Sacramental confession?


This post was taken from another thread where it was getting off topic.

Don’t you think they might be at least a reliable historical reference?

Oh, I don’t! Sins were confessed publicly since prior to the time of John the Baptist (this was also an Essene practice)

Mark 1:5
5 And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Acts 19:17-19
18 Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.

We know this was the Apostolic Teaching because this is the practice handed down to us. There have been many changes in form, and format. I am sure the Apostles never envisioned the confessional!

I know that the practice was changed from public to private when they realized that not everyone involved in the sin was ready to confess at the same time. To avoid adding public scandal to private, public confession was not required. But, you are right, this was a later development.

  • Origen, a prolific theologian in the third-century Church, wrote:
    The layman who falls into sin cannot by himself wash away his fault. He must have recourse to the levite; he needs the priest. At times, he applies to one even greater: he needs the pontiff’s help, that he may obtain the forgiveness of sins (Hom. in Numeros 10, 1).

  • St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, also writing in the third century, said:
    I entreat you, brethren, that each one should confess his own sin while he who has sinned is still in this world, while his confession may be received, while his satisfaction and absolution given the priest are still pleasing to the Lord (De lapsis 28, 29).

  • In the fourth century, St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, wrote:
    Sins are forgiven through the Holy Ghost. Certainly, but men lend him their ministry. . . . They forgive sin, not in their own name, but in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (De Spiritu Sancto iii, 137).

As to the power and control thing, I think you are imposing a worldly (secular) mind set of power. The only reason the priest would retain a sin is if the penitent lied (as did Ananias and Sapphira in Acts) or refused to stop sinning.

You have been wrongly informed about these matters, but I don’t think that is the topic of the thread either. How is the sinful behavior of ruthless, greedy clergymen claiming (falsely) that they are Catholic related to OSAS? I never claimed they were saved! Better a millstone be hung about their neck…

Well, we read it differently! :thumbsup:

Confession of sins prior to Eucharist has been practiced at least since the Didache was written, around the year 100.


  1. Every day, gather together, eat a meal, and give thanks after having first confessed your sins, that your sacrifice may be pure.


John 20:21-23 21* Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22* And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23* If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

This passage presumes there will be people in the Church at the time of the Apostles who need their sins forgiven or retained otherwise it makes no sense for Jesus to breath the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and give them the ability to forgive or retain sins. And it makes no reasonable sense why this gift would be given to the Apostles only without being passed on to their successors.

Guanophore has done a masterful job at showing early Church evidence for the Catholic position of confession from the early Church fathers.
The evidence exists simply because it was the practice of, and teaching of, the early Church which has always been Catholic as the Apostles creed affirms…one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church…


I found another interesting article:

Private Confession Of Apostolic Origin
In the early Church, Christians were expected to live very holy lives. And they did. To become Christian meant to expect to become a martyr. Every pope for the first three hundred years of the Church’s history was murdered for the faith. Countless thousands shed their blood in witness to their love for Christ.

Understandably, therefore, the sacrament of Confession was not so frequently received by persons whose lives were a living martyrdom. Yet, even in the early Church, sinners were reconciled after they had confessed their sins, received absolution and performed what to us must seem like extraordinary penance for the wrong they had done.

The emphasis in those early days was on confessing mortal sins. And there were bishops who had to be reproved by the pope for excessive severity, either in demanding public confession of grave crimes or even refusing to give absolution for such sins as apostasy, adultery, fornication or willful murder.

One document issued by Pope St. Leo the Great in the middle of the fifth century, deserves to be quoted in full. He is writing to the bishops of Campania in Italy, reproving them for demanding a public confession of sins before receiving absolution in the sacrament of Penance.

“I have recently heard that some have unlawfully presumed to act contrary to a rule of Apostolic origin. And I hereby decree that the unlawful practice be completely stopped.
“It is with regard to the reception of penance. An abuse has crept in which requires that the faithful write out their individual sins in a little book which is then to be read out loud to the public.
“All that is necessary, however, is for the sinner to manifest his conscience in a secret confession to the priests alone…It is sufficient, therefore, to have first offered one’s confession to God, and then also to the priest, who acts as an intercessor for the transgressions of the penitents” (Magna indignatione, March 6, 459).
It is a matter of history, therefore, that private, individual confession of one’s sins to a priest goes back to apostolic times. Christ Himself prescribed confession in the sacrament of Penance, and His directives were followed since the first century of the Christian era.


Yes, very good. You are quite correct on confessions in the early church; oh how we have it so easy today!
Good quote from Pope Leo the Great.
Would you agree that we could also include penance as linked to confession in the early church?


Yes. The early church, being persecuted, took Jesus’ words very seriously about denying Him before men. Those who lied to save their skins were considered disowned. There were penances of many years before they would be received back into communion.


Unless the Apostles and the later Church Leaders were blessed by the Holy Spirit with the gift of ESP, then how could they have this authority without confession?

Oh yeah, I looked it up… None of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are “ESP”.


Eh, this probably referred to the penitential right, not sacramental confession.


Confessing your sins is NOT the same as confessing that you have sinned “through our own faults, in what we have done and what we have failed to do”.


[quote=Phil12123] … Teaching such a thing and getting people to not do the simple thing of confessing to God and obtaining His forgiveness directly …

Never let this go, my fellow Catholics!

Sacramental confession requires us to confess “directly to God.” It’s called the Act of Contrition. We cannot make a valid sacramental confession without confessing directly to God, nor will a priest grant absolution unless he hears us confess directly to God.

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