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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Confession is Good for the Soul
The Catholic Church (and all apostolic Churches, for that matter) require confession of sins to a priest. Most Protestant churches, who can't trace their history back to the Apostles, believe confessing your sins directly to God is sufficient. While repantance for sins is a requirement, the Catholic Church has always required the confession of sins to a priest for reintegration into the Christian Community. The Catechism teaches us:
1444 In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ's solemn words to Simon Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."45 "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head."

1445 The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.
Christ and his Church are one, so to sin against Christ is to sin against His Church, so to be reconciled with Him you must also be reconciled with His Church.

So why can't we be reconciled with His Church directly through Him? After all, even the Catholic teaching is that the priest is merely there as a standin and that it's throgh Christ we are reconciled, rather than through the priest. An article I was reading in the June 6th issue of Our Sunday Visitor I think gives a very strong reason for this. It's for our benefit. This quote is from their "In Focus" section on "The Effects of War" in an article specificially dealing with the effects of killing on a soldier:
Father [John] Barkemeyer [an Army chaplain] witnessed how "tremendously powerful" the role of Catholic faith, especially the sacrament of reconciliation, is in the lives of the troops.

"'I grant you pardon and peace, and I absolve you of your sins.' That's hugely powerful for guys. Where else can you hear the words that you need to be able to hear so desperately?" he said.
The full formula of absolution used in the sacrament of Confession is:
God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and the resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
God knows sometimes, in our weak and fallen state, we need more than just the belief He has forgiven us. So, through his ministers, He tells us in a voice we can hear.

Here's a story I heard that I think illustrates the point:
A young girl is in bed, being scared by a thunderstorm outside and asks to have someone come in her room. Her mother says, "God's in there with you." The daughter says back, "I need someone with skin."
We're the same way. We know God will forgive us anything if we're truly sorry, but we still need to hear it sometimes from someone with skin.

Perhaps, this is a good thing, but the teaching is that the priest is necessary for forgiveness. I am a Congregationalist. We believe that creeds are unnecessary. I need no authority over me other than the authority of my conscience.

How did you comment so fast? This thing just got submitted? Wow.

Rather than rehash something that I could never do as well as, I'll just point you to the full Catechism teaching on confession.

Well, I'm not Roman Catholic, and I don't think sins need to be confessed to a priest per se, but I do take seriously the Scripture, "confess your faults (sins) one to another". There is a release when we share with others our weaknesses and failings as they can encourage us we truly are forgiven as we've truly repented and they can be a help to us as we overcome our weaknesses. I think this may be easier for women who are more prone to make decisions by committee anyway.

On the other hand, one needs to choose one's confessor well. If that person is not knowledgable of the Scriptures himself or is lax toward sin in his own life, his counsel may be faulty. I suppose that's where a minister or a priest could be extremely impt. And for some people, the position of authority may be very comforting esp in big things like the killing done in war.

In short, I don't fully agree with you, but we may not be as far off as would seem.

I don't disagree with anything you've said about the benefits of confession.

However, there is also a valid secular interpretation of confession: By telling your darkest secrets to another person, you give that person a measure of psychological control and power over you. So confession, apart from all its other benefits, is a way for the Church to consolidate and maintain loyalty of its congregation. My hunch is that this psychological effect of control was much more inmportant in the early Church, but is much less important today.

The Dan Brown theory of Church History: "It's all about power."

Actually, in the early Church confession of sins was done publicly, as was the penance which could last for years. I'm pretty sure the theory was that since sins were against the whole Church, you needed to confess to the whole Church and be seen by the whole Church doing your penance.

Using the principle of "Boy, that sucks," public confession was dropped and over time the current practice we have now developed.

Nowadays, if a priest reveals what you confessed to him, he is immediately and automatically excummincated from the Church. (There's currently a court battle going on in California where a priest refuses to acknowledge if a defendant went to confession at all. That's an example of how seriously the secrecy of confession is taken.)

Well, I haven't read Dan Brown, but whether confession is to the community or to the priest, the psychological principle of reinforcing group loyalty is the same.

I didn't imply that priests reveal confessions. It's the holding of the secrets that has the power - not the telling.

Mind you, I'm not knocking confession, I'm just adding another layer of thought about it, which I don't think takes anything away.

As far as God's forgiveness is concerned, the power to confer God's forgiveness is apostolically granted to the priest.

The power of holding the secret is, in this case, more than offset by the penalty the priest would face for revealing the secret. He reveals my confession, I'm embarassed or if I've done something illegal, I go to jail. He's excommunicated; he's going to an eternity in Hell. The priest has much more to fear than I do from my confession being revealed. The power, if anything, is with me.

Excommunication=eternity in Hell?

Not that I'm Catholic, but that's way harsh!

The argument against confession that when Christ died the veil in the temple was torn top to bottom - not to say that God is no longer sanctified, but to say that through faith in the resurrection, man is allowed in His presence and no longer need holy men to interceed on our behalf.

There is a level of accountability that is missing without the practice of confession, as people can take it lightly. But I suppose that could be the case no matter what one did in relation to one's own sin if one was not truly repentant.

(Yessh, that sentence was a whole lot of of a tense I almost never use.)

I'm just a low church Protestant - so what do I know?

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