Confesional understanding

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Tim_Hayes

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I would liek assistance to be able to understand the benefit of confession to a priest as distinct from confession in prayer to God directly, only in terms of salvation.

This is my understanding.

If I confess to a priest my sins are absolved. Now how does that Priest know for sure that I am indeed genuinely repentant. If I am not geneuinely repentant but say I am, and the priest absolves(thinking I am genuinely repentant) me, am I freed from the sins I confessed.

Even though the priest has absolved me of my sins, does God therefore absolve me of those sins. God knows I was not 100% genuine so therefore do I fail to receive the forgiveness that the priest gave me becasue God knows I was not 100% genuine.

The reason I ask is because I want to know for the purpose of discussion with Protestants, but the crux of the question is this.

The Church says that most people would be unaware whether they make a perfect act of contrition in prayer to God alone when asking for forgiveness, so therefor we should make confession to a priest. Now when I confess to a priest am I not in reality in the same position as with personal prayer/confession to God, in that if I don"t know whether I am making perfect contrition to God then how can I be personally sure that I am completely genuine in my confession to a priest.

In other words what advantageous definitive Salvation benefit to me is there in confession to a priest over personal prayer confession to God.

In Christ

Tim Hayes
 
Tim Hayes:
Now when I confess to a priest am I not in reality in the same position as with personal prayer/confession to God, in that if I don"t know whether I am making perfect contrition to God then how can I be personally sure that I am completely genuine in my confession to a priest.

In other words what advantageous definitive Salvation benefit to me is there in confession to a priest over personal prayer confession to God.
No, Tim, you are not in the same position in confession as you are in personal prayer. In order for your confession to be valid, you need only have *imperfect contrition * for your sins. Imperfect contrition means sorrow that is related *in any way at all * to God, including fear of punishment. In reality, fear of God’s punishment is all some people can come up with in the way of contrition, but God, in His great love and desire to have us in friendship with Him, gives us a way out - the sacrament of Penance. Now, if our sorrow for our sins only refers to ourselves, for example our self-esteem is shattered by our not having lived up to our own high standards, or we’re shamed by others having found out about our transgression, that is not sufficient to receive forgiveness in Confession. This is because it refers in no way to God.

Now, when we are simply praying to God on our own and asking for forgiveness, in order to receive forgiveness of a mortal sin, we must have perfect contrition. And this is the only time we need perfect contrition, which means out of *perfect love for God * we are sorry for the sin, wish it never happened, renounce any benefit we have received as a result of the sin, and resolve to confess it at the first possible opportunity. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s really difficult. But God knows my weakness and provides the opportunity to receive forgiveness anyway. He lowers the standards for us when we receive the Sacrament. All you have to do is tell the whole truth about your sins and be sorry in some way that refers to God. So little to ask for such a great gift! Thank you, God!

And in addition to that, we receive specific grace to overcome the sins we confess. What a reward for humility! Yes, there are definite benefits to confessing your sins versus telling God directly that you are sorry!!

Betsy
 
Thanks Betsy, can you point to scripture where it shows that I can receive absolution for “less contrition” or imperfect contrition for the purpose of priestly confession as distinct from confession in prayer to God. I understand what the Church generally teaches, but I cannot see how? (Scriptureally speaking) why I can have imperfect contrition in confession to a priest but not to God, for the purposes of absolving from sin.

Where is it taught in scripture that I have to reach a lower level of “satisfaction” for forgiveness through a priest as distinct from directly to God.

Thanks

Tim Hayes
 
Tim,

Good qeustion. My first reaction was 3-fold:’
  1. Scripture tells us repeatedly to repent. Repent means forsaking sin, turning one’s life around. One can certainly repent (as in, change one’s life) without having perfect contrition. Our contrition becomes more perfect as we grow in holiness.
  2. Scripture: Matthew 16:18-19: What Peter (and the Church thereafter) binds on earth is bound in heaven, and auricular confession is bound on earth, and therefore in heaven.
Also, James 5:16, which recommends that we confess our sins to one another.

I am wondering why you want to find auricular confession articulated in scripture? Scripture is materially sufficient, but not formally – many of our beliefs are not explicitly in scripture, but are nevertheless true (the classic example is the word ‘Trinity’, though not totally analagous).
 
Tim, Karisue has already told you that you will not find specific mention of your question in scripture:

“Scripture is materially sufficient, but not formally – many of our beliefs are not explicitly in scripture, but are nevertheless true (the classic example is the word ‘Trinity’, though not totally analagous).”

The source for my answer to you is years of study of the Baltimore Catechism, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Perfect and imperfect contrition are discussed in numbers 1452-3 of the CCC, with reference made to the Council of Trent.

Betsy
 
Folks, you do not comprehend what I am saying/asking.

Let me ask yo this, If I tell the priest I am sorry and ask for forgiveness and he absolves me, but in reality I am not truly sorry, are my sins forgiven.

The priest never knows my true state of genuine repentance or more to the point the extent of genuine repentance.

Now if it is possible for the priest to absolve me of my sins yet such sins be not actually forgiven by God due to my level of contrition, then we are in the same boat of never really knowing whether our sins are truly forgiven by God, in oher words, we have to have perfect contrition even when asking absolution from a priest.

For the above position not to be the case then in reality every time a priest absolves us of our sins, we must be forgiven whether we are greatly sorry or not sorry at all.

Tim Hayes
 
Tim Hayes:
Folks, you do not comprehend what I am saying/asking.

Let me ask yo this, If I tell the priest I am sorry and ask for forgiveness and he absolves me, but in reality I am not truly sorry, are my sins forgiven.

NO!. If you are lying in confessional that is a major sin. period
 
Here are some good scriptures points for Confession (buy the Catholic Answers Beginning Apologetics books set plug)
  1. JN 20:19-23. Note he ‘breathed’ on them before saying this. Where else did God do this? When he breathe lived on the first human bean in Gen 2:7
2Cor 5:17-20

James 5:13-16

I think we are getting into a technicality of truth during confession and the main point is did Jesus leave us with the Sacrament / ministry of reconiliation and can it be traced to the early church.

The answer in definitely yes.

peace
 
James you have made my first point, In other words whatever is bound on earth is not necessarily bound in heaven, so now that we have extablished that, then we must address the issue of perfect conrition.

Remember if you want a protestant to understand a salvic reason for priestly confession then we have to show evidence.

We then get into the realms of subejctivity because ultimately, “how much” sorry does one have to be to be given absolution on earth and for it to be held as so in heaven.

If we are not perfectly sorry in priestly confession then we have no grounds for believing our sins are forgiven in heaven. This puts us into the position of the Church saying its very dangerous praying to God for forgiveness becasue perfect contrition is hard to give and harder to know with genuinness whether we ourselves are trully sorry as far as perfect contrition requires.

Once we accept that whatever the priest forgives on earth is not necessarily forgiven in heaven then you must show somewhere through extremely ancient oral tradition or scripture or both that the lesser level of contrition will be forgiven when confessing to a priest.

Tim
 
Tim Hayes:
We then get into the realms of subejctivity because ultimately, “how much” sorry does one have to be to be given absolution on earth and for it to be held as so in heaven.

If we are not perfectly sorry in priestly confession then we have no grounds for believing our sins are forgiven in heaven. This puts us into the position of the Church saying its very dangerous praying to God for forgiveness becasue perfect contrition is hard to give and harder to know with genuinness whether we ourselves are trully sorry as far as perfect contrition requires.
I added the emphasis and want to ask Tim to point to some evidence of this: "If we are not perfectly sorry in priestly confession then we have no grounds for believing our sins are forgiven in heaven. "

We are getting into the murky waters of how gray is gray enough to be black. What’s the root of the issue here? In the early church, there were public confessions and very severe public penances given out. (Do ashes and sackcloth sound good to you? Makes me glad we don’t do that anymore!) That’s how the Church did it the first several hundred years. Private confession is a gift. Again, what is bound on earth is bound in heaven. Your error is that you keep saying that the Priest forgives us. He does not! Jesus does, through the priest. Big difference. We know this to be true BECAUSE God gave binding and loosing authority to the Apostles, and in time, the Holy Spirit has led His Church in His perfection to private auricular confession.

I am unclear with whether you are struggling w/ the issue of confession yourself, or if you are looking for ways to explain it to protestant brethren. Either way, the bottom line is that in the confessional, you are talking to Jesus Himself, and in that sense, it is no different than if you knelt before your bedpost to ask forgiveness. Are you perfectly contrite then? Probably not. Why is imperfect contrition not enough, in your opinion? If you are a parent, you can relate it easily to the imperfect contrition of children, who are often sorry for a transgression because of how it has hurt them, NOT because of how it has wounded or disappointed the parent. No matter – hearing the apology satisfies the parent, though imperfectly.

Let’s look at this from another angle. When you hurt someone, are you required to ask their forgivenss? Does God’s justice demand this of you?

If you say yes, then ask yourself whether your sins hurt those around you. Even the most private sin adds more iniquity to the world, and changes the spiritual climate of the world for the worse. It is a small demonic victory that hurts all of us in the spiritual fight, if I were to be dramatic about it. If your sin hurts the Whole Church, doesn’t the logical end of God’s justice demand that we ask the Church for forgiveness?

I find that I must take care not to get into hunting through the Bible looking for verses to concatenate to substantiate some belief – it is far better to look to common sense (as in the illustration above), Church teaching, how the Early Church Fathers did (believed) it, and scripture simultaneously to understand a spiritual truth.

Sorry I didn’t answer your question well the first time. I have a feeling this isn’t what you’re looking for either. 😉

I will say though that sometimes the goal isn’t to “prove” it to protestants; rather, it is to present the Truth and let the Truth sell itself. The Holy Spirit often asks us to be the messanger, not the Debate King. Confession is difficult to “prove” by Bible verses because we operate under a different philosophy than Protestants do. Their sola scriptura stance lessens the impact of arguments from history or logic.

From my Catholic Answers cheat sheet:

Mt9:2-8 - Son of Man has authority to forgive sins
Jn 20:23 - whose sins you forgive / retain are forgiven/ retained
2 Cor 5: 17-20 - we are given the ministry of reconciliation
James 5:13-16 - prayer of presbyters forvies sin / confess sins to one another
Matt 18:18 - binding & loosing of sins on earth, so it is in heaven
1 Jn 5:16 - there is sin that is not deadly

Interesting topic ! I look forward to your response.

~kari
 
I appreciate the reply, you see it is not a matter of what you get from Priestly confession( I know it is Jesus forgiving us), it is a matter of why not confession straite to God in personal prayer. We know that not all sins confessed in the confessinal will be forgiven, (Those who are not really sorry, but say they are and make enough of an appearance to fool the priest into giving them absolution).

Yes I have read much of the early Church and you should think why they had open public confession. The reason is becasue if we are not prepared for the shame and indignation and whatever other potential backlash of public confession then we are not in reality trully sorry for your sins) If this were not so then they would have started off with private confession so to speak. Remember the history we have of public donfession is that from the times of the Apostles who if they thought it wrong for such a practice would surely have stopped it.

I don’t deny that confession to a priest is valuable my point is that there is no more efficacy(salvation) in confession to a priest than in directly to God. In both cases it is God forgiving us or not and in both cases only he knows the true genuiness of our confession, if my confession is not genuine to a priest then Christ will not forgive me.

Where is the scripture or very ancient tradtion that teaches that priestly confession will “save you” for a genuine less than perfect contrition, becasue the Church says that if I pray (confess) directly to God it must be “perfect” and no less, if I am to receive absolution hence a salvation benefit. The Church has given two levels of “proof” so to speak. What I would like to know is where (evidence wise) do we get 2 different levels of confessional salvation from.

In Christ

Tim
 
God/Jesus Christ gave you a church and method with which to be forgiven… you don’t have to believe or follow it, or anyother apostolic guidence… free will is a biggie in the Catholic Church just as it is to God/Jesus Christ/Holy Ghost… The church has always taught that God can forgive you and in special circumstances the confessional with a priest is not a requirement, but if the emergency subsides (maybe your death was imminent), and the emergency (say emergency surgery, and you didn’t have time to see a priest for the annointing of the sick) and you are then supposed to avail yourself the the method established by God/Jesus Christ and his Church… The church has nothing to prove that which has been there 2000 years before your birth… I wish you peace and revelation in your search for truth…becareful not to trip over what’s right in front of you… 👍
 
Tim Hayes:
We know that not all sins confessed in the confessinal will be forgiven, (Those who are not really sorry, but say they are and make enough of an appearance to fool the priest into giving them absolution).
On the contrary, we know that all sins confessed in the confessional will be forgiven. You would have to work hard at deception to avoid forgiveness.

Why would anyone go to confession if he were not sorry for his sins? A person approaches the confessional because he *is * sorry for sin and wants to be forgiven. And this doesn’t require perfect contrition, only a fear of God’s punishment. If one doesn’t fear hell, I don’t think they would be confessing their sins in the first place. The *person confessing * knows whether he is sorry; so does God.

The sacrament was not made for God’s benefit, but for ours. It is precisely to avoid this worry about whether you are forgiven that the Lord gave us this sacrament.

In John 21:23 Jesus tells the apostles, “If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them, if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” He gave them this power for a purpose. It’s purpose was consolation, not fretting about degrees of sorrow.

JimG
 
I’ve been living with a pretty nasty sin for 3 years, telling God quite often how sorry I was. I never “felt” the forgiveness, even though there was true grief over how I had offended God.
I just went to confession last week, bawled like a baby thru the whole thing, and now I feel great!

Sometimes you just gotta stop analyzing things and go on faith, brother! Judas and Thomas were the “thinkers”, weren’t they?
 
One thing we have to remember about confessing our sins to a priest, instead of “directly to God” is that we are in fact confessing our sins to God. The priest is acting “in persona Christi” or “in the person of Christ” as the priest does in administering all the sacraments. The priest is an instrument of God’s grace, but we are clearly confessing to God and He is the One who forgives us.

On a personal note, I find reconciliation a very humbling experience, and the sin of pride is one of our worst enemies. It’s one thing to confess to God privately, it’s another to admit our weakness and sin to another person. If we are truly striving for holiness, we need all the help we can get! 👍
 
Isn’t it also generally true (and completely consistent with Church teaching) that the amount of grace one receives from any sacrament is dependent on the disposition of the one who receives it? I don’t see an inconsistency with the “binding and loosing” just because a priest speaks the words of absolution over an intentionally deceptive person. Forgiveness / absolution is contingent on repentance – by definition.
 
Tim,

I have experienced confession both ways. I am a convert. Confessing to a priest is much better and fulfilling. When a person confesses their sins alone to God, there is no feeling of peace and forgiveness. The priest’s general absolution is just that genral. I never had the full feeling of forgiveness and peace that I have when I am confessing my sins to a priest. When I am confessing my sins, to a priest, I have that sense that I am speaking to Our Lord face to face rather than just saying them in my head.
Blondone
 
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