If no one knows our heart except God


#1

This question was triggered by another thread discussing mortal sin.

If no one truly knows our heart except God, which certainly is true, then how can a priest declare you forgiven or not forgiven in confession? This stumps me, partly because I KNOW you can go to one priest and get absolved for something and go to another priest who will not grant absolution for the exact same thing.

I know the verse about "keys of heaven" being granted to priests and that it is true. But I can't figure out how to reconcile the fact that only God knows our heart with the priest acting like he knows our heart (or making a judgement on our heart) in confession. It could be arbitrary based on what the penitant says, how well the priest understands the situation, and what the priest's own approach is. It really makes me wonder about confession, honestly, and wonder if it's real or not.

Can anyone shed some light on this?


#2

Well I think that God knows our own heart, but so do we. We know the things that go on in our own minds and souls. When we go to confession, we share what is in our heart with the priest. So it seems that we can make known what is in our hearts. I think it is true that only God can fully know us on a deeper level. But we can share some of ourselves with others.


#3

Thanks, but this doesn’t address the question of how the priest can act in confession as if he knows our hearts (when only God and maybe ourselves) knows our heart.


#4

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:3, topic:319728"]
Thanks, but this doesn't address the question of how the priest can act in confession as if he knows our hearts (when only God and maybe ourselves) knows our heart.

[/quote]

It's because we made our heart known to him. If we know what is in our heart, we can tell others. It is true that only God can know it fully and all of the time, but that doesn't mean that other people can't know what we make known to them.


#5

When you express your contrition and repentance, Christ forgives you through His priest.

If you lied to Christ, well, the nails that hold His hands on the Cross are the only things keeping you from hellfire now, for there is nothing more horrendous than willfully lying to Truth itself.

It is up to the priest, of course, to further discern whether there is true repentance, and to possibly deny absolution if the sinner refuses to repent or to repair. But it's totally on the sinner's side not to tempt the living God.

I suggest you don't question the Sacraments of Holy Church. That doesn't seem to be a good idea for your faith. It is a step short of impugning the revealed truth, one of the seven sins against the Holy Spirit.


#6

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:1, topic:319728"]
This stumps me, partly because I KNOW you can go to one priest and get absolved for something and go to another priest who will not grant absolution for the exact same thing.

[/quote]

Whether or not the sin is "the exact same thing" is not relevant. The difference in the above scenarios would be the expressed sorrow and resolve to stop the sin. If a person is not sorry and does not resolve to avoid the sin in the future, the priest cannot absolve them.

If two people, with the same sin, go to confession to two different priests (or the same one, for that matter), it is possible that one of them will not receive absolution. If there is no sorrow for the sin, and no firm resolve to stop it, then there can be no absolution.


#7

[quote="opus101, post:6, topic:319728"]
Whether or not the sin is "the exact same thing" is not relevant. The difference in the above scenarios would be the expressed sorrow and resolve to stop the sin. If a person is not sorry and does not resolve to avoid the sin in the future, the priest cannot absolve them.

If two people, with the same sin, go to confession to two different priests (or the same one, for that matter), it is possible that one of them will not receive absolution. If there is no sorrow for the sin, and no firm resolve to stop it, then there can be no absolution.

[/quote]

Ok, but couldn't the priest get it wrong, thinking you aren't sorrowful when you really are? Or vice versa?


#8

What is impugning the revealed truth? I’m just trying to understand.


#9

The priest is acting in persona Christi-in the person of Christ. When we do not disclose our sins or lie in confession, we are lying to God. We are cheating Him not the priest.

Yes only God knows our hearts. So all the more we shuld not abuse the sacrament that He gave us. He breathed only twice in the bible. Once during creation and another time when He instituted confession.

Why we need the priest- yes, we can be very truly sorry and remorseful to God in our prayers. But it is not the same as confessing to the priest. By confessing to a priest, another human like us, we become aware of the seriousness of our sin. Something even more important: in order to confess, we let go of our pride, our ego, our self. Pride keeps us from God. Only when we are humbled can we be close to God.

As for the experience of the priest. Yes, they may have different styles but they are all acting in the person of Christ. If they have heard one confession they've heard a million.


#10

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:7, topic:319728"]
Ok, but couldn't the priest get it wrong, thinking you aren't sorrowful when you really are? Or vice versa?

[/quote]

They are trained in psychology among other things in the seminary. One of the aspects is body language. Even if it's a veiled confession, they can probably tell by your voice. Like I said in my earlier post, most priests have years of experience behind them.

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:8, topic:319728"]
What is impugning the revealed truth? I'm just trying to understand.

[/quote]

Jesus says "What you forgive on earth will be forgiven in heaven. What you bind obvious earth will be bound in heaven." He instituted confession. So to go against it is to go against him.


#11

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:7, topic:319728"]
Ok, but couldn't the priest get it wrong, thinking you aren't sorrowful when you really are? Or vice versa?

[/quote]

I don't think so. He just has to go on what the person confessing says. If the penitent expresses sorrow and the resolve to avoid the sin in the future, that's all that is necessary. Why would a priest say "Oh, I don't believe you, you're just making that up"?
I've never heard of an instance where a priest did not give absolution to a penitent who expressed sorrow and repentance.

As far as your "vice versa" comment goes, I suppose a person could lie in the confessional and the priest would not know it. The "penitent" could lie about being sorry and not have any plans to stop the sin. But why would this person be going to confession? All that it would do is compound the person's sins, adding one more to the list (that of lying).

Can you be more specific? Give a specific scenario.


#12

[quote="opus101, post:11, topic:319728"]
I don't think so. He just has to go on what the person confessing says. If the penitent expresses sorrow and the resolve to avoid the sin in the future, that's all that is necessary. Why would a priest say "Oh, I don't believe you, you're just making that up"?
I've never heard of an instance where a priest did not give absolution to a penitent who expressed sorrow and repentance.

As far as your "vice versa" comment goes, I suppose a person could lie in the confessional and the priest would not know it. The "penitent" could lie about being sorry and not have any plans to stop the sin. But why would this person be going to confession? All that it would do is compound the person's sins, adding one more to the list (that of lying).

Can you be more specific? Give a specific scenario.

[/quote]

Specific scenario? Not that the person is lying or the priest accusing them of lying. But one priest thinks something is a sin and another doesn't. It happens and it's left me feeling I can't trust the priest--they are surely "in persona christi" I know, but there is a human element too. And not all priests take the same approach. I think there is probably no answer for this. Sorry to have brought it up. I think I will just act as if it never happened and let it go.


#13

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:12, topic:319728"]
Specific scenario? Not that the person is lying or the priest accusing them of lying. But one priest thinks something is a sin and another doesn't. It happens and it's left me feeling I can't trust the priest--they are surely "in persona christi" I know, but there is a human element too. And not all priests take the same approach. I think there is probably no answer for this. Sorry to have brought it up. I think I will just act as if it never happened and let it go.

[/quote]

Maybe the best thing in this sort of situation is to try to go to confession to the same priest, so you have a level of consistency. I understand what you mean that some priests view the sinfulness of specific actions differently than others. I can't really think of a better solution.


#14

[quote="Daizies, post:13, topic:319728"]
Maybe the best thing in this sort of situation is to try to go to confession to the same priest, so you have a level of consistency. I understand what you mean that some priests view the sinfulness of specific actions differently than others. I can't really think of a better solution.

[/quote]

Yes, I do that now, thanks. But it does make me wonder about the whole sacrament sometimes. I mean, how do I know it's not just a "human" thing when it can be so different and you might go to hell or not depending on what priest you might have on that certain day. :shrug: I guess just go the priest you know will give absolution (kind of half kidding here)


#15

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:12, topic:319728"]
Specific scenario? Not that the person is lying or the priest accusing them of lying. But one priest thinks something is a sin and another doesn't. It happens and it's left me feeling I can't trust the priest--they are surely "in persona christi" I know, but there is a human element too. And not all priests take the same approach. I think there is probably no answer for this. Sorry to have brought it up. I think I will just act as if it never happened and let it go.

[/quote]

You put two different topics into one thread, and keep morphing back and forth between them.

First it seemed that you were asking how the priest could "know your heart" and whether or not you were sorry. The second topic was about the above - priests who make different
judgements about the sinfulness of an action. Those are two completely different things.

Which one do you want addressed?

Topic #1: the priest can only take your word for it (about being sorry and repenting).

Topic #2: there might be priests who have different takes on things, but that would not effect absolution if you express sorrow for the sin. In your original post you said that the difference in priests' take on things resulted in absolution being withheld in some instances. I can't think of any instance where this would be true except these:
1.the penitent is not sorry, or 2. the sin is very, very grave and needs to be forgiven by a higher authority.


#16

[quote="opus101, post:15, topic:319728"]

I can't think of any instance where this would be true except these:
1.the penitent is not sorry, or 2. the sin is very, very grave and needs to be forgiven by a higher authority.

[/quote]

Under #1, I should have written "the penitent does not express sorrow". What I wrote above is unclear.


#17

[quote="opus101, post:15, topic:319728"]
You put two different topics into one thread, and keep morphing back and forth between them.

First it seemed that you were asking how the priest could "know your heart" and whether or not you were sorry. The second topic was about the above - priests who make different
judgements about the sinfulness of an action. Those are two completely different things.

Which one do you want addressed?

Topic #1: the priest can only take your word for it (about being sorry and repenting).

Topic #2: there might be priests who have different takes on things, but that would not effect absolution if you express sorrow for the sin. In your original post you said that the difference in priests' take on things resulted in absolution being withheld in some instances. I can't think of any instance where this would be true except these:
1.the penitent is not sorry, or 2. the sin is very, very grave and needs to be forgiven by a higher authority.

[/quote]

Yeah, it's confusing, I admit. Your question helped me realize more what is causing me my confusion. I was assuming a Priest A who did not absolve a sin did so only because he thought something was a sin that the penitent either wasn't sorry for or was unwilling to give up. Thus he thought the person was not repenting.

Priest B thought it was not a sin, or felt pastorally perhaps that the person was very sorry and that they should be absolved because they were unable to give it up at this time though they were trying.

I was thinking at the beginning of this thread that Priest A did not grant absolution because he doubted the person's sorrow over the sin and that is why I was wondering who could really know one's heart but God.(Personally, I don't really agree that we always know our own heart even.)

If only life were all black and white, but it isn't always, and thus one priest may see it differently than another does, perhaps seeing different things in the penitent to make him grant or not grant absolution for the exact same thing/same person. Thus, the doubt over the whole sacrament which may all depend upon who you happen to confess to.

Does that help clarify? Either way I'm pretty sure there is no answer. It's just the way it is.


#18

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:17, topic:319728"]
Yeah, it's confusing, I admit. Your question helped me realize more what is causing me my confusion. I was assuming a Priest A who did not absolve a sin did so only because he thought something was a sin that the penitent either wasn't sorry for or was unwilling to give up. Thus he thought the person was not repenting.

Priest B thought it was not a sin, or felt pastorally perhaps that the person was very sorry and that they should be absolved because they were unable to give it up at this time though they were trying.

I was thinking at the beginning of this thread that Priest A did not grant absolution because he doubted the person's sorrow over the sin and that is why I was wondering who could really know one's heart but God.(Personally, I don't really agree that we always know our own heart even.)

If only life were all black and white, but it isn't always, and thus one priest may see it differently than another does, perhaps seeing different things in the penitent to make him grant or not grant absolution for the exact same thing/same person. Thus, the doubt over the whole sacrament which may all depend upon who you happen to confess to.

Does that help clarify? Either way I'm pretty sure there is no answer. It's just the way it is.

[/quote]

In your description, Priest B (who is listed first) absolves even though the penitent has not expressed the desire to break off with the sin completely. True sorrow includes that resolve. Priest B's action is at odds with what most of us have been taught about the conditions of a good confession.

Priest A (the second one you describe) refuses absolution on the grounds that the penitent is not contrite. There must be a reason for this. Possibly the penitent did not agree to break off with the particular sin. No priest would refuse absolution to someone who fulfills the conditions for it.


#19

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:8, topic:319728"]
What is impugning the revealed truth? I'm just trying to understand.

[/quote]

Dear sister, I am not saying you are doing that. I am saying that unfortunately for many the step is short between questioning how a Sacrament work and questioning that the Sacrament works at all - which would be "impugning the revealed truth". F.ex. we know that in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation a priest and a bishop have authority to act in persona Christi by virtue of the Holy Orders and thus to absolve sins. This regardless of our understanding of how the Sacrament works in itself.

It's excellent to want to understand and learn more, but when you say "it really makes me wonder about confession, honestly, and wonder if it's real or not", that's not trying to understand, that's a step short of denying a Sacrament of Holy Church that has been exercised for literally 20 centuries. If a Catholic does that, it is grave matter. Thus my advice :)


#20

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:1, topic:319728"]
This question was triggered by another thread discussing mortal sin.

If no one truly knows our heart except God, which certainly is true, then how can a priest declare you forgiven or not forgiven in confession? This stumps me, partly because I KNOW you can go to one priest and get absolved for something and go to another priest who will not grant absolution for the exact same thing.

I know the verse about "keys of heaven" being granted to priests and that it is true. But I can't figure out how to reconcile the fact that only God knows our heart with the priest acting like he knows our heart (or making a judgement on our heart) in confession. It could be arbitrary based on what the penitant says, how well the priest understands the situation, and what the priest's own approach is. It really makes me wonder about confession, honestly, and wonder if it's real or not.

Can anyone shed some light on this?

[/quote]

You confess to God and He will declare you forgiven. I pray that you God will grant you wisdom, peace and His truth during this time.


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