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Author Topic: Auricular Confession  (Read 2960 times) Average Rating: 0
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falafel333
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« on: April 09, 2006, 11:17:18 PM »

I was just wondering how confession is practised within other churches...In many churches confession is a necessary condition for salvation which is in some cases militantly enforced or imposed upon all, therefore unless the believer tells a priest all of their sins and receives absolution from him they cannot go to heaven...This seems to be a stumbling block for many people and for many reasons, namely because it creates a middle wall or partition between people and God, because of a lack of cordial relations between the priest and the people, fear of a priest meddling in personal problems, simply in many cases the priest can be insensitive and lacks wisdom and is not the elder, staretz or geron that is traditionally known within monastic circles, because of the value of respect of privacy especially in modern times...However, it seems to be most burdensome when an individual may be prevented from communion because of a lack of frequent confession or when an almost direct relationship is proposed between confession and communion...

For some it seems that the patristic record indicates that what is commonly practised as a one-to-one private confession that is required of all the faithful was in ancient times practised publicly and only for certain grave offences (such as murder, adultery, abortion, etc), that is, those who had been excommunicated from the church were only allowed full communion again through a confession of their sin and an absolution provided by the clergyman...

I understand that their have been times when certain patriarchs within the Coptic church have tried to eliminate the practise altogether...

So I was just wondering what your thoughts on all of this is, especially if the current practise of confession is a true reflection of ancient practise...
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2006, 01:32:57 AM »

How ironic. I was mulling over what St Thomas wrote about it in his Summa Theologica when I came upon this post. To me it is quite amusing. I think I laughed about ten times. I was also going to start a new topic about what in the world people feel a need to confess to a priest about so often to receive the sacrament of penance. Are their lives that sinful?

As a Catholic I used to go twice a month (not out of obligation, but because I liked to confess, to be transparent), but after a while it got real old. The priest chuckled sometimes because I mentioned minor issues and then would assign me some bogus penance like: "Say a Hail Mary." What is this? I don't need someone to tell me that! I would think that most people, before waiting to go to a priest, would have already done 500 X more than a priest would prescribe. I suppose people just like the emotional aspect of hearing the absolution. But it means nothing to me since I know that I have been forgiven. Its just pointless. Apart from the absolutionism, however, it is real beneficial to confess sins to a spiritual father or a brother in Christ, for the sake of being transparent, getting guidance, or encouragement.

The modern practice of the sacrament (in both the postVatIICatholic and Orthodox churches) places emphasis on the healing aspect, how the priest is the doctor of the soul who we open our wounds to, and through receiving forgiveness we are healed. Thats nice but that was not the original meaning of the sacrament. As falafel said, it was for admitting those who had lapsed into open sin (such as murder, adultery etc) back into the Church. It was performed before the whole congregation, and to prove their contrition, the penitents were to undergo decades of laborous penance before receiving the Eucharist again.

Around the seventh or eighth century Celtic monks brought their discipline (monastic practice of disciple confessing to father) of penance to the east. There it soon became standard for laypeople. In the west strict Penitential Manuals were created to help the priest assign an exact penance that matched the weight of the offence. From there the idea of 'satisfaction' developed. This NEW (monastic) form of penance became an obligation and was used to keep the moral decadence of the population in line during the low middle ages. Theologians in the west postulated that it was "necessary for salvation" just like baptism. Latin scholastics defined it as one of the "seven sacraments," and under their direct influence, the eastern church also accepted it as such.

The above historic sketch is fact and cannot be contested. Indeed all scholars agree, including Orthodox ones. There is TONS of literature on the subject. For example, at my secular university's library there was about 15 books on the historical development of penance, plus manuscripts from the old Penitentials. This topic amuses me a great deal, as you might have noticed.

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falafel333
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2006, 02:29:48 AM »

Could you please provide me with a list of these references you mention and any comments where possible...thanks
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romuald
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2006, 11:10:19 AM »

Most of the books at the library were on specialized topics of its development and some were in other languages -- that demonstrates how much it has been researched. The best ones were 'Practice of Penance 900-1050' (best book on its development in the crucial years); 'Medieval Handbooks of Penance' (texts of the Penitentials - quite revealing); 'Penance in the Early Church' (the post-apostolic era). The later is by Karl Rahner. It is a full book in his Theological Investigations. He was a liberal but this here is objective scholarship.

Catechism of Catholic Church:
Quote
1447 Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably. 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.


I wrote in the previous post that it originated with the Irish monastic-missionaries who took it to the East. But this quote says it was the Eastern monks who influenced the Irish. I think I have read both accounts.

PaulRomuald
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annaspencer
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« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2006, 01:30:00 PM »

I was also going to start a new topic about what in the world people feel a need to confess to a priest about so often to receive the sacrament of penance. Are their lives that sinful?

In a word, yes!

You mentioned penance a lot in your post. I've never been given a penance, I think this is a Catholic thing.

When you go to confession, you are forgiven straight away, then you're prepared and ready for communion. Jesus told the disciples that whoever they forgave, He would forgive; I believe that is inherited by priests, so that when you confess, you are forgiven by God. Sometimes you've done some whopping things, and sometimes you've done stuff that probaby isn't that bad, but the point is to get rid of all that sin, to be forgiven.
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« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2006, 01:35:34 PM »

I once confessed to a monk, and this is the only time I got a penance (canon). Besides that, he wouldn't even allow me to recieve the Communion then (the Feast of Dormition), until Christmas, provided I would have kept the fast, according to the rules.
Now, I'd rather avoid confessing to monks Grin
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« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2006, 01:40:58 PM »

Yes, I'm a bit scared too, I haven't gone to confession or had communion in a long time, and I would like to but ...scary, scary!
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« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2006, 02:13:26 PM »

The main reason that it is easy for me to confess is that I used to be a horrible, horrible sinner. A lot of sin makes compunction simple. To remain in this compunction I keep in mind how much of a sinner I still am, and furthermore make a habit of telling spiritual persons (not someone who is weak, but like a priest) all current sins even in casual conversation, so that I never have a time when I feel like I am going to have to spill the beans. Its all out in the open.

Grace and Peace

PaulRomuald

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annaspencer
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« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2006, 02:18:49 PM »

Good idea.

Didn't you feel a bit embarrased or even ashamed when you first went to confession and had done some really bad things?
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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2006, 02:48:59 PM »

Quote
Didn't you feel a bit embarrased or even ashamed when you first went to confession and had done some really bad things?

At first when I was under the prideful illusion that I am better than the sins revealed me to be. But I am what I am. I recall how Jesus accepted the most notorious sinners. That his love is not based on worth. That "where sin abounds grace abounds all the more." That it does not in fact matter whether some person knows this. God accepts me. Thats all I care about. Now I make special attempts to do unreligious things around people who think I am religious. There must be no false appearances and no false moralism. I think to myself, wow, I wish all people could know my sins, for then I might become humble. But I don't want to be a scandel. Because it is quite gross. Lol, I think it would be good to go to not just one priest, but go to a number of them in the same day, to let it all be known. It is not embarrasing when we know that God accepts us as sinners, and just as important, when we accept ourselves as sinners. I expect sin. "You can do no good apart from me." All I can do is sin. This is a certain consolation because "while we were still sinners Jesus died for us" and "while we were still dead in sins we were made alive in Christ." For he came to call the weak and dumb things of this world. This is me. Praise to You Jesus Christ!

PaulRomuald
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falafel333
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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2006, 04:31:37 PM »

I think that the entire sacrament can often be the source of much guilt and shame for many people which hence can be more of a hindrance to their spiritual revival than an inspiration, especially when the believer's unworthiness is stressed apart from the confessional and absolution...

I think perhaps it might be good if confession were to be relegated to its ancient purpose of granting communion to grave offenders who have been excommunicated and on the part of the rest of the faithful simply encouraging the them to live a life of spiritual guidance and counsel through the pastoral work of the priest, monk, deacon or other spiritual persons who are in the service of the church...
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2006, 10:17:36 PM »

I think that the entire sacrament can often be the source of much guilt and shame for many people which hence can be more of a hindrance to their spiritual revival than an inspiration, especially when the believer's unworthiness is stressed apart from the confessional and absolution...

I think perhaps it might be good if confession were to be relegated to its ancient purpose of granting communion to grave offenders who have been excommunicated and on the part of the rest of the faithful simply encouraging the them to live a life of spiritual guidance and counsel through the pastoral work of the priest, monk, deacon or other spiritual persons who are in the service of the church...

In Orthodoxy, the guilt is much less emphasized, so this doesn't play such a great role. Rather, confession is part of the treatment for sin, the disease of mankind. If one is not willing to receive this medicine, then they do not really want healing; it is even prescribed in the Bible. Also, we're all grave offenders, every single one of us.
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« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2006, 11:10:34 PM »

But are our lives SO sinful that we need absolution from the church several times a year, or even in some cases, each time before communion? This is just ridiculous. The original meaning was communal restoration and the forgiveness that comes through being a member of the church. It is for the who have excommunicated themselves with damning sin like murder. As such, it is a restoration to baptismal grace, sort of like a second baptism, which is not supposed to be repeated over and over again. The Fathers allowed for just one or two receptions of the sacrament. After that, it was figured that the sinner might as well just remain outside the church. I believe that the modern practice should be abolished.

Romuald
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« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2006, 11:34:13 PM »

The original meaning was communal restoration and the forgiveness that comes through being a member of the church. It is for the who have excommunicated themselves with damning sin like murder.

Really? Then there must have been a lot of murderers in the Church of Jerusalem during the Apostle St. James bishopric (James 5:16).
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« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2006, 12:26:53 AM »

But are our lives SO sinful that we need absolution from the church several times a year, or even in some cases, each time before communion? This is just ridiculous. The original meaning was communal restoration and the forgiveness that comes through being a member of the church. It is for the who have excommunicated themselves with damning sin like murder. As such, it is a restoration to baptismal grace, sort of like a second baptism, which is not supposed to be repeated over and over again. The Fathers allowed for just one or two receptions of the sacrament. After that, it was figured that the sinner might as well just remain outside the church. I believe that the modern practice should be abolished.

Romuald

Is this opinion really Orthodox?
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« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2006, 12:33:36 AM »

nope; it is the elevation of a partial truth.  true, confession was largely about reconciling one who had separated themselves from the faith with the faithful, but it was not restricted just to "major" sins... there was an understanding in the early church that all sins, including lying, cheating, etc., affected all the people. thus the whole community is affected by the sin of its members.  the only limits on confession then are also potential limits now: to repetition of the same sins without corrective measures being taken.  if you are going to continue murdering, then the confession is incomplete, since the metanoia, or turning around, isn't present, and your spiritual father will probably tell you so.
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« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2006, 01:15:29 AM »

Research what the Fathers said.

If the Christians of the first six centuries did not need the sacrament except for serious sins (which WAS reserved for murder, adultery, abortion etc, and could be used just once or twice) then neither do we!

Grace and Peace
Romuald
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« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2006, 01:23:53 AM »

Research what the Fathers said.

LOL!!!!!! Cheesy
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« Reply #18 on: April 16, 2006, 02:26:52 AM »

But are our lives SO sinful that we need absolution from the church several times a year, or even in some cases, each time before communion? This is just ridiculous. The original meaning was communal restoration and the forgiveness that comes through being a member of the church. It is for the who have excommunicated themselves with damning sin like murder. As such, it is a restoration to baptismal grace, sort of like a second baptism, which is not supposed to be repeated over and over again. The Fathers allowed for just one or two receptions of the sacrament. After that, it was figured that the sinner might as well just remain outside the church. I believe that the modern practice should be abolished.

Romuald

(Sorry to use the same quote as the basis for two different posts.)

You can't just style the Christianity you want based on the books you've read and still call yourself a genuine Christian.  Genuine Christianity is so much about obedience to authority, the authority of Christ communicated through His Church, the authority of your bishop, the authority of your priest.  You just can't be a Christian without submitting to these authorities.  You would do well to put aside your pride, stop calling practices with which you disagree "ridiculous," and just engage in them as is necessary to submit to the pastoral authority of your bishop and priest.
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« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2006, 11:29:09 PM »

Research what the Fathers said.

If the Christians of the first six centuries did not need the sacrament except for serious sins (which WAS reserved for murder, adultery, abortion etc, and could be used just once or twice) then neither do we!

Grace and Peace
Romuald

If the Church changed over the last 14 centuries, the Holy Spirit had something to do with it.  Revisionist history and some idea of time-warping back is about as Protestant as it gets.

Oh, and I've done a good amount of reading of the Fathers, so please don't lecture me.  And all the reading I've done - and I still haven't read 10% of what they have to say.
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« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2006, 11:30:45 PM »

LOL!!!!!! Cheesy
Yes, cleveland, stop reading comics in class!

But I can't get enough of Archie!  And I won't forgive myself if I don't finish reading about the rise of the Phoenix in the next two weeks!
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« Reply #21 on: April 17, 2006, 04:39:13 PM »

Quote
If the Church changed over the last 14 centuries, the Holy Spirit had something to do with it.  Revisionist history and some idea of time-warping back is about as Protestant as it gets.

Ditto. Tradition is supposed to be about what has been handed on by the fathers, grand fathers, great grand fathers, great great grand fathers, etc. of the faith. There are lots of beliefs that were held to by the early Church which aren't held to today. Tradition means keeping the faith unchanged, but not necessarily the way that that faith is practiced, which can change from time to time.
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« Reply #22 on: April 24, 2006, 10:50:31 AM »

Perhaps some patristic quotes might be able to shed light on this issue...here are some which seem to me to indicate something quite foreign to the manner in which the confessional is understood today:

"When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance" (St Augustine, Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16 [A.D. 395]).

"What have I to do with men that they should hear my confessions, as if they were able to heal my infirmities? The human race is very curious to know another person's life, but very lazy to correct it." (St Augustine, Confessions, Bk X, Chap III)

"Never sit in secret, alone, in a retired place, with a female who is alone with you. If she has any particular thing to tell you, let her take the female attendant of the house, a young girl, a widow, or a married woman. She cannot be so ignorant of the rules of human life as to expect to have you as the only one whom she can trust those things." (St Jerome, letter to Nepotianus, Vol II)

"We do not request you to go to confess your sins to any of your fellow-men, but only to God!" (Crhysostom, Homily on 50th Psalm)

"We do not ask you to go and confess your iniquities to a sinful man for pardon - but only to God." (Ibid.)

"You need no witness of your confession. Secretly acknowledge your sins and let God alone hear you." (Chrysostom, De Paenitentia, Volume IV, Col. 901)

"Therefore, I beseech you, always confess your sins to God! I, in no way, ask you to confess them to me. To God alone should you expose the wounds of your soul, and from him alone expect the cure. Go to Him, then, and you shall not be cast off, but healed. For, before you utter a single word, God knows your prayer." (Chrysostom, De Incomprehensibili, Volume I, Homily V)

Of the Office of Penitentiary Presbyters and its Abolition. At this time it was deemed requisite to abolish the office of those presbyters in the churches who had charge of the penitences: this was done on the following account. When the Novatians separated themselves from the Church because they would not communicate with those who had lapsed during the persecution under Decius, the bishops added to the ecclesiastical canon a presbyter of penitence in order that those who had sinned after baptism might confess their sins in the presence of the presbyter thus appointed. And this mode of discipline is still maintained among other heretical institutions by all the rest of the sects; the Homoousians only, together with the Novatians who hold the same doctrinal views, have abandoned it. [Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series: Volume II, Socrates Scholasticus, Chapter XIX (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)1997.]

This sentence both "loosed" those parts of the law which were abandoned, and "bound" those which were reserved. Hence the power of loosing and of binding committed to Peter had nothing to do with the capital sins of believers; and if the Lord had given him a precept that he must grant pardon to a brother sinning against him even "seventy times sevenfold," of course He would have commanded him to "bind"--that is, to "retain" [Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume IV, Tertullian, Chapter XXI (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997.]
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« Reply #23 on: April 24, 2006, 12:30:30 PM »

Perhaps some patristic quotes might be able to shed light on this issue...here are some which seem to me to indicate something quite foreign to the manner in which the confessional is understood today:

"When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance" (St Augustine, Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16 [A.D. 395]).

"What have I to do with men that they should hear my confessions, as if they were able to heal my infirmities? The human race is very curious to know another person's life, but very lazy to correct it." (St Augustine, Confessions, Bk X, Chap III)

"Never sit in secret, alone, in a retired place, with a female who is alone with you. If she has any particular thing to tell you, let her take the female attendant of the house, a young girl, a widow, or a married woman. She cannot be so ignorant of the rules of human life as to expect to have you as the only one whom she can trust those things." (St Jerome, letter to Nepotianus, Vol II)

"We do not request you to go to confess your sins to any of your fellow-men, but only to God!" (Crhysostom, Homily on 50th Psalm)

"We do not ask you to go and confess your iniquities to a sinful man for pardon - but only to God." (Ibid.)

"You need no witness of your confession. Secretly acknowledge your sins and let God alone hear you." (Chrysostom, De Paenitentia, Volume IV, Col. 901)

"Therefore, I beseech you, always confess your sins to God! I, in no way, ask you to confess them to me. To God alone should you expose the wounds of your soul, and from him alone expect the cure. Go to Him, then, and you shall not be cast off, but healed. For, before you utter a single word, God knows your prayer." (Chrysostom, De Incomprehensibili, Volume I, Homily V)

Of the Office of Penitentiary Presbyters and its Abolition. At this time it was deemed requisite to abolish the office of those presbyters in the churches who had charge of the penitences: this was done on the following account. When the Novatians separated themselves from the Church because they would not communicate with those who had lapsed during the persecution under Decius, the bishops added to the ecclesiastical canon a presbyter of penitence in order that those who had sinned after baptism might confess their sins in the presence of the presbyter thus appointed. And this mode of discipline is still maintained among other heretical institutions by all the rest of the sects; the Homoousians only, together with the Novatians who hold the same doctrinal views, have abandoned it. [Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series: Volume II, Socrates Scholasticus, Chapter XIX (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)1997.]

This sentence both "loosed" those parts of the law which were abandoned, and "bound" those which were reserved. Hence the power of loosing and of binding committed to Peter had nothing to do with the capital sins of believers; and if the Lord had given him a precept that he must grant pardon to a brother sinning against him even "seventy times sevenfold," of course He would have commanded him to "bind"--that is, to "retain" [Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume IV, Tertullian, Chapter XXI (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997.]


But are there Patristic statements offering a pov different from what you present above?
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