Council of Trent and Private Confession to a priest


#1

“If anyone denies that the sacramental confession was instituted, and is necessary for salvation, by divine Law; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human invention, anathema sit” (Trent XIV session).

So if I understand this correctly, the council is claiming that Christ started secret confession to a priest and that this has been practiced from the beginning. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church admits that secret confession to a priest was a new practice introduced in the seventh century.

“During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the ‘private’ practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament” (paragraph 1447).

Since private and secret confession was introduced seven hundred years after Christ, how can you also accept that it was observed from the beginning? We are forced to believe a historical lie; otherwise you will be accursed! You must believe that the white that you see is black because the hierarchical Church so defines it.if you want to be a faithful Catholic.

This is what has been written to me, is it true that we must believe that this was observed from the beginning? How can I respond to this? Any help is appreciated, I’m trying to learn more about my faith and at the same time, why those who are not Catholic reject so much of what the Catholic Church teaches. From what I have observed so far, it usually boils down to submitting to wrong information (or lies) about the faith, and misinterpretation of scripture, and misrepresentation of what the Catholic Church teaches. Thanks again.


#2

[quote=Catholic Tom]“If anyone denies that the sacramental confession was instituted, and is necessary for salvation, by divine Law; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human invention, anathema sit” (Trent XIV session).

So if I understand this correctly, the council is claiming that Christ started secret confession to a priest and that this has been practiced from the beginning. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church admits that secret confession to a priest was a new practice introduced in the seventh century.

“During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the ‘private’ practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament” (paragraph 1447).
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Wrong! What is confessed is ALWAYS sealed and can not be revealed. The CCC is talking about a different thing.

Back in the old days you MUST do the act of penance like wearing a hair shirt, kneel-walking to Church etc BEFORE your sin is absolve by the priest. Because the act of penance is very visible, people would know that an individual have sin. Most of the time, the purpose of the penance is so that other people know that the penitent has sinned and doing an act of penance. HOWEVER NO ONE knows what sin the penitent has done. This is always sealed by the sealed of confession ever since.

The Irish introduced the practice of absolving FIRST and then do the penance LATER. Moreover they will impose a penance that can be done privately. This is what we have now. We go to the confession box, confess, the priest absolve and then give penance that we should do after we get out of the box.


#3

the Catechism of the Catholic Church admits that secret confession to a priest was a new practice introduced in the seventh century.

No, it doesn’t. You are confusing confession with penance. The Catechism states “penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation.” They were not confessing for years, but performing acts of penance for years as part of the Sacrament.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation includes contrition, confession, absolution, satisfaction. The public penance discussed in the Catechism pertains to satisfaction, not confession. It is just one element of the Sacrament.

Here are some references for you …

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: The Sacrament of Penance

(as a Virtue)CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Penance


#4

[quote=Catholic Tom]“If anyone denies that the sacramental confession was instituted, and is necessary for salvation, by divine Law; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human invention, anathema sit” (Trent XIV session).
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Confession instituted by Christ in John 20:22-23:

22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Anointing of the sick with confession to a priest described in James 5:14-16:

[size=2]14Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters [priests] of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. [size=2]The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. [/size]

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[size=2]Private confession to a priest mentioned by early Christian writers, especially Origen and Aphraahat the Persian Sage: www.catholic.com/library/Confession.asp[/size][size=2]

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#5

From the link above: ( www.catholic.com/library/Confession.asp)

In the early Church, publicly known sins (such as apostasy) were often confessed openly in church, though private confession to a priest was always an option for privately committed sins.


#6

[quote=JimG]From the link above: ( www.catholic.com/library/Confession.asp)

In the early Church, publicly known sins (such as apostasy) were often confessed openly in church, though private confession to a priest was always an option for privately committed sins.
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We need to re-establish this practice.


#7

[quote=beng]We need to re-establish this practice.
[/quote]

What a concept!! Come to think of it, I guess we have more PUBLIC apostasy, heresy, and public sin in general than they ever had then!


#8

I also have perfect candidates for the re-establishing the practice. One of them is a certain ex-candidate :wink:


#9

[quote=itsjustdave1988]No, it doesn’t. You are confusing confession with penance. The Catechism states “penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation.” They were not confessing for years, but performing acts of penance for years as part of the Sacrament.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation includes contrition, confession, absolution, satisfaction. The public penance discussed in the Catechism pertains to satisfaction, not confession. It is just one element of the Sacrament.

Here are some references for you …

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: The Sacrament of Penance

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Penance (as a Virtue)
[/quote]

You seem right in pointing out the confusion. Still, Trent was wrong in its historical analysis…confession (not the doing of penance) was often a public affair in the early Church.

I would say that in this case, one should tell a Protestant friend two things:

  1. The substance of the anathema sit pertains to the fact that A. the sacrament of confession had always been practiced and B. that confession was done to a priest (as opposed to what Prots were arguing, directly to God).
  2. The “secret” part is insubstantial, and as such, seems to be an error on the part of historical knowledge rather than doctrinal substance.

With Trent, as with any council, one always has to ask: What was the council responding to?, in order to understand the intention of the pronouncement.


#10

[quote=FelixBlue]You seem right in pointing out the confusion. Still, Trent was wrong in its historical analysis…confession (not the doing of penance) was often a public affair in the early Church.

I would say that in this case, one should tell a Protestant friend two things:

  1. The substance of the anathema sit pertains to the fact that A. the sacrament of confession had always been practiced and B. that confession was done to a priest (as opposed to what Prots were arguing, directly to God).
  2. The “secret” part is insubstantial, and as such, seems to be an error on the part of historical knowledge rather than doctrinal substance.

With Trent, as with any council, one always has to ask: What was the council responding to?, in order to understand the intention of the pronouncement.
[/quote]

I’m confused, are you saying that Trent was wrong in that pronouncement? sorry for my ignorance


#11

What the Catechism says does not exclude or rule out the possibility that private celebration of the Sacrament did take place in the Apostolic Church. What Trent is saying that no one can deny the fact that private Confession to a priest is valid and does forgive sins, without exception.

Reading and understanding what Trent said is important, however it is almost more important to also understand why Trent said what it said. What the Council was responding to with that canon, is what needs to also be understood.


#12

To say that the Council of Trent was wrong in its historical analysis is an argument based on a lack of evidence. Although there is mention of public confessions in the earliest Christian writings (Acts 19:18), there are no positive commands in them against private confession to a priest. And there appear to be references to the practice of private confession to a priest in James 5:14-16 and in the writings of Origen (mid-200s), Cyprian of Cathage (mid-200s) and Aphraahat the Persian Sage (mid-300s).


#13

[quote=Catholic Tom]I’m confused, are you saying that Trent was wrong in that pronouncement? sorry for my ignorance
[/quote]

Granted that SOME churches does require public sinner to confess their sin publicly (because everyone already know it sin the sin is public, just like Kerry). But this practice is not widespread and after 7th century was no more.


#14

And actually WE STILL DO PUBLIC CONFESSION, but not the sacramental one. It’s the “I confess… to almighty God… and to you brothers and sisters” at Mass.


#15

Hi all: I am no historian or theologian for that matter, but I would like to comment on my understanding of the origin and practice of confession as we understand it.

A number of years ago I had heard that in the early church public confession was the norm, probably because the Christian community was so small and close knit that everyone knew everyone else’s business (those who live in small towns will know what I mean).

The practice of private confession as we know it today, came from the tradition of the Irish (celtic) Chruch and spread through europe. I had also heard that in the early church confession was allowed only once in a persons life time. I may not have my facts strait, but that is what I remember from my studies.

Any comments or corrections would be appreciated
Peace

Tom


#16

[quote=Catholic Tom]I’m confused, are you saying that Trent was wrong in that pronouncement? sorry for my ignorance
[/quote]

No, not at all. I’m merely trying to shift the emphasis from the “secret” as opposed to public aspect of confession to what, I believe, Trent must have been getting at. I firmly believe that Trent was right in what the Council taught…and it does mesh with history, that confession has always been practiced and that (even if done publically) it was done “to a priest alone” rather than to other laymen or directly to God (as the Prots were clamoring for at the time).

On the otherhand, perhaps others in this thread have come to a better conclusion: that both secret and public confessions were made in the early Church, and therefore Trent is right all around.

Anyway, I extend the principle regarding science and history and the Bible (that the Bible doesn’t speak infallibly on matters relating to History and Science) to Church teaching/tradition as a whole:

The substance of the doctrine of confession is precisely what Trent said about it: that it had always been done and done to a priest.

As to how it was done (in a room, outside, secretly, publically, kneeling, standing, etc.) is outside Trent’s authority. As it seems that Trent intended to imply that this “secret” way was the only way it had been done, then I simply believe Trent was wrong in her understanding of the how of the history of Confession.

Of course, I’m willing to admit I’m wrong here…


#17

Hi,

Another way in which Christ instituted confesion of sins was when he absolved the “good thief”. The man was constrite of his sin(s). He ask forgiveness to Jesus (Who, let’s not forget was the Priest, Altar and Sacrifice), made penance (and what a penance, hanging on a cross) which would be the satisfaction. I can’t find a better example of confesion.

Blessings,
J.C.


#18

Newadvent entrance on Sacrament of Penance

“As regards the method of confessing secretly to the priest alone, though Christ did not forbid that any one, in punishment of his crimes and for his own humiliation as also to give others an example and to edify the Church, should confess his sins publicly, still, this has not been commanded by Divine precept nor would it be prudent to decree by any human law that sins, especially secret sins, should be publicly confessed. Since, then, secret sacramental confession, which from the beginning has been and even now is the usage of the Church, was always commended with great and unanimous consent by the holiest and most ancient Fathers; thereby is plainly refuted the foolish calumny of those who make bold to teach that it (secret confession) is something foreign to the Divine command, a human invention devised by the Fathers assembled in the Lateran Council” (Council of Trent, Sess. XIV, c. 5). It is therefore Catholic doctrine, first, that Christ did not prescribe public confession, salutary as it might be, nor did He forbid it; second, that secret confession, sacramental in character, has been the practice of the Church from the earliest days.


#19

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