The woman caught in adultery and the necessity of confession


#1

The sacrament of Penance (Confession) is necessary for the forgiveness of sins (or else, as far as I know, baptism (if you were previously unbaptized) or last rites or a combination of perfect contrition and the actual intention to confess).

However, in the story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8), Jesus forgave her sins without the Gospel mentioning her asking for forgiveness or explicitly confessing her sin to Christ.

  1. Is it just to forgive someone without them asking for forgiveness, or even having any contrition whatsoever?

  2. Could this Gospel reading be used to support an argument that sacramental confession is unnecessary for the forgiveness of sins? (of course, such an interpretation would be false).

  3. What arguments would you have against an anti-confession reading of this passage?

My arguments would be: (a) That the woman at least implicitly admits, and so confesses, her sin to Christ (as evinced by the reading itself); and/or (b) that Christ forgives her without her asking for forgiveness because He knows she is sincerely contrite and desires forgiveness from God (because of His omniscience as God); and/or (c) that the sacrament of confession was not yet instituted at this time and so no one had an obligation to confess their sins for them to be forgiven (as evinced by the sacrament being instituted in a later verse of John's Gospel), and/or (d) that by saying for her to go and sin no more, Christ is implicitly commanding her to repent of her sins because to have committed such a sin without repenting of it would itself be a distinct sin.

For the purpose of this thread, please exclude theories that the woman is actually Mary Magdalene or the woman who anointed Christ's feet.


#2

[quote="Birdmanman, post:1, topic:348982"]
The sacrament of Penance (Confession) is necessary for the forgiveness of sins (or else, as far as I know, baptism (if you were previously unbaptized) or last rites or a combination of perfect contrition and the actual intention to confess).

However, in the story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8), Jesus forgave her sins without the Gospel mentioning her asking for forgiveness or explicitly confessing her sin to Christ.

  1. Is it just to forgive someone without them asking for forgiveness, or even having any contrition whatsoever?

  2. Could this Gospel reading be used to support an argument that sacramental confession is unnecessary for the forgiveness of sins? (of course, such an interpretation would be false).

  3. What arguments would you have against an anti-confession reading of this passage?

My arguments would be: (a) That the woman at least implicitly admits, and so confesses, her sin to Christ (as evinced by the reading itself); and/or (b) that Christ forgives her without her asking for forgiveness because He knows she is sincerely contrite and desires forgiveness from God (because of His omniscience as God); and/or (c) that the sacrament of confession was not yet instituted at this time and so no one had an obligation to confess their sins for them to be forgiven (as evinced by the sacrament being instituted in a later verse of John's Gospel), and/or (d) that by saying for her to go and sin no more, Christ is implicitly commanding her to repent of her sins because to have committed such a sin without repenting of it would itself be a distinct sin.

For the purpose of this thread, please exclude theories that the woman is actually Mary Magdalene or the woman who anointed Christ's feet.

[/quote]

The woman was not baptized yet, which would forgive all of her sins from the past. She probably started following Jesus and got baptized. Anyway, Jesus can forgive whoever He wants, He could read her mind and heart. He is not bound by the sacraments but WE ARE because He commanded it and His Church does as well.


#3

[quote="Oren, post:2, topic:348982"]
The woman was not baptized yet, which would forgive all of her sins from the past. She probably started following Jesus and got baptized. Anyway, Jesus can forgive whoever He wants, He could read her mind and heart. He is not bound by the sacraments but WE ARE because He commanded it and His Church does as well.

[/quote]

Right, I guess one shouldn't be trying to interpret the forgiveness of the adulteress within the sacramental framework of the Church when The Church with its sacraments wasn't even really around yet. Thanks for your answer!

(And please note, I'm not making this thread to actually call into question the necessity of confession, I do hold confession to be necessary for the forgiveness of sins after baptism (except for the forgiveness involved in Last Rites or that special situation is met involving perfect contrition that I mentioned in the first sentence of my initial post). I am merely trying to sort out my own thinking and arguments on this matter).


#4

=Birdmanman;11525341]The sacrament of Penance (Confession) is necessary for the forgiveness of sins (or else, as far as I know, baptism (if you were previously unbaptized) or last rites or a combination of perfect contrition and the actual intention to confess).

However, in the story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8), Jesus forgave her sins without the Gospel mentioning her asking for forgiveness or explicitly confessing her sin to Christ.

  1. Is it just to forgive someone without them asking for forgiveness, or even having any contrition whatsoever?

  2. Could this Gospel reading be used to support an argument that sacramental confession is unnecessary for the forgiveness of sins? (of course, such an interpretation would be false).

  3. What arguments would you have against an anti-confession reading of this passage?

My arguments would be: (a) That the woman at least implicitly admits, and so confesses, her sin to Christ (as evinced by the reading itself); and/or (b) that Christ forgives her without her asking for forgiveness because He knows she is sincerely contrite and desires forgiveness from God (because of His omniscience as God); and/or (c) that the sacrament of confession was not yet instituted at this time and so no one had an obligation to confess their sins for them to be forgiven (as evinced by the sacrament being instituted in a later verse of John's Gospel), and/or (d) that by saying for her to go and sin no more, Christ is implicitly commanding her to repent of her sins because to have committed such a sin without repenting of it would itself be a distinct sin.

For the purpose of this thread, please exclude theories that the woman is actually Mary Magdalene or the woman who anointed Christ's feet.

Because God alone Can and Does forgive sin;** we are to be mindful that what He Commands of US; NEED NOT apply to Him; Perfect-God

Matthew 12:8
"For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath"

** Christ reminds us in Mt. 28: 16 that 'ALL POWER in Heaven & ON earth are HIS:

We see precisely that TRANSFER of those VERY Powers and authority BY CHRIST to the Apostles in:

John 17:18 and again in John 20:21

So God HAS and used His Powers and Authority to empower the Apostles to FORGIVE mans sins in HIS name.:thumbsup:

John 20:19-23
Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.

He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you** When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained**


#5

In verse 11, she calls him "Lord."*John 8:11 She said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.*This is after the Pharisees had already revealed her sins. That her accuser had left the room implies that she admitted to the sin---to say that she formally didn't admit it with her lips seems rather a technicality here, or that the account only records what is the assertion of this particular text. The purpose of the story seems tied into both Jesus' mercy: "Neither will I condemn" and his exhortation to holiness "Go and sin no more." The formula is rather confessional, with an admission, forgiveness, and exhortation to penitential behavior (in this case virtue). Certainly John's assertion here is not that there is no need of the sacrament of penance.


#6

It's like the paralytic: we don't have all the data we'd like to have. But we see that Jesus forgave the sins of these people through a physical encounter.


#7

Thanks for your help, guys.
I particularly like the insight that this is an example of Christ showing his mercy through an actual physical encounter involving words, rather than something purely interior and unspoken.


#8

Jesus never said the woman was innocent. Yet, he knows the hearts and minds of men. He knew her heart. He knew her sorrow. There was more than her there. The Pharisees were also there. I would imagine that she received something rather unexpected, mercy. Even from the Pharisees. Since no one was righteous. All had sinned. They knew they too were guilty of sin. The only way forward was mercy. I imagine the mercy she received had a profound impact on her and led to her repentance and conversion. We shouldn't put God in a box and say he can only operate in the confines of our box.


#9

Was the woman truly contrite? She was JUST caught redhanded in the act of adultery, I dont see how she had much of a chance to examine her conscience or reflect about what she did. It seems like she was filled more with fear of dying than she was concerned about repentance.

However, Jesus saved her life and showed her forgiveness first. She was probably thankful for His mercy and had a change of heart on the spot because of the love He showed her that she did not merit.

Thats why I cannot agree with the alologists who said we cant forgive those who havent asked. I think forgiving those who dont deserve it are more likely to have a change of heart. And as Mother Theresa says, "forgive anyway."


#10

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.