Discussion in 'Sacraments, Sacred Rites, and Holy Orders' started by Weston Letson, Apr 10, 2013.
You may confess to any priest
...or to no priest...opting for the great high priest instead.
I was thinking about Confession since it is Lent, but not many people make use of the sacrament (private confession to a priest).
It seems to me that sins (either venial or mortal, if you want to segregate them) are forgiven during Mass if one is truly repenting during the General Confession. Therefore, private confession should be used for spiritual growth. However, perhaps some sins must be confessed to a priest. For instance, if I rob a bank, I should confess this to a priest since the act was public. Non-public sins, even bad ones such as denying God's existence, can be forgiven during the General Confession without confessing to a priest (even though speaking with a priest may be a very good thing).
One purpose of confession is to enablethe penitent to exercise humility in confessing his sin to another person
Frequent confession can be torture to those of us who by nature are scrupulous and have been told a myriad of opinions regarding certain sins, actions, habits, etc. It is still a blessed Sacrament though and always will be. Blessings!
Your post led me to go back and compare the text of the Affirmation of St. Louis with that of the XXVth Article of Religion:
The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance and Unction of the Sick, as objective and effective signs of the continued presence and saving activity of Christ our Lord among His people and as His covenanted means for conveying His grace. In particular, we affirm the necessity of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist (where they may be had) -- Baptism as incorporating us into Christ (with its completion in Confirmation as the "seal of the Holy Spirit"), and the Eucharist as the sacrifice which unites us to the all-sufficient Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and the Sacrament in which He feeds us with His Body and Blood. (Affirmation of St. Louis)
Sacraments ordained of Christ are not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they are certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace and God's good will towards us, by which He works invisibly in us, and not only quickens, but also strengthens and confirms, our faith in Him.
There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.
Those five, commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, have they a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as S. Paul said. (XXVth article)
I gave the homily on Ash Wednesday and attempted to make a salient point about the Penance (or the sacrament of reconciliation, as our RC friends term it). I think it is a valuable practice. Many Continuing jurisdictions encourage the clergy to make a private confession at least once a year. If only the laity would avail themselves of the same. . . Our parish does have one or two who occasionally make a private confession. I am not opposed to setting a time for such practice and posting it as a parish would its services of Morning and Evening Prayer and Holy Communion. I've not yet encountered an Anglican church with a confessional though. And I think the bulk of the English fathers would not have wished to see one. The article, has so many of them do, has a certain tension at play within. Unfortunately, most of our people are ignorant of the Articles of Religion and quite content to go along with local practice.
It occurs to me that there is perhaps a time envisaged in the BCP that something like confession might be required in serious cases
"If a Minister be persuaded that any person who presents himself to be a partaker of the holy Communion ought not to be admitted thereunto by reason of malicious and open contention with his neighbours, or other grave and open sin without repentance, he shall give an account of the same to the Ordinary of the place, and therein obey his order and direction, but so as not to refuse the Sacrament to any person until in accordance with such order and direction he shall have called him and advertised him that in any wise he presume not to come to the Lord's Table; Provided that in case of grave and immediate scandal to the Congregation the Minister shall not admit such person, but shall give an account of the same to the Ordinary within seven days after at the latest and therein obey the order and direction given to him by the Ordinary; Provided also that before issuing his order and direction in relation to any such person the Ordinary shall afford to him an opportunity for interview."
In such an interview, a person would presumably have had to explain themselves and the bishop decide whether they might be allowed to receive Communion. Which is similar to sacramental confession, albeit confined to cases of grave scandal.
I totally agree with this post. The Romish doctrine of sacramental confession with absolution only available through a priest who supposedly acts in the place of Christ is simply not supportable by the Scriptures. and is, in fact, the primary reason I refuse to even consider joining with Rome or the Eastern Churches. Anglicanism has its faults, but their belief in general absolution within the Mass is not one of them. I remember when I came to Christ, and knelt and asked forgiveness of my sins - I felt within my spirit that I was forgiven by God through the Blood of our dear Lord shed on Calvary. To once again have to confess those very sins for which I was forgiven, which would have to be done if one joined a Romish or Eastern Church, would in fact deny what I know God has already done for me, and would be a sin. Is that not blasphemy? And, yes, the very Body and Blood of Christ is offered to believers in the Anglican Church, and to deny that is, as well, a sin. I have many problems with Anglicanism, especially as we find in the United States where homosexuality is lauded and women pretend to be priests. But, as I worship with the Latino Rite Episcopalians, who are faithful and conservative (and I'm not Latino), I know that God still is working in the Episcopal Church - working with the faithful, and not with those who have traded the Holy Catholic faith for a bunch of Maxist - New Age porridge.
And that Romish doctrine of HAVING TO CONFESS to a priest provides an unhealthy link between the poor layperson and the Roman Church. It is fearful for the Roman Catholic to believe his sins cannot be forgiven unless a Romish priest pronounces them absolved. I had one former supposedly Anglican (but never confirmed) friend who went into traditional Romanism tell me that none of my sins had ever been forgiven since I did not submit to Rome: sorry, but there is ONLY ONE MEDIATOR between God and men, and that is Christ Jesus, not some Roman priest. How sad that this poor deceived person sought Rome, and not God, for forgiveness.
Regarding the Eastern churches and the Anglican churches, I feae you are misinformed concerning confessional practices.
Firstly, Eastern churches do not have the Sacrament of Confession, they have the Mystery of Reconciliation. There is a subtle but important semantic difference in the meaning and implication of these words, which is that the Eastern churches do not take a forensic attitude towards sin but regard it as an illness. What is more, in a formal auricular confession in the Eastern Orthodox church, the confession is made directly to Christ, with the priest merely there to provide assistance. And it can be an enormous blessing for the cure of a number of spiritual illnesses and traumas. For example, I suffered from extreme bereavement following the death of my father, by which time I had been Orthodox for two years; this persisted for some years after the fact but was dramatically alleviated ny a Russian Orthodox priest. Also, I had a lifelong revulsion and horror of hearses, and a Serbian American priest, who is not even that good a spiritual father, was able to deliver me from that. And penances, while I have heard of people receiving them, are quite rare in the US, and in the old country primarily consist of additional fasting and prayer; I have never met anyone who was penanced; I believe that these are only doled out for extremely serious abuses of other persons such as slander, adultery, fornication, theft, homosexuality, abortion, murder, sacrilege, physical assault, and so on. And these would consist in general of a period of abstinence from the Eucharist.
But even then, one must recall that these sins are understood as illnesses. The abstinence from the Eucharist is for the safety of the communicant, since it can kill if consumed unworthily (1 Corinthians 11:27-34). In the ancient church, murderers were generally excluded from the Eucharist until they were dying, adulterers for 10-15 years, and sodomites, for twice that length of time, according to the canons of St. John the Faster. But this is all done for purposes of healing. One of my favorite Eastern saints is St. Moses the Black, widely venerated in all of the Eastern churches. He was an Abyssianian or Sudanese pagan who was a highwayman who murdered several people, before releasing his sins, being baptized into Christianity, and living a life of repentance as the hegumen of a monastery, where he was later martyred, owing to his having renounced violence. There is a beautiful church dedicated to him at the Coptic monastery in Yermo, California, which is also extremely popular among Ethiopian Orthodox pilgrims. A Western saint with a similiar story, but less well known, is St. Guilliame (St. William), who was a cousin of Charlemagne who led an army which successfully defeated the attempted Islamic invasion of France through the Pyrenees from Spain during its period of subjection to the Caliphate. But he was so horrified by the bloodshed that he, after having defeated the Moors, used his vast fortune to build a Benedictine monastery, in Aquitania if memory serves, where he spent out the remainder of his life in prayer and repentance.
Secondly, for these obvious reasons, the Anglican church and the Lutheran churches (in the US, particularly the LCMS, which is rather high-church), have historically offered, not as a sacrament, but as what one might call a “sacramental,” auricular confession, usually by appointment. And there are provisions in several editions of the Book of Common Prayer for Reconciliation and also receiving a confession from an ill person. People desire auricular confession and it is of benefit. Now, I do not know if the Anglican or Lutheran pastors receive these confessions in persone Christi or not, but I would assume not. In like manner, I would assume most Anglican priests would not follow the obnoxious Roman Catholic practice of merely assigning a penance for every sin confessed, as if every spiritual ailment suffered by a Christian can be repaired simply by saying Acts of Contrition, Pater Nosters or the Rosary. That practice is based on the forensic Roman Catholic understanding of sin as religious crime, rather than as the illness in which humanity suffers, which also causes our mortality, and which is the result of the Fall, but from which we can be delivered through faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who as the Book of Common Prayer wisely counsels, desires not the death of a sinner, but their repentance and healing; our Lord having trampled down death by death provides his Body and Blood for us for the remittance of sin and life everlasting.
Now, of the Eastern churches, you were also misinformed concerning the prevalence of anything analogous to auricular confession. For example, the Assyrians, that is, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East practice general absolution during the liturgy, and many Assyrian clergy do not offer auricular confession, while many Assyrian laity are unaware of its status as a sacrament.
Moving onto the Oriental Orthodox, I am not well versed in Armenian or Ethiopian practice, but the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch tends to absolve people desiring communion before they partake of it, at the end of the liturgy; simply by placing their hand or blessing cross on the head of the penitent, although more formal auricular confession is available.
Coptic Christians vary in terms of how frequently they confess, but it is on an as-needed basis. The Greek Orthodox likewise fall into this category. And all of these rites, by the way, feature prayers which serve as a confiteor ante communionem.
Now the Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Latvians and the OCA, do like to have people confess, if not before every Eucharist, at least once every four Sundays. But it is done in the manner I described earlier. And it is only in the Russian Orthodox church, and a few others, that every priest has faculties as a confessor. In Greece, junior priests are not confessors, and people might go some length of time without partaking of this mystery. But some monastic confessors are heavily sought, for example, St. Seraphim of Sarov, or in modern times, the Greek Orthodox Elder Ephraim, who now resides at St. Anthony’s monastery in Florence. He does not speak English very well, but is an extremely loving man, and when I visit that monastery usually one will find Greek people queing for an hour to speak to him.
There also exists, even among the Russians, what could be called general confession. St. John of Kronstadt was one of several Orthodox frustrated by people receiving the Eucharist infrequently, and took charge of a busy parish that served mainly sailors and passengers passing through the busy seaport of St. Petersburg (Kronstadt). This was in the 1890s. At his parish, he simply had the congregation all concurrently yell what they wished to confess, loudly enough so that everyone’s individual privacy was maintained.
Also, on one occasion I visited a Russian Orthodox parish where the monastic priest did not speak good English, so he had English speaking congregants simply read a general confession printed on laminated paper. This was extremely comforting, and that particular priest (who holds the rank of Archimandrite, meaning that he is elligible to he consecrated a bishop, and I think he would make a wonderful bishop, although he is elderly; fortunately there are no mandatory retirement ages for Orthodox clergy) is one of those who I have met who has been a blessing to me just by the experience of having been to their parish.
Thus, the Eastern position is in general aptly described by a popular Anglican aphorism describing auricular confession in the Anglican churches, “All may, some should, none must.” But it is also very different from the Roman Catholic practice, at the level of ontological identity.
@Liturgyworks great post. I looked into it some more and it does seem that the Armenian Church eventually evolved into just a general confession as the Assyrians never had one. Where could I look more into such practices?
Oh I forgot about that. There is a very interesting book on the liturgy of the Eastern church that focuses chiefly on Armenia, but also touches upon Syriac Orthodox, Coptic, Ethiopian and Byzantine questions of use. The last chapter in it is on the subject of Armenian liturgical reform and the desire to make personal auricular confession once more available. I will get you the title; I would get it for you now except I am on businesss and this volume is part of my physical collection.
At any rate the loss of personal auricular confession for the mystery of reconciliation is viewed as a liturgical degradation inflicted on the Church by the current conditions arising from the Genocide, the diaspora and so on.
That said, I feel all churches will have to become increasingly reliant on either general confession, standardized statements of self-accusation, or other protective mechanisms to obscure that which is confessed, because I fear that some countries, in particular Australia, are inclined to abolish Pastor-Penitent privilege, due to the Roman Catholics abusing it to protect perverted priests. And while some liberal psuedo-Catholic and psuedo-Anglican clergy will comply with new reporting requirements, others will not violate the seal of the confessional and will face persecution, and also churches will be bugged. In many Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches, there is not a designated place for confessions to be heard, but there is still a need to protect the penitent and their confessor and spiritual father. In the Sovietsky Soyuza, the confessional seal was violated with impunity as one might express, and probably most Russian, Ukrainian, Moldovan, Georgian, Belarussian, Latvian and Estonian clergy and those of Eastern European states such as Romania or even Yugoslavia above a certain age were threatened by the KGB, the Securitate, et cetera, and some became agents, for example, the Patriarch of Kiev in the schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine, who had been a KGB agent influencing the MP’s delegation at the World Council of Churches, codenamed ADAMANT. And still others are known to have worked for the CIA. I really dislike security services using our churches for spycraft, and the Armenian and Assyrian churches did presumably manage to avoid this form of persecution, but at the same time, there will have to be some underground faculty or secret means of communication, because a good confessor cannot help you unless he knows the problem.
That said, I feel all churches will have to become increasingly reliant on either general confession, standardized statements of self-accusation, or other protective mechanisms to obscure that which is confessed, because I fear that some countries, in particular Australia, are inclined to abolish Pastor-Penitent privilege, due to the Roman Catholics abusing it to protect perverted priests.............. I did not think they abused that but instead knew outside of confession about priest and did nothing about it to protect the church.
If I ever had to do a private confession I would hope all my general confessions would count. I am almost 35. I have no sin that could blackmail me or anything that the police would be interested in but it is the fact that I am almost 35 and a lot of it would be like yeah I am sure I helped spread or start a rumor back in high school. Can't remember it but it probably happened.