Friday 20th October 2017

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

Catholic Teaching On The Sacrament Of Penance . . . Clear And Concise Catholic Moral Guidance On Confession

February 15, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. JOHN TRIGILIO

(Editor’s Note: This article on Confession by Fr. John Trigilio, Ph.D., Th.D., appeared in CatholicAction.org and is reprinted here with permission.
(Fr. Trigilio is a pastor, the president of the American Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, and the coauthor of Catholicism for Dummies.)

+ + +

Q. Why should Catholics confess their sins to a priest? What sins need to be confessed?
A. After Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, He appeared to the apostles, breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive, are forgiven them. Whose sins you retain, are retained” (John 20:22-23).
Had Jesus not wanted or intended His ordained ministers to absolve sins, why would He have said this in the Gospel? Confession has been practiced in the Church from day one.
Pope St. Leo the Great in the middle of the fifth century said:
“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.”
The Catechism explains:
“During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism (for example, idolatry, murder, or adultery) was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation. To this ‘order of penitents’ (which concerned only certain grave sins), one was only rarely admitted and in certain regions only once in a lifetime. During the seventh century, Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the ‘private’ practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church.
“From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament. It allowed the forgiveness of grave sins and venial sins to be integrated into one sacramental celebration. In its main lines this is the form of penance that the Church has practiced down to our day” (n. 1447).
Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize and therefore we have the Sacrament of Baptism. He told them at the Last Supper to do likewise, so we have the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (also known as the Mass). Finally, He gave the power to forgive sins in His name and so we have the Sacrament of Penance. It would be an act of disobedience were the Church not to have Confessions.
The person confessing their sins is not telling the priest as an individual person, rather, he or she is confessing to Jesus through the priest. The Sacrament of Holy Orders (Ordination) makes a man an alter-Christus (other Christ) who has the divine power to absolve (forgive) sins in the name of Jesus as the priest acts in persona Christi (in the Person of Christ).
Hence, the priest says: “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” Note that the priest does not say “Jesus absolves you.” He uses the first person pronoun “I absolve you.” Likewise, at Mass, the priest takes bread and wine and says: “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood.”
The priest speaks as if Jesus Himself were standing there saying the words. Christ is saying the words via the priest by virtue of Holy Orders.
Since the penitent is confessing his or her sins to Jesus through the priest, the priest is absolutely forbidden to reveal the identity of the person and cannot reveal the sins being confessed either. Furthermore, the priest cannot act upon anything he heard in the Sacrament of Penance. This secrecy or confidentiality is called the Seal of Confession. It is sacrosanct. No bishop or Pope can make any priest reveal what he heard or from whom he heard it. He must be willing to die, be tortured, or imprisoned rather than violate the seal.
All mortal sins committed after Baptism and since the last valid Confession must be confessed in the Sacrament of Penance before the next time the person receives Holy Communion or any other sacrament (Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders). Venial sins may be confessed in addition to all mortal sins or if no mortal sins can be remembered. Any mortal sins innocently forgotten are also absolved. Only ones that are intentionally, deliberately, and consciously withheld are not forgiven and the entire Confession is rendered invalid.
Names of cooperators or conspirators in sins are not mentioned and the date, time, and place are not given either. Place would only be pertinent if the sin occurred in sacred space (church, chapel, oratory, shrine, convent, sanctuary, etc.) which would make the sin more terrible. The precise number of times can be approximated, for example, “I lied several times” or “I missed Mass all last month” whereas certain sins, like adultery, abortion, etc., require more specifics like “I had two abortions” or “I cheated on my husband five times.”
Mortal sins must meet three criteria: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate and free consent. If one or more is missing, then it is subjectively considered a venial sin. Hence, stealing a pencil is not grave matter but stealing a dollar from a homeless person is very serious. Some sins are intrinsically evil and are always considered grave matter (fornication, adultery, masturbation, rape, incest, murder, mugging, desecrating a holy place like a church, synagogue, or cemetery, cheating the poor, abusing children, lying under oath, etc.)
Other sins are grave due to circumstances of place or person. For example, slapping your brother or sister is bad but slapping your mother or father or grandparent is far worse. The insult is measured by the dignity of the person being offended. Slapping a stranger who verbally insults you is not grave matter but decking a nun is grave. Getting intoxicated and then driving is grave matter whereas having a few too many but having a designated driver take you home is a less serious offense.

Practical Application

Confession, or Reconciliation as it is commonly known, is par excellence the Sacrament of Mercy! Having just completed the Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us take advantage of this wonderful sacrament and frequently cleanse our souls in the Blood of Christ and be strengthened by His grace.
Highlighting the importance of Confession, a psychology professor once stated: “The Catholics have it right. Confession is the best thing for mental health. It provides the sinner with a chance to voice their sins, receive absolution, be completely forgiven, and start anew. Nothing is more beneficial for mental health than this!”
Thus, we see that our Lord is both the Good Shepherd caring for His sheep and the Divine Psychologist who provides the remedy for all sin, all anxiety, all doubt, and all fear.
Through a good Confession, we can be certain that God has forgiven us. It is imperative, however, that we learn to forgive ourselves. No matter the gravity of our sins, Our Lord Jesus Christ forgives us through the Sacrament of Confession. This is the reason we can forgive ourselves and with humility and gratitude proceed forward along the path of virtue through God’s merciful grace.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Catholic youth: Thanks for asking our opinion, here’s what we think

A survey of nearly 900 local Catholic young adults shows they fear for the future, they want to do works of service and they want to gather with other young people in retreats, sports and in the Sunday Mass. The…Continue Reading

Fr. Perrone: without an intense, devout life, Catholics will not survive the age

The saintly priest, learned theologian, and catechist extraordinaire, Fr. John A. Hardon, was fond of saying that without an intense, devout life Catholics will not survive the age. I admit that at the time I thought this a ruse to…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Be agents of Mary’s Immaculate Heart to combat ‘diabolical forces’

BUCKFAST ABBEY, England (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Raymond Burke has summoned the faithful to become “agents” of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order to combat the “diabolical forces” that have been “unleashed upon the world” and are…Continue Reading

Callista Gingrich confirmed as US Ambassador to the Vatican

Washington D.C., Oct 16, 2017 / 04:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. The vote was 70-23. In a…Continue Reading

Pope Francis canonizes 35 new saints

(Vatican Radio) Inviting all faithful to practice Christian love every day, Pope Francis on Sunday canonized 35 new saints, nearly all of them martyrs, holding them up as models who “point the way”. To the over 35,000 pilgrims gathered in…Continue Reading

President Trump: Our ‘religious heritage’ will be ‘cherished, protected, and defended’

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – President Trump said this morning that his administration is “stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values” in a rousing speech at the Values Voter Summit. In his first major speech to a socially conservative conference…Continue Reading

Capuchin Priest Who Ministered Under Soviet Rule Moves Closer to Sainthood

VATICAN CITY — On Monday, Pope Francis advanced nine causes for sainthood, including a Capuchin priest who ministered underground across the Soviet Union for nearly 40 years. Father Serafin Kaszuba was born June 17, 1910, in Zamarstynów, near Lviv, in…Continue Reading

Notre Dame student fears losing birth control coverage under university health plan

The Trump administration’s plan to roll back mandatory insurance coverage for birth control faces a new federal court challenge. Washington state’s attorney general sued Monday to stop the new rules from taking effect. California and Massachusetts have already filed similar complaints. Last…Continue Reading

European Nation to Unite in Prayer for Its Salvation

On Saturday, October 7, up to one million Poles are expected to line the country’s border to pray the rosary. They will be joined in prayer by many others in Poland and throughout the world. This extraordinary display of public…Continue Reading

A big-money Catholic group just said it’s yanking all of its cash out of fossil fuels

A coalition of 40 Catholic institutions on Tuesday announced a decision to pull their money from — or block future investment in — fossil fuels. The Global Catholic Climate Movement called it the biggest collective announcement of divestment by Catholic…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke Returned to Vatican Court, but not as Prefect

VATICAN CITY, September 30, 2017 (LifeSiteNews): Pope Francis has reinstated Cardinal Burke as a member of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court. Cardinal Burke, dismissed as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura nearly three years ago, has been appointed to…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke to offer Mass at conference exactly 100 years after major Fatima miracle

BUCKFAST ABBEY, United Kingdom, September 29, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Exactly 100 years after the “miracle of the sun” at Fatima, Cardinal Raymond Burke will offer Mass at a Marian conference celebrating the centennial of the messages of Our Lady to…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Today . . .

At university, it’s risky to ‘come out’ as Christian

In the university town of St Andrews, along the narrow road that overlooks the North Sea, there is a modest townhouse with a red door. The small black plaque at the building’s entrance reads “Chaplaincy”. Between its steps and the ocean is the little Catholic church of St James and, nearby, the ruins of a great cathedral. The chaplaincy’s interior, its 1970s decor, dim lighting and musty scent, in many ways symbolises the impression I…Continue Reading

Priest who signed Filial Correction: It was ‘the Catholic thing to do’

BUCKFAST ABBEY, England (LifeSiteNews) — The number of signatories of the Filial Correction charging Pope Francis with spreading seven heresies, at least by omission, has now risen to 245 professors and clergy. That is up from 62 at the time of its publication on September 24, and 40 when it was delivered to Pope Francis on August 11 at his Santa Marta residence. Critics of the Filial Correction have accused the signatories of standing as “judges over the…Continue Reading

Trump admin makes protecting citizens “from conception to natural death” top priority

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 16, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — In a stunning change of direction from the Obama administration, the Trump Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not only declared that human life begins “at conception,” but has made protecting citizens “from conception to natural death” one of its top priorities. While the Obama HHS under Kathleen Sebelius

Pope invites prisoners to lunch, they break free instead

Bologna, Italy, Oct 17, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- They were supposed to be having lunch with Pope Francis. During his Oct. 1 trip to Bologna, the Holy Father was scheduled to dine with 20 prisoners from a local drug rehabilitation facility, along with refugees and the poor of the area, during a “Lunch of Solidarity” at San Petronio Basilica. Instead, two of the Italian prisoners shirked their invitation for what they saw as…Continue Reading

A biblical interpretation of Fatima’s Miracle of the Sun

BUCKFAST ABBEY, England, October 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The Miracle of the Sun which took place in Fatima, Portugal, exactly one hundred years ago today (on October 13, 1917), was one of the most extraordinary events of the 20th century. An estimated 70,000 people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun, both believers drawn by the Blessed Virgin Mary’s promise to the three shepherd children the previous July that she would perform a miracle in October,…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

The Making Of A Philosopher

By DONALD DeMARCO A new year arrives every 12 months; a new millennium, every 12,000 months. In celebrating the latter, how does one begin to do justice to its magnitude? The rarity of the event demands something far more imaginative than noisemakers and funny hats. There should be some serious reflection about life and the…Continue Reading

Fr. Solanus Casey To Be Beatified November 18

The beatification Mass for Fr. Solanus Casey is scheduled for November 18 at Ford Field in Detroit. “Not unlike the [1987] Silverdome Mass celebrated by St. John Paul, this, too, will be a history-making liturgy,” said Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit. “The beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey is an incomparable grace for the Church in the…Continue Reading

Poverty As An Evil And Poverty As A Good

By PHILIP TROWER On November 19 the Church will celebrate the first “World Day of the Poor” which the Holy Father instituted last year at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy by means of the apostolic letter Misericordia et Misera. Then on the June 13 he issued a papal message entitled Do not Be…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic. . . The Many Assaults On The Rule Of Law

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly] in Crisis. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president…Continue Reading

A Book Review… The Spiritual Riches Of A Heroic Priest

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN With God in America, by Walter J. Ciszek, SJ; editors John M. Dejak and Marc Lindeijer, SJ. (Loyola Press: Chicago 60657, 2016), 253 pp.; $19.95. Available from www.loyolapress.com or call 1-800-621-1008. An anthology of Fr. Walter Ciszek’s unpublished works in the form of writings delivered at retreats, reflections on biblical passages, letters…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: In a recent issue, we addressed the problem of pornography addiction by an 84-year-old man. At the end of the column, we invited readers of the column to pray for this man. The following note from the man’s wife illustrates the power of your prayers: “I’m writing to thank you for asking your readers to ‘pray for this…Continue Reading

Love God And Neighbor

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Thirtieth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Exodus 22:20-26 1 Thess. 1:5c-10 Matt. 22:34-40 In the second reading today St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians about the nature of their conversion. They had turned from idols to worship the Living and True God. By itself that is wonderful, but it becomes extraordinary when we hear that…Continue Reading

Sinner, Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian, Washington, D.C. Monsignor kindly gave The Wanderer permission to reprint this essay from his blog of October 7. All rights reserved.) + + + There is an urgency and clarity about Sunday’s Gospel that is often lacking in modern Christians, including the clergy. The…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Two Academics Enter the Lists Against The Filial Correction

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK, M.A. The battle is joined and the duel of the academics over the fate of the Filial Correction is heating up. On one side of the ring we have Robert Fastiggi, Ph.D., and Dawn Eden Goldstein, STD. On the other side we have, as of this writing, 235 signatories of the Correction. Many of these…Continue Reading

The Sacred Liturgy . . . The Liturgy Of The Church Militant

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA Part 3 Have you, Wanderer reader, even attended Mass in one of the Eastern Rites of the Church? If you haven’t, look online for a parish of the Byzantine Rite to see how beautiful the worship of God can be among our Eastern Rite brethren. Just make sure it is Catholic, and not Orthodox, because both…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Catherine Of Alexandria

By CAROLE BRESLIN The list of saints is long, and includes both men and women from all walks of life and from all disciplines. For some saints, there is a plenitude of documents and accounts of their lives from which we can draw much information. For most of the saints from the early centuries of the Church, however, there is…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Edward The Confessor

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the Middle Ages, England not only endured the raids of the Vikings, but also suffered from the raids initiated by Denmark and Normandy to control the small kingdom across the straights. Battles and intrigues were frequent, leaving little peace until the time of King Edward the Confessor. Even his reign experienced the plots and conspiracies so…Continue Reading