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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… Investigating The Sacrament Of Confession

June 10, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 32

In previous articles we have seen how the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the faith of the early Christians, affirm the Sacrament of Confession. And it could not be otherwise. Jesus gave to the apostles the power to forgive sins, and also promised that He would be with His Church till the end of time; He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with them and within them; if He had allowed a fake sacrament to be administered and received by the faithful for over 1,500 years, then, that would mean the Devil took over the Church and the gates of Hell had prevailed!
Then what would have happened to the promise made by Jesus that He would be with His Church till the end of times, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail? He sent the Holy Spirit to be with the apostles and within them. He would have failed in His promise.
Conclusion: Those who deny the biblical and historical evidence of the Sacrament of Confession are calling Jesus a failure. They are not His followers, but rather His enemies.
Now let us investigate the Sacrament of Confession in itself. First of all, we know that Jesus did not give the power to forgive sins to every Tom, Dick, or Harriet. He gave it to His apostles, and they passed this on to other bishops, who passed it on to other bishops and priests across the centuries.
Therefore, it is only a priest or bishop who possesses this power; in the Sacrament of Confession, he exercises it as a judge, with true authority to hear the self-accusation of the sinner, to give or withhold absolution, and to impose such penances as he thinks fitting. Yes, Confession is real tribunal, not just a nice chat with Fr. Joe….
For the penitent to receive the complete and perfect remission of his sins, three acts are necessary: They are: contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Let us analyze these essential acts one by one:
First of all: contrition. The word comes from the Latin contristare, meaning to break, indicating the broken heart of the penitent when he realizes that his sin has offended a holy and loving God. It is remorse or regret for sin or wrongdoing. If contrition is conceived from such motives as the fear of Hell, the loss of Heaven, the abhorrence of the filth of sin, and is accompanied by a sincere purpose of amendment, provided it excludes the affection for sin, it is true sorrow, and prepares one to receive the grace of the sacrament.
This is a most important aspect of Confession: We must understand how sin offends God, and experience a sense of regret for having offended Him. We want to break our pride in choosing what is pleasing to us instead of what is pleasing to God and our salvation.
Sometimes one may think that after committing a grievous sin, all we have to do is to rush to Confession to tell it to a priest, and everything will be fine thereafter.
Not so. Confession is not a kind of antidote we take after drinking poison. It is an act of the soul, of the mind that acknowledges the wrongdoing, and of the will, that regrets having done it. If there is no purpose of amendment, that is, if we intend to go on sinning, the absolution will be invalid.
This is a very serious matter. Today, because of the ambiguities of the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, some people who effectively live in adultery might go to Confession to confess their sins except adultery, and go to Communion later on. They do not realize that without the firm purpose of stopping their living in adultery, their Confessions will not be valid, and their Communion will be sacrilegious.
With the act of contrition, the penitent must make a definite and specific Confession of all grave sins, even those of thought, which he can remember. Private, or auricular Confession, as practiced in the Church from the very beginning, is not a human invention or opposed to the ordinance of Christ.
Of course: How can the priest forgive if the penitent does not tell him everything?
When Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” How could an apostle know which sins to forgive and which sins to remit if the penitent did not tell them to him? Jesus did not give them telepathic powers!
More: As we have seen before, also after the Resurrection, Jesus gave the apostles also two other powers: 1) to preach the Gospel in His Name to the people and 2) to baptize those who believed in it. If, as some say, the power to forgive sins was given only to the eleven apostles and to nobody else, then only the eleven apostles could teach and baptize as well, and nobody else, which is of course nonsense.
The third act required for the forgiveness of sins is to do something to make up for it, to do penance, as St. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles spoke of, and frequently. Yes, Christ did not teach what Luther taught, that is, that you may sin as you wish without having to do any penance; all you have to do is to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and your sins are forgiven no matter what, and you can go on sinning, because you are “already saved.”
No, we have to do a penance for the sins we have committed, even though they may have been absolved. Penance can be such as when we accept sufferings and afflictions in life patiently, and offering them up to God in reparation for our sins; and by doing the penance given by the priest in the confessional. Because by such sufferings we are made like unto the suffering Christ, who alone can give our actions the power to satisfy divine justice.
The debt of temporal punishment may also be remitted by the indulgences granted by the Church — more on that in as future article.
Here is an affirmation that causes nervousness in the souls of liberal Catholics: For those who have fallen into grave sin after Baptism, the Sacrament of Penance is the only gate of salvation. But, if we are unable to go immediately, if we make a perfect act of contrition, motivated by our love of God and sincere regret for having offended Him, and by having a sincere desire to go to Confession at the first opportunity, it reconciles us with God, while we wait for the priestly absolution.
Although Confession is directed specifically to mortal sins, it is correct and profitable to confess our venial sins, as it helps us to know ourselves better and to exercise humility.
Next article: Understanding Confession more deeply.

+ + +

(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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