Reconciliation - Apostolic Tradition or ecclesial tradition?


#1

Was discussing reconciliation (among other things) with a friend of mine who used to be Catholic, and is now Protestant. I read CCC 81 and 83-84 to her explaining about Tradition (about how we are not Scripture only). She said that, this must mean that the sacrament of reconciliation is part of little t tradition (ecclesial) rather than Big T Tradition (Apostolic) - just an expression of the times and not a ‘truth’ - because it doesn’t mention it anywhere in the bible and the early Chrisitans didn’t practice it the same way we do now. I’m pretty sure it’s really an Apostolic Tradition (it’s a sacrament, surely it must be) - can you clarify this and tell me how I would explain it to her?


#2

Um… was just thinking… should this thread go here or in the Liturgy and Sacraments forum?


#3

[quote=Flopfoot]She said that, this must mean that the sacrament of reconciliation is part of little t tradition (ecclesial) rather than Big T Tradition (Apostolic)
[/quote]

Um, no - it’s part of Tradition as well as Scripture (what part of John 20:23 does your friend not understand?). The Sacrament is well established both in Scripture AND the Early Church Fathers.

and the early Chrisitans didn’t practice it the same way we do now

True. In the Early Church, the folks stood up in the middle of the Assembly and confessed their sins for all to hear! But absolution was still pronounced by the Bishop or priest. Does your friend’s church practice the ancient custom of confessing their sins before the whole Assembly?

Um… was just thinking… should this thread go here or in the Liturgy and Sacraments forum?

It goes here, trust me.


#4

[quote=Flopfoot]Was discussing reconciliation (among other things) with a friend of mine who used to be Catholic, and is now Protestant. I read CCC 81 and 83-84 to her explaining about Tradition (about how we are not Scripture only). She said that, this must mean that the sacrament of reconciliation is part of little t tradition (ecclesial) rather than Big T Tradition (Apostolic) - just an expression of the times and not a ‘truth’ - because it doesn’t mention it anywhere in the bible and the early Chrisitans didn’t practice it the same way we do now. I’m pretty sure it’s really an Apostolic Tradition (it’s a sacrament, surely it must be) - can you clarify this and tell me how I would explain it to her?
[/quote]

Paul, in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians speaks about the “ministry of reconciliation”, chapter 5, vrerse 18. That should prove that it is apostolic, or Big “T”. Unfortunately, he doesn’t describe how it is administered, but the fact that it IS mentioned in the bible should give you foundation. In fact, he says Jesus gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Cor 5:18 And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation

BTW, ministries are performed by ministers. Priests & bishops are ministers. Paul continues by saying that Christ entrusted us, meaning men…

2 Cor 5:19 namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Finally, Paul calls himself and others “ambassadors”…

2 Cor 5:20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Put it all together and you get “We were given the ministry of reconciliation by Christ who entrusted us and made us ambassadors for Him.” Key - Christ gave it to us. It is a Tradition by that alone.
Subrosa


#5

David Filmer is right about John 20:23

23 16 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Add to it this explanation: how could they know what sins to forgive or retain unless those sins were confessed? And for that, it is possible James 5:16 could be helpful:

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

Of course, do all of this in supplement to Subrosa’s wonderful explanation above.


#6

[quote=DavidFilmer]True. In the Early Church, the folks stood up in the middle of the Assembly and confessed their sins for all to hear! But absolution was still pronounced by the Bishop or priest. Does your friend’s church practice the ancient custom of confessing their sins before the whole Assembly?
[/quote]

Note that absolution was not immediate - a penance of five or ten years was typically required in the Order of Penitents. Also, forgiveness of post-baptismal sin via the Order of Penitents was only allowed once in a person’s lifetime.


#7

Hi Flopfoot,

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23).

Jesus gives the apostles the power to forgive or not to forgive. This discernment cannot be exercised if the forgiver does not know the sin and its circumstances. Hence the necessity of confession.

Verbum


#8

Here’s a good article that adds quite a lot more…

ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/GOTOCON.HTM

Subrosa


#9

[quote=Catholic2003]Note that absolution was not immediate - a penance of five or ten years was typically required in the Order of Penitents. Also, forgiveness of post-baptismal sin via the Order of Penitents was only allowed once in a person’s lifetime.
[/quote]

Actually, the Absolution WAS immediate, the Penance was a follow on action.


#10

A few corrections are needed here.

First, confession was used only once in a lifetime, but only for mortal sins. Venial sins were considered forgiven as soon as the individual believer asked God for forgiveness in their private prayer time. And mortal sins were not the lengthy list of today; there was a very short list in those days (e.g., murder, adultery, fornication, homosexuality).

Second, absolution was considered given as soon as the penitent confessed their sin to the congregation. No priestly pronouncements were made. Absolution was assumed automatic once someone publically repented and submitted to the penance process, which did indeed take years to complete.

Also, by only allowing reconciliation to occur once per lifetime, it caused many believers to delay baptism until the very end of the lives, including baptism of infants. Baptism wiped out all sins. Thus by waiting to be baptized, they could effectively have 2 chances to wipe out a mortal sin. This was so pervasive, that infants were more commonly NOT baptized in the first few hundred years of the Church.

David


#11

[quote=DavidB]A few corrections are needed here.

First, confession was used only once in a lifetime, but only for mortal sins. Venial sins were considered forgiven as soon as the individual believer asked God for forgiveness in their private prayer time. And mortal sins were not the lengthy list of today; there was a very short list in those days (e.g., murder, adultery, fornication, homosexuality).

Second, absolution was considered given as soon as the penitent confessed their sin to the congregation. No priestly pronouncements were made. Absolution was assumed automatic once someone publically repented and submitted to the penance process, which did indeed take years to complete.

Also, by only allowing reconciliation to occur once per lifetime, it caused many believers to delay baptism until the very end of the lives, including baptism of infants. Baptism wiped out all sins. Thus by waiting to be baptized, they could effectively have 2 chances to wipe out a mortal sin. This was so pervasive, that infants were more commonly NOT baptized in the first few hundred years of the Church.

David

[/quote]

Hi Dave -

Could you give us the source of your statement “Once in a lifetime”?

And as far as infant baptism,
A very early Christian teacher, Irenaeus (120-202 A.D.), wrote the following:

“He came to save all through Himself - all I say, who through Him are reborn in God-infants, and children, and youth, and old men. Therefore He passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age, and at the same time becoming for them an example of piety, of righteousness, and of submission; a young man for youths, becoming an example for youths and sanctifying them for the Lord.”

Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 2:22:4 – c. AD 180 *

Here we read that Jesus Christ came that all might be reborn in God. “How can an infant be reborn if he cannot believe?” a person may ask. I ask in return, “How can an infant be reborn if his Christian parents have refrained from baptizing him?” Is a child who has not reached the “age of accountability/reason” not reborn until he reaches the age of thirteen when he then needs to be reborn?

Thanks, again.

Subrosa


#12

[quote=Flopfoot]Um… was just thinking… should this thread go here or in the Liturgy and Sacraments forum?
[/quote]

No you’re fine right here since this involves an apologetics answer to a non-Catholic assertion.

Rock on. :slight_smile:


#13

According to Joseph Martos, in Doors to the Sacred, the switch from absolution after penance to absolution before penance occurred over the period from 800 A.D. to 1200 A.D.

From pages 295-296:

At the beginning of the Middle Ages “reconciliation with the altar,” like reconciliation with the church in the canonical penance system, had been granted only after the completion of the assigned penance. During the ninth century, however, the liturgical reformers in Charlemagne’s empire, in an attempt to bring confession under greater clerical control, insisted that penitents receive absolution from a priest rather than assurances of God’s forgiveness from a monk or nun or pious layperson. But since people who were used to the monastic practice often did not return to be formally absolved from the obligation to do penance, French priests were told to bestow absolution right after hearing the penitent’s confession. In this same period, priests in other parts of Europe began admitting penitents to communion after only part of the lengthy penance was done, once they were sure of the penitents’ sincerity. Moreover, if penitents were dying, priests would usually reconcile them and pray for God’s forgiveness right after hearing their confession, as was the custom with canonical penance. But during the tenth century, for fear that any penitent might die without the priestly assurance of God’s forgiveness, some churchmen began to recommend reconciliation right after confession in all cases, and by the end of the century the once emergency procedure had become a standard practice. Penances were still assigned, but now they had to be performed after the rite of reconciliation.

This practice, however, raised a theological question: What if penitents died before completing their penance? Would they be admitted to heaven even though they had not paid the full penalty for their sins? All the priests could do was to pray that God would absolve them from paying the debt in full, as they did for dying penitents. In addition, since priests were the ones who assigned the penances, many of them began to follow the French practice of granting absolution from unperformed penances, after praying for the penitent’s forgiveness by God. In time the prayer for forgiveness dropped out of the ritual of reconciliation altogether and the words of absolution were applied not to the penance but to the sins themselves. Thus in the course of some two hundred years, from around 1000 to 1200, the words that the priest said after hearing the penitent’s confession changed completely in the Latin church from a prayer for divine forgiveness (such as “May God have mercy on you and forgive you your sins”) to a statement of priestly absolution (such as “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”).

By the time that the schoolmen in the twelfth century began trying to explain the church’s sacramental practices, these changes in ecclesiastical penitence were all but complete. Now penitents were absolved from their sins immediately after confession. Now penitents could seek absolution as often as they sinned. And now the penances were performed after absolution rather than before. Furthermore, after the penitential books were withdrawn form use in the eleventh century, the imposed penances had gotten lighter and shorter, and so the power of remitting sins, once attributed to lengthy and severe periods of penance, came to be regarded as something that had to be found in the ritual of confession itself.


#14

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