Is this true about the history of Confession?

I was told that in the 800’s (A.D.), the church only allowed people to be forgiven once in the sacrament of confession and/or on their deathbed and that it had to be public. And that there was a person who is now a canonized Saint that introduced private confession but it was condemned by the church. Has anyone else heard this?

What if it were true? What would happen?

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68)

Would you have a crisis of faith? Or would you choose to live in the present?


Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."

I can’t speak to the practice of the Church in the ninth century, but Christ did not tell us to forgive just once.

There’s a long article on “The Sacrament of Penance” in the Catholic Encyclopedia that discusses its history.

Here is what the Nineteenth Ecumenical Council said: …although Christ has not forbidden that a person may…confess his sins publicly, nevertheless this is not commanded by a divine precept; neither would it very prudent to enjoin by any human law, that sins, especially such as are secret, should be made known by a public confession. Wherefore…the secret sacramental confession…was in use from the beginning in holy Church, and is still also in use, [and] has always been commended by the most holy and the most ancient Fathers with a great and unanimous consent… source

While I can’t comment on the accuracy of the year, I feel like it was earlier, but yes it’s true more or less.

Way back people used to confess publicly to the church.

Later the church taught this could only occur one time.

People would often delay baptism until near their death to help avoid falling into mortal sin.

The church developed this DISCIPLINE over time.

It is doctrine about the state of grace, baptism cleansing sins, and confession returning one to a state of grace.

It is not doctrine as to how that process occurs. That is at the discretion of the church by the power to bind and loose.

As such the discipline of how confession looks, and how one returns to a state of grace has changed and could change in the future.

I’ve been taught that the early church confessed in front of the entire congregation and before God. But this became a big problem because non Christians started attending services just to get dirt on Christians.

So I’m not sure about the transition from general confession and private confessions. I’m sure like anything else, it took a while to implement

Ponder what Saint Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:10 (Confraternity NT):

“Whom you pardon anything, I also pardon. Indeed, what I have forgiven - if I have forgiven anything - I have done for your sakes, in the person of Christ,”

“If I have forgiven anything” Certainly Saint Paul had forgiven many things, but he did not reveal either the sinner or the nature of the sins - hinting at the secrecy of confession. However, early confession may very well have been public, in the manner of Nehemiah 9:2

“And the seed of the children of Israel separated themselves from every stranger: and they stood, and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.”

So, just as the Church grew from the OT to the NT, from the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day, so also did confession move from the public arena to the private.

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