some of my notes, I found this citation from Denzinger, it’s by Pope St. Leo I:

"With regard to penance, what is demanded of the faithful is clearly not that an acknowledgment of the nature of individual sins written in a little book be read publicly, since it suffices that the states of conscience be made known to the priests alone in secret confession." For although the fullness of faith seems to be laudable, which on account of the fear of God is not afraid to blush before men, nevertheless since the sins of all are not such that those who ask for penance do not dread to publish them, so objectionable a custom should be abolished… For that confession is sufficient, which is first offered to God, then also to a priest, who serves as an intercessor for the transgressions of the penitents. For then, indeed, more will be able to be incited to penance, if the conscience of the one confessing is not exposed to the ears of the people. (Denzinger #145(Magna indign. 2, March 6, 459]).

Note, there he points out there is an “objectionable custom” of having “individual sins written in a little book to be read publicly,” and that custom “should be abolished.” That Pope seemed clearly to prefer private confession over public reading of sins. And for good reason, I’m sure most would agree. Now, I’m sure there’s times when sins should be confessed publically, perhaps in the case of sins of a public nature. But that’s not the issue here.


#6

Since I’m in the neighborhood, I thought I’d post this real quick, it’s from the writings of St. Ambrose, "Concerning Repentance, Book " Chapter 2, par. 6,7

  1. They affirm that they are showing great reverence for God, to Whom alone they reserve the power of forgiving sins. But in truth none do Him greater injury than they who choose to prune His commandments and reject the office entrusted to them. For inasmuch as the Lord Jesus Himself said in the Gospel: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit whosesoever sins ye forgive they are forgiven unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained,” Who is it that honours Him most, he who obeys His bidding or he who rejects it?

**7. … Rightly, therefore, does the Church claim it, which has true priests; heresy, which has not the priests of God, cannot claim it. And by not claiming this power heresy pronounces its own sentence, that not possessing priests it cannot claim priestly power. And so in their shameless obstinacy a shamefaced acknowledgment meets our view.

Hey, you gotta love the Fathers!!

**



#7

[quote=Reformed Rob]Since I’m in the neighborhood, I thought I’d post this real quick, it’s from the writings of St. Ambrose, "Concerning Repentance, Book " Chapter 2, par. 6,7

  1. They affirm that they are showing great reverence for God, to Whom alone they reserve the power of forgiving sins. But in truth none do Him greater injury than they who choose to prune His commandments and reject the office entrusted to them. For inasmuch as the Lord Jesus Himself said in the Gospel: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit whosesoever sins ye forgive they are forgiven unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained,” Who is it that honours Him most, he who obeys His bidding or he who rejects it?

7. … Rightly, therefore, does the Church claim it, which has true priests; heresy, which has not the priests of God, cannot claim it. And by not claiming this power heresy pronounces its own sentence, that not possessing priests it cannot claim priestly power. And so in their shameless obstinacy a shamefaced acknowledgment meets our view.

Hey, you gotta love the Fathers!!

[/quote]

Wow! Talk about a slam against the “I confess to God alone” crowd! Thanks for the info!


#8

[quote=Ghosty]Wow! Talk about a slam against the “I confess to God alone” crowd! Thanks for the info!
[/quote]

Yeah, no problem you’re welcome!

What it is, do you think, that makes people so averse to the idea of priestly confession/absolution, even when confronted with passages like John 20:20, Mark 2:10, etc.?

I can think of 2 real quick, practical problems:

  1. Shudder to think that a man can forgive sins (as if that’s the extent of the Catholic thought on Confession)

  2. Not wanting to have to tell somebody their sins.

What do you think>??


#9

[quote=Reformed Rob] . . . I can think of 2 real quick, practical problems:

  1. Shudder to think that a man can forgive sins (as if that’s the extent of the Catholic thought on Confession)

  2. Not wanting to have to tell somebody their sins.

What do you think>??
[/quote]

Definitely number two.

People squirm at the thought. They are afraid of confronting their own sinfulness in the quasi-public forum of the confessional. I believe the fear factor is primary and the “only God can forgive sins” routine is a pitiful excuse to avoid it. Little do these people understand that Confession is one of the best things about being Catholic.

It takes a certain courage, a certain degree of humility, and great trust in God to expose oneself to another sinner (who, for all we know, may be worse than we ourselves). But that is part of why this Sacrament is so healing.

Once you “get it” about Jesus instituting this Sacrament *for our own good, *you can’t imagine an authentic relationship with him without personal, Sacramental Confession.


#10

[quote=mercygate]Definitely number two.

It takes a certain courage, a certain degree of humility, and great trust in God to expose oneself to another sinner (who, for all we know, may be worse than we ourselves). But that is part of why this Sacrament is so healing.

[/quote]

Yeah, I can see your point. I read that little book “The Secret of Confession” by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan and it was truly, well, something, I guess helpful in that it helped me see the strength and grace that comes with the Sacrament properly received, also what great lengths priests have been known to go to administer absolution.

I can imagine, like, even though I’m not Catholic (await a future thread for that topic) but I can imagine, that it can certainly be efficacious for hindering the growth of gangrenous sin in one’s life.

My pastor??? once said that if you want to cleanse the church, you need to have weekly communion (that denomination is a Presbyterian one that was staunch on weekly communion). Well, that’s a noble thought, but how about confession??!!! Talk about a discouragement from sin, if you know you won’t be forgiven (generally speaking) unless you tell it to somebody, the priest, who probably you think the world of, and who hopefully cares deeply for your soul. It makes it more “real” in a way.


#11

[quote=Reformed Rob]I can imagine, like, even though I’m not Catholic (await a future thread for that topic) but I can imagine, that it can certainly be efficacious for hindering the growth of gangrenous sin in one’s life.
[/quote]

High-blown theologians tend to diminish the significance of this. But as one who struggles with the same sins over and over (that’s another whole topic – and most people have a seam of weakness that trips them up), I find it highly motivating to know that I’m going to have to see this guy again (I confess to the same priest all the time by appointment) and tell him the **same **thing again. I’m far from “cured” but at least there are times when just knowing I have to confess it gives me a boot in the you-know-what and helps me to avoid the problem.

My pastor??? once said that if you want to cleanse the church, you need to have weekly communion (that denomination is a Presbyterian one that was staunch on weekly communion).

Orthodox Presby by chance? They have some pretty good stuff goin’ on.

Well, that’s a noble thought, but how about confession??!!! Talk about a discouragement from sin, if you know you won’t be forgiven (generally speaking) unless you tell it to somebody, the priest, who probably you think the world of, and who hopefully cares deeply for your soul. It makes it more “real” in a way.

Yes. Although the theological fact of absolution and the mercy of God in Christ are the meat of the matter, the human element is a vivid “real-izer” of the graces of this sacrament. When the priest pronounces absolution, he does it (to quote Paul) “in the person of Christ.” Once you experience this sacrament you know that there are definitely three people in that room.

Rob – if (when?) you take steps toward coming into the Church, PM me about this aspect of the process. I have some resources to share and know some really good places where they specialize in receiving first confessions.


#12

“Reformed Presbyterian Church of United States” actually.

RPCUS

I think the main website is www.rpcus.com probably. Haven’t been there in a while, but I think that’s it.

Yeah, that link is correct.

They/we have a monthly publication, called the “Counsel of Chalcedon”

Get it… Chalcedon, like the Council of Chalcedon!! That’s the name of the main church down in Atlanta, GA, Chalcedon Presbyterian. I don’t for the life of me know why though :ehh:

Ok, here’s from the website:

OUR ORIGIN The Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States, (RPCUS), was born in 1983 out of the continuing struggle to uphold the all-embracing, inerrant authority of the Bible as the Word of God, to maintain the purity of the church, and to proclaim the truth of the Reformed Faith “in all openness unhindered.” We believe that God has called us into existence to glorify him by being faithful to the Word of God.

It’s younger than I am for crying out loud!! I could be that church’s big brother, if it were a person!! And it’s supposed to be my “mother church?” Oh, I’m on a roll, better stop, for charity’s sake.


#13

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